Re-Viewing Neoliberalism–Full text of my CAA 2013 paper

I’m presenting a talk next Wednesday afternoon at the College Art Association meeting in NYC. The title is “Re-Viewing Neoliberalism.” I’ll be talking through the paper (because this is a talk), which you can find in full-on prose form here

I would love to see you at the talk and, uh, talk (maybe over a beer or a coffee) afterwords. I’ll also take any and all electronically-delivered feedback I can get. This paper is the core of a manuscript I’m working on, so I would very, very much appreciate comments, suggestions, etc.

Here’s the introduction:

Philosopher Jacques Ranciere argues that biopolitical neoliberalism is the “perfect realization” of Plato’s Republic: the “managerial state’s…science of simulations of opinion is the perfect realization of the empty virtue Plato called sophrusune: the fact of each person’s being in their place” (Disagreement, 106). In Plato, a harmonics of proportion determined what places there were and who belonged in which ones (e.g., the myth of the metals); in neoliberalism, a harmonics of frequency and amplitude (i.e., the statistical modeling of a sine wave) determines what places there are and who belongs where. Plato’s geometricconcept of harmony organizes societyspatially, while neoliberal sine waves organize society temporally (space is a function of time). As Michel Foucault explains, the neoliberal state uses biopolitical statistics to monitor “phenomena that occur over a period of time, which have to be studied over a certain period of time” so that it can control for “aleatory events that occur within a population that exists over a period of time (Michel Foucault, SMBD 246). Note Foucault’s language here: it’s not just “time,” but the frequency (quantity) and amplitude (quality) of occurrences within “a period of time” that matters. Given the importance of time in biopolitical neoliberalism, how might the art-historical concept of 4D time-based media help us understand and critique neoliberal hegemonies? Might thinking about time in or as 4-dimensional be a distinctively neoliberal understanding of time? (For example, 2D timelines seem to differ in important ways from 4D frequencies and amplitudes; the sine wave as 2D model of 4D phenomenon of intensity/vibration/radiation.)

The difference between classically liberal and neoliberal regimes of visuality is widely discussed. Steven Shaviro’s Post-Cinematic Affect is an excellent account of ways neoliberalism manifests as strategies and tactics for visual/cinematic composition, and his work has certainly informed my thinking. I argue that sound studies and transational feminisms are productive, and, actually, necessary resources for theorizing neoliberalism and visuality. In A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Guyatri Spivak explains, via Marx, how liberalism turns on the slippage between concepts of Darstellung—artistic representation—and Vertretung—political representation. I argue that classically liberal “representation” is 2D and Cartesian, while neoliberal “representation” is 4D and sonic. It is no coincidence that many transnational feminist theorists use sonic concepts to describe 4D, often explicitly neoliberal configurations of gender/race/sexuality. I will examine two such accounts: Alia Al-Saji’s phenomenology of “critical-ethical vision,” and Jasbir Puar’s Deleuzian/Foucaultian account of “superpanopticism.” First, I explain classical liberalism’s 2D Cartesian episteme—what Alia Al-Saji calls “objectifying” visuality. I then contrast this to Jasbir Puar’s concept of superpanopticism, which I argue is 4D in the art-historical sense. After establishing the two-dimensionality of classically liberal Darstellung and the four-dimensionality of neoliberal Darstellung, I then, in the third section, argue that 4D Darstellung is most productively theorized through sonic epistemologies. Neoliberalism works like a sine wave; mathematically, sine waves can do the statistical, probabilistic work that characterizes neoliberal biopolitics. Thus, in the final section, I use the concept of “transmission” to explain how sine waves manifest politically, as neoliberal Vertretung. I also consider what sorts of art practices could potentially challenge or frustrate neoliberal Vertretung/Darstellung. If neoliberalism produces macro-level stability through micro-level flexibility (overall regulation through ‘deregulation’), then what is the critical potential of a practice in which there is no flexibility at all, e.g., total serialism?