Ontopower: War, Powers, and the State of Perception
Brian Massumi is Professor of Communication at the University of Montreal. He is the author of The Power at the End of the Economy, What Animals Teach Us about Politics, and Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, all also published by Duke University Press.
Powers of Perception
This chapter focuses on the time structure of preemption. In order to flush out the not-yet-fully-emerged into taking a determinate form that can be countered, it is necessary not only to perceive potential, but to perceive it before the enemy perceives your perceiving it—or even perceives itself on the verge of an event. A perceptual arms race ensues. The ontopower mobilized by the apparatus of war is under intense pressure, exerted by its own operative logic, to telescope into an interval smaller than the smallest perceivable, and to leverage processual surplus-value from it. This is done primarily through “priming”—the modulation of action and perception through nonconscious micro-events occurring in the interval of “readiness potential” where an experience is in-the-making. How this plays out in “battlespace” in the preemptive practice of “shock and awe” and associated tactics originating in the “Revolution in Military Affairs” of the 1990s is discussed at length.