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In the Place of Utopia

Affect and Transformative Ideas

Warwick Tie

Considerable socio-political change has re-configured the discursive space once occupied by ‘ utopia’. Within the cultures of late capitalism and the organisational matrices of bio-political administration, that space is no longer animated by images of idealised states that are yet to come, or by a sense of simple failure in the production of those same states. Rather, it is overdetermined by a condition of differentiation in the representation of reality. The origins of that differentiation of representation appear to lie deep within the modernist project. In the Place of Utopia explores how that condition of representation might be animated anew by the discursive circuits through which modernity has come to operate, so as to enliven the ability of transformative ideas to lever change from within a range of organic crises current to the world system: the financialisation of global capitalism; the subsumption of worker subjectivities to the logic of capital; the broadening of the metabolic rift through industrial-capitalism. Central to this animation of transformative ideas is the relationship between language and the body.
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8 The subjectivising effects of discursive spaces

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8The subjectivising effects of discursive spaces

The ability of utopia to motivate ideas in a manner askew to the troubling pleasures associated with the prevailing circuits of discourse – of the master, the hysteric, the analyst, and the university – depends upon the possibility of alternative relations emerging between language and the body. It has become a guiding proposition, here, that the ability of ideas to induce transformative traction under the cultural conditions of a differentiated field of representation, depends upon the development of an alternative relation of that kind.

Notwithstanding the attempt here to set aside methodology as a means for bringing about an alternative kind of relation, the presentation of how this might occur could easily invoke the assumption that we remain in need of something akin to a method or analytic strategy: we simply need, for example, to replicate the (technical) lessons of House in the production of knowledge about how to manage freshwater. And from this, a set of ‘best practice’ principles around the operation of fantasy could be derived. To this end, we could find ourselves tempted to assert that the production of an adaptive form of management requires the refashioning of the fantasy structure by which the object in question is being interpreted. Without denying that such a hermeneutic will be involved, another element comes into play in the refashioning of the fantasy structure: the transformative prospects of ideas turn upon the manner by which processes of knowledge production subjectivise those who...

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