And now for a foray into the micropolitics of Larry David’s 8 season strong Curb Your Enthusiasm. This should pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty fun (for me at least). The desire to write about CYE springs from two or three sources. Firstly, a friend recently commented how “formulaic” and predictable the show is (which actually wasn’t a complaint or criticism on his part). I had to agree, vaguely, and that made me wanda about the “formula.” So I’d like to find out if I can formulate the formula. Secondly, I’ll eventually be teaching CYE (along with Seinfeld, Arrested Development and The (British) Office) as part of a course on comedic representations of the sad passions, so this will serve as a preliminary fact/fiction-finding mission. Mulch for the future. Thirdly, I love the show. And I must dissect what I love.
The mother of all the sad passions is of course Melancholia (Depression). And the two daughters of hers that interest me most are Resentment (Ressentiment) and Cynicism. So I suspect there’ll be some talk of them. The idea probably is to look at the “political unconscious” of these afflictions, that is, how the form social relationships take under today’s “control society” or “Society of the Spectacle” or “capitalist mode of production” overdetermine the (self-)fashioning of individuals as melancholic, resentful, or cynical subjects. Another way to put this: I think CYE takes as its allegorical focus the matter of how the contemporary form of what Nietzsche called “the ascetic ideal” forces the same kind of smallness upon all without exception.
The fuzzy idea that CYE anatomizes the “smallness” of the neoliberal subject probably overdetermined the evocation of the word “micropolitics.” Politics of the small, on a small scale. Of course, monsieurs Deleuze and Guattari meant something different by “micropolitics” than this, so we’ll have to see if their idea works here too.
One other thing: Nietzsche said some apparently contradictory things about the ascetic ideal. He opposed it to a counter-ideal he called the artistic. But he also said that actually there is no real outside to the ascetic ideal. The only way to overturn the ideal (and make a space for a new kind of politics and a new kind of social body) is from within: and those who oppose the ascetic ideal from within he called “comedians.” Are Larry David and company representative of this kind of comedian, the comedian of the ascetic ideal? It’s another matter to explore in what follows. So, onward and upward. Or, at least, onward…