Care of the Other/Self

My high school chemistry teacher gave me two pieces of excellent advice. He told me that I always sought to give a trick answer even when it was not a trick question being asked. (This was bad for high school chemistry btw, as it involved heaps of wrote learning and formulaic regurgitation of formula.) Secondly, a party is only as good as the people that are at the party. If you are at the party and you think the party is shit, then the shitness of the party is partially a product of your own actions.

The comment on the party has extraordinary rammifications (and the comment about my ‘trick answers’ partially explains why I have ended up doing what I am doing!). In my thesis I introduce and discuss the concept of the subcultural event (‘party’). I draw on Sarah Thornton’s specific (mis)reading of Bourdieu and the earlier stuff by some of the BCCCS crew, mainly Paul Corrigan. I haven’t quite figured this out yet, but I imagine two basic models of social interaction operating within the party environment. One is premised on exchange and the production of hierarchies of enjoyment. The other is premised on the shared experience/production of an immanent multiplicity that is the event itself. What is interesting about Thornton’s reading of Bourdieu is that she implies the second understanding while explicitly focusing on the first.

Something that I may not talk about in my thesis is the ethics required for the second type of social interaction to occur… even though this may be the most important thing about it. The first one is never ethical. Imagine the smallest party possible with social interaction, a party of two people (sure, sure, one person, but I am talking about relatively normative social situations). If one or both of the party members enters the party with the intention of extracting as much enjoyment from the party as possible, that is, from the other person, then the situation can become incredibly destructive. Example? Pretty much all the actions of the characters of Sex in the City are premised on the narcissistic pursuit of enabled masturbation. K-punk writes (in a post that I can now properly respond to):

The only novelty of the show was to equate heterosexual female equivocation over men with banal consumer choice. Postmodernism, or the cultural logic of late capitalism indeed. SATC’s Postmodern romantic fiction is pitilessly consumerized. ‘Is HE the ONE?’ (what a question for the sex which is not one to be reduced to posing btw) = ‘should I buy THIS pair of shoes or THAT one… they’re both nice….’ The overwhelming message of the show (in no way diluted by the false note of the final episode) perfectly fitted the anti-existentialism of our times: it is better to be in the anxiety of choice than to actually choose.
SATC relentlessly peddled the postmodern core belief that commitment is a fate, if not worse than, then at least equivalent to, death. To be committed, PoMo assures us, is to have our options closed down, restricted. Hence the grotesquerie of forty or fifty year-olds who still think and behave like teenagers.

Libidinal desire is mapped onto circuits of exchange. Lack is exactly of a big hard cock (Big!). However, this has nothing to do with the anxiety of choice, or it does, but only as a second order manifestation of a social relation premised on the exchange of pleasure and the exploitation (sometimes co-exploitation) of the Other. Relentless consumption. Capital has territorialised the libidinal economy of the encounter. It is not liberating, it is utter and complete subsumption to capital. Or as K-Punk writes in a separate post:

Sex and the City seems to personify the dominant culture just now. The harridans, all of them strangely unappealing, as Penman so rightly points out (the main one looks like the singer from Twisted Sister, and Kim, darling, we remember Mannequin , OK? – ooops, lapsed into popbitchiness), exemplify the McGroot thesis. Their ‘Femininity’ – a voracious, vacuous, unfillable VOID – as the MOTOR of consumer capitalism.

What is the alternative? Rather than one’s own pleasure being the explicit focus of a social encounter, the event of the encounter becomes operative. The party is a positive multiplicity or what Deleuze calls the ‘problematic’… How?

The first model is a strategic assault launched by one’s own libidinal war machine. Territorialise the Other into being another tool of enabled masturbation that can be rapidly consumed until it is spent. Invest in yourself to maximise the relations of exchange and work towards the bigger pay-off…

The second model, firstly, accepts that the encounter is a shared experience, not something that happens to one person. What is shared is exactly what needs care. The Self and the Other are within the event, it happens between bodies. Secondly, the Other becomes primary as a kind of material (in ATP D&G talk about stone masons) that has organised around its own intensities. Care of the encounter requires an affirmation of the differential intensities belonging to each member by its Other. Thirdly, the event is problematic — not in a negative sense — but in the sense that a problem is posited exactly to open up an encounter to shared experimentations and affirmation (or ‘solutions’). Each movement within the event (the encounter) is a solution to the problematic status of the event. Lastly, the fun part is experimenting with intensities to find shared solutions… and the role of the Self, then, is not satisfy one’s nasty capitalist death drive, but to enable the Other.

(Hence, the ‘party’ as positive multiplicity is another name for the multitude…)