ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

City of Spite: Revisiting Terror

Open Panel

Abstract

I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man (Dostoevsky 1992: 1). It is no wonder that in a society that constantly produces ‘losers’ some of them do not accept their fate and, dreaming of revenge, radicalize to the point of acting spitefully. A ‘radical loser’ (Enzensberger 2005) can imagine only one solution to his problems: ‘a worsening of the evil conditions under which he suffers’ (ibid. 5). Spite, in this sense, is a promise of a feeling of power, of mastery over life and death, for it can combine, in an explosive cocktail, destruction and self-destruction, cruelty and asceticism/ressentiment. With spite, we confront the following situation: the mimetic desire does not establish but rather destroys the ‘society’. Following Diken (2009), the paper will ask whether it is possible to imagine a new affect, ‘spite’, which ‘cannot exist in actuality but nevertheless persists as a constant threat of deformation’ (Diken 2009: 68). As a minimum we may define ‘spite’ as a willingness to harm oneself in order to cause more harm to another. With spite, everything (power, meaning, and subjectivity) is taken to the extreme and disappears (in fatal strategies, simulacra, in suicide bombings, in terrorism, in the politics of security). Yet, despite its ever-present and escalating political, social and spatial significance, spite is a surprisingly absent topic in social/spatial analysis. The question is, however, what corresponding social regime would produce the distinctive affective modality of ‘spite’. Contemporary social and political theory has made meaningful use of three previous regimes and their corresponding characteristics. This paper, however, will contribute to the literature by offering that spite corresponds to a fourth, paradoxical social ‘regime’: terror. In the aftermath of 9/11, the paper will propose, terror is no longer merely an ‘exceptional’ (real or imagined) catastrophe but seems to have become a social regime, ‘a technique of governance’ which imposes a particular conduct, a new model of truth and normality, on contemporary sociality by redefining power relations and by unmaking previous realities.