Chapter 2 The Multitude Strikes Back? Boredom in an Age of Semiocapitalism

In: The Culture of Boredom
Michael E. Gardiner
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One of the most compelling arguments put forward by the so-called ‘Autonomist’ tradition of Marxist thought is that the very affective and emotional register of our lives is shaped fundamentally by transformations in the production process now unfolding in the (over-)developed societies of the global North. However, although major Autonomist thinkers have discussed such related phenomena as anxiety, depression, and indifference, none have addressed boredom directly. The central task of this chapter will be, therefore, to speculate as to how boredom, understood as a tangible, if characteristically ambivalent (and ambient) mood or affective condition, might be understood in broadly Autonomist terms. Some key questions here include: is there a specifically 21st-century boredom? If so, does it retain any of the incipiently resistant qualities that we can find in the type of boredom more characteristic of the classical phase of Fordist capitalism? Are there qualitative changes in the way our body-minds situate in the time-space of what Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi calls ‘semiocapitalism’? Finally, how might such transformations relate to boredom, especially concerning the perpetual speed-up in informational and semiotic flow, and ever-tightening and accelerating circuits of capitalist valorization?

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