I’m about half way finished with my article on politics, queer theory, onticology, body, and affect for the journal Identities. There’s a lot here from Luhmann, Ranciere, and Badiou. Basically I conceive the political as an event that emerges as a relation between elements belonging to larger scale objects and parts or smaller-scale objects that are included in these larger scale objects without being members of these larger-scale objects. I argue that things are not in and of themselves political– though they can be social –but rather that politics is an event that takes place with the appearance of the in-apparent (parts) that discloses the anarchy bubbling beneath the organization of any larger scale object. This allows me to draw a distinction between governance and politics. Governance consists of those operations that strive to regulate and reproduce elements constituting a larger scale object. Politics is that event and the activist procedures that follow from it that reveal the contingency of these organizations and that set about producing and inventing a new form of organization. Much of what we call “politics” (for example, the “incrementalism” and “pragmatic realism” of ardent Obama supporters), is not politics at all but regulatory governance designed to manage the entropic parts of systems, reducing them to elements that have a “proper” and non-disruptive place. For example, we might think of the “eco-activists” that nonetheless sides with state based strategies (i.e., ardent Obama supporters) for dealing with climate change, arguing that there are no alternatives, thereby placing all the burden on workers and refusing to recognize the manner in which capitalism and the ecological crisis are intertwined. Such a person fails to recognize that parts are distinct from elements, or that objects and their possible relations cannot be reduced to their status as elements for a particular system. In Badiou-ese, these subjects are what are called “reactive subjects”. The work on behalf of governance that refuses to recognize the volcanic anarchic possibilities that result from the withdrawal of objects from one another or the fact that parts (objects in their own right and withdrawn from the larger scale objects within which they’re erased) are always in excess of elements.
This framework allows me to do two things. On the one hand, I am able to develop an onticological account of the subject. Subject is the appearance of the in-apparent or that which is not counted as an element within the system in which it appears. Subject thus simultaneously reveals the contingency of that higher order object (that other relations are possible, and that there are always entities uncounted as elements within any particular system or object) and is the procedure that sets about either 1) destroying a particular higher-order object, 2) de-suturing itself from this higher order object and forming a new collective object, or 3) reorganizing the endo-consistency or organization of the higher order object. Many of us, of course, dream of the absolute annihilation of certain higher order objects or systems like global capitalism. This is possible precisely because 1) parts are never identical to elements, 2) objects are withdrawn from one another, and 3) every object is a struggle against entropy or the possibility of extinction. Revolutionary politics dreams of extinction or an introduction of entropy into certain objects so profound that it brings about the extinction of that object.
Second, because politics is an event that marks the appearance of the in-apparent or parts within an object, I argue that it follows that all politics is queer politics. Here I return to the original etymology of the term “queer”, extending its signification beyond the domain of the politics of sexual orientation and gender. Queer refers to the strange, the odd, that which twists, and is out of place. Insofar as politics only occurs in those sites where parts contest their status of elements, revealing the volcanic anarchy beneath every system of counting, disclosing the contingency of every object or system’s way of counting or producing elements, it follows that all politics is essentially queer. If queer theory initially stumbled upon questions of sexual orientation, gender, etc., then this is because these are mechanisms by which larger-scale objects govern parts and constitute elements for themselves (thereby erasing the bubbling chaos upon which they stand). It matters little whether the politics is what we ordinarily refer to as “queer politics”, whether it is Marxist insurrections of the proletariat as universal motor of history, whether it be women, people of color, or whether it be genuine eco-activists asserting the truth of spotted owls, in all cases the political moment is the moment where the queer or odd as in-apparent appears and challenges systems of constituting elements, governance, and the erasure of parts. This is my first foray into the arguments of The Domestication of Humans. If anyone is interested in reading an advance copy of this article once it’s completed, please email me. I’d love your feedback.