Vice Chancellor, University of Warwick (UK)
Turbulent passions. Towards an understanding of the spaces of political feeling
This paper considers how we might understand the realm of political feeling by concentrating on the affective means by which masses of people become primed to act. I argue that this is a pressing political task, given that the systematic manipulation of 'motivational propensity' has become a key political technology. But in order to arrive at a diagnosis of the affective swash of the present, I will argue that social science needs to draw on approaches that are willing to countenance a formative role for the biological. I therefore turn to two strands of work, one that directly revalues the biological, the other that calls on ethological models and analogies. Using these different but connected strands of work, I am able to move to such a diagnosis. My argument is that a series of affective technologies that were previously used in the corporate sphere to work on consumer anxiety, obsession and compulsion are now being moved over into the political sphere with mainly deleterious consequences. However, this process of transmission also suggests some interesting counter-politics based on the cultivation of hope.