State Phobia, State Philia, and their Discontents
Left Structures of Feeling Between State and Community
Keywords:Affect, mutual aid, state, socialism, ambivalence, structure of feeling
After decades of neoliberal austerity, the crises of the early 2020s have seen both increased pressure on state actors to publicly provide for social reproduction and resurgent interest in practices of mutual aid, independent of the state. This paper examines the collective affective orientations – what cultural theorist Raymond Williams called “structures of feeling” – that shape contemporary fantasies about the state and mutual aid in debates within the U.S. Left. It sketches ostensibly distinct but often overlapping affective orientations among Leftists toward the state and mutual aid in recent debates, including “state phobia” and “state philia.” Rather than resolving the tension between state philia and state phobia, the paper argues the necessity of grieving the limitations of both statist and anarchist approaches on their own in order to imagine better Left horizons for political-economic transformation.
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