Ontopower

War, Powers, and the State of Perception

Ontopower

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 1 illustration Published: September 2015

Author: Brian Massumi

Subjects
Cultural Studies > Surveillance Studies, Politics > Political Theory, Theory and Philosophy

Color coded terror alerts, invasion, drone war, rampant surveillance: all manifestations of the type of new power Brian Massumi theorizes in Ontopower. Through an in-depth examination of the War on Terror and the culture of crisis, Massumi identifies the emergence of preemption, which he characterizes as the operative logic of our time. Security threats, regardless of the existence of credible intelligence, are now felt into reality. Whereas nations once waited for a clear and present danger to emerge before using force, a threat's felt reality now demands launching a preemptive strike. Power refocuses on what may emerge, as that potential presents itself to feeling. This affective logic of potential washes back from the war front to become the dominant mode of power on the home front as well. This is ontopower—the mode of power embodying the logic of preemption across the full spectrum of force, from the “hard” (military intervention) to the "soft" (surveillance). With Ontopower, Massumi provides an original theory of power that explains not only current practices of war but the culture of insecurity permeating our contemporary neoliberal condition.
 

Praise

"Brian Massumi’s latest addition to our understanding of power may be the most important addition to grand strategy since On War. ... Ontopower is less a guidebook than a warning against assuming we will be right. Without making a moral argument, Brian Massumi effectively describes the moral limitations of the power to preempt, the rewriting of history through the actions of the present, the confirmation of what could have been into what was. It should be studied by practitioners of power—professionals who owe it to the country to have discussions now, so as to have answers when policy demands action."  — Phil Reynolds, Air Force Research Institute

"Without making a moral argument, Massumi effectively describes the moral limitations of the power to preempt, the rewriting of history through the actions of the present, and the confirmation of what could have been into what was. This book should be studied by practitioners of power—professionals who owe it to the country to have discussions now, so as to have answers when policy demands action." — Philip W. Reynolds, Parameters

"Brian Massumi is a gifted writer with the intellectual heft to bring . . . questions together and make the metaphysical visible and intelligible. The writing achieves a lightning strike of insight regularly enough to reward commitment. The prose is spiced and leavened with sentences that hit the bull’s eye on complex concepts." — Jude McCulloch, Left History

"Ontopower is a significant book that deals with contemporary problems without losing its intellectual allure and philosophical perspicacity. Its captivating commentaries on the reconfiguration of power, as well as the proposal of its own vocabulary to deal with this new phenomena of power, will certainly appeal to readers interested in understanding the intermingling of politics, power, and today’s society." — Samuel Mateus, International Journal of Communication

"Ontopower is an impressively dense and insightful inquiry into the global consequences of contemporary United States security policy and practice. . . . [The] immense analytical depth alone will make Ontopower impossible to ignore for scholars on the field of critical theory interested in the 'war on terror.'" — Philipp Kender, Society & Space

"Ontopower is clearly a well-researched and well-argued text. Whether or not one agrees with the principles of this new theory of power, it is undeniable that Massumi has presented a thorough and rigorous examination of power and the logic of preemption.... It offers excellent insight into the importance of perception in modern politics, and thus warfare, which is essential knowledge for students and practitioners of governance and security." — Courteney J O’Connor, Political Studies Review

"With great power and nuance, Brian Massumi has dissected the dynamic disequilibrium introduced by George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld as the 'war on terror.' That legacy reverberates as the self-propelling logic of vibrantly variable, ultimately death-dealing discourses of militarized threat. Today, the conceptual disruptions implemented during the invasion of Iraq extend well beyond defense policy, cascading globally into the fear-laced confections driving much of corporate life, political endeavor, and technological cyber-worlds."  — Patricia J. Williams, author of The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor

"Ontopower is a powerfully written, tightly argued, and persuasive accounting of the operative logic of preemption. Brian Massumi demonstrates how the military now drives war into the very nature of human perception. Captivating and quintessential Massumi." — Elizabeth Povinelli, author of Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in Late Liberalism

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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 The Power at the End of the Economy, What Animals Teach Us about Politics, and Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, all also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Part One: Powers

1. The Primacy of Preemption: The Operative Logic of Threat 3

2. National Enterprise Emergency: Steps toward an Ecology of Powers  21

Part Two: Powers of Perception

3. Perception Attack: The Force to Own Time  63

4. Power to the Edge: Making Information Pointy  93

5. Embodiments and History  153

Part Three: The Power to Affect

6. Fear (The Spectrum Said)  171

7. The Future Birth of the Affective Fact  189

Afterword: After the Long Past: A Retrospective Introduction to the History of the Present  207

Notes  247

References  275

Index  287
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5995-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5952-4
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