Multitude and Mediation

Along with Mark and Gene, I found Mazzarella’s “third way” less than compelling, but it nevertheless piqued my attention with respect to what the author calls the “all-too-familiar zero-sum opposition between potentiality and domination, between emergence and mediation” (714). Perhaps I’m guilty of seeking my own third way, but my inclination is to snap the latter emergence-mediation dichotomy, and try to think about how a relationship between the two could give us a way to think about how a practical multitude might be constituted.

In contrast to Mazzaralla’s attempt to develop “a theory that would not pit ‘order against desire’ but would rather be able to track their dialectical co-constitution” (716), I am thinking more along the lines of Rancière in The Emancipated Spectator. For him, the theater is undoubtedly an externality, but he is quick to point out that this does not make it a Debordian spectacle, because the spectacle is, by definition, contemplated as an appearance divorced from its truth. If, instead, theatrical performances – or mediations, in the present discussion – seek “to teach their spectators ways of ceasing to be spectators and becoming agents of a collective practice,” (7-8) then it seems that mediation can actually become a locus about which a multitude can form (the reading list that serves as the basis for the discussions on this blog is a perfect example).

It’s important to note too that, in Rancière’s formulation, singularity is not diminished. Instead, individual difference is cherished and cultivated, while the emergence of the collective is based on shared experiences relating to the externality:

“The collective power shared by spectators does not stem from the fact that they are members of a collective body or from some specific form of interactivity. It is the power each of them has to translate what she perceives in her own way, to link it to the unique intellectual adventure that makes her similar to all the rest in as much as this adventure is not like any other. This shared power of the equality of intelligence links individuals, makes them exchange their intellectual adventures, in so far as it keeps them separate from one another, equally capable of using the power everyone has to plot her own path” (16-17).

Rancière actually calls the performance itself a vanishing mediation, but after reading Arditi’s piece, I’m also inclined to grant the mediation an existence of its own, even if it’s only residual. To require it to vanish in the formation of a collectivity reeks of a dialectical aufhebun, which seems apt if Jameson is indeed the original theorist of the vanishing mediator (as Arditi suggests). Instead, why not acknowledge what Guattari calls the “stickiness” of affects evoked by mediations, and use them as common building blocks to construct the multitude in the way that Rancière suggests?

Advertisements