The Power at the End of the Economy
Brian Massumi is Professor of Communication at the University of Montreal. He is the author of several books, including What Animals Teach Us about Politics and Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, both also published by Duke University Press.
The Inmost End
The contemporary economic environment of neoliberalism is a complex, self-organizing system perpetually on the edge of chaos. Economic actors are at the mercy of nonlinear processes beyond their ken and control. This remands decision to an “infra-individual” domain that is complex in its own right,, composed of contrasting tendencies in a nonconscious struggle to express themselves. This infra-individual (“dividual”) level is in complex interaction with emergent effects on the transindividual scale of the economy as an open whole. Unsettlingly, affect becomes part of the economic infrastructure. The usual response to this problem is to instill what Niklas Luhmann calls “system trust” to foster confidence. The inherent paradoxes of this idea are explored in Luhmann’s own terms, refracted through Michel Foucault’s suggestion that affectively inflected individual choice is the “regressive endpoint” of the economy: a black hole of interdeterminacy which is also, complexly and creatively, the crucible of decision—and of ontopower.