Much discourse on the death of the subject, or the subject as always already, and everywhere, unavoidably constituted by sinister outside forces, smacks of a store-bought discount cynicism. This is not to deny the partial validity of these claims, but only to say that it is not the whole story—that this discourse is not radical, insofar as it just part of the mass zynismus that has fallen upon us following the death of God, of Science, the failure of Communism, the irreversibility of ecological destruction, the impossibility of revolution, and so on. Cynicism, as understood today, bitterly cedes authority to power just as it opposes it—it is impotent, it is herd instinct, and the academy is hardly immune from this affect.
I believe mass cynicism and the digital standardization of language has played a significant role in shaping identity politics. “Digital technology is canceling the singular enunciative composition of polysemy, gesture, and voice, and tends to produce a language that is subjected to the linguistic machinery.” (Berardi, 2011) Speech acts play a crucial role in thrusting individuals into the ethical sphere of encounter—but (linguistic) language itself is not an ethics. A lot of Tumblr social justice sophistry confuses this.
Felíx Guattari starts from Wittgenstein’s premise that the subject “is a limit of the world,” not a Freudian theater of consciousness. Through an autopoiesis that incorporates partial objects and segments of other discourses, networks of machines are capable of producing/actualizing that which is at current beyond the sphere of possible knowledge. I keep returning to the Occupy Movement when I think of autopoiesis, as well as the resurgence of irony over cynicism during that time: “Neither irony nor cynicism believe in the true foundation of the law. But the cynical person bends to the law while mocking its false and pretentious values, while the ironic person escapes law altogether, creating a linguistic space where law has no effectiveness. […] Whereas mass cynicism (zynismus) has to do with aggression, both suffered and inflicted, irony is based on sympathy…a shared suspension of reality… [and] a shared sense of assumptions and implications between oneself and ones listeners.” (Berardi, 2011) Occupy again allows us to return to the fact that solidarity is made possible only by the prolonged relation of people within time and space.