The Power at the End of the Economy

The Power at the End of the Economy

Book Pages: 144 Illustrations: Published: December 2014

Author: Brian Massumi

Cultural Studies > Affect Theory, Politics > Political Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

Rational self-interest is often seen as being at the heart of liberal economic theory. In The Power at the End of the Economy Brian Massumi provides an alternative explanation, arguing that neoliberalism is grounded in complex interactions between the rational and the emotional. Offering a new theory of political economy that refuses the liberal prioritization of individual choice, Massumi emphasizes the means through which an individual’s affective tendencies resonate with those of others on infra-individual and transindividual levels. This nonconscious dimension of social and political events plays out in ways that defy the traditional equation between affect and the irrational. Massumi uses the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement as examples to show how transformative action that exceeds self-interest takes place. Drawing from David Hume, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Niklas Luhmann and the field of nonconsciousness studies, Massumi urges a rethinking of the relationship between rational choice and affect, arguing for a reassessment of the role of sympathy in political and economic affairs.


“Behavioral economists who study the psychology of decision making should engage this study of potential, virtual, and kinetic emotions, given that emotions are what move people to action.  Going beyond Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Commonwealth and Timothy Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves, this is a book for those interested in cultural theory. … Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals.” — K. Tölölyan, Choice

“... powerful and convincing in its theoretically innovative, productive intertwining of political philosophy, cognitive psychology and Luhmann’s systems theory.” — Hannah Richter, Constructivist Foundations

"Massumi’s interventions regarding affect, neoliberalism, and politics are undoubtedly original, and provocative. The book pierces to the heart of the neoliberalism’s most basic premises about rationality, self-interest, and economic behavior."  — Anita Chari, Theory & Event

"Brian Massumi infuses affect, incipient intuitions, dividuation, the detonation of trust, the event, and variations of intensity into shaky neoliberal categories of the individual, choice, interest, and system rationality, exploding the assemblage from the inside. Such a strategy also enables him to probe contagious sites of counterpower often neglected by critics of neoliberalism. A bracing book that exceeds the practices it subverts." — William Connolly, author of The Fragility of Things: Self-Organizing Processes, Neoliberal Fantasies, and Democratic Activism

"For the first time, Brian Massumi develops the concepts of affect and virtuality in relation to the moral-philosophical and political-philosophical traditions that focus on the relation between reason and the passions, as well as in the specific context of what has come to be known as neoliberal capitalism. Here Massumi not only consolidates and condenses the arguments of his previous books, he also thrusts them into new territory in a way that relates to contemporary sociopolitical conditions. The Power At the End of the Economy is an important, and even essential, work." — Steven Shaviro, author of Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
1. The Inmost End 1

The Market in Wonderland 2

System Distrust 6

Collapse of the Affective Wave Packet 10

2. A Doing Done through Me 19

Deliberation without Attention 21

Jamming Rational Choice 24

The Primes of Life 26

Toward a Politics of Dividualism 32

Double Involuntary / Autonomy of Decision 36

Fielding the Event 43

Tribunals of Reason 48

Finessing the Event 53

3. Beyond Self-Interest 57

Your Life or My Little Finger? 58

Contiguity, Most Distant 65

The Argument from Intensity 68

The Other Sign of Passion 73

A Freedom of the Event 79

The Flashpoint of Sympathy 84

Toward an Anticapitalist Art of the Event 93


I. The Affective Tasks of Reason 97

II. Keywords for Affect 103

Notes 113

Works Cited 121

Index 127
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5838-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5824-4
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