This study attempts to explain the concept of the real in terms of intensity, manifestation, and performance, and then outlines key aspects of the politics of the real. The politics of the real is based on an interruption of identification and an abrupt end of continuity, and intensity, manifestation, and performance are the modalities of the politics of the real. First, intensity is the principle of punctualization. It denotes an anti-dialectic and anti-systematic enterprise that aims to leave behind the paradigm of continuity. It acts as the counter-principle to overcome the Hegelian dialectic and historicism. It concerns the dimension before the formation of identity and thus functions as a categorical rejection of ontological identity. Consequently, it evolves into a figure of future politics, because it denies identity and instead affirms new inventions. Second, manifestation is a matter of politics, because politics shows itself as a matter of visibility and demonstration. Ultimately, politics is the fight over manifestation. Furthermore, manifestation is the modality of existence of the collective, since a new arising collective always manifests itself in the space of images. Finally, performance is an action concept and thus opposed to the static world-model. Hence, the world appears as the place for restructuring and reshaping. Performance renders reference and the classical notion of mimesis obsolete. It undermines the distinction between original and copy and instead affirms the permanent generating of new relations and nexuses. Hence, it is the generation of freedom. Ultimately, it acts as a disappearing intermediary between virtual intensity and actual manifestation. It is an anti-metaphysical concept of possibility that differs strictly from metaphysical possibility. Thus, intensity, manifestation, and performance each correspond to the virtual, actual, and possible of the real and thus are to be denoted as modalities of the politics of the real.
Hyun Kang Kim,
Intensity, Manifestation, and Performance in the Politics of the Real, International Journal of Philosophy.
Vol. 7, No. 1,
2019, pp. 24-30.
Walter Benjamin, Gesammelte Schriften (= GS), Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 1980, II, p. 204.
Walter Benjamin, GS, I, p. 1232.
The most famous thinker of intensity is probably Deleuze. He denotes intensity as “pure difference in itself”: “[N]ot qualitative opposition within the sensible, but an element which is in itself difference, and creates at once both the quality in the sensible and the transcendent exercise within sensibility. This element is intensity, understood as pure difference in itself, as that which is at once both imperceptible for empirical sensibility which grasps intensity only already covered or mediated by the quality to which it gives rise, and at the same time that which can be perceived only from the point of view of a transcendental sensibility which apprehends it immediately in the encounter.” Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, New York: Columbia University Press 1994, p. 144.
For the notion of “point” see Badiou’s theory of points: Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, New York: Continuum 2009, p. 399–435. Here, Badiou combines the notion of the point with the notion of decision. “A point of the world (in effect, of the transcendental of a world) is that which makes appear the infinity of the nuances of a world—the variety of the degrees of intensity of appearing, the branching network of identities and differences—before that instance of the Two which is the ‘yes’ or ‘no’, affirmation or negation, surrender or refusal, commitment or indifference... In brief, a point is the crystallization of the infinite in the figure—which Kierkegaard called ‘the Alternative’—of the ‘either/or’, what can also be called a choice or a decision.” Ibid., p. 399–400.
Roland Barthes, Das Neutrum, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 2005, p. 322.
Roland Barthes, Das Neutrum, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 2005, p. 324.
Walter Benjamin, GS, II, p. 203.
See Karl Heinz Bohrer, Ekstasen der Zeit. Augenblick, Gegenwart, Erinnerung. München: Hanser 2003, p. 72.
Karl Heinz Bohrer, Ekstasen der Zeit. Augenblick, Gegenwart, Erinnerung. München: Hanser 2003, p. 72.
See Carl Schmitt, Politische Romantik, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1998, p. 62–113.
See Karl Heinz Bohrer, Ekstasen der Zeit. Augenblick, Gegenwart, Erinnerung. München: Hanser 2003, p. 79.
See Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, London: The Athlone Press 1990, p. 66–73.
Badiou gives Kierkegaard credit for the discovery that “the theory of the point is a formal or transcendental theory.” See Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, New York: Continuum 2009, p. 432. In Kierkegaard’s vocabulary, it means that “the essence of choice is choice itself, not what is chosen”. Ibid., p. 433.
“Hegel tells us that since God appeared in historical time, it is necessary to know the stages of the becoming-subject of the Absolute. Kierkegaard replies that for precisely the same reason, knowing is useless. It is necessary to experience the Absolute as subjective inwardness. That is why, for Kierkegaard, there cannot exist a moment of knowledge (‘absolute knowledge’, in Hegel’s terms) where truth is complete or present as a result. Everything commences, or recommences, with each subjective singularity.” Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, New York: Continuum 2009, p. 426–427. According to Badiou, Kierkegaard argues that “thought and truth must not simply account for their being, but also for their appearing, which is to say for their existence. That the Christ came is the emblem of this demand.” Ibid., p. 427.
Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds, New York: Continuum 2009, p. 432.
Both notions of expression—as immanent causality and as transcendental—basically stand as a decision between materialism and idealism. In Deleuze’s philosophy of immanence, for example, expression is replaced by production. Expression, therefore, is such a production wherein the producer is immanent to the produced. See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1983.
Based on this account Benjamin constructs his concept of the expressionless as appearance of the sublime. See Walter Benjamin, “Goethes Wahlverwandtschaftten”, in: Walter Bejamin, GS, I, p. 123–201.
See Jean Grenier, L’Esprit du Tao, Paris: Flammarion 1972, p. 15.
See Roland Barthes, Das Neutrum, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 2005, p. 283.
Walter Benjamin, GS, II, p. 184.
See Giorgio Agamben, Mittel ohne Zweck. Notizen zur Politik, Zürich/Berlin: Diaphanes 2006, p. 54.
See Karl Heinz Bohrer, Ekstasen der Zeit. Augenblick, Gegenwart, Erinnerung, München: Hanser 2003, p. 65.
See Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, New York: Zone Books 1995.
See Jacques Rancière, Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1998.
Walter Benjamin, GS, I, p. 271.
According to Schmitt each grounding power is dictatorial, although he distinguishes between a constitutional sovereign and an unconstitutional commissarial dictatorship. See Karl Schmitt, Die Diktatur. Von den Anfängen des modernen Souveränitätsgedankens bis zum proletarischen Klassenkamp, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1994.
Walter Benjamin, GS, II, p. 198.
Jürgen Villers points out correctly that the referential and performative accounts of language are based on totally different ontological conceptions: „Gegenüber der referentiellen Bedeutung kann man in der Sprache so von einem Überschuss an Sinn sprechen, wenn man verstanden hat, dass der Prozess der sprachlichen Ausdifferenzierung von Sinn aufgrund der angesprochenen unendlichen Menge der Oppositionen ein prinzipiell unbegrenzter ist. So wie die gegenstandstheoretische Repräsentationskonzeption eine statische Ordnung der Ontologie impliziert, korreliert der sprachphilosophischen Handlungstheorie der Bedeutung, die den performativen Charakter sprachlicher Medialität anerkennt, ein dynamisch-konstruktives Wirklichkeitsverständnis“. [“In contrast to the referential meaning, we can speak of a surplus of sense in language, if one has understood that the process of linguistic differentiation of sense is in principle infinite because of the mentioned infinite multitude of oppositions. Just as the subject-theoretical conception of representation implies a static order of ontology so the linguistic-philosophical action theory of meaning which acknowledges the performative character of linguistic mediality correlates with a dynamic-constructive understanding of reality.”] Jürgen Villers, Die performative Wende. Austins Philosophie sprachlicher Medialität, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2011, p. 20.
See Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, London: The Athlone Press 1990, p. 253–266.
Deleuze himself tries to close the gap between a philosophy of immanence and transcendental philosophy by introducing the notion of the “transcendental field” into his philosophy and denotes this as “a pure plane of immanence.” See Gilles Deleuze, “Immanence: A Life”, in: Gilles Deleuze, Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life, Cambridge, Massachusetts/London: The MIT Press 2005, p. 31.
Deleuze writes in his essay “Immanence: A Life”: “What we call virtual is not something that lacks reality but something that is engaged in a process of actualization following the plane that gives it its particular reality. The immanent event is actualized in a state of things and of the lived that make it happen. The plane of immanence is itself actualized in an object and a subject to which it attributes itself. But however inseparable an object and a subject may be from their actualization, the plane of immanence is itself virtual, so long as the events that populate it are virtualities. […] There is a big difference between the virtuals that define the immanence of the transcendental field and the possible forms that actualize them and transform them into something transcendent.” Gilles Deleuze, “Immanence: A Life”, in: Gilles Deleuze, Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life, Cambridge, Massachusetts/London: The MIT Press 2005, p. 31–32.