08 December 2011

Slow Death

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The phrase slow death refers to the physical wearing out of a population in a way that points to its deterioration as a defining condition of its experience and historical existence.

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Self-continuity and self-extension are different things.

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But the other point is that in the scene of slow death - where mental and physical health might actually be conflicting aims, even internally conflicting - the activity of riding a different wave of spreading out or shifting in the everyday also reveals confusions about what it means to have a life. Is it to have health? To love, to have been loved? To have felt sovereign? To achieve a state or a sense of worked-toward enjoyment? Is "having a life" now the process to which one gets resigned, after dreaming of the good life, or not even dreaming? Is "life" as the scene of reliable pleasures located largely in those experiences of coasting, with all that's implied in that phrase, the shifting, diffuse, sensual space between pleasure and numbness?

I am focusing here on the way the attrition of the subject of capital articulates survival with slow death. Impassivity and other politically depressed relations of alienation, coolness, detachment, or distraction, especially in subordinated populations, can be read as affective forms of engagement with the environment of slow death, much as the violence of battered women has had to be reunderstood as a kind of destruction towards survival.

But what I am offering here is also slightly different. In this scene, activity toward reproducing life is neither identical to making it or oneself better nor a mimetic response to the structural conditions of a collective failure to thrive, nor just a mini-vacation from being responsible - such activity is also directed toward making a less-bad experience.

It's a relief, a reprieve, not a repair.

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[...] for most, potentiality within the overwhelming present is less well symbolized by energizing images of sustainable life and less guaranteed by the glorious promise of bodily longevity and social security than it is expressed in regimes of exhausted practical sovereignty, lateral agency, and, sometimes, counterabsorption in episodic refreshment, for example in sex, or spacing out, or food that is not for thought.

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