Various Joyful Encounters with the Dystopias of Affective Capitalism

Article


Sampson, T. 2016. Various Joyful Encounters with the Dystopias of Affective Capitalism. Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization. 16 (4), pp. 51-74.
AuthorsSampson, T.
Abstract

This article contends that what appear to be the dystopic conditions of affective capitalism are just as likely to be felt in various joyful encounters as they are in atmospheres of fear associated with post 9/11 securitization. Moreover, rather than grasping these joyful encounters with capitalism as an ideological trick working directly on cognitive systems of belief, they are approached here by way of a repressive affective relation a population establishes between politicized sensory environments and what Deleuze and Guattari (1994) call a brain-becoming-subject. This is a radical relationality (Protevi, 2010) understood in this context as a mostly nonconscious brain-somatic process of subjectification occurring in contagious sensory environments populations become politically situated in. The joyful encounter is not therefore merely an ideological manipulation of belief, but following Gabriel Tarde (as developed in Sampson, 2012), belief is always the object of desire.
The discussion starts by comparing recent efforts by Facebook to manipulate mass emotional contagion to a Huxleyesque control through appeals to joy. Attention is then turned toward further manifestations of affective capitalism; beginning with the
so-called emotional turn in the neurosciences, which has greatly influenced marketing strategies intended to unconsciously influence consumer mood (and choice), and ending with a further comparison between encounters with Nazi joy in the 1930s (Protevi, 2010) and the recent spreading of right wing populism similarly loaded with political affect. Indeed, the dystopian presence of a repressive political affect in all of these examples prompts an initial question concerning what can be done to a brain so that it involuntarily conforms to the joyful encounter. That is to say, what can affect theory say about an apparent brain-somatic vulnerability to affective suggestibility and a tendency toward mass repression? However, the paper goes on to frame a second (and perhaps more significant) question concerning what can a brain do. Through the work of John Protevi (in Hauptmann and Neidich (eds.), 2010: 168-183), Catherine Malabou (2009) and Christian Borch (2005), the article discusses how affect theory can conceive of a brain-somatic relation to sensory environments that might be freed from its coincidence with capitalism. This second question not only leads to a different kind of illusion to that understood as a product of an ideological trick, but also abnegates a model of the brain which limits subjectivity in the making to a phenomenological inner self or Being in the world.

JournalEphemera: Theory and Politics in Organization
Journal citation16 (4), pp. 51-74
ISSN1473-2866
2052-1499
Year2016
PublisherUniversity of Leicester, University of Essex
Publisher's version
License
CC BY-NC-ND
Web address (URL)http://www.ephemerajournal.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/issue/16-4ephemera-nov16.pdf
Publication dates
Print01 Nov 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited13 Jul 2015
Accepted16 Apr 2015
Copyright information© 2016 The author
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