The notion of surplus is central to theorizations of contemporary social, economic, geographic, cultural and sonic phenomena, touching upon maximalism and excess, queerness and alterity, creativity and deficit. Espoused by both boosters and critics of the capitalist mode of production – the former evoking the ‘cognitive’ surpluses produced by capitalist innovation, the latter articulating its principal role in both secular and epochal crisis – surplus is a lens through which the excesses of our present moment are made apprehensible.
At the scale of everyday life, we experience surplus through quantification. How much time do I have to see friends or family after work? To produce art? To think and rest? How does a commute, with its simultaneous surfeit and deficit of experience, modulate my relationship to place and the people around me? Too often then, surplus in its negative form – overtime, debt, exhaustion, illness and disability – is the axis through which we live.
Surplus also forms the basis of macro-level economic phenomena under the capitalist mode of production. At our present moment, a ‘slack’ labor market has been posited by neoclassical economists as both cause and effect of inflation. Far from a novel occurrence, Marx noted that a relative surplus working population, or an ‘industrial reserve army’, is both an inevitable product and condition of capitalist production: there are always ‘too few’ and ‘too many’ workers depending on the rapidly shifting requirements of capital's self-valorization.
Other strands of Marxist thought pose surpluses of accumulation, productive capacity or commodities as central to the many cyclical forms of crisis we find ourselves mired in today. Such theorizations of the so-called ‘long downturn’, wherein the economies of the Global North find themselves facing conditions of terminal stagnation since the early 1970s, have also taken a greater interest in the rise of surplus populations, groups relegated to the margins of capitalist circuits of production and circulation. In so doing, they rehearse theorizations of automation and lumpenization produced from within the Black Radical Tradition at the middle of the 20th century, as most famously articulated in the work of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Grace Lee Boggs, James Boggs and the Black Panther Party.
From the specific vantage of dance and electronic musics, surplus takes on further contradictory resonances. It is associated with speed, rising beats-per-minute and the associated chemical and financial overheating of the dancefloor, as well the confrontational qualities of extreme musics (metal, noise, gabber). At the same time, it is a framework through which to understand the rhythmic dynamics, slippages and vernacular forms of non- and anti-Western forms of dance and experimental music, and of the temporalities and sonics of queerness, understood in its guise as an antinormative excess or maximalism.
In this issue, we invite submissions that respond to these and other valences of surplus. What are the aesthetic functions of surplus in contemporary music, both over and underground? Can we understand various turns to excess (hyperpop, digicore, the recurrence of trance) as being related to economic and social surpluses? What forms of cultural production emanate from zones in which those deemed surplus are held and how might this production reflect back on these zones? Finally, if surplus both constitutes and throws into crisis hegemonic aesthetic and political economic orders, how can we imagine its reappropriation in a post-capitalist future?
If you are interested in submitting to the Surplus issue, please reach out with a 3-4 sentence pitch to email@example.com. The deadline for submissions is November 1. Further details on submissions to Bellona Magazine can be found here.