As part of my ongoing research, I’ve recently been reading through Brad Evans and Julian Reid’s Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously. I’m not normally one for prefaces and acknowledgements, but this book’s front matter really struck a chord with me. In it, the authors rework Foucault’s own preface in Deleuze’s Anti-Oedipus to create a series of basic principles that they believe every intellectual project ‘of a political kind’ should follow. Personally, I believe these principles should be applied to all research, and I will certainly do my best to be guided by these principles in my own work:
- Be deeply suspicious of anything that masks itself in universal regalia. Bring into question that which is not being questioned in the normal state of affairs.
- Move beyond any self-righteous and self-absolving assessments of the operations of power. Look to deal with power at the level of its effects and the ways in which is positively manipulates subjects to wilfully abandon their own political freedom.
- Foreground the affirmative qualities of subjectivities. Not only is this integral in the right against fascism in all its forms. It opens a challenge to the narcissism of those who would have us surrender to the mercies of the world.
- Speak with confidence about the ability to transform the world, not for the better, but for the sake of it. Without an open commitment to the people to come, the struggle is already lost.
- Use provocation as a political tool. Not to evidence extremist views. But to illustrate how normalizing power truly fears anything that appears remotely exceptional. The poetic most certainly included.
- Trust in the irreducible qualities of human existence. The feelings we have, the atmospheres we breathe, the aesthetics we enfold, the dabbles we scribe, the playful personas we construct, they are all integral to the formation of a new image of thought.
- Have faith in people. Just as they will resist what they find oppressive and intolerable, so they will also find their own dignified solutions to problems in spite of our best efforts.
- Do not shy away from conflict. Without conflict there is no resistance to power. And without resistance to power there is no creation of alternative existences.
- Reveal fully your political orientations. Do not abstract them from the work. Such a deception is of the order for those embarrassed by the mediocrity of their power.
- Speak with the courage to truth that narrates a tale to affect a number of meaningful registers. No book should be read if it doesn’t intellectually challenge and emotionally move us.
Brad Evans and Julian Reid, Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2014)