At the end of our conversation with Charles Eisenstein yesterday, there was an interesting exchange -- initiated by Wendy and picked up by Jane and Stephanie -- about the inadequacy of conventional English to express the relational and processual nature of agency. I want to bring it up again here because it’s so relevant to the current session.
I’m paraphrasing here, but at issue is the construction X does Y to Z (active subject - active verb - passive object), wherein something is always doing something to something else. This is a problem because it doesn’t allow for the more nuanced fact that subject and object are both active and passive; each acts upon and is influenced by the other, however subtly. Jane brought up the “middle voice” as a compelling solution. As she says in her most recent book, Influx and Efflux, “[The middle voice] designates performances undertaken within a field of activities, rather than decisions of subjects who enter a field either to do something (active voice) or to be acted upon (passive voice).”
Perhaps Wendy, Jane, and Stephanie would like to pursue this further here (and of course I’d also welcome input from other panelists and readers!).