The Recirculation of Negativity: Theory, Literature, and the Failures of Affirmation


  • Benjamin Noys
Keywords: affirmation, contemporary continental theory, labor, negativity, politics

Abstract

The contemporary theoretical moment is dominated by “affirmationism,” as the affirming of a superior economy of excess that can inscribe and rupture any actual economy. This article reconstructs and critiques this affirmationism through an analysis of how it subordinates negativity as trapped within a restricted economy, and insists on a “savage negativity” that escapes all relation. I do so by retracing the core features of affirmationism and particularly its turn to the forces of creativity and play, figured through literature, posed against the “labor of the negative.” Probing this downgrading of “labor,” as a result of the collapse of worker’s identity, I suggest that it results in a fatal detachment of negativity from any political or social instantiation. Instead, the return to negativity must be a return to the possible relational forms of negativity that attend to the impossibility of labor within capitalism.

Author Biography

Benjamin Noys

PhD in Philosophy, Reader in English 
University of Chichester
College Lane, Chichester, United Kingdom PO19 6PE
e-mail: b.noys@chi.ac.uk

References

Agamben, Giorgio (2000). Means without End: Notes on Politics. Trans. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Badiou, Alain (2003). On Beckett. Trans. and ed. Alberto Toscano and Nina Power. Lon- don: Clinamen Press.

Barchiesi, Franco (2012). Precarious Liberation: Workers, the State, and Contested Social Citizenship in Postapartheid South Africa. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.

Bataille, Georges (1988). “Letter to X, Lecturer on Hegel…” [1937]. In The College of Sociology, 1937–39, ed. Denis Hollier, trans. Betsy Wing, 89–93. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Boltanski, Luc, and Eve Chiapello (2007). The New Spirit of Capitalism. London & New York: Verso.

Critchley, Simon (1999). “Comedy and Finitude: Displacing the Tragic-Heroic Paradigm in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis.” In Simon Critchley, Ethics–Politics–Subjectiv- ity: Essays on Derrida, Levinas and Contemporary French Thought, 217–238. London: Verso.

Critchley, Simon (2007). Infinitely Demanding: Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance. London & New York: Verso.

Critchley, Simon (2012). The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology. London & New York: Verso.

Day, Gail (2010). Dialectical Passions: Negation in Postwar Art Theory. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles (1994). Difference and Repetition [1968]. Trans. Paul Patton. London: Athlone.

Deleuze, Gilles (1995). “The Exhausted.” Trans. Anthony Uhlmann. SubStance 24.3, N 78: 3–28.

Deleuze, Gilles (2005). Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Trans. Daniel W. Smith. London: Continuum.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1983). Anti-Oedipus [1972]. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1986). Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Trans. Dana Polan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari (1987). A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Derrida, Jacques (1984). “Two Words for Joyce.” Trans. Geoffrey Bennington. In Post- Structuralist Joyce: Essays from the French, ed. Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer, 145–159. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Derrida, Jacques (1989). Edmund Husserl’s Origin of Geometry: An Introduction. Trans. John P. Leavey, Jr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Derrida, Jacques (1992). Acts of Literature. Ed. Derek Attridge. London: Routledge. Derrida, Jacques (2001). Writing and Difference. Trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge.

Gibson, Andrew (2006). Beckett & Badiou: The Pathos of Intermittency. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gibson, Andrew (2012). Intermittency: The Concept of Historical Reason in Recent French Philosophy. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Hallward, Peter (2003). “The One or the Other: French Philosophy Today.” Angelaki 8, N 2: 1–32.

Hegel, G.W.F. (1977). Phenomenology of Spirit [1807]. Trans. A.V. Miller. Oxford: Claren- don Press.

Joyce, James (1994). Ulysses [1922]. London: Flamingo.

Joyce, James (1992). Finnegans Wake [1939]. Ed. Seamus Deane. London: Penguin. Lacan, Jacques (2005). Le Séminaire, Livre XXIII: Le Sinthome. Paris: Seuil.

Marx, Karl (1973). Grundrisse. Trans. Martin Nicolaus. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Marx, Karl (1991). “Afterword to the Second German Edition” [1873]. Marxists Internet Archive. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/p3.htm.

Milne, Drew (2002). “The Beautiful Soul: From Hegel to Beckett.” Diacritics 32, N 1 (2002): 63–82.

Nancy, Jean-Luc (2002). Hegel: The Restlessness of the Negative. Trans. Jason Smith and Steven Miller. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Noys, Benjamin (2010). The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

O’Brien, Flann (1993). The Dalkey Archive. London: Flamingo.

Zupančič, Alenka (2008). The Odd One In: On Comedy. Cambridge, Mass., & London: The MIT Press.
Published
2013-01-09
How to Cite
Noys, B. (2013). The Recirculation of Negativity: Theory, Literature, and the Failures of Affirmation. Stasis, 1(1). Retrieved from http://stasisjournal.net/index.php/journal/article/view/57