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Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts (Technologies of Lived Abstraction) Hardcover – September 30, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: Technologies of Lived Abstraction
  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; First Edition edition (September 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262134918
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262134910
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,351,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


" Semblance and Event is a book about the smallest things, and the biggest. Brian Massumi effectively overcomes what Gilles Deleuze once described as the 'wrenching duality' of aesthetics. Massumi brings together action and contemplation; he finds the extraordinary in the everyday, and vice versa. This is a book about the life in art, and the art in life: a political aesthetics for the twenty-first century."--Steven Shaviro, DeRoy Professor of English, Wayne State University; author of Without Critiera: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics

"Brian Massumi practices an 'activist' philosophy indeed, as his writing craft produces an intensive indiscernibility between the abstraction of philosophical concepts and the activation of aesthetic experience associated with art. This amazing book induces a participative thinking-feeling that does not criticize but rather sweeps away the deadening disjunctions paralyzing the adventure of experience."--Isabelle Stengers, philosopher of science, Free University of Brussels; author of Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts

About the Author

Brian Massumi is Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of Montréal. He is the author of Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation and A User's Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari (MIT Press).

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By E. Rosenthal on January 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Brian Massumi is probably best known for his translation of Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus, along with his excellent "reader's guide" he published on the subject. Since then Massumi has only released a few full-length books, and this is his most recent.

Deleuze is still a major reference for Massumi, but he shares equal footing with William James and Alfred North Whitehead in this book, along with Walter Benjamin and Charles Pierce in some later chapters. This book is primarily about ontology and aesthetics. Massumi, at base, wants to understand the underlying aspects of art (and by virtue of art, experience in general) and how it can be political. He spends a lot of time musing on the abstract character of perception, what he at times calls "semblance" and other times terms "lived abstraction" (the terms are related but not synonymous) but always takes his starting point to be actual events. This means that specific artists and art pieces are brought up and discussed at length; these are generally visual pieces but there is also a rather illuminating discussion of Mahler in one of the later passages. In this way, what would otherwise be obtuse constructions (like "Every event is a qualitative-relational economy of process, 'full of both oneness and manyness'") if not immediately explained, is illustrated very well by the time the book is finished.

Massumi takes James's "radical empiricism" seriously, and he terms his appropriation of it "speculative pragmatism.
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