becoming-affective

Affect, like many other psychoanalytic concepts, was stratified by ego psychology. Just another box to check or a short line to scribble one- or two-word phrases — “Affect: __flat___”. Little did these clinicians know that they suffered from the same condition: “blunted affect.”

Massumi injects a little Bergson into cultural studies in an attempt to extend Foucault’s archaeological project — assume motion not arrest (or in Foucaultian shorthand: “assume discontinuity, explain continuity”). The Bergsonian formula “passage proceeds position” breaks the ‘structuralist’ gridlock of subject-positions with a process ontology. So the nomad stands in as the Bergsonian becoming-subject par excellence, people of a “society without a history”, following Deleuze’s use of Toynbee. When the formula is applied to affect, it returns affect to the place of an autonomous force as a relation (affective potential) external to the terms (bodies), which we note through the short-hand “becoming-affective.”

Thus, I offer you Massumi’s ‘cut-up pastiche’ of Simondon:

Affectivity precedes and follows emotion [emotion feeds back into affect] … Emotion implies the presence of the subject to other subjects or to a world that places the subject in question as a subject [it is naturally relational and socially problematic] … emotion assumes affectivity, it is the point of insertion of an affective plurality in a unity of signification; emotion is the meaning [becoming-content/attribute] of affectivity … we should not speak of affective states, but rather of affective exchanges, of exchanges between the preindividual [nature] and what is individuated in the being of the subject [its contextualized personhood, or individuality]. Affectivo-emotivity [the subjective process line from uncontained affect to its personalized expression] is a movement between indeterminate nature and the here and now of actual existence [the irruption of the event]; it is what makes the indeterminate in the subject mount toward [be expressed in] the present moment which incorporates it in the collectivity [co-constituted with the subject’s individuality] … Positive affective states mark the synergy of constituted individuality [the personal terminus of the subjective process line] and the actual movement [the emergence and ongoing of the process line] through which the preindividual is individualized … Affectivity and emotivity are apt to undergo quantum reorganizations; they proceed by sudden leaps according to degrees [periodically disappear into themselves, into their own intensity or singularity], and obey a law of thresholds. They are the relation between the continuous and the discontinuous [they are the world-glue connecting disparate contexts] … the reality of affective-emotive movement is that of a relation that has, with regard to its own terms [termini], a self-positing value [it is self-active and self-affirming, even as it ends].

Brian Massumi’s cut-up pastiche of Simondon, L’individuation psychique et collective (Paris: Aubier, 1989), pp. 98-99, 106-107 “BM – (order of the passages modified).”

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