Event Mechanics of Opportunity

Everyone does not have access to the same opportunities due to circumstance or the inability to witness their own circumstance. An ‘opportunity‘ is a recomposition of processual relations. It is an event that releases new visibilities, new discourses (or different ways of participating in familiar discourses), new capacities for action and so on. There is a movement and reconfiguartion of subjectivity before and after that defines the scale of the opportunity-event. This is the positive way to view opportunities.

Massumi and others have examined this processual dimension in terms of relations of futurity. Massumi’s “Future Birth of the Affective Fact” sketches out the diagrammatic arrangement of one composition of relations of futurity. A chapter I recently wrote for a forthcoming book on Derrida’s Spectres of Marx engages with ‘loyalty’ within capitalism as another composition of relations of futurity.

Relations of futurity are composed all the time. An ‘expectation’ is a good example of the way relations of futurity become structurated; the disappointment of failing to ‘live up to expectation’ is evidence of an ‘opportunity failure’. The opportunity in these circumstances may have been produced for one person (say, a son or daughter) by others (parents). Parents are disappointed because the relations of futurity produced by them for their children are not actualised in the way they expected. The parents know the future in the sense they can draw on experience to produce their own expectations. If a child is talented and does not follow the relations of futurity produced by parents in a way that the parents expect, then according to the parents’ expectations, an opportunity is lost. Expectation here works to discipline relations of future; an expectation is a colonisation of futurity.

It makes sense then, even if it is mildly paternalistic, to work on creating relations of futurity for those without the ability to do so in such a way as the maximise the opportunity and to increase the distribution of opportunity. The problem is in the way the discourse of ‘opportunity’ has been appropriated by those who would dearly like to make a buck off one’s hard work. As I wrote in my original comments about this, the event of the ‘opportunity’ can be deployed and actively cultivated so as to control worker-populations:

Workers are meant to be on the look out for ‘opportunity’ in the workplace or work milieu (if freelancers). They are meant to capitalise on the opportunity and maximise the positive outcome of opportunity to further their respective careers. There is a continuum of opportunity that is differentiated by relations of futurity made possible by the character of contingency around which opportunity is organised.

1) If opportunity is presented by those in power to a worker, then the contingency is often disciplined in accordance with the outcomes of productivity demanded by the managers and the way surplus value is extracted from the worker’s labour.
2) If opportunity presents ‘itself’, then it is because the contingency of labour relations and relations between worker productivity and the market have not been actualised. A new relation to the market can be actualised.
3) If a worker creates ‘opportunity’, then it is because he or she critically appreciates the mechanics of labour relations and relations between worker productivity and the market in its virtuality, an example of the limited fourth-person singular; that is, the worker does not perceive the situation though the identity and horizon of experience of a ‘worker’ per se. The worker actively differentiates a new set of relations that can only be apprehended through action. (What Deleuzians call counter-actualisation.)

To enfranchise workers in the emergent entrepreneurial mode of the unfortunately called ‘creative capitalism’ means equipping them with the capacity to appreciate the dynamics of managerial techniques and apprehend new conditions between labour and the market through the praxis of their own labour. It is not a matter of grasping the relations between specific individuals or objects (big or little) but of appreciating how the relations between individuals are actualised and differentially repeated in experience.

The contingency at the heart of these relations of futurity are important because it means that relations to the future are ‘open’ (this was a major breakthrough in my PhD, it gave me a way to think beyond goal-based definitions of motivation, so failure does not quench motivation, because the contingency is properly appreciated). The existence of contingency means that expectations always relate to reality through assumptions.

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