The Principle of Unrest

by Brian Massumi

  • Immediations
  • Published: 2017
  • ISBN: 978-1-78542-044-3
  • PDF ISBN: 978-1-78542-045-0

There is no such thing as rest. The world is always on the move. It is made of movement. We find ourselves always in the midst of it, in transformations under way. The basic category for understanding is activity – and only derivatively subject, object, rule, order. What is called for is an ‘activist’ philosophy based on these premises. The Principle of Unrest explores the contemporary implications of an activist philosophy, pivoting on the issue of movement. Movement is understood not simply in spatial terms but as qualitative transformation: becoming, emergence, event. Neoliberal capitalism’s special relation to movement is of central concern. Its powers of mobilization now descend to the emergent level of just-forming potential. This carries them beyond power-over to powers-to-bring-to-be, or what the book terms ‘ontopower’. It is necessary to track capitalist power throughout its expanding field of emergence in order to understand how counter-powers can resist its capture and rival it on its own immanent ground. At the emergent level, at the eventful first flush of their arising, counter-powers are always collective. This even applies to movements of thought. Thought in the making is collective expression. How can we think this transindividuality of thought? What practices can address it? How, politically, can we understand the concept of the event to emergently include events of thought? Only by attuning to the creative unrest always agitating at the infra-individual level, in direct connection with the transindividual level, bypassing the mid-level of what was traditionally taken for a sovereign subject: by embracing our ‘dividuality’.

“Compelling and incisive as ever, Massumi continues to show with a deftness of philosophical touches why he’s one of the most important critical minds writing today. More than providing an accessible introduction to his formidable corpus, The Principle of Unrest is a provocation to thought and call to action.”
Brad Evans – Reader in Political Violence, University of Bristol.
“If you have ever wanted to ask one of the most important philosophers of his generation a question about politics or the economy, if you ever wanted to know how his thrilling conception of being would illuminate the quotidian gloom of our markets, our workplaces, our legislatures, this book is true gift. Brian Massumi’s discussion of these topics is every bit as charged as his more philosophical works, and just as startling.
Stefano Harney – Singapore Management University

Author Bio

Brian Massumi is professor of communication at the University of Montreal. He specializes in the philosophy of experience, art and media theory, and political philosophy. His most recent books include Ontopower: War, Powers, and the State of Perception (Duke UP 2015), Politics of Affect (Polity, 2015), and The Power at the End of the Economy (Duke UP, 2014). He is co-author with Erin Manning of Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience (University of Minnesota Press, 2014). Also with Erin Manning and the SenseLab collective, he participates in the collective exploration of new ways of bringing philosophical and artistic practices into collaborative interaction, most recently in the frame of the Immediations: Art, Media, Event international partnership project.