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Wounded Attachments

Author(s): Wendy Brown


Source: Political Theory, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Aug., 1993), pp. 390-410
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
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WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS
WENDYBROWN
SantaCruz
ofCalifornia,
University

itmustbe burnedin:onlythatwhichneverceases
is tostayinthememory,
Ifsomething
to hurtstaysinthememory.
-FriedrichNietzsche
On theGenealogyofMorals)
(from

ANY HAVE ASKED HOW, given the totalizing regulatoryand


"othering" characteristicsof identityin/as language, identitycan avoid
such effectsin itsostensiblyemancipatorymode.' I wantto ask a
reiterating
similarquestion but in a historicallyspecific,culturaland political register
butbecause it is insufficient
notbecause the linguisticframeis unimportant
politicizedidentity'sproblemfordiscerningthecharacterof contemporary
There are two levels to thisinquiry.First,given thesubjecatic investments.
tivizingconditionsof identityproductionin a late modernliberal,capitalist,
social order, how can reiterationof these
and disciplinary-bureaucratic
emancipatoryproject?What
conditionsbe avertedin identity'spurportedly
claims seek-and whatkind
kindof politicalrecognitioncan identity-based
thesubjectitself
will
not
resubordinate
want-that
on
to
can theybe counted
"race" or "sex,"
as
such
categories
identity
through
subjugated
historically
of liberal essendiscourses
within
these
operate
when
categories
especially
interestof
averred
the
given
Second,
normalization?
disciplinary
and
tialism
in a
recognition
political
in
emancipatory
achieving
identity
politicized
formation
in
subject
the
are
what
of
pain
logics
discourse,
posthumanist
thisaim?Whatarethe
thatmightcontainor subvert
withinlatemodernity
to
our
genericfora diverse
roughly
yet
time,
constituents-specific
particular
thatseemas often
for
desire
recognition
identities-of
identity's
of
spectrum
dispersed
of
culturally
and
rancor,
of
recrimination
a
breed
politics
to
toit,
than
rather
aspire
to
a
power
reproach
and
tendency
suffering,
paralysis
to disdainfreedomratherthanpracticeit? In short,wheredo elementsof
in itselfand especiallyin itsownhistory
investments
politicizedidentity's
POLiTICAL THEORY,Vol.21 No. 3, August1993 390-410
Inc.
(? 1993Sage Publications,
390

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Brown/WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

391

of suffering
comeintoconflict
withtheneedtogiveup theseinvestments
in
of an emancipatory
democratic
thepursuit
project?
I approachthesequestionsby sketching,
thediscursivecontextof
first,
identitypolitics'emergencein the UnitedStates,and thenelaborating,
of Nietzsche'sgenealogyof thelogicsof ressentireconsideration
through
desirewithinthis
ment,the woundedcharacterof politicizedidentity's
about
context.Whatthisessayis notis a partisanpositionin theargument
called "identity
thevirtuesandvicesof a contemporary
politicalformation
to suggestthelimitations
of
stalemated
politics,"an argument
sufficiently
eitherin termsof the(implicitly
discussingidentity
timeless)metaphysical
elementsof itsconstitution
or in themoraltermsof good and
or linguistic
anexploration
ofthewaysinwhichcertain
evil.Itis,rather,
troubling
aspects
are carriedin itspolitical
of thespecificgenealogyof politicizedidentity
aimsof politicizedidentity
demands,waysin whichcertainemancipatory
notonlybytheconstraints
aresubverted
ofthepoliticaldiscoursesin which
butbyitsownwoundedattachments.
itsoperations
transpire

I
"we" inliberalThe tensionbetweenparticularistic
"I's" anda universal
ism is sustainableas long as theconstituent
termsof the"I" remainunononehand,
politicizedindeed,as longas the"I" itselfremains
unpoliticized
oftheidealofpoliticaluniversality)
remains
andthestate(as theexpression
unpoliticizedon the other.That is, the latentconflictwithinliberalism
andindividualism
betweenuniversalrepresentation
remainslatent,
remains
as longas differential
unpoliticized,
powersin civilsocietyremainnaturalized and as longas the"I" is subordinated
to theabstract
"we" encodedin
thestate'sguarantee
of universalfreedomandequality.Thissubordination
is achievedeitherbythe"I" abstracting
fromitselfin itspoliticalrepresenits"difference"
so as to remainpartof the"we" (as
tation,thustrivializing
in homosexualswhoare"justlikeeveryoneelse exceptforwhomwe sleep
with")orbythe"I" accepting
itsconstruction
as a supplement,
complement,
or partialoutsiderto the "we" (as in homosexualswho arejust "a little
a bit "queer").The historyof liberalism'smanagement
different,"
of its
inherited
andconstructed
"others"couldbe readas a history
ofvariations
on
andvacillations
betweenthesetwostrategies.
The abstract
of liberalpoliticalmembership
character
and theideologicharacter
of liberalindividualism
workagainst
cally naturalized
together
formation
inliberalregimes.
A formulation
ofthepolitical
politicizedidentity

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392

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993

abstracts
Question,"
that,as Marxputitinthe"Jewish
stateandofcitizenship
or
recognition
ofourlives,workstoprevent
conditions
fromthesubstantive
of power-in theirvery
of differences
as political-as effects
articulation
political
ofdivergent
theyareatmostthestuff
andorganization;
construction
to theextentthatpoliticalmemEquallyimportant,
oreconomicinterests.2
fromone's social being,it
bershipin theliberalstateinvolvesabstracting
ofone's life
productions
notonlyfromthecontingent
involvesabstracting
of one's
processesconstitutive
butfromtheidentificatory
circumstances
of
and position.Whetherread fromthe frontispiece
social construction
theunityofthe
inwhichthemanyaremadeonethrough
Hobbes'Leviathan,
or fromtheformulations
of tolerancecodifiedby JohnLocke,
sovereign,
GeorgeKateb,inwhichthe
JohnStuartMill,and,morecontemporaneously,
minimalist
liberalstateis cast as preciselywhatenablesour politically
we are invitedto seek equal deference-equal
individuality,
unfettered
fromthestate,liberalism's
blindnessfrom-butnotequalizingrecognition
in hiscritiqueofHegel,theuniverAs Marxdiscerned
universalmoment.3
achievedbyturning
awayfromandthus
salityof thestateis ideologically
ourcollectiveparticulars,
yetat thesametimepresupposing
depoliticizing,
In short,
"the
us fromthem.4
them,letaloneemancipating
notbyembracing
a
for
social
identification:
in
is
not
domain
political" liberalism precisely
expectedtorecognizeourpoliticalselvesinthestate,wearenotledtoexpect
liberalorder,
the
there.Indeed,in a smoothandlegitimate
deeprecognition
universalistic
and
the
"we"
must
remain
"I's"
unpoliticized,
particularistic
a commongoodother
oraim,without
mustremainwithout
specificcontent
ofthe
The
or
abstractness
universal
abstract
pluralism.
than
representation
andevenenforcesthedepo"we" is preciselywhatinsistsupon,reiterates,
"ifdemocracy
is
liticizednatureofthe"I." In ErnestoLaclau's formulation,
does nothaveanynecessarybody,any
possible,itis becausetheuniversal
content.'"5
necessary
withinliberalism
andparticular
thisdetentebetweenuniversal
Although
unraveledby two
is pottedwithvolatileconceits,it is ratherthoroughly
in whatMarx and
featuresof late modernity,
spurredby developments
revealas liberalism's
companionpowers:capitalism
Foucault,respectively,
On one side,thestatelosesevenitsguiseofuniversality
anddisciplinarity.
investedin particulareconomic
as it becomesever moretransparently
Thisoccursas itshiftsfrom
interests,
politicalends,and socialformations.
stateto a heavilybureaucratized,
minimalist
a relatively
"nightwatchman"
welfare-warfare
fiscallycomplex,and highlyinterventionist
managerial,
ofcapital
occasionedbythecombined
imperatives
state,a transmogrification
On theotherside,
ofbureaucracy.6
characteristics
andtheautoproliferating
disintertheliberal
a rangeof economicand politicalforcesincreasingly

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Brown/WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

393

demodeterritorializing
identification:
nation-state
subjectfromsubstantive
fromwithinand invasionfromwithoutof
graphicflows;disintegration
as (relatively)
autonomous
sitesofsocialproduction
familyandcommunity
discoursein which
consumercapitalism'smarketing
and identification;
andmocommodified,
desiresareproduced,
individual(andsubindividual)
arrayof
of a fantastic
productions
and disciplinary
bilized as identities;
to
fromrecovering
alcoholicprofessionals
identities
ranging
behavior-based
workto conjure
Thesedisciplinary
productions
crackmothers.
unrepentant
schemes,namingandnormalizclassificatory
andregulatesubjectsthrough
whatFoucault
ing social behaviorsas social positions.Operatingthrough
power"producessocialidentities
calls "an anatomy
of detail,""disciplinary
ofpolitical
becausetheyaredeployedforpurposes
(availableforpoliticization
basedon abstract
right.
Thus,for
juridicalidentities
thatcrosscut
regulation)
subdiofwelfare
state'sproduction
subjects-themselves
example,thewelfare
race,
ofmotherhood,
disability,
categories
thesociallyregulated
videdthrough
thesecategories,
identity
through
political
produce
age,andso forth-potentially
as thesecategories.
produceidentities
politicallymanifest
butincreasingly
In thisstory,thealwaysimminent
ofstate
fiction
tobe universal-thetransparent
failureofliberaluniversalism
withtheincreasing
individuation
ofsocial subjects
universality-combines
and disciplinary
Together,
productions.
throughcapitalistdisinternments
proofpoliticizedidentity
rootedin disciplinary
theybreedtheemergence
ductionsbutorientedby liberaldiscoursetowardprotestagainstexclusion
however,
ofuniversal
justice.Thisproduction,
froma discursiveformation
ofliberalism
although
theterms
contradictory:
is notlinearorevenbuthighly
thatreiterates
of a politicizedidentity
are partof thegroundof production
recolonizes
liberaldiscourseitselfalso continuously
yetexceedstheseterms,
politicized
as
conversion
that
recasts
interest-a
politicalidentity political
often
claims
and
and
deconstructive
critiques
cultural
substantive
identity's
endemicto universalist
politicalculture.
as genericclaimsof particularism
ofpoliticized
production
powermanagesliberalism's
disciplinary
Similarly,
normalizing
through
identity
neutralizing
(re-depoliticizing)
by
subjectivity
intoessentialized
practices.As liberaldiscourseconvertspoliticalidentity
social
intonormativized
interest
powerconverts
disciplinary
privateinterest,
powerpolitiregimes.Thusdisciplinary
manageablebyregulatory
identity
whereas
entitlement
claimsgenerated
byliberalindividuation,
callyneutralizes
liberalismpoliticallyneutralizesrightsclaims generatedby disciplinary
identities.
In additionto theformations
ofidentity
thatmaybe thecomplexeffects
of disciplinary
and liberalmodalitiesofpower,I wantto suggestone other
thisone
of politicizedidentity,
historicalstrandrelevantto theproduction

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394

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993

Although
developments
inpoliticalculture.
hewnmorespecifically
torecent
many
theyaredescribing,
sanguine
tovarying
degreesaboutthephenomenon
politics
Lefthavearguedthatidentity
on theEuropeanandNorthAmerican
or
emergesfromthedemiseof class politicsconsequentto post-Fordism
between
adjudicating
thepreciserelationship
pursuant
toMay 1968.Without
of othersitesof political
thebreakupof class politicsandtheproliferation
thatwhatwe have
I wanttorefigure
thisclaimbysuggesting
identification,
dependent
on thedemiseofa critique
cometocall identity
politicsis partly
of capitalismand of bourgeoisculturaland economicvalues.In a reading
of capitalism,
thatlinksthenewidentity
claimsto a certainrelegitimation
andgenderwillappearnot
identity
politicsconcernedwithrace,sexuality,
to class politics,notas an expansionof Leftcategoriesof
as a supplement
notas an enriching
complexification
ofprooppressionandemancipation,
ofpowerandpersons-allofwhichtheyalso are-but
gressiveformulations
ofjusticewhich,ironically,
as tethered
to a formulation
reinscribes
a bourgeois ideal as its measure.If it is thisideal thatsignifieseducationaland
againstarbitrary
relative
protection
vocational
opportunity,
upwardmobility,
inproportion
toeffort,
andifitis thisidealagainstwhich
violence,andreward
ofpeopleofcolor,gaysandlesbians,
manyoftheexclusionsandprivations
thenthepoliticalpurchaseof contemporary
and womenare articulated,
Americanidentity
politicswouldseem to be achievedin partthrougha
of capitalismthatcan be said to have
certaindiscursiverenaturalization
discoursesincethe1970s.
markedprogressive
Whatthissuggestsis thatidentity
configured
bya
politicsmaybe partly
ofresentment-class
form
resentdisguised
peculiarly
shapedandpeculiarly
is
mentwithoutclass consciousnessor class analysis.This resentment
displacedontodiscoursesof injusticeotherthanclass but,like all resentments,retainstherealor imaginedholdingsof itsreviledsubject-in this
case,bourgeoismaleprivileges-asobjectsofdesire.Fromthisperspective,
of politicizedidentities
through
race,
it wouldappearthatthearticulation
rather
than
produce,a relatively
incidentally
gender,and sexualityrequire,
rather
thanincidentally
class.Theynecessarily
identification
limited
through
theinjuries
because
and
class
norms
ofclasspower
precisely
abjurea critique
norms
of social
measured
identities
are
these
suffered
by bourgeois
by
and
social
material
relative
comfort,
indepenacceptance,legalprotection,
butother
dence.The problemis thatwhennotonlyeconomicstratification
commodifica(alienation,
injuriestobodyandpsycheenactedbycapitalism
of
albeitcontradisintegrationsustaining,
tion,exploitation,
displacement,
are
as
such
families
and
social
forms
discursively
neighborhoods)
dictory,
of social difference
othermarkers
and thusdepoliticized,
may
normalized

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Brown/WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

395

inthe
Absentanarticulation
ofcapitalism
cometobearaninordinate
weight.
themarkedidentity
bearsall theweightofthe
politicaldiscourseofidentity,
sufferings
producedbycapitalismin additiontothatboundtotheexplicitly
politicizedmarking.
in latemodemU.S. life,
articulated
If thereis one class thatis politically
itis thatwhichgivesitselfthenameofthe"middleclass."Thisis the"class"
rather
thanthepoliticization
ofcapitalism,
thenormalization
thatrepresents
inordering
sociallife,therepresenthedenialofcapitalism's
powereffects
toprovidethegoodlifeforall.Poisedbetween
tationoftheidealofcapitalism
fromtheencroachments
therichand thepoor,feelingitselfto be protected
middleclass signifies
thenaturaland thegood
of neither,
thephantasmatic
orthe
on theone side,andtheaberrant
betweenthedecadentorthecorrupt,
is a conservative
inthe
identity
decaying,on theother.Middleclass identity
sense thatit semioticallyrecursto a phantasmatic
past, an idyllicand
moment(implicitly
locatedaround1955) whenlife
historical
uncorrupted
mensupported
familieson singleinwas good-housing was affordable,
tourbanghettos.
Butitis nota reactionary
comes,anddrugswereconfined
in thesense of reactingto an insurgent
from
identity
politicizedidentity
referfor
below.Rather,it embodiestheideal to whichnonclassidentities
of
proofof theirexclusionor injury:homosexualswholacktheprotection
and freedomfrom
marriage,guaranteesof childcustodyor job security,
and impoverished
to
bytrying
harassment;
singlewomenwhoare strained
raisechildren
and holdpaidjobs simultaneously;
peopleof colordisproporaffected
urbanhousingcosts,inadetionately
byunemployment,
punishing
anddisproportionately
subjectedtounwarranted
quatehealthcareprograms,
as criminals,
harassment
and violence,figured
ignoredbycab drivers.The
aretrivial
butthatwithout
recoursetoa white
pointis notthattheseprivations
wouldforfeit
masculinemiddleclass ideal,politicizedidentities
a gooddeal
of theirclaimsto injuryandexclusion,theirclaimsto thepoliticalsignifiIf theythusrequirethisidealforthepotencyand
cance of theirdifference.
poignancyoftheirpoliticalclaims,we mightasktowhatextenta critiqueof
ofoppositional
politics
capitalismis foreclosed
bythecurrent
configuration
and notsimplyby the"loss of thesocialistalternative"
or theostensible
ofliberalism"
intheglobalorder.
To whatextent
do identity
politics
"triumph
requirea standardinternal
to existingsocietyagainstwhichto pitchtheir
claims,a standardthatnot only preservescapitalismfromcritiquebut
sustainstheinvisibility
and inarticulateness
but
of class, notaccidentally,
Couldwe havestumbled
on onereasonwhyclassis invariably
endemically?
mantra,
"race,
namedbutrarely
theorized
ordevelopedinthemulticulturalist
class,gender,sexuality?"

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396

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993


II

politicscouldbe told
identity
ofcontemporary
oftheemergence
Thestory
rooted
of"newsocialantagonisms"
inmanyotherways-as thedevelopment
as the
life;
ofall spheresofsocial
commodification
capitalism's
inconsumer
fabricaoccasionedby the
of all socialrelations
denaturalization
relentless
producandcultural
technologies
ofpostmodern
tionsandborderviolations
by theblackcivil
tions;as a formof politicalconsciousnessprecipitated
I havetoldthestorythiswayinorder
intheUnitedStates.7
movement
rights
itsdisciplinofitsemergence,
politicalcontext
toemphasizethediscursive
and thisin orderto grasppoliticized
and liberalparentage,
ary,capitalist,
as composedofandnotonlyopposingthese
genealogicalstructure
identity's
oppositional
verymodalitiesof politicalpower.Indeed,if theostensibly
"illegitimate
of
the
themsomething
politicsalso render
ofidentity
character
theirabsentfathers
discourses,
disciplinary
of liberal,capitalist,
offspring"
in
enthroned
rather,
but,
"inessential"
arenot,as DonnaHarawaysuggests,
psyche
(The
claims.
political
identity-based
ofdesirefueling
theverystructure
Andifwe are
oforigin.)8
ofitsfamily
independent
childis hardly
ofthebastard
transformapotentially
subversive,
the
contestatory,
indeveloping
interested
implicathe
to
know
need
we
claims,
political
ofidentity-based
tiveelements
identity's
of
conditions
and
production
tionsof theparticulargenealogy
it,given
Weneedtobeabletoask:givenwhatproduced
desireforrecognition.
want?
identity
does
politicized
what
it,
suffuses
whatshapesand
on their
beginwitha reflection
mightprofitably
These investigations
Foucault.
Michel
frames
them,
who
also
the
philosopher
curiouselisionby
democpoliticsinlatemodern
ofemancipatory
ForFoucault,theconstraints
ofpower-theimpossiandpervasiveness
racypertainbothto theubiquity
powerinhumanaffairs-aswellas tothewaysinwhich
bilityofeschewing
the
through
arealwaysatriskofbeingresubordinated
and
practices
subjects
of
formulation
his
for
known
Best
them.
and
politicizing
naming
discourses
more
a
offers
Foucault
of
sexual
liberation,
in
the
domain
dual
this
problem
of the
accountin his discussionof thedisinternment
generictheoretical
andpractices:
ofmarginalized
populations
knowledges,"
"insurrectionary
some
knowledges
Is therelationof forcestodaystillsuchas to allowthesedisinterred
life?Can theybe isolatedbythesemeansfromeverysubjugating
kindofautonomous
... Is itnotperhapsthecase
Whatforcedo theyhavetakeninthemselves?
relationship?
to light,thattheparticular
of genealogiesare no soonerbrought
thatthesefragments
and putinto
are no sooneraccredited
elementsoftheknowledgeone seeksto disinter
In fact,those
re-colonisation?
thantheyrunthe riskof re-codification,
circulation,
andthenignoredthemwhentheymadetheir
whichfirst
disqualified
discourses
unitary
areitseemns,
quitereadynowto annexthem,to takethembackwithinthe
appearance,

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Brown/WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

397

foldoftheirowndiscourseandto investthemwitheverything
thisimpliesin termsof
ofknowledge
andpower.Andifwewanttoprotect
theireffects
theseonlylatelyliberated
are we notin dangerof ourselvesconstructing,
fragments,
withourown hands,that
unitary
discourse?9

Foucault'scautionabout the annexing,colonizingeffectsof invariably


is animportant
discourses
one.Butthequestionoftheemancipatory
unifying
ofhistorically
orientation
subordinated
discourseis notlimitedtotheriskof
orresubordination
ornewlyformed
cooptation
byextant
unitary
discoursesthoseofhumanism,
ononeside,orofcultural
whether
studies,
multiculturalandminority
ontheother.
Noris itreducible
ism,subaltern
studies,
discourse,
Frankfurt
Schoolstrainin
to whathas alwaysstruckme as an unexamined
desirousof
Foucault:theextenttowhichtheFoucauldiansubjectoriginally
freedom
comesto willitsowndomination
or,inFoucault'srubric,
becomes
I think
thatforFoucault,insofar
as power
a gooddisciplinary
subject.Rather,
eventhedisciplinary
alwaysproducesresistance,
subjectis perversely
capaandinpracticing
Discerniblehereis
ble ofresistance,
it,practicesfreedom.
in Foucault,namely,
thebasisof a curiousoptimism,
evenvolunteerism
his
and
andinsistently
accountofpower,practices,
oddlyphysicalist
nonpsychic
His removalof the "will to power"fromNietzsche's
subjectformation.
complexpsychologyof need, frustration,
impotence,and compensatory
Foucaultto feature
resistance
as alwayspossibleand
deeds is whatpermits
freedom.In an interviewwithPaul Rabinow,
as equivalentto practicing
Foucaultmuses,
I do notthink
thatitispossibletosaythatonething
isoftheorderof"liberation"
andanother
. . No matter
is oftheorderof"oppression.".
howterrifying
a givensystem
maybe,there
ofresistance,
andoppositional
alwaysremainthepossibilities
disobedience,
groupings.
thatis functionally
On theotherhand,I do notthinkthatthereis anything
... absoof menis neverassuredby the
lutelyliberating.
Libertyis a practice.... The liberty
and laws thatare intendedto guaranteethem.. . . Not becausetheyare
institutions
is whatmustbe exercised.... The guarantee
ambiguous,butsimplybecause"liberty"
of freedom
is freedom.'0

on freedomas a
My quarrelhereis notwithFoucault'svaluableinsistence
to whatmightconstitute,
practicebut withhis distinctlack of attention
thedesireforfreedom."Notwithstanding
hiscritiqueof
negate,or redirect
andpostulation
ofthesubjectas aneffect
ofpower,
therepressive
hypothesis
Foucaultseemsto tacitlyassumethegivennessand resilienceof thedesire
a givennessthatarisesconsequent
conflation
of
forfreedom,
to hisimplicit
the will to powerin resistancewitha will to freedom.Thus Foucault's
or "exercising"liberty
confidenceabout thepossibilitiesof "practicing"

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398

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993

concernwiththerelativecapacityor space for


residesin a quasi-empirical
or not
But whether
actionin thecontextof certainregimesofdomination.
questionfromwhatitsaim is, whatitis
is possibleis a different
resistance
the resistingsubject.
for,and especiallywhetheror not it resubjugates
readingofNietzsche
andhisarrested
ofpsychoanalysis
Foucault'srejection
as the
ofmodernity
eclipseofNietzsche'sdiagnosisoftheculture
(hisutter
for
combineto locatetheproblemoffreedom
of "slavemorality")
triumph
thantheproblemof "will"
Foucaultas one ofdomainand discourserather
more
foritsanswera profoundly
Indeed,whatrequires
thatitis forNietzsche.
Nietzschethantheone Foucaultembracesis nota question
psychological
is possiblebuta questionabout
aboutwhenorwherethepracticeoffreedom
butonlypotentially,
ofthewilltopower,a willthatpotentially,
thedirection
animatesa desireforfreedom.Especiallyforthe Nietzscheof On the
GenealogyofMorals,themodernsubjectdoes notsimplycease to desire
subject,butmuchmore
as is thecase withFoucault'sdisciplinary
freedom,
Letus nowconsiderwhy.
loathesfreedom.12
problematically

III

thetermsofliberaldiscourse
contests
politicizedidentity
Contemporary
fictionof
"we" as a strategic
universal
insofaras itchallengesliberalism's
"I" as social-both
hegemonicgroupsand assertsliberalism's
historically
private,or
by power-ratherthancontingent,
relationaland constructed
thetermsofliberaldiscourseinsofaras itpositsa
Yetitreiterates
autarkic.
by an exclusive"we."
sovereignand unified"I" thatis disenfranchised
emergesand obtainsits
Indeed,I have suggestedthatpoliticizedidentity
ofexclusionfromanostensible
thepoliticization
coherence
through
unifying
of
on thefiction
premised
as a protest
againstexclusion,a protest
universal,
humanist
the
that
reinstalls
a protest
community,
an inclusive/universal
masculinist
expressionof this
ideal-and a specificwhite,middle-class,
it.
ideal-insofaras it premisesitselfon exclusionfrom Puttheotherway
outofliberal,disciplinary
societies,
generated
around,politicizedidentities
that
a
universal
from
on
exclusion
require
ideal,
as theyarepremised
insofar
identities.
3
as
own
for
their
from
perpetuity
exclusion
it,
ideal,as wellas their
of
disciplinreiterative
also
regulatory,
is
potentially
Politicizedidentity
ofa disciplinary
subject.It is bothproduced
arysocietyin itsconfiguration
of
the
accelerates
production thataspectof disciplinary
by and potentially
thatworks
andspecializes,"
classifies,
that
characterizes,
"ceaselessly
society
continuousregistration,
perpetualassessment,and
"surveillance,
through

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Brown/WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

399

a socialmachinery
"thatis bothimmenseandminthrough
classification,"
makesclearpoliticized
theworldoflocalpolitics
examplefrom
ute."14A recent
power,as wellas thewayin which,as
indisciplinary
imbrication
identity's
ratherthanreplaces
power"infiltrates"
Foucaultremindsus, disciplinary
Lastyear,thecitycouncilofmytownreviewed
liberaljuridicalmodalities.'5
bya broadcoalitionofidentity-based
an ordinance,
devisedandpromulgated
inemployment,
housing,
politicalgroups,whichaimedtobandiscrimination
transsexualon thebasisof"sexualorientation,
andpublicaccommodations
race,
physicalcharacteristics,
ity,age, height,weight,personalappearance,
maritalstatus,sex
nationalorigin,ancestry,
disability,
color,creed,religion,
or gender."'6Here is a perfectinstanceof theuniversaljuridicalidea of
regimesconjoined
principleof disciplinary
liberalismand thenormalizing
Thisordinanceand takenup withinthediscourseof politicizedidentity.
variouslycalled the "purplehairordinance"or the "uglyordinance"by
as no difference,
as
nationalnewsmedia-aims to counteverydifference
subversive
partof a seamlesswhole,butalso to counteverypotentially
normal,as normalizenforcednormsas themselves
rejectionof culturally
law. Indeed,through
thedefinitional,
through
able, and as normativizable
andremediessectionofthisordinance(e.g.,"sexualorientation
procedural,
or bisexualheterosexuality,
shallmeanknownor assumedhomosexuality,
these
andpractices;
ity"),personsarereducedtoobservablesocialattributes
intrinsic
were
if
existence
as their
are definedempirically,
positivistically,
power;and
and factual,ratherthaneffectsof discursiveand institutional
and practicesare
of personsas theirattributes
thesepositivistdefinitions
to themwill
according
intolaw,ensuringthatpersonsdescribable
written
have
done
itbetter.
them.Benthamcouldn't
through
nowbecomeregulated
how
of
unfreedom,
instanceof howthelanguage
Indeed,hereis a perfect
in
liberal
and
discourse,
disciplinary
in
the
context
of
articulation language,
normalizaindividualization,
becomesa vehicleof subordination
through
and
as
even
it
strives
to
acceptance.
and
visibility
produce
regulation,
tion,
thatarethe
instanceofthewayin whichdifferences
Here,also, is a perfect
as attributes
theirarticulation
ofsocialpowerareneutralized
through
effects
discourse:whatdo we
and theircirculation
liberaladministrative
through
make of a documentthatrendersas juridicalequivalentsthe denial of
anobeseman,anda whitemiddle-class
toanAfrican
American,
employment
withtattoosandfuschiahair?
youthfestooned
WantI wantto consider,though,
is whythisstrikingly
unemancipatory
moreradicalcritiqueof liberal
politicalprojectemergesfroma potentially
I wantto
modalities
ofpower.Forthisordinance,
juridicialanddisciplinary
and
withtherationalizing
in itscomplicity
suggest,is notsimplymisguided
elementsoflatemodernculturenorsimplynaivewithregardto
disciplinary

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400

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993

itis symptomatic
withinwhichitoperates.Rather,
apparatus
theregulatory
redesirewithinliberal-bureaucratic
of a featureof politicizedidentity's
itsimpulseto inscribeinthelaw
ofitsownfreedom,
gimes,itsforeclosure
its historicaland presentpain ratherthan
and in otherpoliticalregisters
To see whatthissymptom
ofpowertomakeitself.
future
conjureanimagined
consideration
once moreto a schematic
of,we needto return
is a symptom
Nietzsche'saccountofthe
thistimeinordertoreaditthrough
ofliberalism,
complex logics of ressentiment.

IV
to what
a generalized
incitement
Liberalismcontainsfromitsinception
"the
revengeofthepowerless,
themoralizing
Nietzschetermsressentiment,
inheresin
to ressentiment
oftheweakas weak."'7Thisincitement
triumph
Thereis a paradoxbetween
paradoxesofliberalism.
tworelatedconstitutive
to
whichproducesfailureturned
andsocialegalitarianism,
liberty
individual
by the
and guiltturnedto resentment
by the subordinated
recrimination
thatlegitimates
liberThereis one betweentheindividualism
"successful."
topolitical
requiredbyitscommitment
alismandtheculturalhomogeneity
of politically
thearticulation
This latterparadoxstimulates
universality.
ofthem,on the
on theone hand,andthesuppression
differences,
significant
thatpressesagainstthelimitsof
other,and offersa formof articulation
seeksto be
discourseevenwhilethatwhichis beingarticulated
universalist
within-included-inthetermsofuniversalism.
harbored
makes
ofhumanbeings,liberalism
equality
itselfonthenatural
Premising
inordertoarriveatsocial
freedom
individual
a politicalpromiseofuniversal
inthestate
oftheequalitypostulated
equalityorachievea civilizedretrieval
and
ofindividualistic
liberty
Itis thetensionbetweenthepromises
ofnature.
in one of twodirections,
of equalitythatyieldsressentiment
therequisites
tofreedom
A strong
commitment
onhowtheparadoxis brokered.
depending
as
of theequalitypromiseand breedsressentiment
vitiatesthefulfillment
licenseoftherich
oftheunmitigated
liberalism-attenuations
welfare-state
a strongcomConversely,
on behalfof the"disadvantaged."
andpowerful
and economic
heavystateinterventionism
to equality,requiring
mitment
andbreedsressentiment
tofreedom
thecommitment
attenuates
redistribution,
as neoconservative
chargesof reverseracism,
racism,
antistatism,
expressed
andso forth.
andequalitybutthe
However,itis notonlythetensionbetweenfreedom
and self-madecapacitiesof liberal
of the self-reliant
priorpresumption

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Brown/WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

401

on andconstruction
subjects,conjoinedwiththeirunavoweddependence
by
and forces,thatmakesall liberalsubjects,and
a varietyof social relations
disenfranchised
notonlymarkedly
ones,vulnerable
toressentiment:
itis their
within
situatedness
power,theirproduction
bypower,andliberaldiscourse's
denialof thissituatedness
andproduction
thatcaststheliberalsubjectinto
failure,thefailureto makeitselfin thecontextof a discoursein whichits
is assumed,indeed,is itsassumednature.This failure,which
self-making
mustfindeithera reasonwithinitself(which
Nietzschecalls suffering,
redoublesthefailure)ora siteofexternal
blameon whichtoavengeitshurt
itspain.Hereis Nietzsche'saccountofthismomentinthe
and redistribute
ofressentiment:
production
seeksa cause forhissuffering,
moreexactly,
an agent;
Foreverysufferer
instinctively
a guilty
tosuffering-in
someliving
stillmorespecifically
agentwhoissusceptible
short,
thingupon whichhe can on some pretextor other,venthis affects,actuallyor in
theactualphysiological
causeofressentiment,
effigy....This ... constitutes
vengeful.. to deaden,bymeans
ness,andthelike:a desiretodeadenpainbymeansof affects.
secretpain thatis becoming
of a moreviolentemotionof any kind,a tormenting,
and to driveit outof consciousness
at leastforthemoment:
forthatone
unendurable,
as savageanaffect
as possible,and,inordertoexcitethat,anypretext
requiresan affect,
at all.'8

in thiscontextis a tripleachievement:
itproducesan affect
Ressentiment
thatoverwhelms
thehurt,
itproducesa culprit
(rage,righteousness)
responanditproducesa siteofrevengetodisplacethehurt(a place
sibleforthehurt,
has beenhurt).Together
to inflicthurtas thesufferer
theseoperations
both
ameliorate(in Nietzsche'sterms,"anaesthetize")and externalizewhatis
"unendurable."
otherwise
withthe
Now,whatI wanttosuggestis thatina culturealreadystreaked
forthesereasons,thereareseveralcharacteristics
of
pathosof ressentiment
latemodempostindustrial
societiesthataccelerateandexpandtheconditions
of its production.My listingis necessarilyhighlyschematic.First,the
thatWilliamConnollynames"increasedglobalcontingency"
phenomenon
andcomplexity
ofdomination
combineswiththeexpandingpervasiveness
stateandsocialnetworks
tocreateanunparalleled
bycapitalandbureaucratic
individualpowerlessnessover the fateand directionof one's own life,
theexperiences
ofimpotence,
andgratitude
inherintensifying
dependence,
entin liberalcapitalistordersandconsitutive
ofressentiment.'9
Second,the
ofall regionsoflife-whatWebercalleddisenchantsteadydesacralization
ment,whatNietzschecalled thedeathof God-would appearto add yet
anotherreversalto Nietzsche'sgenealogyof ressentiment
as perpetually
available to "alternation
of direction."
In Nietzsche'saccount,theascetic

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402

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993

anddamnation"
depravity
priestdeployednotionsof"guilt,sin,sinfulness,
back upon
sternly
afflicted
severely
less
the
of
to "directtheressentiment
sufferers
of
all
instincts
bad
the
... andin thisway [exploited]
themselves
self-overcoming."20
and
self-surveillance,
forthepurposeofself-discipline,
the
undermine
However,the desacralizingtendenciesof late modernity
back
needforexculpation
and turnsuffering's
of thisdeployment
efficacy
ifnot
agency.Third,theincreasedfragmentation,
towarda siteof external
notorganizedbythe
ofassociationuntilrecently
ofall forms
disintegration,
churches,families-andthe ubiquimarket-communities,
commodities
society
schemesofdisciplinary
individuating
tousnessof theclassificatory,
insulation
without
one
individual,
unrelieved
combinetoproducean utterly
construcindividualistic
failureentailedin liberalism's
fromtheinevitable
in which
secular
society,
of late modern
tion.In short,thecharacteristics
disciplinof
configurations
global
by
controlled
and
arebuffeted
individuals
and are at thesame
proportions,
powerof extraordinary
aryand capitalist
relentless
exposureand
from
reprieve
of
stripped
individuated,
timenakedly
to ressentian
to
incitement
add
up
together
forthemselves,
accountability
and
its
occasions
of
philosopher
finest
even
the
stunned
have
mentthatmight
modem
late
the
impotent,
dramatically
yet
accountable,
logics. Starkly
seetheswithressentiment.
liberalsubjectquiteliterally
ofand
nowconceivableinpartas bothproduct
identity,
Enterpoliticized
that
the
meaning
"reaction"
acquires
where
condition,
this
to
"reaction"
reiterates
that
of
domination
as
an
effect
to
namely,
ascribed
it,
Nietzsche
thatreinscribes
forself-affirmation
forpower,
foraction,
a substitute
impotence,
itself
ForNietzsche,ressentiment
andrejection.
powerlessness,
incapacity,
of reasons,norms,and ethicsfor
is rootedin "reaction"-thesubstitution
themselvestake their
deeds-and notonlymoralsystemsbut identities
bearingsin thisreaction.As TracyStrongreadsthiselementofNietzsche's
thought,
butis a reactionto something
... does notconsistof an activecomponent,
Identity
qualities,mustthenbecome
outside;actionin itself,withits inevitableself-assertive
The willto
withthatagainstwhichoneis reacting.
evil,sinceitis identified
something
totheslave:
thatwhichgivesdefinition
reassert
mustconstantly
powerofslavemorality
to escape thatpainwill
by beingin theworld.Henceanyattempt
thepainhe suffers
ofpainfulstructures.21
merelyresultin thereaffirmation

deed"is thereworking
its"creative
"cause"is suffering,
Ifressentiment's
revenge"ofwhat
ofthispainintoa negativeformofaction,the"imaginary
of
that
deeds."22This
the
true
denied
reaction,
Nietzscheterms"natures
does
whatever
"on
of
suffering
the
revengeis achievedthrough imposition
through
as
he
especially
does"23
(accomplished
and
notfeelwrath displeasure

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Brown! WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

403

as themeasure
ofsuffering
theestablishment
ofguilt),through
theproduction
andgood fortune
and through
castingstrength
of social virtue,
("privilege"
in a cultureof
as itsownindictment
as we say today)as self-recriminating,
thereis toomuchmisery."24
tobe fortunate,
"itis disgraceful
suffering:
byressentistructured
identity
todisplaceitssuffering,
Butin itsattempt
Thisinvestmentat thesametimebecomesinvestedin itsown subjection.
ofa siteofblameforitshurtwill,notonly
mentlies notonlyinitsdiscovery
of subjection(a recogniitshistory
through
in itsacquisitionofrecognition
revalued),butalso inthesatisfacnowrighteously
on injury,
tionpredicated
theinjuries
tionsofrevengethatceaselesslyreenactevenas theyredistribute
orderthatalterin a liberaldiscursive
and subordination
ofmarginalization
natelydenies the verypossibilityof thesethingsor blames thosewho
by
experiencethemfortheirown condition.Identitypoliticsstructured
itdoes not
thisblamingstructure:
subverting
reverseswithout
ressentiment
thatliberalindisubjectto critiquethesovereignsubjectof accountability
and
exclusionthat
vidualismpresupposesnor theeconomyof inclusion
itself
that
Thuspoliticizedidentity presents
establishes.
liberaluniversalism
and
on
as
as
the
predicated
opposite,
now appears
as a self-affirmation
a
world."25
"hostile
extemal
itssustainedrejectionby
requiring
in reacproducesidentity
Insofaras whatNietzschecalls slavemorality
moral
its
achieves
in
this
reaction
rooted
tionto power,insofaras identity
as
themselves
identity
and
action
evil,
power
by reproaching
superiority
even
initsownimpotence,
structured
bythisethosbecomesdeeplyinvested
its
vengeful
through
its
powerlessness
of
the
pain
assuage
to
seeks
whileit
itsreproach
through
of suffering,
itswidedistribution
through
moralizing,
fueledby
on
exclusion
and
Politicized
such.
premised
identity,
as
of power
impoits
structured
and
historically
by
imposed
humiliation
suffering
the
is as likelyto
tencein thecontextof a discourseof sovereignindividuals,
to feaston generalizedpoliticalimposeek generalizedpoliticalparalysis,
Indeeditis morelikely
liberation.
seek
its
own
or
collective
as
it
is
to
tence,
is whatrevengecalls itself;witha
to punishand reproach-"punishment
lie itcreatesa goodconscienceforitself'-thantofindvenues
hypocritical
action.26
of self-affirming
desireis notonlyshapedbythe
politicizedidentity's
But contemporary
evermore
willoftheliberalsubject,articulated
extenttowhichthesovereign
is domandcapitalistdisinternments,
individuation
nakedlybydisciplinary
of politicaland economic
configurations
inatedby late twentieth-century
ofhistory
itself,
problematic
powers.Itis shapedas wellbythecontemporary
as endedbecause
as a narrative,
history
ofhistory
bythelatemodernrupture
producesan immeasurable
thatparadoxically
it has lostitsend,a rupture
DisciplineandPunish
ofreading
As thegrimexperience
heavinesstohistory.

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404

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993

is
forceof history
makesclear,thereis a sensein whichthegravitational
and
coherence
narrative
history's
that
moment
the
at
precisely
multiplied
is
of powerin history
As theproblematic
is refuted.
foundation
objectivist
poweris seen to
to subjectformation,
fromsubjectpositioning
resituated
thanonlytemporather
"microphysically"
infiltrationally,
operatespatially,
designated
heretofore
every
construct
and
permeate
seen
to
also
it
is
rally;
spacein socialordersandin subjects.As theerosionofhistorical
"interior"
such
and thefuturity
takeswiththembothlaws of history
metanarratives
is replacedwith
ofhistory
continuity
toassure,thepresumed
lawspurported
becomesthat
History
andubiquitousforce.
contingent,
a senseofitsviolent,
mass butno coherence,forcebut no
whichhas weightbutno trajectory,
direction;it is war withoutendsor end. Thus theextentto which"dead
on thebrainsof theliving"is today
weighlike a nightmare
generations
as coherentcategoryor
itself
disintegrates
as
history
even
unparalleled
we feeltheextraorbyhistory,
practice.We knowourselvestobe saturated
we arealso steepedin a discourseofits
dinaryforceof itsdeterminations;
willno longer(always
and aboveall, we knowthathistory
insignificance,
alreadydidnot)actas ourredeemer.
aboutlate modem
I raise thequestionof historybecause in thinking
I havethusfarfocusedon
byressentiment,
structuring
politicizedidentity's
sovereignsubject.But
in thesufferings
of a subordinated
its foundation
is also tethered
tothatfeature
Nietzsche'saccountofthelogicofressentiment
thatcannot
thatrailsagainsttimeitself,
byhistory,
ofthewillthatis stricken
"will backwards,"thatcannotexertits powerover thepast-eitheras a
specificsetofeventsoras timeitself:
Willingliberatesbut whatis it thatputseven the liberatorhimselfin fetters?'It
was'-that is thenameof thewill's gnashingof teethand mostsecretmelancholy.
ofall thatis past.... He
Powerlessagainstwhathasbeendone,he is an angryspectator
thatis thewill'sloneliestmelancholy.27
cannotbreaktimeandtime'scovetousness,

AlthoughNietzscheappearshere to be speakingof the will as such,


makes
ofhistory"
to thewillas a "redeemer
ownrelationship
Zarathustra's
as
be
reworked
can
with
greatdifficulty
clearthatthis"angryspectatorship"
over
the
reducing
that
a
by
past
of
triumphs
kind mastery,mastery
a perverse
ofthepast-in short,
by
thepresent
againsttheterms
itspower,byremaking
its
own
itself
that
genealogical
self-transformation
against
arrays
of
a project
around
withthehumanruinhe sees everywhere
In contrast
consciousness.
own
is
Zarathustra's
and
dreadful
accidents"-it
and
limbs
him-"fragments
thatspareshimfroma rancorous
capacityto discernand to makea future

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Brown/WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

405

sensibility,
fromcrushingdisappointment
in theliberatory
promiseof his
will:
The nowandthepaston earth-alas,myfriends,
thatis whatI findmostunendurable;
and I shouldnotknowhowtoliveifI werenotalso a seerofthatwhichmuchcome.A
a future
himself
seer,a willer,a creator,
anda bridgeto thefuture-andalas,also as it
were,a crippleat thisbridge:all thisis Zarathustra.28

Nietzscheherediscernsboththenecessityand thenearimpossibility-the
and fragileachievement-offormulating
extraordinary
oneselfas a creator
of thefutureand a bridgeto thefuture
in orderto appease theotherwise
inevitable
rancorofthewillagainsttime,inordertoredeemthepastbylifting
theweightofit,byreducing
thescopeofitsdeterminations.
"Andhowcould
I bearto be a manifmanwerenotalso a creatorandguesserofriddlesand
ofaccidents?"29
redeemer
in whathe is willingto confront
Of course,Zarathustra's
exceptionality
andbear,inhiscapacitiestoovercomeinordertocreate,is Nietzsche'sdevice
forrevealingus to ourselves.The ordinary
will,steepedin theeconomyof
devisesmeans"togetridofhismelancholy
andto mockhis
slave morality,
thecauseofthemelancholy,
thatcontinually
reinfect
dungeon"thatreiterate
woundtoitscapaciousnessinflicted
thenarcissistic
bythepast."Alas,"says
becomesa fool;andtheimprisoned
willredeems
Nietzsche,"everyprisoner
himselffoolishly."30
Fromthisfoolishredemption-foolish
becauseitdoes
notresolvethewill'srancorbutonlymakesa worldinitsimage-is bornthe
wrathofrevenge:
'thatwhichwas' is thenameofthestone[thewill]cannotmove.Andso hemovesstones
and he wreaksrevengeon whatever
does notfeelwrath
out of wrathand displeasure,
and displeasureas he does.Thusthewill,theliberator,
andon all who
tooktohurting;
he wreaksrevengeforhisinability
togo backwards.
can suffer
This ... is whatrevenge
is: thewill'sill willagainsttimeandits'it was.'

a substitute
Revengeas a "reaction,"
forthecapacitytoact,producesidentity
as bothboundtothehistory
thatproduceditandas a reproachtothepresent
thatembodiesthathistory.The will that"took to hurting"in its own
impotenceagainstitspastbecomes(in theformof an identity
whosevery
existenceis due to heightened
ofits"it
consciousness
of theimmovability
ofsubordination)
was,"itshistory
a willthatmakesnotonlya psychological
buta politicalpracticeofrevenge,a practicethatreiterates
theexistenceof
an identity
whosepresent
This
unredeemable
pastis oneofinsistently
injury.
ceases tobe investedinit,andit
pastcannotbe redeemedunlesstheidentity

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406

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993

as such,thus
givingup itsidentity
cannotcease to be investedin itwithout
its
givingup itseconomyof avengingand at thesame timeperpetuating
reinfects
time
hurt-"whenhethenstillsthepainofthewound,heatthesame
thewound."32
or subordination,
as a protestagainstmarginalization
In its emergence
toitsownexclusionbothbecause
thusbecomesattached
identity
politicized
andbecause
on thisexclusionforitsveryexistenceas identity
itis premised
at thesiteofexclusion,as exclusion,augments
of identity
theformation
or
entailedin subordination
or "altersthe directionof the suffering"
a siteofblameforit.Butin so doing,itinstalls
byfinding
marginalization
of itspolitical
in theveryfoundation
history
itspain overitsunredeemed
In locatinga siteof blame
as identity.
claim,in itsdemandforrecognition
a pastas a hurtwill,
overitspast,as a pastof injury,
foritspowerlessness
pain"of socialpowerlessness
and locatinga "reason"forthe"unendurable
politics,a politics
an
ethicizing
into
thisreasoning
itconverts
inthepresent,
it,
it reaffirms
while
even
the
hurt
to
thatseeks avenge
of recrimination
makes
itself,
enunciates
thus
it.
identity
codifies Politicized
discursively
itspainin
andinscribing
dramatizing,
onlybyentrenching,
claimsforitself,
over
triumphs
or
others-that
itself
out
politicsandcan hold nofuture-for
of
it
the
loss
futurity
with
and
direction,
thispain.The loss of historical
in the
refigured
ofthelatemodernage,is thushomologically
characteristic
the
of
age-identity
the
dominant
expression
ofdesireof
political
structure
producedby
politicalimpotence
politics.In thesameway,thegeneralized
and
modern
political
of
late
networks
discontinuous
yet
the ubiquitous
of
modern
democracy's
late
in
investments
the
reiterated
is
economicpower
politicalformations.
oppositional
primary
to
in an effort
theseinvestments
Whatmightbe entailedin transforming
One
andemancipatory
politicalculture?
democratic
fashiona moreradically
may lie in Nietzsche'scounselon the virtuesof
avenue of exploration
resubjugates
in partbyressentiment
structured
forif identity
"forgetting,"
itsrefusaltomakeitself
initsownpain,through
itsinvestment
itselfthrough
Yeterased
andthisrefusal.
is thehouseofthisactivity
memory
inthepresent,
elementsof
suchintegral
arethemselves
invisibility
andhistorical
histories
thatthecounselofforgetting,
identities
inmostsubjugated
thepaininscribed
ifnot
seemsinappropriate,
Nietzschean
form,
at leastin itsunreconstructed
cruel.33
Indeed,itis alsopossiblethatwe havereacheda passwherewe ought
usuallyreachthelimits
whoseskillsas diagnostician
topartwithNietzsche,
of individualcharacterand
of theirpoliticalefficacyin his privileging
of collectivepoliticalinvenpossibilities
capacityoverthetransformative
ofpoliticalconversation
therefigurative
possibilities
tion,inhisremovefrom
cultural
practices.ForifI am rightabouttheproblematic
or transformative

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Brown/WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

407

demands
contradictory
ofpaininstalledat theheartof manycontemporary
all thatsuchpainmaylongformorethanrevenge
forpoliticalrecognition,
intoself-overcoming,
reprieve,
recognized
isthechancetobeheardintoa certain
fortriumphing
over,and hencelosing,itself.Our
incitedintopossibilities
a radically
democratic
politicalculture
then,wouldbe toconfigure
challenge,
byit,a
beingovertaken
thatcan sustainsucha projectin itsmidstwithout
thesteadyslideofpolitical
againstabetting
challengethatincludesguarding
ofsuffering
theelements
evenas weacknowledge
discourse,
intotherapeutic
andhealingwe mightbe negotiating.
ofpolitical
Whatifitwerepossibletoincitea slightshiftinthecharacter
What
andpoliticalclaimscommontomuchpoliticizedidentity?
expression
closure
ifwe soughtto supplantthelanguageof"I am"-with itsdefensive
on thefixity
ofposition,anditsequationofsocial
itsinsistence
on identity,
Whatif
thelanguageofreflexive
"wanting"?
withmoralpositioning-with
within
thememory
of desire
identificatory
it werepossibleto rehabilitate
processes,themomentin desire-either"to have"or "to be"-prior to its
atthesiteofthewound?
ofidentity
wounding
andthuspriortotheformation
Whatif"wantingto be" or "wantingto have"weretakenup as modesof
of identity
as fixed
politicalspeechthatcould destabilizetheformulation
moral
entailand
having
necessary
as
entrenchment
history,
as
by
position,
as thatwhichmakesthe
"position"and"history"
ments,evenas theyaffirm
and locatable,as thatwhichcontributes
to a
speakingsubjectintelligible
of a
foradjudicating
desires?If every"I am" is something
hermeneutics
thenthisprojectmight
ofdesireintofixedandsovereign
identity,
resolution
tospeakbuttoread"I am" thisway,as inmotion,
involvenotonlylearning
accordingto a genealogyof want
as temporal,
as not-I,as deconstructable
or experiences.
as an
The subjectunderstood
ratherthanas fixedinterests
effectof a (ongoing)genealogyof desire,includingthesocial processes
or frustrating
constitutive
desire,is in thisway revealedas
of,fulfilling,
this
norconclusiveevenas itis affirmed
as an "I." In short,
neither
sovereign
of sovereignty
intodesirecouldbe thatwhichreopensa
partialdissolution
wounds
whereNietzschesaw it sealed shutby festering
desireforfuturity
forfreedom
'This instinct
pushedback
expressedas rancorandressentiment.
and repressed. . . incarceratedwithin."'

of thepoliticaldiscourseof identity
Such a slightshiftin thecharacter
politics
eschewsthekindsof ahistoricalor utopianturnsagainstidentity
and
madebya nostalgicandbrokenhumanist
Leftas wellas thereactionary
assaultson politicizedidentity
tendered
by theRight.Rather
disingenuous
thanopposingorseekingtotranscend
investments,
thereplacementidentity
even thecomplexadmixture-ofthelanguageof "being"with"wanting"
wouldseektoexploitpolitically
a recovery
ofthemoreexpansivemoments

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408

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993

inthegenealogyofidentity
formation.
It wouldseektoreopenthemoment
priorto itsown foreclosure
againstitswant,priorto thepointat whichits
is established
suchforeclosure
and through
sovereignsubjectivity
through
of its pain. How mightdemocraticdiscourseitselfbe
eternalrepetition
invigorated
bysucha shiftfromontologicalclaimsto thesekindsof more
thandispensing
expressly
politicalones,claimswhich,rather
blameforan
thenecessarily
theater
of
unlivablepresent,
inhabited
agonistic
discursively
an alternative
future?
forging

NOTES
thathavebecomesocially
toa seriesofdifferences
inrelation
is established
1. "An identity
it
areessentialtoitsbeing.Iftheydidnotcoexistas differences,
Thesedifferences
recognized.
inordertobe,and
difference
requires
andsolidity....Identity
wouldnotexistinitsdistinctness
WilliamConnolly,
inordertosecureitsownself-certainty."
intootherness
difference
itconverts
ofPoliticalParadox(Ithaca,NY: CornellUniverNegotiations
Democratic
Identity\Difference:
sityPress,1991),64.
I cite fromConnollyratherthanfromthe moreobviousDerridabecause Connollyis
to thinkaboutthepoliticalproblemof identity
withinpoliticaltheory
oftheeffort
exemplary
operation.I cite fromConnollyas well becausethe
withitslinguistic
workingheuristically
discussionofhisbook.
beganata 1991APSA roundtable
essayextendsa conversation
present
problems
certain
as producing
latemodernity
notingthatConnollyidentifies
In thatdiscussion,
as such,I calledforsucha historicization.
identity
politicized
butdoesnothistoricize
foridentity
essayis myownpartialresponsetothatcall,it-as thenotesmake
To thedegreethatthepresent
toConnolly'sbookandthatpublicoccasionofitsdiscussion.
clear-is indebted
and pastthe
through
to takepoliticizedidentity
A shortlistof otherswhohavestruggled
Homi
ofpoliticalexclusionandpoliticalclosureincludeStuartHall,TrinhT. Minh-ha,
problem
GayartiSpivak,andAnneNorton.
Butler,
Bhabha,PaulGilroy,AiwahOng,Judith
2. Karl Marx,"On theJewishQuestion,"in TheMarx-EngelsReader,2d ed., editedby
R. Tucker(New York:Norton,1974),34.
3. JohnLocke, Letteron Toleration;JohnStuartMill, "On Liberty,"George Kateb,
August1984.
andtheClaimsofPolitics,"PoliticalTheory,
"DemocraticIndividuality
differences
[in
4. In "JewishQuestion,"Marxargues,"farfromabolishingtheseeffective
it is consciousof beinga
civil society,thestate]existsonlyso faras theyare presupposed;
totheseelements"(p. 33). See
onlyinopposition
itsuniversality
politicalstateanditmanifests
also Marx's Critiqueof Hegel's Philosophyof Right,editedby J. O'Malley (Cambridge:
Press,1970),91, 116.
University
Cambridge
October61
andtheQuestionof Identity,"
Particularism,
5. ErnestoLaclau,"Universalism,
ofretaining
notwiththestatebutthepossibility
(Summer1992),90. Laclau is hereconcerned
universalism
politicswherea critiqueofbourgeoishumanist
a "universal"in social movement
a universalist
politicalideal
to preserve
Laclau'seffort
has becomequitecentral.Interestingly,
awayfrom
pullingitfurther
fromthischallengeentailsmakingthisidealevenmoreabstract,
managedbyliberaldiscourse.
orpurposethanthedistanceordinarily
anyspecificconfiguration

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Brown/WOUNDED ATTACHMENTS

409

ofbodyandcontent
is onlypartly
Interestingly,
Laclau'saiminvoidingtheuniversal
completely
ittobe morecompletely
ofall theparticulars;
topermit
itis also intended
torecognize
embracing
valueofthediscourseofuniversality,
theextent
towhich"different
groupscompete
thestrategic
aimsa temporary
function
ofuniversal
representation"
(p. 90). Buthow,
to givetheirparticular
discoursemayalwaysbe revealedtohavethisstrategic
ifuniversal
function,
canitalsobe taken
valueofdemocracy?
seriouslyas a substantive
6. JurgenHabermas'sLegitimation
by T. McCarthy(Boston:Beacon,
Crisis,translated
1975),andJamesO'Connor'sFiscal CrisisoftheState(New York:St. Martin's,1973)remain
ofthisdevelopment.
Also informing
thisclaimareMax
twoofthemostcompellingnarratives
andrationalization
inEconomy
andSociety,SheldonWolin's
Weber'sdiscussionofbureaucracy
in ThePresenceofthePast,as well as theresearches
of Claus
discussionof the"mega-state"
Offe,Bob Jessop,andFredBlock.
and SocialistStrategy(London:
7. See ErnestoLaclau and ChantalMouffe,Hegemony
Verso,1985), 161; ScottLash and JohnUrry,The End of OrganizedCapitalism(Madison:
ofWisconsinPress,1987),chap.9; David Harvey,TheCondition
ofPostmodemity
University
the
Reagon,"CoalitionPolitics:Turning
(Oxford:Blackwell,1989),chap.26; BerniceJohnson
in Home Girls:A Black Feminist
editedby BarbaraSmith(New York:
Century,"
Anthology,
KitchenTable:WomenofColorPress,1983),362.
inFeminism/Postmodernism,
forCyborgs,"
editedbyL. Nicholson(New
8. In"A Manifesto
of
offspring
York:Routledge,1990),Donna Harawaywritesthat"cyborgsaretheillegitimate
notto mention
militarism
statesocialism.Butillegitimate
offspring
andpatriarchal
capitalism,
unfaithful
totheirorigins.Theirfathers,
areoftenexceedingly
afterall,areinessential"
(p. 193).
9. "Two Lectures,"in Power/Knowledge,
editedby Colin Gordon(New York:Pantheon,
1980),86.
withPaulRabinowin TheFoucaultReader,
10."Space,Knowledge,andPower,"interview
editedby Paul Rabinow(New York:Pantheon,
1984),245.
11. JohnRajchmaninsiststhatFoucault'sphilosophy
is "theendlessquestionoffreedom"
(p. 124),butRajchman,
too,eschewsthequestionofdesireinhisaccountofFoucault'sfreedom
ofhisskepticism:
as the"motorandprinciple
theendlessquestioning
ofconstituted
experience"
(New York:ColumbiaUniver(p. 7). Rajchman,
MichelFoucault:TheFreedomofPhilosophy
sityPress,1985).
forfreedom
forfreedom
12. "Thisinstinct
madelatent-thisinstinct
pushedback
forcibly
incarcerated
withinand finallyable to dischargeand ventitselfonlyon itself."
andrepressed,
and P. J. Hollingdale(New York:
On theGenealogyofMorals,translated
by W. Kaufmann
Vintage,1969),87.
of liberalism
in its
13. As Connollyargues,politicizedidentity
also reiterates
thestructure
itis not
ofa sovereign,
individual.
Connollyurges,although
configuration
unified,
accountable,
of
clear what would motivateidentity'stransformed
a different
orientation,
configuration
itselfas contingent,
relational,
contestatory,
and social. See
identity-onewhichunderstood
Identity\Difference,
esp. 171-84.
14. MichelFoucault,Disciplineand Punish,translated
byA. Sheridan(New York:Vintage,
1979),209, 212.
15. Ibid.,206.
of"An OrdinanceoftheCityofSantaCruzAddingChapter9.83 to
16. Froman earlydraft
theSantaCruzMunicipalCode Pertaining
totheProhibition
ofDiscrimination."
17. Identity\Difference,
21-27.
18. GenealogyofMorals,127.
19. Identity\Difference,
24-26.

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410

POLITICAL THEORY /August1993

20. Ibid.,128.
expandeded.
21. TracyStrong,FriedrichNietzscheand thePoliticsof Transfiguration,
Press,1988),242.
ofCalifornia
(Berkeley:University
22. GenealogyofMorals,36.
(New York:
editedbyW.Kaufmann
inThePortableNietzsche,
23. ThusSpokeZarathustra,
Penguin,1954),252.
24. GenealogyofMorals,123,124.
25. [bid.,34.
252.
26. Zarathustra,
27. Ibid.,251.
28. [bid.,250-51.
29. [bid.,251.
30. [bid.
31. Ibid.,252.
in an economyof
of thismoment
32. GenealogyofMorals,126. Nietzsche'selaboration
and
institutions
therancorous
tenorofmanycontemporary
couldeasilycharacterize
suffering
at play:
is strongly
andpermissibly
eventsin whichpoliticizedidentity
indiscovering
occasionsfor
eagerandinventive
areoneandall dreadfully
Thesuffering
anddwellingonnastydeedsandimaginary
theyenjoybeingmistrustful
painfulaffects;
slights;theyscourtheentrailsof theirpastand presentforobscureand questionable
suspicionsand to
to revelin tormenting
thatofferthemtheopportunity
occurrences
withthepoisonoftheirown malice:theytearopentheiroldest
themselves
intoxicate
scars,theymakeevildoersoutof theirfriends,
wounds,theybleed fromlong-healed
someonemustbe to
andwhoeverelse standsclosesttothem."I suffer:
wives,children,
everysicklysheep.(GenealogyofMorals,127)
blameforit"-thusthinks
phenomenological
quitepowerful
33. Thispointhas beenmadebymany,butfora recent,
see Patricia
betweenhistoricalerasureand lived identity,
explorationof the relationship
MA: HarvardUniversity
Press,1991).
ofRace andRights(Cambridge,
Williams,TheAlchemy
34. GenealogyofMorals,87.

of California,Santa Cruz She is authorof


WendyBrownteachesat the University
book
ReadinginPoliticalTheoryandofaforthcoming
ManhoodandPolitics:A Feminist
on latemodernpoliticallifeofwhichthisessayis a part.

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