While the general intellect continues to provide a rich resource for understanding post-Fordism and for theorizing resistance, there remains a neglected aesthetic dimension to the general intellect and the role that art can play in resistance based on it. This article develops the general intellect along these lines by drawing on two theorists who are rarely thought together: Paolo Virno and Jean-François Lyotard. The article begins by introducing the general intellect and Virno’s reconceptualization of it as the general or generic intellect. It then introduces a relationship between art and the general intellect by reading Virno’s theory of language, speech, and communication. From here, it goes to his theory of exodus, which is then read back through his linguistic theory to draw out the key role that subjective defection plays in the project. Although Virno doesn’t spend much time discussing art, his brief remarks are used as an entry point to move to Lyotard’s writings on music and art, where the author fleshes out an aesthetic dimension to the general intellect and the project of exodus. The argument focuses on the artistic gesture (the “art” in/of the artwork) and especially timbre as witnesses and eruptions of the potentiality of the general intellect that can never be properly actualized. By analyzing timbre as a fugitive force that desubjectifies those gathered around music, the author argues that it provides an example of the opening necessary for the subjective defection that inaugurates exodus. In this way, the aesthetic dimension added to the general intellect is the generic capacity to be affected and disindividuated.
The Aesthetics of Exodus: Virno and Lyotard on Art, Timbre, and the General Intellect
Derek R. Ford is an assistant professor of education studies at DePauw University. He studies pedagogy and contemporary politics and has written and edited nine books, including Politics and Pedagogy in the “Post-truth” Era (2019). He is an organizer with the Answer Coalition and editor of LiberationSchool.org.
Derek R. Ford; The Aesthetics of Exodus: Virno and Lyotard on Art, Timbre, and the General Intellect. Cultural Politics 1 July 2020; 16 (2): 253–269. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-8233434
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