This essay seeks to explain the persistent representation of affect and the senses in the cultural narrative of globalization. The author proposes that we are currently witnessing an epistemic shift from reason to affect, a shift that may be traced to the birth of free-market capitalism in the age of revolution (though it has only become fully hegemonic in the post-Soviet period of neoliberal globalization). This gave rise, she argues, to a new cultural discourse in which horizontal capital flow replaced vertical monarchical fiat as the principal vehicle for the definition of social order and the limits of knowledge. Through analyses of eighteenth- and twenty-first-century cultural texts, she posits that this new cultural discourse, germane to free-market capitalism, is best understood as epistemically governed by the affective concept of a “headless” feeling soma self-regulated by homeostatic principle—that is, a harmonious and nonrational self-governance—and no longer by a thinking mind governed by reason in a vertical relationship with a subject-body. If the current cultural moment of global capital and media has been repeatedly characterized as “posttheory,” then this essay identifies a new social logic that has become visible but not yet critically apprehended in the era of unchallenged globalization. The author proposes a way to read that logic as ciphered in contemporary cultural media as an emotional aesthetics of social protagonism and politics.
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Dierdra Reber; Headless Capitalism: Affect as Free-Market Episteme. differences 1 May 2012; 23 (1): 62–100. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-1533529
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