Chinese Journal of Sociology ›› 2023, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (1): 27-54.

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“Revenge for the Common Injuries” or the Dimension of Socialization of Indignation:Spinoza's Political Treatise and the Affective Foundation of a Free Community

SONG Yifan   

  • Published:2023-03-08

Abstract: Spinoza's political social theory can be regarded as an "anomaly" in the entire enlightenment tradition. Although his theory shows a strong affinity with the social contract theory represented by Thomas Hobbes,its substantive connotation goes far beyond the discourse of natural law. This means moving away from viewing political society as a "imperio in imperium",rejecting the normative and moral interpretations of nature. Spinoza regards human affects as the real social forces and the interplay of these individual forces as the very foundation of every state. Among them,imagination plays a vital role in the process of socialization,mobilization and activation of collective affects. Thus,the "indignation" of given society, or the "right of war" of the multitude, is introduced into the discussion of the origin of society in a very tense way. Unlike the antagonistic political action discourse advocated by Antonio Negri and others,Spinoza emphasizes the spatio-temporal character of indignation and put it under the framework of an affective dynamics. In the spatial dimension,the affective imitation and imaginary identification aroused by indignation can contribute to the socialization. In the temporal dimension, indignation itself is a highly unstable,short-lived and situation-determined affect. For Spinoza the process of socialization by "imaging an enemy" is always problematic and inevitably introduces hatred and exclusion into the foundation of community. Therefore,the long-time maintenance of affects,especially those truly integrated into collective memory and institutional culture,requires a dynamic transformation of affects over time,namely from "desire" to "longing" and "hate" to "love". This dynamic moment is also called "fluctuation" in Spinoza's term. For him a good community is never merely dominated by reason,but also requires as much as possible a transformation of the "fear" model of solidarity into the unity of "hope". Fear can eliminate war and create obedience,but can never effectively improve the power of minds and appease indignation at the bottom of society. Even though hope in itself is not a normative idea,it is more likely to be in harmony with rational forms of governing,to have a higher trust in society and a more active imagination,and eventually to gain experience of empowerment.

Key words: Spinoza, affect, indignation, social imagination, hope