McKenzie Wark | What the Performative Can’t Perform: On Judith Butler

By McKenzie Wark

Published in Public Seminar


Judith Butler‘s Notes Towards a Performative Theory of Assembly (Harvard, 2015) is a series of occasional pieces which, taken together, show both the extraordinary range of her thought, and perhaps also some of its limitations. Here her thinking extends from questions of gender performativity, seen as an instance of precarity more generally, to a view of the political grounded in interdependency. Along the way, Butler touches on questions of antagonism, media, infrastructure, the living and non-living, and labor, but each of these are perhaps limit-points beyond which she could not go without modification of her essential theses. Butler: “there is a war on the idea of interdependency, on… the social network of hands that seeks to minimize the unlivability of lives.” (67) Indeed, but one might need to press on into some of these other questions to understand why.

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