“For Freud distress is a prerequisite for social emancipation, not an experience of resignation or vulnerability, a demand for care by proto-parental figures, or a continued political experience of exploitation of fear. What we have in Freud the affirmation of distress as an ontological insecurity with the political function of reducing demand for an authority based on the phantasmagoric constitution of sovereign power. All political action is initially the action of a landslide and only distressed people are able to act politically. Freud shows us how a truly emancipatory politics is based on the affective circulation of experiences of distress, not on building fantasies to defend ourselves against it. In this sense, politics can be thought as a practice that allows distress to appear as a productive negative ground of new social forms, preventing the transformation of this negative ground into social fear, opening us to events that we don’t yet know how to experience.
Taking Freud’s theory of distress into consideration, I propose to find its application in a Freudian text that serves as a testament to a political body under erasure, Moses and Monotheism. Through a discourse on distress and politics, I propose an interpretation that tries to find in the Freudian Moses a model for thinking the conditions for an emancipatory politics that is able to transform the affective constitution of social bonds through the circulation of distress. This transformation produces a political body that deconstructs the corporeality of the political.” – Vladimir Safatle
Click here to read Marcus Coelen’s “Prolegomena to the Writing of Affect” (an English version of his preface to Vladimir Safatle’s book The Circulation of Affects: Political Bodies, Distress and the End of the Individual)