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.
The Future Birth of the Affective Fact
This chapter explores affective politics and how the operative logic of preemption becomes self-causing. The process of preemption operationalizes a logic hinging on the conditional. That logic can be summed up in the formula: “could have, would have, just as good as was.” In other words, even if a threat did not eventuate into an actual danger, it always could have, so preemptive action will always have been right. This is a tautology, but one that does not self-destruct. Instead, in produces self-legitimating affective facts. The production of affective facts rests on the ambiguous empirical status of threat: threats may be “real” (i.e., correspond to an actual danger) or they may be felt into existence. If I am afraid, I felt a threat. It is immaterial whether it was present or not. An immaterial cause that is not actually present is a virtual cause (a “quasi-cause”). Ontopower involves a politics of the virtual.