So yet another dissertation structure. Fourth iteration. Here is how my writing has progressed:

1) writing up to understand stuff, and all my work here wasn’t that good;
2) writing up my empirical work basically organised into historical eras;
3) extract the argument from the mass of empirical work.
And now it seems that I need to enter a fourth stage of the process
4) organising the argument in a suitable form for examination.

I have chopped up and reorganised my epic 18-20,000 word chapters of the current third version into 9 smaller chapters assembled from different sections of the third version.

I am beginning at the beginning again and starting with the first chapter: Enthusiasm and Events.

I begin end with the Kantian conception of enthusiasm. I have decided I need to engage with Kant’s concept of enthusiasm in much more detail as it allows me to introduce a Deleuzian conception of enthusiasm. Over the fold is a rough ‘blog’ draft.

Kant described two types of enthusiasm. One relates to the empirical situation of enthusiasm felt by spectators of the French revolution. This revolutionary enthusiasm is a break in history. (See my previous post on Zizek and Foucault on Iranian revolution.) The second enthusiasm is more useful for my purposes:

“The idea of the good to which affection is superadded is enthusiasm. This state of mind appears to be sublime: so much so that there is a common saying that nothing great can be achieved without it. […] Yet, from an aesthetic point of view, enthusiasm is sublime, because it is an effort of one’s powers called forth by ideas which give to the mind an impetus of far stronger and more enduring efficacy than the stimulus afforded by sensible representations. […] This expression, however, comes in time to be applied to things – such as buildings, a garment, literary style, the carriage of one’s person, and the like – provided they do not so much excite astonishment (the affection attending the representation of novelty exceeding expectation) as admiration (an astonishment which does not cease when the novelty wears off) – and this obtains where ideas undesignedly and artlessly accord in their presentation with aesthetic delight.”

Kant’s version of enthusiasm here is still congruent with the revolutionary version, the difference being that the definition of “ideas” that “call forth one’s powers” is not the revolutionary event but is instead “applied to things — such as buildings, a garment, literary style, the carriage of one’s person, and [cars!].”

Kant’s definition of enthusiasm confuses the origin or location and enduring quality of “novelty” and its relation to “powers” allegedly called forth by transcendent “ideas.” A Deleuzian engagement with Kant’s notion of enthusiasm would instead argue that novelty does not ‘wear off’. Novelty is not the excess remainder of a process of synthesis between the idea of the good and affection. The ‘new’ of novelty “with its power of beginning and beginning again, remains forever new” (D&R 136). That, is the new of the new is given, or as Sanford Kwinter has phrased it in terms of temporality, “[t]ime always expresses itself by producing, or more precisely, by drawing matter into a process of becoming-ever-different” (AoT 4).

In Kant’s argument the idea of the good is transcendent calling forth one’s powers. In Deleuze’s concept of transcendental empiricism it is the novelty that calls forth one’s powers; “the new — in other words, difference — calls forth forces in thought which are not the forces of recognition [i.e. Kant’s categorical judgement]” (D&R 136-137). Deleuze’s celebrated concept of ‘difference’ is an account of the singularly intensive capacities to individuate themselves (D&R 38-39). Between Kant and Deleuze is a balance of power or forces: the power of transcendental ideas versus the force of novelty or difference.

If enthusiasm can be exhausted, and indeed it often is, what then what ‘wears off’ if novelty is given? There is a temporal dimension to ‘admiration’ (durable excitation). A post-Kantian or Deleuzian conception of enthusiasm is defined by the manifest and contingent relations of durable excitation determined by the singularities of novelty. This is slightly different to Boudieu’s critique of Kantian aesthetic judgement. Bourdieu demonstrates that aesthetic judgement is derived from the distance from necessity of bourgeois aesthetics. On the other hand ‘popular taste’ is an aesthetics of necessity defined by what the popular form does (vulgar, sensible, etc.). In the context of enthusiasm, Bourdieu therefore isolates a social relation in the ‘durability’ of excitation. Another way of talking about this ‘durability’ is though the concept of the habitus.

A Deleuzian enthusiasm also requires a critique of Bourdieu’s conception of habitus. Not because of Bourdieu’s distinction between the habitus of subjects belonging to different social classes, rather because Bourdieu retains the services of an abstract social power to explain the difference. Deleuze argues we are composed by thousands of habits in the domain of passive synthesis (78). There is an ontological distinction between the habitus of subjects belonging to different social classes brought forth by the experience of different ‘differences’. The social distinction is therefore not between judgements of tastes but a capacity to refuse or select and inculcate the power of novelty or singularity. Bourdieu was concerned with the social conditions of taste or the power between different inculcated capacities to recognise and judge aesthetic worth. The Deleuzian critique is not of the social basis of judgement, rather with the capacity of recognition that underpins the practice of judgement itself.

The singularities of novelty punctuate the durability of excitation with a cadence that is not social, in the sense of being determined by social stratifications, even though such stratifications correlate with it, instead it is a movement between thresholds of durability and the immanent capacity of excitability to organise around novelty. The production of durability that underpins enthusiasm is therefore the habituated practice of translating the continual and indiscernible ‘singular’ points of becoming-ever-different into ‘ordinary’ points. The singularities in question belong to and are distributed across all elements of the enthusiasm in question (bodies, spaces, words, etc.). The intensive field of singularities selected in the ongoing process of actualisation of enthusiasm therefore defines the nature of the enthusiasm. The novelty as such does not wear off, rather the capacity to translate the singularity of novelty into the ordinary becomes exhausted. Taste is not simply a matter of producing distinction, but translating the singular into the ordinary from the field of intensive differences.

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