July 12, 2007

Hurt feelings Although I disagree with Eva Illouz's emphasis on narrative, her discussion of emotional style under contemporary capitalism is helpful. She points out the way the therapeutic narrative consists precisely in making sense of ordinary lives as the expression of (hidden or over) suffering. And, she explains: the therapeutic model is 'good for' addressing the volatile nature of selfhood and of social relationships in late modernity. It is 'good for' structuring divergent biographies, providing a technology to reconcile individuality with the institutions in which it operates, for coping with the disruptions that have become inherent in modern biographies, and perhaps most importantly, for preserving the self's standing and sense of security, rendered fragile precisely by the fact that the self is continually performed, evaluated, and validated by others. Illouz provides insight into the functionality of testimonies to experience. Such testimonies can create social connections, empathy, ties to others. They can provide one with a sense of authority, authorizing one to speak and reconfiguring the very grounds from which others experience. Patricia Williams, in her brilliant The Alchemy of Race and Rights, describes a deployment of experience. I can't remember it so I am going to make one up. One person says: your voting to restrict membership to whites is racist. The other person says: your saying that was racist hurt my feelings. The second person displaces the political import, the claim to justice, in the first person's claim by turning the question to one of feelings, how the comment made the...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

The Typepad Team

Recent Comments