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Resilience versus Resistance: Affectively Modulating Contemporary Diagrams of Social Resilience, Social Sustainability, and Social Innovation

Petra Hroch


This article critically interrogates the twin notions of social sustainability and activities grouped under the term social innovation in order to argue that sustainability and innovation are schizoid modes of representing what Deleuze calls “the cliché” (the authority of the same) as “the new” (difference) that short-circuit any real possibility of social transformation. I argue that the kinds of solutions presented by social innovation to the problems of social sustainability in the context of a neoliberal governmentality are sustainable only in the sense that they are a model for a more collective mode of existence in an individualized realm that reciprocally supports a realm in which collective responsibility is individualized. In other words, this neo-liberal diagram catches and captures creative energies in service to the status quo.

To illustrate these ideas I turn to Dutch filmmaker Bregtje van der Haak’s 2010 documentary, California Dreaming, in which she compares the popular response to the 2008 financial crisis by focusing on several families across the transatlantic transcontinental divide. She interviews Europeans who blame the state as the source of the economic problem, and thus expect the state to fix it. And she interviews Americans who, reflecting on the “American dream,” reveal their faith in meritocracy, blame themselves, and thus look to their own families and communities for solutions. Their respective stories tell us how different neo-liberal diagrams structure and modulate subjectivity and its relation to the social, as well as the emerging ways in which this relation is being framed. If, as Deleuze writes, “there is no diagram that does not also include, besides the points which it connects up, certain relatively free points, points of creativity, change and resistance,” how can analysis of these shifty subjective-social structures point us to points of resistance" (Foucault)? And why is it crucial that resistance to neo-liberal diagrams--new cartographies--be understood in intensive, matter-mediated-modulated, non-oppositional, and non-binary modes?


Deleuze; Guattari; sustainability; neoliberal diagram; Foucault; social resilience; social sustainability; social innovation; dividual

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