A political and socio-cultural system, whatever it may be, is not an abstraction, but is embodied in certain modes of existence. Such modes result from its unconscious regime, the world factory responsible for the production of a certain type of subjectivity and society that provides the system with its existential consistency, without which it would not be sustained. It is in this micropolitical sphere that a system is produced and reproduced.
Unconscious regimes are distinguished by the distribution between active and reactive micro-politics that guides their management. Such distribution is shown in the presence or absence of social and cultural regulators that sustain active movements and inhibit the proliferation of reactive movements. Different unconscious regimes produce different formations in the social sphere and the respective policies of subjectivation that sustain them.
The active and reactive movements of a subject are defined according to whether or not they enable life to express itself in new ways, when it is stifled in its modes of expression in the present. In other words, the activity and reactivity of the subject depend on the degree to which they exercise the inherent relationship between language and soul, this sign of health according to the Guaraní. This nexus is not a given: it is necessary that the subject exercise it and it is this exercise that the politics of management of the unconscious factory of a specific sociocultural system favours to a greater or lesser degree.
Active and reactive micro politics in the constitution of the subject
The subject becomes active when its spirit touches the vital thread immersed in the environment and exercises the knowledge of this touch. Just as the legs of the spider do when it touches its silk thread released into the environment that tunes in the vibration frequencies of the elements that compose it. It is a subject which embodies the continuous reversibility between its two faces, individual and transindividual, and which is not frightened when this movement produces a destabilisation of itself and of its world, because it knows that this state indicates that there are future embryos nestled in its body.
In other words, the subject feels the crisis, but does not succumb to the disquiet caused to it because it knows that this is a vital alarm signal that summons its ethical responsibility: to assume the requirement that life imposes on it, creating the conditions for the birth of the future. The fact of knowing this gives it the serenity to listen to the alarm and not override the temporality of the incubation process of these larval worlds, allowing it to be completed. That is the active micropolitics in the drive of its desire.
It is a subject which affirms life at its core: drive of transformation of the forms of itself and of its worlds guided by the affect, sensations of the impacts on its power resulting from the mutual interference between its individual and transindividual faces. Affects are, therefore, the weapons of micropolitical resistance of the desire to promote changes that return flow to life.
In short, the active subject is that which is willing to constantly keep language and soul connected, putting itself at drive level, thus being insurrectional by principle. It is a subject of abundant life, working subject, porous, singular, agent of transformations of the ecosystem when new intermediations so require: in its actions, life and subject regain their movement whenever it is interrupted. What gives the subject the sensation of existing, in this case, is its “participation” in the processes of creating worlds so that the life of the ecosystem recovers the rhythm in its flow, processes that are necessarily collective.
On the other hand, a subject becomes reactive when the legs of its spirit do not touch the vital thread. It is a subject whose transindividuality is under pressure, which causes it to be confused with the individual. As such, it has no access to the affections (the little souls of future embryos that nestle in the body), and even less to the affect (impacts on vital power due to the tension between such embryos and their current language). For this reason, its spirit has no way of exercising ecological knowledge, its primordial knowledge that should guide the assessment of what happens to it.
Deprived of this know-how, the subject is frightened by the crisis that results from this tension, because it feels this experience as an emptiness. By interpreting it from the perspective of its individual face, it understands the vital alarm signal as indicating a threat of failure of itself and of its world that it assumes to be “the” self and “the” world, which it essentialises because it does not know that these are provisional forms of its being, in constant flux.
The unease of the tension between the individual and the transindividual is converted into helplessness, neediness, lack – feelings of anguish of its ego, to which its injured self is reduced. Desire must then act quickly for the subject to free itself from its anguish. In this way, by the action of its own desire, the process of germination of the embryos of the future that nestle in its body does not take place.
It is a subject hyper-identified with the forms established in the sociocultural fabric of its world, glued to them. Its desire acts to repeat such forms endlessly, which keeps it equal to itself in the course of its existence. This is the condition to guarantee supposed well-being to its being, limited to the individual: a mirage based on the inadequate idea of a homeostatic balance, fruit of its readaptation to the dominant modes of existence that it reproduces.
The reactive subject, therefore, has low creation drive; its forms are invariable; they never realise the effects of the variable complexity of the vibration frequencies that agitate its transindividualised body. They are soulless languages, characteristic of a poor life. It is a blocked subject, armoured, hyper-adapted, generic – a mechanical ventriloquist’s dummy. A subject disloyal to the pulse in its spirit of production of forms that does not exercise its movement caused by the mutual interference between language and soul. Thus, it is an agent of interruption of the movements of transfiguration of the ecosystem that would respond to new intermediations that operate in it. In short, it acts in the countercurrent of the collective work of transformation of reality.
The actions of desire driven by reactive micropolitics promote the conservation of forms of self and world. What gives the subject the feeling of existing, in this case, is “belonging” to the supposedly “normal” homogeneous majority, that is, fully submitted to the supposedly universal standards of the dominant mode of subjectivation. This is what we call “normopathy”.
The agency of subjects varies according to the different degrees of active or reactive micropolitics present in the performance of desire, which is favoured or disfavoured by the dominant unconscious regime in a given society, as a function of the micropolitics adopted in its management.
Such differences have consequences for the environmental, social and mental ecosystem in which the subject is inserted. If the raw material of the factory of worlds is life in its potency of production of the forms in which it is shaped, the different micropolitics in the management of this factory result in different destinies for individual and collective existence.
In the case of the factory of worlds under the unconscious colonial racialised capitalist regime, exclusively reactive micropolitics commands its management. All social and cultural regulators tend to mobilise and sustain reactive forces and make it difficult to sustain the movements of active forces, which it captures and converts to its advantage. How does this factory work?
The factory of worlds under the dominant unconscious regime
There are two central cogs in the machinery of this unconscious factory. The first consists in the kidnapping of the spirit to keep it captive, separated from the environmental, social and mental ecosystem and therefore prevented from touching the vital thread. With this, it has no way to steer itself through the affects to decipher the impact, on vital power, resulting from the presence of new affections in its body, the small souls of embryonic worlds that exert pressure on language.
The second gear consists in the overcoding of the affections: an operation that imposes predetermined codes on the captive spirit to guide the interpretation of what happens to us. Deprived of the possibility of touching the vital thread to decipher affects, the spirit is compelled to project on them ideas guided by the perspective of such codes to produce meaning.
They are necessarily inadequate ideas: a kind of delirium that replaces the process of language creation to bring into being the embryos of the world. Consequently, the germination process does not take hold. Already having these two gears, the machine of this unconscious regime produces a subject that is, in principle, reactive, and this happens with the social fabric that is woven with it.
But this machine for producing reactivity does not stop there. Its technology is made even more powerful by the character of the codes imposed on the spirit, which constitute the operators of the overcodification gear.
Such operators are generic categories – like the notions of race, class and gender – supposedly universal, essentialised as absolute truths. Such categories function as watchwords to which the mind must submit in order to decipher what happens to us. Race is the central operator.
As we know, the notion of race as applied to humans was invented by Western Europe in the 16th century, at the same time as it undertook colonisation, slavery, the inquisition and the onset of capitalism. Four intrinsically associated aspects of the world that was established then, and which, with successive folds, endures to this day.
If race is the central operator of the machine of world production under this regime, it is because it is intrinsically the bearer of a supposed hierarchy of values among distinct human communities. An imaginary hierarchy that, in the 19th century, received a fraudulent scientific certification. The positivist science of the time asserted the fake news that this racial classification of humans had biological weight consisting in different degrees of brain and cognitive development.
At the top of this imaginary hierarchy stands the inventor of this perverse delirium: the white man belonging to the Western European elites and his anthropo-phallo-ego-logocentric politics of subjectivation. This self-determined standard model of a supposedly universal, superior stage of human development imposes itself on all ways of life. It is from the perspective of this model that other human groups are evaluated in order to racialise them to different degrees.
The naturalisation of the notion of race applied to humans, established by this highly toxic hierarchy and strengthened by its biologisation, extends to the other overcodification operators, as is the case of the gender operator, from which women are racialised. In other words, the supposed hierarchy is intrinsic to all the operationalising categories of the gears of this machine.
With these operators, a spiritual monoculture is produced. As with agricultural monoculture, spiritual monoculture destroys the variable network of connections between the elements that make up the environmental, social and mental ecosystem. This consolidates the interruption of the world gestation process (fruit of the relationships between them), produced by kidnapping the spirit that separates it from the vital thread. What results from this disconnection promoted by monoculture, both agricultural and spiritual, is the impoverishment of the life that animates the ecosystem, its exhaustion and, ultimately, its extermination.
The product of the machine of the unconscious colonial racialised capitalist regime is a mode of production of desire driven exclusively by reactive micropolitics. Desire is stripped of the ethical compass of the knowledge of the affects to liberate life from its asphyxiation in the forms of the present. In its place, a kind of delirium is produced which, by driving desire in its choices and actions, diverts it from the embryonic worlds, leading it to reproduce the prevailing form of life in which it is stifled.
The subject that this machine produces is hostage to the gang of overcoding operators, hyper-identified with its marketing, servile to its slogans. It is with this politics of subjectivation that the sociocultural fabric is woven under this unconscious regime. A mode of subjectivation that Freud called “neurosis” without having, however, realised that it is the dominant politics of subjectivation under this regime, which has serious consequences for psychoanalytic theory and, above all, for its practice, but which it is not our place here to problematise.
In short, the product of this unconscious regime is the reproduction of the same subjective and social landscape, in which the drive power is prevented from exercising its intrinsically heterogenetic nature. Nature that consists in a continuous process of creation of territories to give body to the future embryos generated in the interaction with the elements of an environmental, social and mental ecosystem – this is the ethical destiny of the drive. But what is the reason that leads the management of this factory of worlds to deviate the drive from its destiny? And in the service of what does this deviation happen?
The drive power of production of forms of existence is deviated from its ethical destination in order to exclusively produce scenarios that bring opportunities for accumulation of capital, not only economic but also political and narcissistic.
The goal of the management of the factory of subjectivity and society under the colonial racialised capitalist regime is thus to pimp life – not only human life, but the life of all components of the biosphere – in the service of capital. Therefore, it is intrinsic to the logic of this regime to prevent both the life of the subject and of the environmental, social and mental ecosystem from recovering its power of becoming.
The abuse of life thus constitutes the micropolitical principle that guides the management of the factory of worlds under this regime of the unconscious. It is in this that it can be said that such management is intrinsically reactive.
The abuse is sustained on the separation between soul and language, the cause of all illnesses, as the Guaraní teach us. A separation produced by the kidnapping of the spirit and reified by the transcendental categories imposed on it. The subject is deprived of the knowledge proper to its condition as a living person, which is indispensable in order to live up to its ethical responsibility: to work so that life perseveres in its power of differentiation. This is the violence of capitalism in the micro-political sphere, which is as inherent to it as its violence in the macro-political sphere.
The inescapable link between macro and micro-political violence intrinsic to capitalism
There is a relationship of immanence between the macro and micro-political violence of this regime. Its violence in the macro-political sphere, as we know, consists in the inequality of rights. What is less evident to us is that such inequality is sustained in the neurotic mode of subjectivation, in whose structure the notion of race applied to humans plays a central role. Faced with these two types of inseparable violence in the constitution of this regime, the need to combat it in both spheres is an unavoidable task.
While the macro-political struggle against inequality is undoubtedly indispensable, by limiting ourselves to resisting in this sphere, we remain micropolitically under the domination of the unconscious colonial racialised capitalist regime that sustains inequality. We only replace the overcodification operators with others (“good” operators), but our actions remain subjected to the supposedly universal generic categories of race, class and gender.
We struggle to narrow the gap between the various ranks of the toxic imaginary hierarchy intrinsic to them, which is a necessary but insufficient step as the notion of race continues to structure our subjectivity. We remain in the bondage of neurosis, surrendering our lives to its pimping and reproducing the dominant mode of existence with our own desire. This is what tends to happen in the leftist traditions of struggle, due to the fact that the subjectivity of its agents, mainly of those who make up its white portion, tends to be under the domination of this same unconscious regime.
The challenge of micropolitical insurrection consists in occupying the factory of the unconscious, imagining and practicing ways of being that alter its management in order to free desire from its colonisation. This is the task imposed on us in order to liberate life from its pimp capitalisation.
Suely Rolnik – Biography
Psychoanalyst, Full Professor at PUC-SP and guest professor on the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Living Arts at the National University of Colombia. Author of essays and books published in several countries, her most recent book being Esferas da insurreição. Notas para uma vida não cafetinada (N-1, 2018). She is dedicated to articulating the decolonisation of the unconscious, theoretically and pragmatically, from a clinical-political and transdisciplinary perspective.
Illustrations: Rodrigo Araujo.