On Not Performing: the third enclosure and fractal neofeudal fantasies
"They are destined to decision, that is, to time understood in this sense, which is not that of life." (Stiegler 2003: 156)
"What we most lack is a belief in the world, we've quite lost the world, it's been taken from us." (Deleuze 1997: 176)
Why is there such an insistence on "performance" in contemporary social life? What does the contemporary diffusion of "performance" tell us about power today? This article suggests that this diffusion is an important element in an enclosure of the very basics of human experience. It suggests, speculatively, that this enclosure is itself part of an attempt at inaugurating a new kind of feudalism.
The world is now subject to a range of performance measures global and local. Our everyday lives are often lived under the shadow of global measures of economic performance, if with very different degrees of anxiety depending on where you live. There is the occasional counter-measure of a largely ineffective series of national "happiness" indexes that involve performance measures of a different kind. In schools, individual student test scores are often now tied to individual school performance and in turn to national funding (and in turn to measures of economic performance). Individual creativity is tied into creative industry. Thinking and research becomes a matter of measurable outputs, funding success or "measures of esteem". At the same time, there is now an often unmoored theatricality in politics. This is in some ways a different mode of performance to measure. Yet it has a crucial if differential relation to the like of economic performance indicators (and polling numbers) (see also McKenzie 2001: 92 on management and the theatre). The conjunction leads politicians to play their roles very differently, just as teachers and students "act" differently because of the intensity of educational testing. In sum, it is not only that many of us live with increasingly finely tuned demands for measurable performance improvements. This is accompanied by a regrettable translation into everyday life of a demand to play roles in certain ways, along the lines perhaps of an actor's "motivation" ("what does my character want?" "How do I step into the script?"). "Performance" does not end there. There are many other ways in which performance measures, staging or role play, and many other variations on "performance", come together. "Performance" has become a complex collision of definitions and practices.
This article first briefly describes this collision, while looking for any cohesion across the large variety of social processes now termed "performance". I will suggest that what brings all these together is first performance's age old intensity of focus on a creation of a "world", as a substitute for, or reduction of, the world at large. The world of the performance measure is as staged in this respect as the world of the theatre has always been. The contemporary form of this focus is different, however. Now the focus within performance increasingly involves a range of decisions concerning performance itself. The world is reduced to performance. "World" becomes only the ongoing modulation and self-regulation of performance itself. The consequence is a loss of "belief in the world", a world that is beyond this series of systems of rather abstracted performativity. In sum, performance in the contemporary mode quite literally "plays out" a loss of the world itself.
This makes a great deal available to social/political formations. Life as lived can be moulded at a range of levels from the micro to the macro. Life, world, real economic events, alternative forms of community or relation, ecological catastrophe—all these are usefully screened out. As Stiegler puts it, we now live in a "time .. which is not that of life" (2003: 156).
If our lives are infused with a proliferation of structured technics and concepts of "performance", this is perhaps because this conversion of time into a "time of decisions" within performative worlds is "not that of life". Social processes and problems are increasingly defined and worked through the performative. Social struggle—in process—increasingly takes place via an ongoing use and reinvention of technics of performance. This includes both events "backstage" (a struggle over the logistics of performance within the social) and "onstage" (frontline struggles via an ongoing staging and counter-staging of events or roles). Associated media interventions often seem much more performative than they are "informational" or "communicative".
The performative as measure and as theatrical come together with further understandings of what counts as performance. For example, a performance culture converts the very concept of sign or language from reference into act. The meaning of a statement or proposition is (only) what it does. In general, performance culture is highly inventive when it comes to this kind of conversion. It constantly generates new practices and systems that fold as much as possible into "performance". There is even an ongoing invention of concepts of performance itself, as part of the expansion of a "performance culture". It is through all this that a diverse series of commands to perform diffuse throughout much of contemporary culture. McKenzie notes that performance has become the "twentieth and twenty-first century's … onto-historical formation of power and knowledge" (McKenzie 2001: 18), a "performance stratum" (173ff). Thrift comments on "a performative principle whose goal is to harness affect to power in ways hitherto unthought of" (Thrift 2003: 2020). This has been discussed at length in important work by a range of thinkers from which this article draws extensively (see particularly McKenzie 2001 for an important and comprehensive discussion, and Parker and Kosofsky Sedgwick 1995, but also Marcuse 1967 and 1974, Lyotard 1984, Butler 1990, Kosofsky Sedgwick 2002, Ronell 2005, Strathern 2000, Goffman 1967, 1974 and 1990, Barnes 1983, Turner 1986 and 2001, McKenzie 2003 and 2005). (As a side note, I want to differentiate at this point between a performativity/theatricality that comes into everyday life and the professional theatre per se. This article is not directly concerned with the latter, although there are obviously a lot of exchanges between the professional theatre and theatricality in everyday life.)
In this article, however, I suggest that all this not only indicates an enduring "performance culture". It also indicates something larger, a dramatic shift, one that is not in the end primarily about performance. Performance in all its forms is, in the end, a highly important and often culturally privileged "go-between" in the transition between different formations of power. On the one side of this transition there is the strange mishmash with which much of the world has lived for quite some time: extreme forms of fractured capital, faltering neoliberalism, triumphalist if bloated neoconservatism, and overly-apologetic social democracy. All of these rely heavily on a variety of practices of performance. Performance serves the variable combination of sovereign, disciplinary and control powers (Deleuze 1997: 177-83) at work within this mishmash (for example in sovereign spectacle, discipline as performativity in the sense of role playing within certain "stagings" [the school, the factory, the office], control as micro-performative in its attention to the smallest grains of gesture, thought or feeling). Performance becomes a kind of glue for the social. It substitutes for the actual lack of hold within the mess of the social in other respects. Performance, because it frames and enables action despite the world, also becomes the engine for social/political expression within this mishmash.
Yet performance does even more than this. It creates a series of bridges of actions/flexible systems—small and large—that make possible a transition to a new formation of power. It manufactures elements of process within the social that provide the basis for an emerging political formation. Performance is then both full activity or a mode of individuation within one political formation and a kind of pre-individuation, or pre-individual milieu (see Houston 2008 and Simondon 1992) for the development of another. I am suggesting here, speculatively, that the latter is a neo-feudal formation. Performance provides a complex series of avenues for a third enclosure of the very basics of human experience (action-perception, reflection, decision, movement and time, in their emergence or even before they exist [see Massumi 2002, 2008, and 2011a]). It is primarily this that makes performance an important constituent in an assemblage that attempts to construct a neofeudalism. I will name this new feudalism Fractal Neofeudalism, if only only as a kind of political speculation (inspired by Matteo Pasquinelli's discussion of "digital neofeudalism" ). It is neo-feudal in that it attempts to install a new formation of overarching hierarchical power—in the service of the few. It is "fractal" in that it aims for overarching hierarchy but is simultaneously and successfully diffuse and scalable in its operations—a dense and complex network of flexible forces. I will suggest that although not yet fully arrived, Fractal Neofeudalism has built up a lot of momentum, both as a series of fantasies and actual practices. Its main success so far has been its reinflection of important aspects of the social/political pre-individual milieu (those potentials, processes and elements that come before and after, and feed into, ongoing individuation, see Adkins 2007, Massumi 2005 and 2011b). A significant part of this reinflection occurs via performance culture.
For those who happily move toward fractal neofeudalism, the replacement or abandoning of the world that performance provides is welcome. The world, whether we take this to mean the environment, the social world, or both together, has become too difficult, too obviously a world of complexity, a world of processes beyond the human which nevertheless demand much of the human. It is a world that produces too much that is different, too much that cannot be easily reconciled to the "ways things are done", to given interests. Yet fractal neofeudalism's rejection of the world fuels a flight into various fantasies and abstractions that are in the end contradictory, precisely with regard to a world that only becomes the more insistent the more it is denied (climate change, global financial failure, etc). This in turn calls for more denial, for more neo-feudal fantasies and abstractions feeding into social practice. It is a dynamic of collapse and denial that energises the like of the ongoing third enclosure, which is increasingly called upon to regulate these fantasies and abstractions, performatively.
In The Practice of Everyday Life, while discussing Foucault's "microphysics of power", Michel De Certeau long ago opened up the problem we face in such circumstances. Using a striking theatrical metaphor, he suggested that "silent technologies" might either determine or at times "short-circuit" (2002: xiv) institutional stage directions. What "silent technologies" might work in our favour to undo the emergence of a neofeudalism?
Here I suggest the emergence of ghosted publics and unacknowledged collectivity as possible responses that are already with us. These are ephemeral communicational events or events of community/collectivity that eschew publics and gateways into public access. In eschewing recognition, they avoid the performative in its contemporary mode in several key respects (even if they take it up against itself in other respects). They do so in order to allow for a becoming outside of the contemporary general economy (if not entirely the "ecology") of performance. Ghosted publics and unacknowledged collectivity could be seen, for example, as the polar opposite of terrorism. They seek construction of alternative modes of living rather than all out theatrical attacks on the social that buy into (and indeed fuel) reactionary forms of power. Other possible "silent technologies" I gesture to here include various forms by which we might the re-singularise everyday life (Guattari 1995). A taking back of the basics of experience—of time, of movement, of perception, of response—is crucial here. So might be simple stillness, or just slowing down.
Infinity and the Temptation of Performance
Here's our situation in a nutshell: "Our minds are finite … we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite." Or so Alfred Whitehead put it. For him, within this situation, "the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude" (2001: 160).
The trouble is that sooner or later infinitude scares us. Or perhaps it just tires us. It scares us in a way it does not appear to scare the shifting network of powers greater than our own. Or maybe, finite as we are, we just get tired of all the "grasping" (although for Whitehead of course this grasping is, in many important senses, impersonal or pre-personal, ongoing, which doesn't make it any less tiring). We stop acting. We slow down. We become still. We make a cup of tea (a more satisfying grasping of infinitude as finitude). Perhaps we think to ourselves, "maybe infinitude will come to me, without so much work, without so much grasping." These can be peaceful moments, just another part of life. Yet, framed the wrong way, they can also feel like moments of weakness with regard to our own powers. At such moments, especially when we are just too tired, too overwhelmed, or too confused to deal with infinity, we are vulnerable. We "should be working". Or perhaps we "should be improving ourselves".
It's at such moments that performance comes upon the scene, like a contemporary Mephistopheles. Just like Mephistopheles, it offers us a deal we almost certainly should not take up. It whispers to us that it knows the solution to our weakness, to our tiredness in the face of the infinite, simply to a complex world, even our very own complex world. And just as with Mephistopheles, performance' solution is a deal with the devil, now the blank devil of performance itself. The promise is that, via performance, the right performance, we will be one with the power that scares us, or that our chasing after power will no longer exhaust us. Via performance, we will ritually channel and finally control the infinitude that feeds power. Yet we know what happens via the terms of the Faustian bargain.
Let us think about this from the perspective of the power we think we are aligning with.
Infinity and Power
Power has complex relationship with infinity. For power, in whatever definite forms it appears, infinitude is a proposition that becomes what Whitehead called a lure for feeling (1978: 186). For power, the proposition of infinitude is perhaps the lure to feeling. The proposition of infinitude fuels and expands the limits of powers (it promises to unbound these, precisely to infinity). Infinitude, as a proposition, promises the biggest stage there is, the most diverse costume wardrobe, any kind of audience. It's any technology you can think of. It's venture capital. Endless growth or increases in productivity. Charisma. "It's all going to be mine". We can perhaps think here of Jimmy Cagney's criminal character, Cody Jarrett, in the film White Heat (1949). "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!", he says famously, as he blows up the gas tanks on which he stands. As another character comments, "He finally got to the top of the world... and it blew right up in his face".
As Cody Jarrett discovered, real infinity (as opposed to the proposition of infinitude) is complex and difficult. This does not suit any one formation of power. From a Whiteheadian perspective, infinitude itself can accommodate all "wills to power" (Nietzsche 1968). The "decision" of an entire, infinite ecology can nudge things one way at one moment, and another the next. Or, infinitude can accommodate all wills to power as mutually abiding differential "contrasts" (Whitehead 1978: 228). Different powers are treated like colours in a painting, rather than combative totalities. Infinitude is creative or generative, and playfully so. As such, infinitude cannot accommodate the persistent desire of any one will to power for total control. Instead, it constantly and playfully divides different wills to power against themselves, or finds new "contrasts" between one will to power and others.
When this becomes too much for any one assemblage of power—and it is always too much for those powers that want infinitude for themselves—infinitude becomes the wrong kind of infinity. Power must now defend itself against that by which it was lured, and which it still desires. It perversely delimits this as "outside," as the "wrong infinity". The wrong infinity becomes a threat to the established assemblages through which this particular power is more properly supposed to move. Infinitude suddenly has good guys/girls and bad guys/girls. The stage is set for performance guidelines and techniques to guide the action, for "heroic" actions at the junction of infinities and powers, for investigations of the nature of action itself, of what is "best performance" in paradoxical situations, for large bonuses at the end of the financial year.
Michel Callon calls the threat involved—the wrong infinity—"overflow" (1998). For Callon, the specific response of power to this is "framing", simply, building a wall against infinitude. All power frames or reframes: the power of large assemblages of think tanks and corporations, the diffuse powers of an episteme, even, simply, your power, my power, our power. This to some extent sacrifices the world. Yet, the whole point of framing is not in fact a complete shut out. It is rather to try to construct a certain kind of "performability", one that suits framing and might still allow a profit from overflow. Callon points out that this framing then plays a kind of double game. A good framing is made in the realisation that, as effective as it might be for a while, it's bound to fail. No framing is perfect or unchangeable. There are always overflows. Frames and overflows, powers and infinities are in ongoing tension.
.. the heterogeneous elements, that are linked together in order to frame the contract and its performance, in reality take part in its overflowing: and it is precisely because they are sources of overflows that they make the contract productive (1998: 255)
The response to this overflowing, however, is a further, more effective, if more flexible framing. This is measurement. "In order to be framed, overflows must be made measurable" (Callon 1998: 255). Measure allows overflows to be evaluated, brought into the realm of value and exchange. This is done via a framing of "contract and its performance".
Summing up most of this article so far, we can think of performance from three perspectives. First, performance—of all kinds—allows a very good felt understanding, or better, what Massumi calls "thinking-feeling" (2008) of tensions regarding infinities and powers. Second, performance—differently for different kinds of performance—forces a feeling for the tensions between infinities and powers into a further series of tensions, now with events of structure: framing and overflow. Third, and less remarked, performance does all this in another series of tensions—with non-performance.
It's also important to note that we live in a culture in which it is not only increasingly unacceptable not to perform, to be swept up in a performative principle in order to "harness affect to power". It is almost as increasingly unacceptable not to inform on the performance of others. If I was to turn anywhere for a slicing and dicing of these two together, it would probably be the recent film Up in the Air (2009). Or, we could again think of audit culture—research excellence evaluation and ranking, learning objectives, quality assurance, KPIs, KPTs (Key Performance Indicators, Key Performance Targets). I have previously termed the culture involved "auditland", after Anna Funder's book on the Stasi and it's effects, Stasiland (2003).
…the "Auditland" I am posing is indeed a much softer place than Stasiland - with a much gentler process of information, performed by good people, who often mean well (or perhaps just as often do not even care about the processes involved one way or the other). However, if cultures such as Stasilandthankfully mutate into the much softer cultures such as Auditland within global technics, it is also true that by doing so they extend their reach. However soft a landing, Auditland is a land where audit is increasingly gathered by all people, about all people. (Murphie 2008a)
Auditland is, of course, all about performance (indeed often an audit of performance systems themselves). Within systemic or institutional performance frames, and even often outside of these, we have to be active, positive, getting things done. We also have to be busy planning to get things done, to meet our objectives, including the objective of a series of successful audits. Our own life must become exemplary in this respect. This becomes of kind of "meta-role" encompassing other roles, performed for others, for "the public", often in carefully aligned and measured alignment/exchange with the exemplary conduct of others (to the point that 5 year old children now casually talk about their "LOs", or learning objectives).
Let me just hint at another side to this story of a general cultural performativity, found in the long development of PR, Public Opinion, and operators such as think tanks over the course of the twentieth century (beginning perhaps with Edward Bernays [Tye 1998] and Walter Lippmann ). This has resulted in a very complex series of "stagings"of the public, often in relation to the like of PR and even performance systems (see Murphie 2010b).
A recent example of the coming together of a staging of the public, PR and more specific performance systems has been the disaster at Fukushima. Writing about the framing of the Fukushima disaster in Le Monde, Isabelle Stengers comments—
As explained by Walter Lippmann with the cynical lucidity of "those who know" … when the "public spirit" materializes, restless, demanding accountability, it is for governments to give them the signs that reassure—"the question is understood and under control, we will do an audit"—in order that the public can find the peace to which it aspires. (2011)
Fukushima highlights many of the problems of performance culture. As regards the actual disaster, there is the problem of actual occurrences. As Stengers sums it up, the question is: "How could they not have foreseen this?". As regards the framing of the public, the powers that be risk "a depletion of the capital of [public] confidence they have and use in" giving us the reassurances they give. These reassurances turn out so often to be self-serving, or worse, clearly contradicted within subsequent events or revelations (such as the spread of radioactivity… another example might be the recent failure of the radical transformation of US schooling, using a powerful system of testing [Ravitch 2010]). No doubt we will see a great deal more of this depletion of public faith, as climate change, peak oil, food shortages and economic circumstances go the way they are looking like going. Yet this does not mean the end of performance systems. With this depletion of a certain compact of public opinion, and with the failure of technical performance systems to deliver, the framing of the public, of life itself, is forced to turn to brutal powers (the last frantic gasps of performance systems' alignment with an outmoded notion of "economic growth" perhaps). Stengers notes that "we sometimes underestimate what the unleashing of the capitalist logic that is called neoliberalism means." It is extreme. "Our leaders," and this perhaps accounts for their own increasing strange performances, must
… accept slogans that involve some form of heroic anaesthesia …[and] Everyone now is subject to the imperative not to think, including those working in industry, forced to do what they know to be undesirable, blind to the consequences in order to satisfy shareholders that the only good signal is the reduction of production costs …
In the process, subjectivity begins to become exhausted in its unceasing production along the very narrow lines of performance systems (see Virno 2004). For Stengers, the end result is "the devastated landscape of our imaginations".
It is here that we come to what I have hinted at as a third enclosure.
The Third Enclosure
Performance undoes beliefs in favour of action useful to the institution or corporation (largely by getting us to do things, whatever else we may believe). It re-directs the circulation of affective intensities, or remixes specific affective loops, so that our very habits are changed, our modes of perceiving and acting, reflecting and deciding transformed. In a different context, Zizek suggests that:
When Althusser repeats, after Pascal: "Act as if you believe, pray, kneel down, and you shall believe, faith will arrive by itself," he delineates an intricate reflective mechanism of retroactive, "autopoetic" foundation … in short, the "external" ritual performatively generates its own ideological foundation. (Zizek 1994: 12-13)
The central proposition of many performance systems is: difference must be turned and tamed, even if it is exploited along the way. One will "pray, kneel down, and .. believe" in the system.
As it does all this, performance culture plays a large role within a new version of an old struggle over ownership. It's not a trivial struggle. I propose that much of the contemporary performance culture I have described here is either enacting a new development of enclosure, or at its margins perhaps trying to struggle with this, perhaps via a counter-performativity as per Butler (1990). This enclosure is what I am calling the "third enclosure" (Michel Bauwens  also uses this term in a slightly different context. See also Chabrak, Copper and Catchpowle 2009 and Hyde 2010).
The first enclosure, in which commons land for sheep grazing and the like was privatised, occurred from around the 12th century on in England and elsewhere. It was eventually justified by many versions of what was called the "tragedy of the commons" (Hardin 1968 but see also Wikipedia on "the tragedy of the commons"). The well-known idea is that, if everyone gets to share the land, it ends up misused. So the land had better be taken over, given a value, exchanged according to value—in other words, brought into the circuits of Capital (this is the history of the enclosure of lands, although Hardin's ideas moved towards sustainability). Something like a series of "tragedies of the commons" has become a major justification for everything from private ownership to sustainability to perhaps the like of fame—in all of this there is only so much to go round. It has significantly but only recently been challenged by the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for economics, Elinor Ostrom (stockhomresilience 2009). Ostrom won the Nobel Prize for research that showed that many communities are well able to manage common resources, often indeed better than they are managed in individual, private ownership (Ostrom 2010).
The second enclosure concerns intellectual property and creative work. It draws from and it often overlaid on the first enclosure. It's a little different to the first, however. Unlike pasture or forests or fisheries, ideas, inventions and creativity are not limited resources. They can be reused without exhaustion. So the second enclosure, more even than the first, has had to manufacture a tragedy of the commons. It has done this with a lot of work on framing overflows, and on material ecologies of practice. The music industry, for example, puts a lot of work into the framing, via "copyright" and "creative ownership" of the overflow of "piracy". Others extend these framings into new territories, to nations such as Brazil with open intellectual property regimes that need to be closed in order to make a profit. The rise and capitalisation of copyright academic journals would be another example (see Monbiot 2011 on the "feudal powers" of "academic publishers").
What I am calling the "third enclosure" is an enclosure building on but massively expanding the first and second. It involves a complexly nested and overlaid series of sometimes proprietary systems of gated demands for performance. It places everything you do into an equivalence by which subjective production becomes more open to forms of exchange. The third enclosure encloses previously free social exchange, free work, play and the open production of subjectivity that these involve. As I suggested earlier, it encloses the basics of human experience, the relations between action, perception, reflection and decision (or it attempts to enclose these). Under the sign and practice of satisfactory performance, or performance development, and much else discussed so far in this article, the "third enclosure" carefully constructs, through the practice of the test, a tragedy of the commons of affective intensity, of the free, open production of subjectivity. Affective intensity, the production of subjectivity, as Marcuse noted, eros, "experience" in general, are all permitted within the third enclosure, but only to a limited extent, and only when they serve a general productivity.
In practice, however, for any individual or group it is perhaps never easy to attain the right kinds of affective intensity within the complex of contemporary performance, to participate in the correct production of subjectivity. It becomes just as difficult to make sure one "enjoys" the right kind of "experience". A new kind of scarcity is created—an opening for new systems, consultants, workshops, etc (for "virtuosity", in Virno's terms [2004: 61]). One pays for these new scarcities, in order to development the right affective intensity, the correct enjoyment of the right experience. In order to pay, one spends the money one earns trading one's current productivity and performance.
I shall suggest that if neoliberalism is dying, perhaps dead, or, as is sometimes said, "dead but dominant," it's zombie hand is found in the power of performance systems and related technics of the third enclosure. Yet the third enclosure, like performance, has two masters, only one of which is neoliberalism.
"Who ever said Feudalism was eclipsed by the modern state system?" (Neilson and Rossiter 2005)
Let us now speculate fully about the feudalism that appears to be arriving (if indeed it ever went away). Performance and the third enclosure move us beyond the limits of a contradictory, or ill-defined neoliberalism. Indeed, if neoliberalism is dying or "dead but dominant", it can afford to be so. According to the speculation here, at least, aided by the third enclosure, neoliberalism is now being superceded by a neofeudalism (Stephenson, The Diamond Age (2000), depicts a future neo-feudal planet; see also Pasquinelli 2010, Johnson 2010, Médaille 2010, Khanna 2011, Robb 2011, Hedges 2011, Holmes 2011).
Johnson argues that the term "neofeudalism" first arose in Galbraith's The Affluent Society (1998 ), although it seems rather to have arisen in a right-wing critique of this book (Reisman 2006 ). Langthaler (2010) suggests that the concept arose in 1960 with regard to the third reich, when "political scientist Robert Koehl (1960) developed a more explicit concept of the 'feudal aspects' of National Socialism" (165). Here, and significantly for our own times, and especially when considering a networked culture, "'neo-feudalism' is an attempt to reintegrate a society that underwent extreme disintegration, due to a dispersal through personal relationships of power formerly attributed to the state".
Neofeudalism, as always with feudalism, is command of the many by the few, with little in the way of this command (or rather, now, everything more able to be swept up into very adaptable systems of command and control). As I stated at the beginning of this article, for me our recently arriving neofeudalism would best be described as "fractal". It aims for overarching hierarchy but is simultaneously and successfully diffuse and scalable in its operations. For me, the concept and its practices arise within the meeting of the kind of performance culture described in this articles, and a development of recent work by Pasquinelli on "digital neofeudalism" (2010).
Pasquinelli also calls "digital neofeudalism" a "liquid neofeudalism" or a "cognitive neofeudalism". It describes a new form of largely immaterial economy, including new forms of labour (the "new topology of rent"). Here Pasquinelli draws on David Harvey's "Art of Rent" (in Harvey 2002) and recent discussions of cognitive and immaterial labour (such as Virno 2004). Pasquinelli proposes a contemporary digital, networked "technosphere" in which "atemporality and aspatiality are the dimension[s] of the universe of the liquid democracies", "locked by corporate networks and the conformism of social networks" (unpaginated). With the internet as the key set of circuits, or as Pasquinelli calls it, a "liquid pyramid", digital neofeudalism involves a—
… polarised scenario where a few landlords own the whole infrastructure of communication (hardware layer, protocol layer, meta-data layer, social network layer) and face a multitude of cognitive workers forced to 'creativity'. In the middle, indeed, the crisis, the shrinking of the middle class of the digital age.
Crucially, for Pasquinelli, the digital networks that enable digital neofeudalism are "liquid, flexible and stretchable".
Enabled by Pasquinelli's flexible concept of neofeudalism, here I develop the concept of neofeudalist practices across an even broader range of contexts and actions (beyond the internet and cognitive labour to a more direct intervention, alongside these, within the basics of experience). In short, I bring the idea of a neofeudalism together with the third enclosure. Assisted by a performance culture, this produces what I have been calling a fractal neofeudalism.
Fractal neofeudalism deploys more flexible diagrams of intervention and control across even more than cognitive or immaterial labour or digital networks (after Deleuze and Guattari, or Massumi 1998 or 2002, when this becomes "biogram" [190ff]). The diagrams involved are crucial. Erin Manning writes, in the context of art, that the "diagram is defined as the conjunctive force that in-gathers an artwork's intensity .. a technique or series of techniques for the open conjugation of intensities" (2009: 126). Yet the diagrams of neofeudalism conjugate open intensities into more closed assemblages or "agencements". The latter are the arrangements of relations of forces by which events are constituted as they come into being (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: see also Manning 2009: 237 on "assemblage/agencement"). Agencements are in a sense proto-performative. Neo-feudal agencements bring together a dynamic that sets up two-way traffic between virtualisations and actualisations. This allows for a future-directed feudalism, a "becoming-feudal" or, more accurately, a becoming-ever-more-feudal. This points to a surprising (well not perhaps to Marxists) dynamic within which Capital is only a very complex moment in cycles alternating with periods of feudalism. This is why I also think the third enclosure goes far beyond the commercial/legal impediments, claims and impositions of first and second enclosure, as important as these are.
Something like a fractal neofeudalism, then, would use incredibly powerful, dominant, but highly flexible chains of command in the service of a very narrow group of individuals. It would deploy agencements that scale well—that are self-similar in their galvanising of the necessary neofeudal dynamics, if still flexible and adaptable to different points and levels within a social context.
I will tease this out briefly. What complicates neofeudalism, and differentiates it from previous feudal forms, is its very effective "grasping" of complexity (in Whitehead's terms but not perhaps in a context Whitehead might have chosen). For Guattari, following Whitehead, grasping, like fractals, creates a kind of cohesion within chaos: "Each new phase in the conscrescence [coming together of evens] means the . . . growing of real unity of feeling" (Guattari 1989: 82, quoting Whitehead 1978: 224). Within the performance systems of neofeudalism, the final result is the literal creation of feeling within the performative. There is the sudden adjustment of the nervous system, a unity of feeling that goes far beyond logical outcomes (Murphie 2010: 287, see also Gil 1998: 38 and 139). This adjusts the entire feeling and its assembled intensities to servitude, within habit and the basic potentials for experience. Yet "grasping" here means finding some coherence in complexity or infinity, without necessarily having to tame that complexity in order to put it to good use. How does the fractal fit into this?
As most people will know, in general a fractal is what we see in the infinitely complex breakdown of dimension across levels (most famously represented in the forces that form the patterns of snowflakes). However, it's also a little known term in Guattari's work. Guattari writes of "fractalisation" to describe the "texture" of "intermediate temporalities." The fractal effect is that of the "in-between," the not yet fully formed (Murphie 2010a: 296). Yet it describes a force that is able to create highly complex structure. The fractal occurs within mixed temporalities—durations and syntheses—in "becoming." For Guattari, then, the fractal is a way of understanding that the complex breakdown of dimension—of given structures across and between dimensions—is something immensely functional. It allows adaptation within ongoing transformation, across levels or dimensions or systems, in process. Guattari writes of fractalisation within the brain and nervous system's complex connections, or in the creation of time and space, or social life. In short, not only can fractalisation make snowflakes. It can also create other powerful, extremely flexible and adaptable structures, for better or worse. Here I'm suggesting that when performance is used to "communicate across diverse systems" (McKenzie 2005: 23), it can cause a fractalisation of those systems, one by which it can also work within this fractalisation. So how does this relate to neofeudalism?
In fractal neofeudalism, the chains of command involved can splinter into fractal elements, work in "becomings", in spaces and durations of the "in-between". In doing so, fractals remain serviceable. A little like packets of information on the internet (thus the power of Pasquinelli's perception of the digital or liquid neofeudal), they can reassemble themselves in a infinite number of different ways. They are, in the process, very effective at colonising our individual and group productions of subjectivity—by assembling with them, in process.
Fractal neofeudalism, then, forms a highly diffuse, coherent, cloud of agencement. In some ways this is so effective because it's simply so overwhelming, not only from the top down, but in every nook and cranny of experience. It's incredibly complex—a kind of infinity of authority, command and communication.
The actual pragmatic "formation" of fractal neofeudalism has three aspects: increasingly hierarchical chains of "decision"; the "fractal" production and reproduction of decision within these chains, often via performances that bring into being events of "alignment" or resonance; and, via this, the active replacement or abandoning of belief in the world ("as if there's no tomorrow", as they say).
Fractal neofeudalism aims to reform human relations with a very broad sweep that nevertheless scales well across different levels of the production of subjectivity and "world" (if against the real world per se). It emerges as an "event" within institutions (those such as universities, for example, that increasingly abandon democratic boards and councils) and corporations. It is also found in national and global forms of the imposition of powers (a national takeover of a curriculum for example; or a set of international links between think tanks). It can, indeed must, invade individual modes of relation. At the same time as it does this, as I have mentioned previously, it is necessarily found within the "pre-individual milieu" through which all these individuate. It is an increasingly successful social/political formation in this respect at least (if still only as a series of prototypes of a power that at least hopes for an ongoing becoming-ever-more-feudal). However, fractal neofeudalism also aims to reform human relations in active denial of the claims on the human by the complexity of the world. It emphatically looks away from a world that is increasingly demanding. It does thrive on the social tension that surround the complex claims of the world, but it also falters in the face of the basic and overwhelming reality of these claims.
As I began to suggest at the beginning of this article, to a large extent fractal neofeudalism is fed by, and feeds, a fantasy. It may indeed be a fantasy in itself, although an active one that becomes the political process. It's dynamic is predicated on the fragile—because so tenuous—fantasy grounding of an ongoing "no" (no to climate change, to environmentalism in general, a disbelief in environmental catastrophes of any kind, no to scientists, to social welfare, to taxes but also to debt, to immigrants and refugees, to liberals, to social democracy, to "lefties" and "communists", to students, to unions, to intellectuals, to teachers, to politicians, a no to politics itself, etc, etc). Despite its operational flexibility, it has almost no positive political program aside from the hardening of the arteries of current powers and situations (the extension of mining industry and restriction of renewables, the undermining of workers' rights, etc) in so far as this hardening benefits these current powers. It becomes neofeudal as it restricts access to the benefits of current powers and situations to the few, even and especially as many of the existing resources and social structures that support current powers play out their end games.
Fractal neofeudalism has to work hard, however, to maintain the tenuous fantasy of denial of the world involved at the level of the production of subjectivity. Again, performance is ideally suited to the purpose—although often a performance without meaningful content beyond the affective affirmation that serves the imposition of hierarchical powers.
One example might be the sad "ethico-aesthetic" of the performances of Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. Monckton is a prominent climate change sceptic. His achievements are not at all based on science but rather on his very strong performance skills (see Lambert at scienceblogs.com for the problems with Monckton's science; see also Cook 2011 and Sourcewatch n.d.). Monckton constantly circulates around the world—along with his befuddled and befuddling but comforting pseudo-science, his nevertheless high level debating skills, the mutual affection he enjoys with a series of think tanks and fellow sceptics (Desmogblog n.d.), his constant but purely theatrical threats to sue those who disagree with him (Bickmore 2010, Readfearn 2011—to my knowledge at least Monckton has not sued any of those he has threatened), and his use of visual aids such as the swastika in powerpoints and referencing of Nazism in order to demean his opponents (Weber 2011; SustainUS 2009; NewOnABC 2011). All this, along with the staging of the Monckton tours and events, and the organisation of media contexts for these events, is a perfect example of performance's carriage of the ethos (an atmosphere of practice that perfects new forms of performative controls at the level of the social), and the circulation of affective intensities ("no!" "nazis!") that define fractal neofeudalism. Of course, it is no accident that so much of the work of fantasy maintenance by fractal neofeudalism goes into denial of the claims of climate change and other ecological catastrophes. For climate change scepticism is necessarily one of the pillars of the denial of the claims of the world. Fractal neofeudalism therefore funds front groups and media control on this issue. It develops and circulates tactics, along with false statements, as cultural performatives that undermine the science. It then builds on the climate change scepticism it carefully constructs, deploys the affective intensity in other areas (for example, in Australia the "no to Carbon tax" campaign, the "no to mining taxes" campaign, leading to the possible downfall of a centralist government).
Fractal neofeudalism's other pillar of the denial of the claims of the world is a rather more confused half-denial of the ongoing failure of global capital. This failure is complex for fractal neofeudalism. Here fractal neofeudalism attempts to position itself within a second fantasy—not this time the denial per se of the world, but a fantasy of a substitute imaginary world beyond both the environment and a failing global capital. Yet, as can only occur in a fantasy, this world is simultaneously beyond and under the aegis of the remnant powers of this failing global capital itself. These are remnant powers that involve the strategic use of existing capital (funding the like of think tanks, astroturfing, national and global media control). These remnant powers, via their control of politics, are also able to carry out an exploitation of global capital's failure (in bailouts of the financial industries, along with supposedly "necessary" cuts to social welfare, with a concurrent rejection of tax rises, even and especially for the very wealthy).
Much of this is obvious. Yet it is perhaps less obvious that, as it has emerged with clarity as a political formation, fractal neofeudalism has long worked hard (although not always succeeded) to demolish much of the social. Here I will only assert that it has worked to undermine a range of more general, often successful, concepts, philosophies, practices and modes of living. A long list might include: universal health care, social democracy, renewable energy, new forms of collaboration and organisation, even one might suggest the various philosophies and sciences of complexity and process, anything that suggests the mutual entanglement of the human and non-human, of living and not. Nothing should be left standing that might challenge the structures, knowledges and expertise, the basic denials, the tactics, or financial returns, of diminishing and sclerotic "powers that be". Let us remind ourselves that we are only speculating about the emergence of such a formation of power.
Although it is somewhat ironic perhaps that the first enclosure, with all its problems, led us out of the feudal, while the third enclosure might lead us back into it. What can we do about all this?
How do we rekindle imagination?
Within theories of queer (counter)performativity there is now almost a "tradition" in which the double-sided nature of what Judith Butler calls "fabrications" is useful. In short, one uses what is made available by performativity to other ends. On the one hand, fabrications can allow escape, counter-performativity, tactical calculation within a strategy of appearance or disappearance. As such, fabrications can be used by individuals, and in community organisation, but of course, they can also be found in larger corporations, think tanks and other vested interests. On the other hand, a fabrication "becomes something to be sustained, lived up to. Something to measure individual practices against …" (Ball 2000: 9). It is recorded. Repeated. New fabrications might be needed to resist performativity once more. This is, however, difficult, as any ongoing repetition of performance sets up what Barry Barnes has suggested as "self-validating … feedback loops" (1983: 524).
Butler's work, which
began in the context of what she called "gender trouble" (1990)
has been questioned in other terms within the context of feminism but
with clear implications for politics and social life beyond this.
Diprose (2002) suggests that "my body identity is transformed in
this performance through the world of the other … not by simply
donning the garb of a foreign body and playing on the difference
between that performance and the sex of my body but by implicitly
incorporating that foreign body, its gestures, movements, and habits,
into my performance" (70). Colebrook (2000; see also 2003)
contrasts Butler's work with that of Lloyd, Gatens and Grosz. She
notes that the "the becoming of feminism can be understood in two
senses: as less than the real or as more than the given". Colebrook
suggests that Butler's approach to "instability as the motor of
political change, her attention to the positing power of identity
alongside its failures at full realisation, stresses the disruptive
power of feminist becoming" but this still leaves things as "less
that the real"—I might simply say still relying heavily on the
performative. Colebrook prefers Lloyd, Gatens and Grosz' "more
than the given", or "becoming as an enrichment of being" (2000:
90), in which life, contra performance based on given elements, does
not consist of a playing out of tactics directed towards controlling
… life and duration, and this history and politics, are never either a matter of unfolding an already worked out blueprint, or the gradual accretion of qualities which progress stage by stage or piecemeal over time.. (90-91, quoting Grosz 2000: 230)
All of this complex work from within feminism applies to performance in general. It suggests at least a subversion from within performance, although this is perhaps the weaker response. Better, it suggests an affirmative movement "beyond the given" (even if this given becomes only a particular system or event of performance itself) in so far as this "given" attempts to contaminate living via performance.
There is another problem to be overcome or sidestepped, however. Performance systems do not just engineer, or even re-engineer, the world. They pull it apart. For all kinds of reasons that I sketched out here, performance systems are not the friends of a flourishing culture (as the recent Excellence in Research for Australia journal ranking debacle demonstrates [Rowbotham 2011]). In fact, we might suggest that the more interesting things are happening, the more modes of living that are being invented, the more likely it is that a performance system will arise to pull them apart, and to get things back under control.
I have already suggested that at the extreme end of this, performance can become a substitute for any kind of real work/living outside of them. So we might not really be doing much even while dramatically overworked. Ivor Southwood calls this "non-stop inertia" (2011). In modern life everyone faces impossible demands and or is forced to assume unassumable responsibilities. One result is perhaps a forced incompetence. In this situation, where does one turn, for example as a manager, if not to the system that will guarantee that something at least has been fulfilled, and that this something has been guaranteed by an appropriate measure, such as the satisfactory hit of a Key Performance Target (see Weber 2005, on "targets of opportunity")?
Yet the result is that relationships become often faulty circuits, or at best alliances, as there is a new competition over access to these circuits. Mentoring is about how to beat the system by playing it. Community becomes a new tribalism. I might even suggest that in performance culture the fear of death is replaced by something more immediate—the fear of a lived destruction.
In the light of all this, one can perhaps remain thankful for the like of Butler, Kosofsky Sedgwick (who I will discuss shortly), McKenzie, Stengers, Colebrook, Diprose or those such as Richard Sennett for the beginning of remedies.
Ghosted Publics and Unacknowledged Collectivity
Another possible series of responses to the third enclosure and fractal neofeudalism might be found in what I call "ghosted publics" and "unacknowledged collectivity". These refuse, rout around, rather than court or demand, systemic recognition and alignments (not that I am against recognition when it seems strategically valuable). I will suggest that ghosted publics and unacknowledged collectivity evade forms of "in-fact-never-the-recognition-that-was-promised", predicated on the now multiple systems of performance and audits and so on. Subsequently, a ghosted public or unacknowledged collective might unfold collective life differently, working toward affirming the "more than given", re-enabling a freer production of subjectivity.
"Ghosted publics" are acts of community—often media-assisted—that are simultaneously in and not in the public sphere (see also Murphie 2008b). They are translucent 'figures' of direct relationality and immediate communing that by-pass certified public acts, or regulated "communications" of performance recognised by established powers. From the point of view of established systems they are both present and absent, precisely because, although they are real, they do not fit, or even desire or struggle to obtain, standard forms of recognition. This makes them hard to see. They nevertheless haunt and trouble both mainstream media events (early amateur radio is a great example but so is a reading group, or more famously, in a complicated way, Wikileaks). They also haunt mainstream, publicly "certified" models of, and controls over thinking processes, affective intensities, and the production of subjectivity. Like ghosts that one only thinks one might feel, perhaps with an unexpected chill, ghosted publics disrupt and trouble the given without necessarily "appearing".
If then, ghosted publics are precisely those events of community that evade the desired stability and established models of a recognised "public", then they evade a "public" that has become the central defining problem of much of traditional media events, media theory and media disciplines for a hundred years. In the process they suggest a different understanding of thinking processes, one in which thought is not taken to consist of neat and recognisable forms of communication either predictably or perhaps "fractally" spread through the social. They certainly suggest something much more contingent than inputs and outputs, or symbolic processing according to a stable system.
Throughout the 20th century there has always been a series of ghosted publics moving through the more acknowledged and controlled public. Locally, on the ground, they might form pockets of "unacknowledged collectivity" (there are infinite forms of this but a simple example might be community gardening), by which I mean collectivity that again does not care about recognition, stability of models or access to central controls. They take up the practices of the "public" like ghosts, appearing only fleetingly here and there in the acknowledged public (for example, as "anti-globalisation activists" on the nightly news), and then only out of the corner of the acknowledged public's eye. Yet these unacknowledged collectives seem to possess strange new powers of communality. They hint at public uncanny relations because their own relations come first. They seem in tune with the ongoing shifts, the convergences and divergences, of network ecologies. Again such unacknowledged collectivities were seen in the communities that found expression through the early days of amateur radio before the airwaves were regulated (or the later free radio in Italy, France and elsewhere [Goddard 2011]).
Such collectivity involves a question of "simply being able to live or to survive in a particular place, at a particular time, and to be ourselves". However, this "has nothing to do with identity" (Guattari in Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 94—my emphasis). Guattari notes that "every time the problems of identity or recognition appear in a particular place, at the very least we are faced with the threat of blocking and paralysis of the process" (102). What do we perform in this situation? If we perform at all, it is perhaps as ghost with regard to publics, as unacknowledged collectivity with regard to each other. These perhaps become a kind of counter-fractal within performance.
Unacknowledge collectivities also teach us a new principle with regard to the third enclosure. We need always to re-singularise the situation, to use Guattari's term .
How would this work? In terms of examples one could point to, for example, the Senselab project, "Technologies of Lived Abstraction" and its work on re-singularising "research creation" and transdisciplinary encounter (see senselab.ca; the online journal Inflexions gives several accounts and related discussions; the best account of this, however, along with principles for re-singularisation, is Manning and Massumi forthcoming). In these events, for example, there are no performed papers, and participants are asked to come with techniques for relation but not finished work. Encounter and creation is emphasised rather than performance. Failure is common, whatever that means outside of a performance environment. A different example, this time of a simultaneous resingularisation of the social, technical networks and action on climate change is the Coalition of the Willing Project, dedicated to open culture climate solutions (coalitionofthewilling.org.uk; and http://cotw.cc/wiki/Coalition_of_the_Willing). Another good set of examples of work in this vein could be found at the P2P foundation site p2pfoundation.net. Of course, this whole discussion is also haunted by the autonomists, the Situationists (Wark 2011), and all that has followed these two movements (for related events and ideas in the context of network culture see de Peuter and Dyer-Witheford 2005, Bauwens 2009, Lovink and Rossiter 2005, Goriunova 2011, Moore 2011).
How would this work in terms of techniques, practices and concepts?
First, when performance begins to work with Guattari's processes of re-singularisation, events look somewhat different. They perhaps look like what he calls a "kind of molecular wave" (76). This molecular wave provides an alternate history, and a different contemporary problematic, to that of the public sphere, or the three enclosures. It may be true that this might look like a history of events that still need to find ways of being acted out, but more correctly it might be a matter of allowing an emergence of relations that are non-performative.
Second, crucial to this might be a reworking of the meaning of action. Here simply one has to remove actual activity, activity of real value, to yourself or your community, from the generalised circuits of performance systems. This is to say, recreate the possibility of action outside of performance systems.
Third, there is the resingularisation of time. Somewhat ironically we can turn to Benjamin Bloom in this respect. Bloom was the founder of the notion of a taxonomy of educational objectives (Bloom et al. 1956) within education—and these are at the heart of performance culture. Yet Bloom went on to develop "mastery learning" (1984). The most significant shift in this is the deregulation—and re-singularisation—of time. Students take the time they need to master objectives before they have to move on. Objectives remain but now interaction/relation with the teacher on a more one-to-one basis begins to take objectives out of a draconian test-based system, and therefore out of a general subjective equivalence. As education, it works. Although you can imagine how well one-to-one teaching and taking one's time go down with funding bodies. It's also been in trouble with the Christian Right in the US, largely because it affirms the child, rather than breaking their will (Berliner 1997). They are right. The control of time is crucial if you are going to force people to perform in a certain way. The single biggest factor in the softer forms of control over life such as performance systems is the fact that they take up so much time, and create "time" in a certain way. Bloom's inversion of the connection between time and progress is therefore very important.
Fourth, there is something else hidden here in Bloom's work, alongside the flexible time to master objectives. This is variation. Individual variation becomes a plus (although Bloom was keen to bring the virtues of individual teaching into group work). Ideally, there would even be time for non-action, for open thought, even for more flexible educational relations between students, between teachers. The question becomes one then of reintroducing a flexibility and openness of tasks and relations between, for example students, teachers, colleagues, while minimising performance. "Impossible", I hear funders say. However, it is of course what is already happening in learning and teaching in almost any informal setting, including much of informal learning online—a gigantic ghosted public if ever there was one.
Fifth, I will suggest a counter-movement to performance systems is perhaps found in Kosofsky Sedgwick's concept of "periperformativity" (2002: 5). Her definition is striking in the context here. A "periperformative" is an utterance "whose complex efficacy depends on their tangency to, as well as their difference from, the explicit performatives" (5). Periperformatives ghost performatives. Periperformatives live in the neighbourhood of performatives but fragment them, take them somewhere else. They disrupt a system's smooth fractalisation. We might think of Bartleby the Scrivener's famous "I would prefer not to" (Melville 2004), or, as a colleague recently advised me to say in relation to further requests for administrative work "it can't be done". These seem to me to be almost un-performative assemblages, more perhaps than counter-performatives. Periperformatives open up time again, open up possible relations and potentials, allow for new ecologies of practice, of performance and just as crucially, non-performance.
These periperformatives perhaps need to be accompanied by Félix Guattari's metamodeling. Normal modeling and framing involve a series of frozen representations, operating to channel experience into narrow forms of performance. Metamodeling frees things up, moves not above them, but between them, a kind of counter to the communicative or even fractal aspects of performative systems as these construct frames and models. Metamodels "introduce movement, multiplicity and chaos into models" (Genosko and Murphie 2008). A metamodel "ensures precariousness, uncertainty and creativity over fixity, universality and automatic articulations" (Genosko 2003: 134-135). Shake the frame, undo prescriptive actions. Or, better sometimes, just don't subscribe to the frame, especially not in practice. Just don't do it. Unswoosh.
The psychic system, or better the world itself, might be on your side. Kosofsky Sedgwick, writing with Adam Frank about Silvan Tomkins' work on cybernetics, discusses the psychic system as fundamentally out of tune with the kinds of assumptions you need for neat inputs/outputs, alignments, and so on. In short, there is no neat alignment, or, we might say, even fixed allegiances within the field of the psychic system, or within this system relations with other systems (that is, the world from which something like the psychic system ongoingly emerges). There is, in a sense, nothing with which to align. It's certainly not a question of the defined and unshiftable "object" within the "objective". Rather, it's a matter of complex assemblages, or what they call "co-assemblages" with an affect system "encompassing several more, and more qualitatively different, possibilities that on/off". Kosofsky Sedgwick and Frank therefore share an attraction to "the image of an undifferentiated but differentiable ecology [along with an ability to] discuss how things differentiate" (in Kosofsky Sedgwick 2002: 106).
This attraction would be the key point of difference when thinking through the ethical constitution of performance in all its forms.
I'm ultimately arguing here for a commitment to a "differential life" (Murphie 2005). This is life which brings together concepts of different/ciation with pragmatic techniques of living. However, I want to finish with that which I have been suggesting might sometimes seem to be a missing ingredient—non-performance, that is, not performing in any sense of the word.
Not Performing (Non-action)
I have written elsewhere on the desirability of de-leveraging performance in stillness, silence, non-action (Murphie 2010b). I have also suggested above that we might look to Bloom's re-singularisation of time, Kosofsky's Sedgwick's periperformatives, Diprose's incorporation or Colebrook's affirmation of the "more than the given" as ways of intervening in the action-commands of performance culture. Or we might look to Guattari's metamodelisation as a way of moving between the frames and models so important to the narrowness of performance cultures. Of course, performers and queer theorists know all about stillness, silence, non-action, when to speak and when to remain silent, when to appear and when to remain in secret. We have much to learn from them.
We also learn by paying attention to what we pay attention, and how we do this.
Slow down. For those still anxious about leaving the test behind, however, here's a test from Isabelle Stengers.
Slowing down is not only about capitalism. It is about giving a chance to the event, to the encounters which have you feeling and thinking … we must utterly disentangle [progress] from mobilisation, when you quietly destroy what you define as an obstacle to progress. And this is the test for everybody. (Stengers 2002: 252-3)
Stillness—real stillness, stopping, slowing, non-action. All of these are an opening out from narrow channeled life. They are simple techniques. They are literally things you can do.
Yet even in these, we can still ask, what is it not to perform? This is the question we are no longer supposed to ask, yet it is an extremely powerful question. It is also a question we can ask often. I'm sure the answers will appear if we do.
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