Saturday, January 08, 2011


Jason read has written a very interesting commentary on Benjamin Noys's book The Persistence of the Negative. It makes me all the more eager to read it--if only it weren't so damn expensive--even though (or perhaps especially because) my tendency, like Read's, is towards what we might call the philosophy of affirmation.

But in Read's words, Noys "is not interested in positing an ontology of negativity against the ontologies of affirmation. Negativity is a practice, not a principle, a destruction of existing positivities." And here I sense I agree with Noys. I'm likewise far from convinced by (say) Negri's unremitting championing of the multitude. As I point out in Posthegemony, we still need to be able to distinguish between good multitudes and bad, and to be able to discern when the multitude turns bad.

Or to put this another way: a philosophy of affirmation does not for all that have to be unrelentingly affirmative. Not everything is to be affirmed.

I agree also that the problem with Latour (and, I would add, Delanda) is that they present something of a mirror image of Negrian affirmation, in which it is rather contemporary capitalist relations (instead of the coming Communist utopia) which is relentlessly affirmed. Where Negri claims that "What ought to be, is," Latour and Delanda simply affirm that "What is, is what ought to be." Either way, critique is discarded.

And I am happy to agree in principle with the notion of negativity as "an insistence on localizing thought and practices, resisting both an ontology of affirmation and an ontology of finitude." Again, in large part, this is what I aim to show with the Latin American case studies in Posthegemony.


Ben said...

just to say please do email me for a digital copy, my email is given here (; as you note and I argue in the book the problem with 'affirmationism' is often the principle of selection it operates with is not convincing, and their is a surreptitious recourse to negativity as operator.
Thanks for the kind words

posthegemony said...

Thanks, Ben.  Emailed.

Gaston Gordillo said...

Jon, good to see you seem a little less scared of negativity. :) Ben's book looks great and I just ordered it in fact (despite the price, but hey, there aren't many advocates of negativity around these days). And I'll forward you my notes on Deleuze's own flirtations with negativity, which im using to rethink ruins as affirmative and negating spaces.