I’m reading, and being very impressed by, John Protevi’s recent book Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic. The book brings together a lot of recent work on affect with the best of the cognitive sciences (embodied/embedded/distributive/enactive cognition), complexity and nonlinear dynamical systems theories, and a strong grounding in philosophy, from Aristotle to Kant to Deleuze and Guattari. Protevi’s main source of strength is Deleuzian theory, and here he draws very much on Manuel Delanda’s efforts to synthesize Deleuze with complexity theory (as did his very good co-authored book on Deleuze and Geophilosophy). But he also perceptively accounts for the strengths and weaknesses of these very differently rooted research/theoretical programs as he tries to build a synthesis out of them — one that would account for affect (and affective cognition) at multiple levels of the “body politic,” from the neurophysiological to the subjective/intersubjective and “up” to the civic, cultural, “populational” and societal. Chapter One is a gem of summative concision. I haven’t gotten yet to the case studies — Terry Schiavo, the Columbine high school massacre, and Hurricane Katrina — but having read his earlier writing on Katrina, I expect these will be good.

It’s the kind of book I would recommend for a reading group (graduate class or online cross-blog sort of thing). Others in that category might include Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (which I’ve so far only read bits and pieces of that have appeared elsewhere); John Mullarkey’s excellent, perhaps even field-defining Refractions of Reality: Philosophy and the Moving Image, which I recommend to anyone interested in film, the image, and philosophy; and Sean Esbjörn-Hargens’ and Michael E. Zimmerman’s Integral Ecology if only to see where they succeed and where they fail in synthesizing the various extant forms of ecophilosophy. I’ve yet to get to the latter book, and reviews I’ve seen have been mixed, which isn’t surprising given the authors’ almost devotional indebtedness to integral philosopher Ken Wilber (quite a shift from Zimmerman’s earlier Heideggerian/Continentalist work). But we need syntheses like it, so I expect the effort, even if flawed, to be valuable.

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