- Series: Post-Contemporary Interventions
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Duke University Press Books; First Edition edition (April 9, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780822328971
- ISBN-13: 978-0822328971
- ASIN: 0822328976
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Post-Contemporary Interventions) First Edition Edition
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"This is an extraordinary work of scholarship and thought, the most thorough-going critique and reformulation of the culture doctrine that I have read in years. Massumi's prose has a dazzling and sometimes cutting clarity, and yet he bites into very big issues. People will be reading and talking about Parables for the Virtual for a long time to come." Meaghan Morris, author of Too Soon Too Late: History in Popular Culture
"Have you been disappointed by books that promise to bring the body or corporeality back into culture? Well, your luck is about to change. In this remarkable book Brian Massumi transports us from the dicey intersection between movement and sensation, through insightful explorations of affect and body image, to a creative reconfiguration of the nature-culture continuum. The writing is experimental and adventurous, as one might expect from a writer who finds inventiveness to be the most distinctive attribute of thinking. The perspective Massumi unfolds will have a major effect on cultural theory for years to come."William Connolly, Johns Hopkins University
"After Bergson, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Guattari, the great radical empiricist protest against naïve objectivism and naïve subjectivism resonates again, bringing wonder back into the most common day experiences. After reading Brian Massumi you will never listen to Sinatra or watch a soccer game the same way again."Isabelle Stengers, Free University of Brussels
"It is not enough to describe Massumis book as a brilliant achievement. Seldom do we see a political thinker develop his or her ideas with such scrupulous attention to everyday human existence, creating a marvelously fluid architecture of thought around the fundamental question of what the fact of human embodiment does to the activity of thinking. Massumis vigorous critique of both social-constructionist and essentialist theorizations of embodied practices renews the Deleuzian tradition of philosophy for our times."Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago
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Massumi heads his streaming conceptuality right into the next "frontier:" the expressed engaging of emergence in it still relational, potentiating, virtual form -- before it is crushed into the objects of certainty, production and possession. He is seeking to push out into open discourse the dynamic force of Nature (out into this world, as he says -- p. 247) that as opening, mixing and coalescing (or not), remains participative and pre-objectively generative. This is the dimension that neither totalitarianism nor capitalism can encompass, control or own. This trajectory of endeavor, into the emergent/relational has been taking shape with some vigor for the past 50 years, and has been doing so across many fields, from science (where it dares) to philosophy. Science takes up self-organization and increasing complexity (not the chaos theory that Masummi names), while philosophy (Jean-Luc Nancy, Agamben, et. al.) take up the incipience of being-singular-plural and the community to come (which Massumi mentions).
I place this work of Massumi on the continuum just shy of the philosophical dimension -- which I am sure he would be proud of, as a disciple also of the Pragmatists Pierce and James, and the empiricist Hume, and from which he extracts their most constructively salient aspects.
He shuns the "French diseased" penchant for classical references to ontology and Being (although these words creep into his discourse when moving into futures is concerned (pp. 217 - 220 or thereabout). This is a good strategy for the Anglo-American audience. It is very appealing in this context to have concepts that do progressive work while not having to appeal to the dynamics of conceiving that engender them to start with. His line of discourse, which he calls "speculative pragmatism," a good name, gets right to work.
But I just want to put in a plug for "Being." I am no Heideggerian, and I do not truck with hypostizptions of Being as a quasi thing. However, as it is appealed to in Jean-Luc Nancy, "Being" offers a safe harbor for there being a welcoming portent to our aspiring; by embedding our sense of movement into futures that are matters of complexities we have never engaged and do not have the faculties for engaging, that the "thereness" accompanies the "nextness" of my aspiring allows for my faith-for what comes -- that its boding forth is a promise from nature, from an "all," (as Derrida might say) and as such can be engaged in all its singularity.
Massumi does not preclude this as much as it proceeds gleefully through the dimensions only this ontological, Being-saturated faith-for avails to us. We need the elaboration of the machinics of emergence that Massumi offers; his pragmatism is healthy. I wonder how it would help to elucidate and enliven philosophy. Or has Massumi accepted that Deleuze/Guattari, Nancy, even Derrida have covered that space?
Oh well, onward into generative, speculative pragmatism. Masummi is just the guide we need.
Massumi's method, though imposing at first (his writing reflects the complexity of his philosophy), is actually very ordered. Each chapter, excluding the fifth, is basically a close reading (a "parable") illustrating novel sets of relations among movement, sensation, and affect. And the subjects of his readings are refreshingly novel too. Chapter 2 focuses on Ronald Reagan, the reciprocity between his affective character as president and his failure as an actor. Four chapters (1,6,7,9) examine experiments on vision and perception; in an amusing one (Ch 6), a pilot anesthetizes his 'ass' and loses all sense of orientation during flight. In Chapter 8, Massumi discusses his own experience of mistaken orientation in an office building, drawing on studies of synesthesia to highlight his reorienting mechanisms. Chapter 4 looks at performance artist Sterlac's body-as-object exhibitions. And Chapter 3 provides an incredibly insightful vision of soccer, and the 'transduction' of its affects into television and domestic violence.
The applicability of his work is wide. Research on embodiment and affect will find an indispensable guide that moves well beyond 'the body' and Foucault. Process philosophers, Deleuzian scholars, visual studies, social research on mobility, feminists looking to complicate the personal is political axiom, queer theorists seeking to complicate notions of performativity, all will find some critical use in this book. More generally, those interested in issues surrounding complex systems, though Massumi does not directly take up complexity theories, will recognize many familiar terms used in novel contexts. Thinkers such as Michael Hardt, William Connolly, Jane Bennett, Manuel DeLanda, and John Protevi resonate with Massami's theory. But 'Parables for the Virtual' is a singular accomplishment, standing apart from Massumi's other fine work.