6 thoughts on “Feminist Affects

  1. Hi AWC,
    I know that you are speaking specifically about a contemporary uptake of Spinoza’s thought of affect and you probably know this…but it is worth mentioning that Spinoza specifically separates desire (cupiditas) from happiness/pleasure/joy (laetitiae). hence the masses/taxes quote and D’s attempt to escape false consciousness with spinoza.

    i have to catch up with the recent posts, but this is great stuff!


    1. Thanks for this, Kai. I’m not as close of a reader of Spinoza as I should be. I should definitely look at the desire/pleasure split in the original and the D (spp or ep?). As for the cultural studies/ new materialism Spinoza (and in particular Bifo, but that’s a different issue), the less sophisticated readings collapse desire & pleasure, and on that sense, they try to use It as a system without false consciousness (just inadequacy). I asked Jason Read about this, and he suggested looking at Matheron, who he said has a theory of alienation.

      Any suggested readings?

      1. oh, lots of stuff on this!

        Spinoza’s differentiation of desire/happiness hides a bit as laetitia, tristitia, and cupiditas are translated different in each volume, but the preface and first 11 or so propositions from part III lay out the clear difference between these terms. Cupiditas is specifically desire conscious of itself, desire to be determined by a certain grouping of objects (versus unconscious appetites – he sounds very much like psychoanalysis here, no?). It’s thus vastly different from the other two affective groupings (which are passive) and in many ways is Spinoza’s truly ethical contribution and call to action towards the end of the book. As he moves through IV, he repeatedly says that there are no guarantees, that the other passions might reassert themselves, that our desires can result in our own death & destruction, or even that death & destruction can be productive. Yet even as he brings these things up, he is worried that they are sad passions and will invite superstition, so sort of dismisses them right away. If I’m reading you correctly, I think this is kind of the problem you’re articulating, and why you find Berlant (& I would add Elizabeth Grosz and a lot of queer theory in general) a bit more productive than others – is that making sense?

        Without collapsing their differences, Althusser, D (in the intro to SPP and with Guattari in AO ~Reich), Matheron (to my understanding – I’ve only read a couple articles), Macherey, etc all draw on this area in III, I.Appendix, and IVp39 to develop a theory of desire/ideology beyond false consciousness/interest. Ch 2 of Montag’s Bodies Masses Powers – “Seeing the better and doing the worse: why men fight as bravely for their servitude as for their salvation” is a really detailed exploration of this problem in Spinoza. iirc, Negri, by contrast, draws on cupiditas for his concept of revolutionary love (a move I think is really unhelpful and totally normative in that Negri kind of way).

        The romantic Deleuze sometimes seems to fall into the trap of avoiding sad passions like the plague and trying to produce only affirmations…but I think this reading survives only if one reads him minus desire, masochism, death, and so on (and without Nietzsche’s def of affirmation).

        And to make one last roundabout point about affect, it is very true that ATP does not use the same definition of affect (affectus – S. very much means emotion by this) or affection (affectio) as Spinoza or even as D used in both of the earlier books.

    2. thx. that was super helpful. when i have a bit more time i’ll have to work through some of this v/v all the french & italian perspectives. i really liked sue ruddick’s article, which critiqued Negri on this very point (and to which I see resonances in a lot of different secondary works). serious commentators (montag, macherey, D, matheron, balibar, virno, etc etc) seem to get it right, but i’ve seen few of them actually apply the theory to cultural/political examples in interesting ways, which is perhaps why i went straight to queer theory.

      anyway. thanks a million! hope yr well.

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