Event Title

Cultural economy and emotional politics : unthinking neo-liberal capitalism in Hong Kong

Start Date

10-12-2012 11:30 AM

End Date

10-12-2012 12:30 PM

Description

Cultural Economy and Emotional Politics – Unthinking Neo-liberal Capitalism in Hong Kong

Abstract

This paper discusses the significance of culture and affect in projects that search for social transformation beyond and alternative to capitalism. Drawing on intellectual recourses from the field of cultural economy and affect theories, and with reference to contemporaryHong Kongexperiences, this paper argues that capitalism is not an economic system in which free market and private property prevail, nor is it a social system in which wage-labour is the dominant form of production relations. Rather, capitalism should be understood as a system of monopolistic socio-political practices perpetuated by an affective-symbolic order filled with specific meanings and emotions. In the case ofHong Kong, this paper argues, the prevailing meanings and emotions being (re)produced and (re)circulated in the capitalist affective-symbolic order are basically made up of neo-liberal empty signifiers and cynical affects respectively.

From this perspective, we could see what critical scholars and social activists perceive as inconsistent and contradictory in the neo-liberal doctrines are not necessarily shortcomings of the dominant economic discourse, but rather reflect the very nature of capitalist culture filled with empty signifiers whose semantic function is not to convey any positive content but to name “a fullness which is constitutively absent” (Laclau 2005: On Populist Reason, London and New York: Verso). Hence the effectiveness of the neo-liberal hegemonic project is not sustained by its logical-conceptual connections, but rather a radical psychological investment in which affect plays a significant role. Consequently, in order to search for social alternatives and facilitate a meaningful cultural and social transformation of capitalism, we may have to engage more seriously in the realm of the cultural and the emotional.

文化经济与情感政治:反思香港的新自由资本主义

摘要

本文讨论文化与情感在寻找资本主义的另类实践计划中的重要性。借助文化经济学与情感理论,以香港的经验为例,本文指出资本主义并非是由私有产权和利伯维尔场主导的经济系统,也非建基于雇佣劳动的生产关系,而是一个由各种特定的意义和情绪构成的情感-象征秩序(affect-symbolic order) ,支撑着各式在社会政治领域中的垄断践行。本文将指出,在当代香港的情感-象征秩序中,不断(再)生产和(再)传播的意义和情绪,主要是由新自由主义的空洞能指和犬儒感觉所构成。

从这文化经济学与情感理论的角度,在一些批判学者和社会行动者眼中自相矛盾的新自由主义教条,并非是主流经济论述的弱点,而是反映了资本主义的核心文化,当中的空洞能指并不包含任何清晣的正面内容,而是尝试命名「一种不可能存在的整体」(Laclau 2005) 。因此新自由主义的影响力,并不在于其逻辑及概念上的连贯性,而是依靠在心理层面的根本性的投资,当中情感扮演着一个十分重要的角色。因此,要想能够寻找出对资本主义有意义的文化与社会改造,我们或许需要更认真地投入处理文化与情感的领域。

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Recommended Citation

Hui, P. K. (2012, December). Cultural economy and emotional politics: Unthinking neo-liberal capitalism in Hong Kong. Paper presented at 2012 International Conference on Sustainability & Rural Reconstruction, Southwest University, Chongqingng, China.

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Dec 10th, 11:30 AM Dec 10th, 12:30 PM

Cultural economy and emotional politics : unthinking neo-liberal capitalism in Hong Kong

Cultural Economy and Emotional Politics – Unthinking Neo-liberal Capitalism in Hong Kong

Abstract

This paper discusses the significance of culture and affect in projects that search for social transformation beyond and alternative to capitalism. Drawing on intellectual recourses from the field of cultural economy and affect theories, and with reference to contemporaryHong Kongexperiences, this paper argues that capitalism is not an economic system in which free market and private property prevail, nor is it a social system in which wage-labour is the dominant form of production relations. Rather, capitalism should be understood as a system of monopolistic socio-political practices perpetuated by an affective-symbolic order filled with specific meanings and emotions. In the case ofHong Kong, this paper argues, the prevailing meanings and emotions being (re)produced and (re)circulated in the capitalist affective-symbolic order are basically made up of neo-liberal empty signifiers and cynical affects respectively.

From this perspective, we could see what critical scholars and social activists perceive as inconsistent and contradictory in the neo-liberal doctrines are not necessarily shortcomings of the dominant economic discourse, but rather reflect the very nature of capitalist culture filled with empty signifiers whose semantic function is not to convey any positive content but to name “a fullness which is constitutively absent” (Laclau 2005: On Populist Reason, London and New York: Verso). Hence the effectiveness of the neo-liberal hegemonic project is not sustained by its logical-conceptual connections, but rather a radical psychological investment in which affect plays a significant role. Consequently, in order to search for social alternatives and facilitate a meaningful cultural and social transformation of capitalism, we may have to engage more seriously in the realm of the cultural and the emotional.

文化经济与情感政治:反思香港的新自由资本主义

摘要

本文讨论文化与情感在寻找资本主义的另类实践计划中的重要性。借助文化经济学与情感理论,以香港的经验为例,本文指出资本主义并非是由私有产权和利伯维尔场主导的经济系统,也非建基于雇佣劳动的生产关系,而是一个由各种特定的意义和情绪构成的情感-象征秩序(affect-symbolic order) ,支撑着各式在社会政治领域中的垄断践行。本文将指出,在当代香港的情感-象征秩序中,不断(再)生产和(再)传播的意义和情绪,主要是由新自由主义的空洞能指和犬儒感觉所构成。

从这文化经济学与情感理论的角度,在一些批判学者和社会行动者眼中自相矛盾的新自由主义教条,并非是主流经济论述的弱点,而是反映了资本主义的核心文化,当中的空洞能指并不包含任何清晣的正面内容,而是尝试命名「一种不可能存在的整体」(Laclau 2005) 。因此新自由主义的影响力,并不在于其逻辑及概念上的连贯性,而是依靠在心理层面的根本性的投资,当中情感扮演着一个十分重要的角色。因此,要想能够寻找出对资本主义有意义的文化与社会改造,我们或许需要更认真地投入处理文化与情感的领域。