Why Spinoza Today? Or, ‘A Strategy of Anti-Fear’

Rethinking Marxism 17 (4):591-608 (2005)
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Abstract
This essay contends that Spinoza provides a valuable analysis of the ‘‘affective’’damage to a social body caused by fear, anxiety, and ‘‘superstition.’’ Far from being primarily an external threat, this essay argues that terrorism and the promulgationof fear by the current administration in the United States pose a threat to internalsocial cohesion. The capacity to respond in constructive and ameliorative ways tocurrent global conflicts is radically undermined by amplifying corrosive relationshipsof anxiety, suspicion and hatred among citizens. Spinoza presents a portrait of natural and political existence as deeply relational and ‘‘affective’’ such that human freedom and power depend upon the concern for the affective and passionatedispositions of human bodies and minds. In order for democracy, the power of themany, to exist effectively, the social body must be ruled by ‘‘joyful passions’’ rather than ‘‘sad passions,’’ which are destructive and debilitating by nature.
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