Much contemporary political theory is unified in greeting radical democratic politics with some variation of what I term “the morning after” question, which asks too knowingly: after the thrill of dissent has waned, what has really been accomplished? What has changed the morning after? There are substantial and longstanding answers to this question that have ranged from demonstrating the importance of public events of radical democracy in fomenting broader shifts in public opinion, to the role of the protest as a networking generator that connects otherwise atomized actors to one another, as well as other activist organizations. Yet, despite these and other arguments for pluralizing the horizon of the political, the morning after question persists because what too readily goes unchallenged is the animating conceit that radical democracy, in itself, is merely a means to an end, rather than a distinctive relational political formation that affects assemblages of agonistic concerted action of value in their own right. In Cruising Politics: Affect, Assemblage, Agonism, I challenge the pejorative treatment of radical democratic politics by proposing that political theorists are well-served by learning from the critiques elaborated by fifty years of queer theory, as it has formed in relation to a culture of queer sexual cruising whose affairs are also said to lack the longe duree, institutional formalism, and normative rituals that cement the strong-tie relationships of “legitimate” public actors. In short, queer sexual cruisers know all too well the complaint of radical democrats confronted with the morning after question. I thus forge a dialogue between queer and political theorists to construct the concept of “cruising politics,” with which I revalue the putative weaknesses of weak-ties in political life as enabling instead freer experimentation with relational forms and tactics of direct democratic action. I demonstrate that the brief, anonymous, and public affairs of cruising politics are not only amenable to, but are today driving, radical democratic politics under conditions of late-modern networked publicity. To advance this claim, I offer a conceptual pre-history of the 21st century radical democratic politics exemplified by Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. Structured around critical, interdisciplinary engagements with canonical 20th century political thinkers—Nietzsche, Arendt, Foucault, and Deleuze and Guattari—Cruising Politics makes conceptual space to explore the dynamics of radical democracy in abeyance of the morning after question. In doing so, my goal is twofold. First, I set out to illuminate four features of cruising politics conducing contemporary radical democracy, namely: that it denotes (1) the adoption of a receptive posture toward the desire of strangers that is (2) responsive to the potential arousal of common interest and which, by (3) exercising a pluralist mode of judgment, (4) enables the intercourse of concerted action. Second, and in the process, I seek to reconstruct a minor genealogy of late-modern political thought attuned to the pleasure of politics as an indispensable (though undervalued) variable when theorizing concerted political action. The cases considered and methods employed to advance this fourfold exposition are diverse. My objects range from philosophical and poetic texts (Nietzsche’s allegorical, Thus Spake Zarathustra, and René Char’s wartime poetic action-sketches, Leaves of Hypnos), to historical examples of contentious political protest against the pre-AIDS film Cruising (1980) and more recent Anonymous hacktivism exemplified by the #AvengeAssange campaign (2011). Informed by the interdisciplinarity of queer studies and political theory, I am able to use a mixed-methodological approach spanning from philosophical hermeneutics and discourse analysis, to archival and ethnographic research to respond to the specificity of each object and its relevant literatures. Taken together, these chapters construct and deploy the heuristic of cruising politics, which is able to account for and explicate the novel affective intensities, modes of relationality, and ethical valences that power weak-tie political relations of radical democracy. In so doing, I am able to propose a corrective to current democratic theory that allows more finely theorizing historical radical democratic movements like ACT-UP and Critical Mass, as well as, more recently, Anonymous hacktivism, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter as contentious political action responsive to and conditioned by the governmentality of neoliberal control societies. It is thus my hope that Cruising Politics will assist in understanding how radical agonistic democrats come together to act in the world politically, and that this will contribute to scholarly debates by nuancing efforts to recruit such energies to more formal structures of world-building democratic politics.




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