William E. Connolly is a politically science professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. As a distinguished professor Connolly has received numerous awards for his writing on social theory and political commentary. Connolly's work fluidly integrates the theories of continental thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault with a post-Marxist penchant for political economics into an immanent and progressive theory of democratic contestation and engagement. His early book, Terms of Political Discourse received the Lippincott Award in 1999 given to an "outstanding work" still important "at least fifteen years after publication". His recent books include Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed (2002); Pluralism (2005), and Capitalism and Christianity, American Style (2008). He is currently completing a book project entitled A World of Becoming.
The video below features a recent lecture delivered by Connolly as the keynote at the Watson Institute’s “Global Security Regimes in the Making?” conference. His talk was entitled, “Capital Flows, Sovereign Practices and Global Resonance Machines”.
In clear language, Connolly deploys the concept of the “resonance machine” in an attempt to elaborate his own framework for discussions about national security and global geopolitics. Connolly describes resonance machines as a complex, abstract, mobile, and unpredictable structures that unite disparate, but related political and social phenomena in a self-reinforcing network - the parts of which are in constant dialogue. For Connolly these ‘machines’ are “self-organizing” and have “no central agent in control”, but are assembled from a myriad of component parts which are deeply ‘interpenetrated.’” Moving from Hegel to Immanuel Wallerstein and Gilles Deleuze, Connolly touches on what he believes are some of the major antagonisms animating the field of international politics. This lecture provides a cogent example of how we can apply continental theory to political discourse in efforts to increase the scope and complexity of our political considerations. Enjoy:
I may have much more to say about Connolly’s model of "immanent naturalism" - which seems to be a variant of actualism - as I continue to get into his work, but I can say at this point I have some serious reservations about how he (following Deleuze) and others use the term ‘machines’ to denote the structural elements of complex living ecologies.
Despite this, I believe that Connolly's thinking displays a degree of flexibility and concreteness that is necessary in order to get past the use of traditional ideologies, bypass distracting philosophical arguments and begin engaging more practical and intelligence approaches to politics and social reality.