But Zeami's semiotics seem to be passed through, sometimes thwarted, by a quite different impluse, a pulsionnal drive, a search for intensity, a desire for power ... Signs are then no longer taken in their representative dimension. They do not even represent Nothingness. They do not represent, they allow 'actions'. They function like transformers that consume natural and social energies in order to produce affects of great intensity. (DP: 92)
Active passivity, in the sense of a strategy designed to let things affect one unconsciously, is a logical conclusion of the drift away from the subject and from systematic control. In the libidinal Lyotard, passivity is an essential part of politics and morality, understood as a way of living.
So any opposition between the positions sketched above does not lie with the will as such. It lies with the privileging of the will, defined in terms of representation, desire and organic needs, as the source of increases in power. Lyotard, Deleuze and Foucault do not deny that there are such things as decisions and that these decisions can be defined in part in terms of something that makes the decision. What they do deny is that this decision is wholly explicable in terms of free will, that this something is in full possession of any part of itself when it makes a decision, or that the proper goal of the decision in terms of power is directly to take possession of something that has been represented. So they do not fall into a performative contradiction of the form 'I deny that there is a subject'. It is rather that they say 'There is something more than the subject in all of its actions. That something cannot be approached through representation and consciousness. So it cannot be willed. Yet power lies in that something.' Thus the philosophy of passivity is not straightforwardly nihilistic, since it affirms power. Neither is it straightforwardly self-contradictory, since it does not deny the possibility of actions that have been decided upon; it is just that those actions only approach power obliquely.
But how is this power known, if not by representation? How are oblique actions to be guaranteed, and hence guaranteed against nihilism, if not by the direct representation of goals or values? These questions challenge Lyotard to explain why his philosophy is not the simple paradox of an anti-theory and why it is not reduced to a position where no decision is possible in the face of an indistinct chaos. The first question has been answered in the previous chapter through the idea of dissimulation. The belief that theory and representation are governed by a law of either/or (either theory, reprsentation, consciousness or pure sensation, pure intensity) is a false one; instead it is a question of both/and (theory dissimulates intensity and intensity dissimulates theory). The second question is more difficult. What exactly is passive activity? How does it avoid nihilism in practice? More precisely, why does it not fall prey to the return of nihilistic forces? Is it possible to put forward a politics that can resist capitalism without falling back into resistance as pure negation?
ART AND THE POLITICAL AS ACTIVE PASSIVITY
In the collection of essays that prepares the way for Libidinal Economy, Des Dispositifs pulsionnels, Lyotard tries to answer these question in the context of modern art. He defines modern art as an active passivity that breaks with the tradition of representation. But more than this, he begins to write about art as governed by dissimulation, as defined in Libidinal Economy: all art is both representative and intense. The question is how to create in response to art forms and materials so as to exploit that dissimulation to the full: "so all those calculations, the painter's measurements, the formations of tense rules and habits, the actor's training, are not there to show their futility, as Western nihilists believe. They are there to make possible what Zeami calls the wonderful flower and its evanescence, that is, the effect of the most strange emotion in an instant that cannot be located' (DP:223). How can we maximise intensity in structures that are also open to a response in terms of further structures and representations?
I determine six ideas (dialectical, critical, indifference, position, theology and expression, affirmation) within which I distributed all my thoughts in the form of items.
Lyotard describes the passive creative proces that works through Libidinal Economy thus:
we are [this book's] effect, pushed aside, and to do this, there are a few moments, a dozen moments ... an idea on fire, an image, the smell of a tear gas grenade or an intolerable denial of justice, a face, a book, a tensor sign we had to act on, conducting it and letting it course through a few quick pages, rapidly arranging words into sentences and paragraphs, so that this heat and its chill, this force, may pass through. (LE: 260)
What distinguished the work form others is his attempt to bring this way of thinking and writing into philosophy. It is another reason why Libidinal Economy is an important book. It is rare not only in professing passivity as the way out of the death of the subject, but also in taking the risk of acting it out as philosophy:
Stop confusing servitude with dependence. We would like a book of complete dependence: these pieces of the ephemeral patchwork would be composed and added to the body, the fingertips, all over the sheets; and these formulations would, for a moment, make us dependent upon them. (LE: 261)