Affect and critique: A politics of boredom*

What are the politics of boredom? And how should we relate to boredom? In this paper, I explore these questions through cases where the disaffection and restlessness of boredom have become a matter of concern in the UK and USA at the junctures between Fordism and neoliberalism, and amid today’s resurgence of right-wing populism. I argue that what repeats across the critique of the ‘ordinary ordinariness’ of Fordism, the neoliberal counterrevolution and today’s right-wing populism is a ‘promise of intensity’ – the promise that life will feel eventful and boredom will be absent. As I make this argument, I reflect on the role of critique in the context of the multiplication of modes of inquiry that has accompanied the interest in affect across the humanities and social sciences. Rejecting the dismissal of critique in some affect-related work, I advocate for and exemplify a type of ‘diagnostic critique’ based on the practice of conjunctural analysis as pioneered by Stuart Hall and colleagues.

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Volume 39 Issue 2

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