Archive for October, 2011

Slavoj Žižek “Organs without Bodies”

October 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Žižek, Slavoj 2004. Organs without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences. New York and London: Routledge


The reality of the virtual […] stands for the reality of the Virtual as such, for its real effects and consequences. (3)

[…] the Deleuzian „transcendental“ is infinitely RICHER than reality – it is the infinite potential field of virtualitie out of which reality is actualized. (4)

[…] Deleuze’s notion of the virtual is a radical one in that its ultimate reference is pure becoming without being (as opposed to the metaphysical notion of pure being without becoming). This pure becoming is not a particular becoming of some corporeal entity, a passage of this entity from one to another state, but a becoming-of-it-itself, thoroughly extracted from its corporeal base. (9)

Foucault-Deleuze (10)

The moments of the emergence of the New are precisely the moments of Eternity in time. The emergence of the New occurs when a work overcomes its historical context. (11)

Becoming is […] strictly correlative to the concept of REPETITION: far from being opposed to the emergence of the New, the proper Deleuzian paradox is that something truly New can only emerge through repetition. What repetition repeats is not the way the past “effectively was” but the virtuality inherent to the past and betrayed by its past actualization. (12)

The truly New is not simply a new content but the very shift of perspective by means of which the Old appears in a new light. […] The standard opposition of the abstract Universal (say, Human Rights) and particular identities is to be replaced by a new tension between Singular and Universal: the Event of the New as a universal singularity. (14-15)

Perhaps the core of Deleuze’s concept of repetition is the idea that, in contrast to the mechanical (not machinic!) repetition of linear causality, in a proper instance of repetition, the repeated event is re-created in a radical sense: it (re)emerges every time as New […] (15)

[…] the true problem is not “How, if at all, could machines imitate the human mind?” but “How does the very identity of human mind rely on external mechanical supplements? How does it incorporate machines?” (16)

(1)   on the one hand, the logic of sense, of the immaterial becoming as the sense-event, as the EFFECT of bodily-material processes-causes, the logic of the radical gap between generative process and its immaterial sense-effect […]

(2)   on the other hand, the logic of becoming as PRODUCTION of Beings […] (21)

Either the Sense-Event, the flow of pure Becoming, is the immaterial effect (neutral, neither active nor passive) of the intrication of bodily-material causes or the positive bodily entities are themselves the product of the pure flow of Becoming. Either the infinite field of virtuality is an immaterial effect of the interacting bodies or the bodies themselves emerge, actualize themselves, from this field of virtuality. (22)

Insofar as the incorporeal Event is a pure affect (an impassive-neutral-sterile result), and insofar as something New (a new Event, an Event of/as the New) can emerge only if the chain of its corporeal causes is not complete, one should postulate, over and above the network of corporeal causes, a pure, transcendental, capacity to affect. This is also why Lacan appreciated so much the Logic of Sense: is the Deleuzian quasi cause not the exact equivalent of Lacan’s objet petit a, this pure, immaterial, spectral entity that serves as the object-cause of desire? (27)

Against this “idealist” stance, one should stick to Badiou’s thesis on mathematics as the only adequate ontology, the only science of pure Being: the meaningless Real of the pure multitude, the vast infinite coldness of the Void. In Deleuze, Difference refers to the multiple singularities that express the One of infinite Life, whereas, with Badiou, we get multitude(s) without any underlying Oneness. (29)

[…] affects are not something that belong to a subject and are then passed over to another subject; affects function at the preindividual level, as free floating intensities that belong to no one and circulate at the level “beneath” intersubjectivity. This is what is so new about imitation afecti: the idea that affects circulate directly, as what psychoanalysis calls “partial objects”. (35)

This is what Hegel’s motto “one should conceive the Absolute not only as Substance, but also as Subject” means: “subject” is the name for a crack in the edifice of being. (45)

We are […] within the very heart of the problem of freedom: the only way to save freedom is through this short circuit between epistemology and ontology – the moment we reduce our process of knowledge to a proves external to the thing itself, to an endless approximation to the thing, freedom is lost, because “reality” is conceived of as a completed, positive order of Being, as a full and exhaustive ontological domain. (58 – of Kant)

The “ultimate fact” of Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism is the absolute immanence of the continuous flux of pure becoming, while the “ultimate fact” of Hegel is the irreducible rupture of/in immanence. (60)

Therein resides Hegel’s true lesson: immanence generates the specter of transcendence because it is already inconsistent in itself. […] immanence is not an immediate fact but the result that occurs when transcendence is sacrificed and falls back into immanence. (61)

(1)   First, truth is posited as the inaccessible Beyond, something that can only be approached, something that the subject always misses;

(2)   Then, the accent shifts to the psychoanalytic notion of truth as intervening in the moments of slips and distortions, in the interstices of “ordinary” discourse: truth erupts when the continuous line of our speech gets interrupted and perturbed;

(3)   Finally, we arrive at a third position, that of moi, la verité, je parle. The shift from subject to object is crucial here. It is not that what the subject says is true – it is truth itself which speaks, which turns from predicate (a qualification of subject’s statements) to subject (of enunciation). It is here that Truth turns into an “organ without a body” that starts to speak. (63)

[…] the “object” that starts to speak is the object that stands for the lack/inconsistency in the big Other, for the fact that the big Other doesn’t exist. “I, truth, speak” does not mean that through me, the big metaphysical Truth itself speaks, but means that the inconsistencies and slips of my speech directly connect to the inconsistencies and the non-all of the Truth itself. (63-64)

What this means is that the true task of thought is to think together the notion of the “object which speaks” and the inexistence of the big Other. “I, truth, speak” does not involve the magic overcoming of skepticism and uncertainty but involves the transposition of this uncertainty into truth itself. (64)

[…] “transcendence” is a kind of perspective illusion, the way we (mis)perceive the gap/discord that inheres to immanence itself. In the same way, the tension between the Same and the Other is secondary with regard to the noncoincidence of the Same with itself. (65)

Instead of demonstrating how “there is nothing that is not political,” one should rather focus on the opposed question: how is it that Being itself is political, how is our ontological space structured so that nothing can escape being tainted by the political? The answer, of course – or, rather, one of the answers – would be the above-described structure of the gap dividing the One from within, the inherent doublure, as the most elementary ontological fact. (67-68)

This, then, is what Deleuze seems to get wrong in his reduction of the subject to (just another) substance. Far from belonging to the level of actualization, of distinct entities in the order of constituted reality, the dimension of the “subject” designates the reemergence of the virtual within the order of actuality. “Subject” names the unique space of the explosion of virtuality within constituted reality. (68)

Subject thus relates to substance exactly like Becoming versus Being: subject is the “absolute unrest of Becoming (absolute Unruhe des Werdens)” (i.e., a state of things conceived from the perspective of its genesis). (69 – Hegel)

Foucault-Deleuze II (71): […] in Foucault, power is the encompassing unity of itself and its opposite (i.e., the resistance to itself), whereas in Deleuze, desire is the encompassing unity of itself and its “repression” (i.e., its negating force).

Revolution is not the assertion of spontaneity and rejection of every discipline but the radical redefinition of what counts as true spontaneity or discipline. (73)

[…] for something to exist, it has to rely on something that stands out, that disturbs the balance. (74)

[…] virtualization and actualization are two sides of the same coin: actuality constitutes itself when a VIRTUAL (symbolic) supplement is added to the pre-ontological real. In other words, the very extraction of the virtual from the real (“symbolic castration”) constitutes reality – actual reality is the real filtered through the virtual. The function of the quasi cause is therefore inherently contradictory. Its task is, at one and the same time, to perform a push toward actualization (endowing multiplicities with a minimum of actuality) and to counter actualization by way of extracting virtual events from the corporeal processes that are their causes. One should conceive of these two aspects as identical. The properly Hegelian paradox at work here is that the only way for a virtual to actualize itself is to be supplemented by another virtual feature. (84-85)

[…] sexuality can universalize itself only by way of desexualisation, only by undergoing a kind of transubstantiation in which it changes into a supplement-connotation of the neutral, asexual literal sense. (91)

[…] psychoanalysis (and Deleuze) allows us to formulate a paradoxical phenomenology without a subject – phenomena arise that are not phenomena of a subject, appearing to it. This does not mean that the subject is not involved here – it is, but, precisely, in the mode of EXCLUSION, as the negative agency that is not able to assume these phenomena. (96)

Badiou-Deleuze-Laclau (107)

The materialist solution is thus that the Event is nothing but its own inscription into the order of Being, a cut/rupture in the order of Being on account of which Being cannot ever form a consistent All. (107) – all there is is the ontological nonclosure of the order of being (Badiou)


1: Science: Cognitivism with Freud

We subjects are passively affected by pathological objects and motivations; but, in a reflexive way, we ourselves have the minimal power to accept (or reject) being affected in this way. Or, to risk a Deleuze-Hegelian formulation, the subject is a fold of reflexivity by means of which I retroactively determine the causes allowed to determine me, or, at least, the mode of this linear determination. “Freedom” is thus inherently retroactive. (112)

[…] one should paradoxically claim that this assertion of the excess of the effect over its cause, of the possibility of freedom, is the fundamental assertion of Deleuze’s materialism. That is to say, the point is not just that there is an immaterial excess over the material reality of multiple bodies but that this excess is immanent to the level of the bodies themselves. If we subtract this immaterial excess, we do not get “pure reductionist materialism” but instead get a covert idealism. No wonder that Descartes, the first to formulate the tenets of modern scientific materialism, was also the first to formulate the basic modern idealist principle of subjectivity: “There is a fully constituted material reality of bodies and nothing else” is effectively an idealist position. (113)

A self is precisely an entity without any substantial density, without any hard kernel that would guarantee its consistency. […] The consistency of the self is thus purely virtual; it is as if it were an Inside that appears only when viewed from the Outside, on the interface-screen […] The Self is not the “inner-kernel” of an organism but a surface-effect. A “true” human Self functions, in a sense, like a computer screen: what is “behind” it is nothing but a network of “selfless” neuronal machinery. (117)

The Deleuzian topic of pseudo cause can thus be correlated to the Hegelian notion of the (retroactive) positing of presuppositions; the direct causality is that of the real interaction of bodies, whereas the pseudo causality is that of retroactively positing the agent’s presuppositions, of ideally assuming what is already imposed on the agent. (119)

A (self)conscious living being displays what Hegel calls the infinite power of Understanding, of abstract (and abstracting) thought – it is able, in its thoughts, to tear apart the organic Whole of Life, to submit it to a mortifying analysis, to reduce the organism to its isolated elements. (Self)Consciousness thus reintroduces the dimension of DEATH into organic Life: language itself is a mortifying “mechanism” that colonizes the Organism. (120)

There is no real Other out there, but there is nonetheless the fiction of the big Other that enables us to avoid the horror of being alone. (129)

The “postsecular” striving to formulate the “limits of disenchantment” all to quickly accepts the premise that the inherent logic of Enlightenment ends up in the total scientific self-objectivization of humanity, in the transformation of humans into available objects of scientific manipulation, so that the only way to retain human dignity is to salvage religious legacy by way of translating it into a modern idiom. Against this temptation, it is crucial to insist to the end in the project of Enlightenment. Enlightenment remains an “unfisihed project” that has to be brought to its end, and this end is not the total scientific self-objectivization but – this wager has to be taken – a new figure of freedom that will emerge when we follow the logic of science to the end. (133) – faced with the genome, I am nothing, and this nothing is the subject itself.

About Dennet’s dangerous idea of Darwin – 138

The initial move of a human being is not thought, reflexive distance, but the “fetishization” of a partial moment into an autonomous goal: the elevation of pleasure into jouissance – a deadly excess of enjoyment as the goal-in-itself. (143)

2: Art: Talking Heads

When we see ourselves “from outside”, from this impossible point, the traumatic feature is not that I am objectivized, reduced to an external object for the gaze, but, rather, that it is my gaze itself that is objectivized, which observes me from the outside, which, precisely, means that my gaze is no longer mine, that it is stolen from me. (155)

This, precisely, is what revolutionary cinema should be doing: using the camera as a partial object, as an “eye” torn from the subject and freely thrown around […] (154)

The gaze is not simply transfixed by the emergence of the excessive-unbearable Thing. Rather, it is, that the Thing (what we perceive as the traumatic-elusive point of attraction in the space of reality) is the very point at which the gaze inscribes itself into reality, the point at which the subject encounters itself as gaze. (163)

What, then, does it mean, exactly, that the (partial) object itself starts to speak? It is not that this object is subjectless but that this object is the correlate of the “pure” subject prior to subjectivization. Subjectivization refers to the “whole person” as the correlate of the body, whereas the “pure” subject refers to the partial object alone. When the object starts to speak, what we hear is the voice of the monstrous, impersonal, empty-machinic subject that does not yet involve subjectivization […] if we take “subject” as the starting point, there are two opposites to it: its contrary (counterpart) is, of course, “object”, but, its “contradiction” is a “person” (the “pathological” wealth of inner life as opposed to the void of pure subjectivity). In a symmetrical way, the opposite counterpart to a “person” is a “thing”, and its “contradiction” is the subject. “Thing” is something embedded in a concrete life-world, in which the entire wealth of the meaning of the life-world echoes, while “object” is an “abstraction”, something extracted from its embeddedness in the life-world. (174-175)

The key point here is that the subject is not the correlate of “thing” (or, more precisely, a “body”). The person dwells in a body while the subject is the correlate of a (partial object), of an organ without a body. […] One should thus reject the topic of the personality, a soul-body unity, as the organic Whole dismembered in the process of reification-alienation: the subject emerges out of the person as the product of the violent reduction of the person’s body to a partial object. (175)

It is only the “transcendental” Lacan (the Lacan of the symbolic Law that constitutes human desire by way of prohibiting access to the noumenal maternal Thing) who can be said to invoke a democratic politics that, in the same way that every positive object of desire falls short of the void of the absolute-impossible Thing, asserts that every positive political agent just fills in the void at the center of power. (176)

It is only within this distance that subjectivization proper can take place: what makes me a “human subject” is the very fact that I cannot be reduced to my symbolic identity, that I display a wealth of idiosyncratic features. (179)

3: Politics: A Plea for Cultural Revolution

Deleuze’s account of fascism is that, although subjects as individuals can rationally perceive that it is against their interests to follow it, it seizes them precisely at the impersonal level of pure intensities: “abstract” bodily motions, libidinally invested collective rhythmic movements, affects of hatred and passion that cannot be attributed to any determinate individual. It is thus the impersonal level of pure affects that sustains fascism, not the level of represented and constituted reality. (188)

[…] the struggle for liberation is not reducible to a struggle for the “right to narrate”, to the struggle of deprived marginal groups to freely articulate their position, or, as Deleuze puts it when answering and interviewer’s question, “You are asking if societies of control and information will not give rise to forms of resistance capable of again giving a chance to communism conceived as a ‘transversal organization of free individuals’. I don’t know, perhaps. But this will not be insofar as minorities will be able to acquire speech. Perhaps, speech and communication are rotten … To create was always something else than to communicate.” (190)

In immaterial production, the products are no longer material objects but new social (interpersonal) relations themselves. It was already Marx who emphasized how material production is always also the (re)production of the social relations within which it occurs; with today’s capitalism however, the production of social relations is the immediate end/goal of production. The wager of Hardt and Negri is that this directly socialized, immaterial production not only renders owners progressively superfluous […]; the producers also master the regulation of social space, since social relations (politics) is the stuff of their work. The way is thus open for “absolute democracy”, for the producers directly regulating their social relations without even the detour of democratic representation. (196)

As Claude Lefort and others amply demonstrated, democracy is never simply representative in the sense of adequately re-presenting (expressing) a preexisting set of interests, opinions, and so forth since these interests and opinions are constituted only through such representation. In other words, the democratic articulation of an interest is always minimally performative: through their democratic representatives people establish what their interests and opinions are. As Hegel already knew, “absolute democracy” could actualize itself only in the guise of its “oppositional determination”, as terror. There is, thus, a choice to be made here: do we accept democracy’s structural, not just accidental, imperfection, or do we also endorse its terroristic dimension? (197)

The tautological repetition […] signals the urge to repeat the negation, to relate it to itself – the true revolution is “revolution with revolution”, a revolution that, in its course, revolutionizes its own starting presuppositions. (210-211)

[…] in a radical revolution, people not only “realize their old (emancipatory, etc.) dreams”; rather, they have to reinvent their very modes of dreaming. Is this not the exact formula of the link between death drive and sublimation? It is only this reference to what happens after the revolution, to the “morning after”, that allows us to distinguish between libertarian pathetic outbursts and true revolutionary upheavals. These upheavals lose their energy when one has to approach the prosaic work of social reconstruction – at this point, lethargy sets in. In contrast to it, recall the immense creativity of the Jacobins just prior to their fall, the numerous proposals about new civic religion, about how to sustain the dignity of old people, and so on. (211-212)

With the full deployment of capitalism, especially today’s “late capitalism”, it is the predominant “normal” life itself that, in a way, gets “carnivalized”, with its constant self-revolutionizing, its reversals, crises, reinventions, so that it is the critique of capitalism, from a “stable” ethical position, that more and more appears today as an exception. How, then, are we to revolutionize an order whose very principle is constant self-revolutionizing? Perhaps, this is the question today. (213)

José Medina “Toward a Foucaultian Epistemology of Resistance”

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Medina, José 2011. Toward a Foucaultian Epistemology of Resistance: Counter-Memory, Epistemic Friction and Guerrilla Pluralism. Foucault Studies No. 12: 9-35

How do we fight against power on this view? – Kas see on Foucault’d lugedes üldse asjakohane küsimus; võimu vastu võitlemine oleks justkui millegi muu vastukaaluks asetamine, kuid absoluutselt igasugune teadmine kujuneb võimuväljal, erinevate süsteemide-struktuuride-formatsioonide kokkupuutel. Igasugune teadmine on võimuefekt, mis võib kaasa tuua järgnevaid efekte sellel väljal. Seega ei ole tegemist võimu vastu võitlemisega, vaid võimusuhete vastastikususega.

In the first place, by establishing itself in opposition to an official history, a counter-history  eflects and produces disunity. A counter-history blocks the unifying function of the official history by bringing to the fore the opposi-tions and divisions in the political body. This is what Foucault calls the principle of heterogeneity […] (14)

In the second place, by undoing established historical continuities, a counter-history reflects and produces discontinuous moments in a people’s past, gaps that are passed over in silence, interstices in the socio-historical fabric of a community that have received no attention. This is what we can call, by symmetry with the pre-vious point, the principle of discontinuity. (15)

Those are constitutive si-lences, for the discursive practice proceeds in the way it does and acquires its distinc-tive normative structure by virtue of the exclusions that it produces, by virtue of those silenced voices and occluded meanings that let the official voices and mea-nings dominate the discursive space. Omissions and silences are foundational, a constitutive part of ‚the origin‛ or ‚the initiation‛ of a discursive practice. (16)

Becoming sensitive to discursive exclusions and training ourselves to listen to silences is what makes possible the insurrection of subjugated knowledge: it enables us to tap into the critical potential of demeaned and obstructed forms of po-wer/knowledge by paying attention to the lives, experiences and discursive practices of those peoples who have lived their life ‚in darkness and silence.‛ (17)

Insurrections of (de-)subjugated knowledges and their critical resistance can be co-opted for the production of new forms of subjugation and exclusion (new hege-monies) or for the reinforcement of old ones. The only way to resist this danger is by guaranteeing the constant epistemic friction of knowledges from below, which—as I have argued elsewhere43—means guaranteeing that eccentric voices and perspec-tives are heard and can interact with mainstream ones, that the experiences and concerns of those who live in darkness and silence do not remain lost and un-attended, but are allowed to exert friction. (21)

[…] epistemic friction consists in the mutual contestation of differently normatively structured knowledges which interrogates epistemic exclusions, disqualifications, and hegemonies. (21)

1)      converging pluralism (Peirce, Mead) – the diversity and heterogeneity of conflicting perspectives are merely con-tingent and in-principle transitory features of our epistemic practices that we should aspire to eliminate or at least minimize. (22)

2)      melioristic pluralism (William James) – diversity and heterogeneity are una-voidable features of our epistemic lives that can be only hidden with violence and exclusions, but that can never be fully erased. But in Jamesian pluralism, though more radical, the possibilities for epistemic friction and resistance are qualified and constrained for the sake, not of consensus and unification, but of coordination and cooperation. (23)

3)      guerrilla pluralism (Foucault) – It is not a pluralism that tries to resolve conflicts and overcome struggles, but instead tries to provoke them and to re-energize them. It is a pluralism that aims not at the melioration of the cognitive and ethical lives of all, but rather, at the (epistemic and socio-political) resistance of some against the oppression of others. This is a pluralism that focuses on the gaps, discontinuities, tensions and clashes among perspectives and discursive practices. (24) – more of an undoing of power/knowldge than cooperation towards some truths.

But notice that the exclusive focus of Jamesian genealogies is on continuities and convergences in alethic trajectories within our practices. A Jamesian genealogy tries to uncover what our truths have done so far and what they can still do for us. A Foucaultian genealogy goes much further and its attention to epistemic diffe-rences is more radical. A Foucaultian genealogy tries to uncover what our truths have never done for (some of) us and never will; and it tries to connect the truths generated within a given practice with the un-truths that are also generated along-side them, digging up all sorts of epistemic frictions and struggles that reveal the competing and alternative truths that may lie in the interstices of a discursive practice or in counter-discourses. (26)

Michel Senellart “Course Context [Security, Territory, Population]”

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Senellart, Michel 2009. Course Context. – Foucault, Michel. Security, Territory, Population: lectures at the Collège de France 1977-1978. New York: Picador: 369-402


Key Concepts


The problematic of the art of government is outlined for the first time in the 1975 lectures, Abnormal. Contrasting the model of the exclusion of lepers with that of the inclusion of  plague victims,* Foucault then credited the Classical Age with the invention of positive technologies of power applicable at different levels (state apparatus, institutions, the family):

„The Classical Age developed therefore what could be called an “art of government,” in the sense in which “government” was then understood as precisely the “government” of children, the “government” of the mad, the “government” of the poor, and before long, the “government” of workers.“

Foucault specified three things that should be understood by “government”: the new idea of a power founded on the transfer, alienation, or representation of individual wills; the state apparatus (appareil d’État) set up in the eighteenth century; and finally, a “general technique of the government of men” that was “the other side of the juridical and political structures of representation and the condition of the functioning and effectiveness of these apparatuses.” This is a technique, the “typical apparatus (dispositif)” of which consisted in the disciplinary organization described the previous year. The analysis of “government” in this course was not limited to the disciplines, but extended to the techniques of the government of souls forged by the Church around the rite of penance.** Discipline of bodies and government of souls thus appear as the two complementary faces of a single process of normalization:

„At a time when states were posing the technical problem of the power to be exercised on bodies (…), the Church was elaborating a technique for the government of souls, the pastoral, which was defined by the Council of Trent and later taken up and developed by Carlo Borromeo.“

The art of government and the pastoral are two threads pursued once again by the 1978 lectures, but with some significant differences. First of all, there is a considerable extension of the chronological framework: the pastoral is no longer constituted in the sixteenth century, in reaction to the Reformation, but from the first centuries of Christianity, the government of souls being defined by the Fathers as “the art of arts” or the “science of sciences.”* Foucault therefore re-inserts the Tridentine pastoral in the long life of the Christian pastorate. Next, there is a refocusing of the art of government on the actual functioning of the state:

government, in its political sense, no longer designates the techniques by which power is connected to individuals, but the actual exercise of political sovereignty† – we have seen above the methodological stake to which this new “point of view” corresponded.‡ Finally, there is a shift from the analysis of the effective mechanisms of power to “self consciousness of government.” This move, however, does not break with the “microphysical” approach of previous works. As he explains in the introduction to the 1979 seminar, for Foucault it is not so much a question of studying the practices as the programmatic structure inherent in them, in order to give an account of the ensuing “procedures of objectivation”:

„All governmentality can only be strategic and programmatic. It never works. But it is in relation to a program that we can say that it never works.

Anyway, it is not the effects of social organization that I want to analyze, but the effects of objectivation and veridiction. And this in the human sciences → madness, the penal system, and in relation to itself, insofar as it is reflected → governmentality (state/civil society).

It is a matter of asking what type of practice governmentality is, in as much as it has effects of objectivation and veridiction regarding men themselves by constituting them as subjects.“


(a) Formulated for the first time in the fourth lecture of 1978 (1st February 1978), the concept of “governmentality”† progressively shifts from a precise, historically determinate sense, to a more general and abstract meaning. In fact, in this lecture it serves as the name for the regime of power deployed in the eighteenth century, which “has the population as its target, political economy as its major form of knowledge, and apparatuses of security as its essential technical

instrument,”‡ as well as the process that has led to “the pre-eminence over all other types of power – sovereignty, discipline, and so on – of the type of power that we can call „government.””§ It thus designates a set of elements whose genesis and articulation are specific to Western history. To governmentality’s character as event, in its historical and

singular dimension, are added the limits of its field of application. It does not define just any relation of power, but the techniques of government that underpin the formation of the modern state. In fact, governmentality is to the state

„(…) what techniques of segregation [are] to psychiatry, (…) techniques of discipline (…) to the penal system, and biopolitics to medical institutions.“

At this stage of Foucault’s reflection, “governmentality” is therefore the concept that allows a specific domain of power relations to be cut out, in connection with the problem of the state. This double, événementiel and regional character of the notion will tend to disappear over the following years. From 1979, the word no longer only designates the governmental practices constitutive of a particular regime of power (police state or liberal minimum government), but “the way in which one conducts people’s conduct,” thus serving as an “analytical perspective for relations of power” in general.* If this perspective, then, is always put to work within the framework of the problem of the state, the following year it is detached from it in order to become coextensive with the semantic field of “government,”

„(…) this notion being understood in the broad sense of procedures for directing human conduct. Government of children, government of souls and consciences, government of a household, of a state, or of oneself.“

“Governmentality” seeming from then on to merge with “government,”‡ Foucault strives to distinguish the two notions, “governmentality” defining “a strategic field of power relations in their mobility, transformability, and reversibility,”§ within which the types of conduct, or “conduct of conduct,” that characterize “government” are established. More exactly – for the strategic field is no more than the actual interplay of the power relations – he shows how they are reciprocally implicated, governmentality not constituting a structure, that is to say “a relational invariant between ( … ) variables,” but rather a “singular generality,”* the variables of which, in their aleatory interactions, correspond to conjunctures. Governmentality is thus the rationality immanent to the micropowers, whatever the level of analysis being considered (parent-child relation, individual-public power, population-medicine, and so on). If it is “an event,”† this is no longer so much as a determinate historical sequence, as in the 1978 lectures, but inasmuch as every power relation is a matter for a strategic analysis:

„A singular generality: its only reality is that of the event (événementielle) and its intelligibility can only make use of a strategic logic.“

It remains to ask, what link joins together these types of événementialité in Foucault’s thought: that which is inscribed in a particular historical process peculiar to Western societies, and that which is theoretically anchored in a general definition of power in terms of “government.”

(b) For Foucault, the analysis of types of governmentality is inseparable from analysis of corresponding forms of resistance, or “counter-conducts.” Thus, in the eighth lecture of 1978 (1 March) he establishes the inventory of the main forms of counter-conduct developed in the Middle Ages in relation to the pastorate (asceticism, communities, mysticism, Scripture, and eschatological beliefs). Similarly, the analysis of modern governmentality, organized in terms of raison d’État, leads him, at the end of the course, to highlight different sources of specific

counter-conducts, in the name of civil society, the population, or the nation. Being the symptom, in every epoch, of a “crisis of governmentality,” it is important to ask what forms these counterconducts take in the current crisis in order to define new modalities of struggle or resistance. The reading of liberalism that Foucault proposes can only be understood on the basis of this questioning. In this regard it seems to us to be interesting to quote the following

passage from the manuscript in which Foucault defined governmentality as a “singular generality.” We see here, in fact, how for Foucault politics is always conceived from the point of view of forms of resistance to power* (this is, moreover, the only text, to our knowledge, in which he refers to Carl Schmitt):

„The analysis of governmentality as singular generality implies that “everything is political.” This expression is traditionally given two meanings:

– Politics is defined by the whole sphere of state intervention, (…). To say that everything is political amounts to saying that, directly or indirectly, the state is everywhere.

– Politics is defined by the omnipresence of a struggle between two adversaries (…). This other definition is that of K. (sic) Schmitt. The theory of the comrade.


In short, two formulations: everything is political by the nature of things; everything is political by the existence of adversaries. It is a question of saying rather: nothing is political, everything can be politicized, everything may become political. Politics is no more or less than that which is born with resistance to governmentality, the first uprising, the first confrontation.“

Nick Couldry “Why Voice Matters”

October 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Couldry, Nick 2010. Why Voice Matters. Culture and Politics after Neoliberalism. Sage Publications


Voice as value

[…] voice as a process (already relatively familiar) and voice as a value. […] By voice as a value, I shall refer to the act of valuing, and choosing to value, those frameworks for organizing human life and resources that themselves value voice (as a process). Treating voice as a value means discriminating in favour of ways of organizing human life and resources that, through their choices, put the value of voice into practice, by respecting the multiple interlinked processes of voice and sustaining them, not undermining or denying them. (2)

[…] first, there is the primary process of voice, the act of giving an account of oneself, and the immediate conditions and qualities of that process […]; then there is the ‘second order’ value of voice (the commitment to voice that matters) which is defended throughout; third, there is the work connecting the value of voice to the other normative frameworks and uncovering their implicit appeal to a notion of voice […]; and finally, there is the work of uncovering the processes which obstruct voice, what Judith Butler calls the ‘materialization’ which allows some types of voice to emerge as possible and others as not […], and reflecting on how those processes might be resisted. (3)

The nature of social and political organization under neoliberalism requires us to focus on how the bare preconditions of speech are being challenged (a parallel with Giorgio Agamben’s work on ‘bare life’), and to reaffirm the need to meet those basic conditions of possibility. (4)

The fundamental term in neoliberalism’s reduction of the world is ‘market’: neoliberalism presents the social world as  made up of markets, and spaces of potential competition that need to be organized as markets, blocking other narratives from view. (6)

1)      Voice is socially grounded. Voice is not the practice of individuals in isolation. (7)

2)      Voice is a form of reflexive agency. […] the act of voice involves taking responsibility for the stories one tells, just as our actions more generally, as Hannah Arendt argues, ‘disclose’ us ‘as subjects’. (8)

3)      Voice is an embodied process. […] For voice is the process of articulating the world from a distinctive embodied position. (8)

4)      Voice requires material form which may be individual, collective or distributed. […] The material form of the voice cannot, in any case, be exclusively individual: we do not generate the means by which we narrate, we emerge as subjects into a narrative form. So ‘voice’ as a value does not involve individualism […] or disregarding the importance of collective forms of action. Defending voice as a value simply means the potential of voices anywhere to matter. (9)

5)      Voice is undermined by rationalities which take no account of voice and by practices that exclude voice or undermine forms of its expression. […] Let’s call a narrative of this sort a voice-denying rationality. (10)

Market functioning does not require the exchange of narratives between reflexive, embodied agents; but voice does. Voice in our sense is what economists would call an externality of market functioning. (11)

The crisis of neoliberal economics

‘Neoliberalism proper’ […] is the principle that market functioning is the privileged reference-point for organizing how governments – indeed, all modes of social organization – must operate. (23)

The introduction and sustaining of market principles of competition becomes, in this way, the reference-point for judging not just government operations, but also for evaluating the social domain as a whole. (26)

It is significant in this context that the pressure towards ‘commodifying the human’ inherent to a connexionist world is now being developed into practices of self-promotion and ‘self-branding’ that, as Sarah Banet-Weiser shows, ally the entrepreneurial vision of the self to the neoliberal value of freedom. The result is an apparent expansion of ‘voice’ as cover for the increasing penetration of market values in to the space of self. (34)

Neoliberal democracy: an oxymoron

[…] whatever other name we give it, ‘democracy’ operated on neoliberal principles is not democracy. For it has abandoned, as unnecessary, a vision of democracy as a form of social organization in which government’s legitimacy is measured by the degree to which it takes account of its citizens’ particular voices. […] Neoliberal democracy is not a version of democracy at all, but an example of how a particular illusion of democracy can be sustained. […] Neoliberalism, in Colin Crouch’s succinct phrase, risks installing an era of ‘post-democracy’. (64)

Media and the amplification of neoliberal values

The surveillant audience (employer) wants assurance that the performance’s features will be reproduced beyond the (necessarily limited) moment of active surveillance. This is where deep acting, based on internalized performance norms, becomes a necessary value, not an optional extra. (76)

[…] the ‘as if’ of reality TV tracks with striking fidelity the dynamics of the contemporary workplace: it is a place of compulsory self-staging, required teamwork via equally unquestionable norms or ‘values’, to which the worker/player must submit in a ‘positive’, even ‘passionate’ embrace, while enduring, alone, the long-term consequences of the ‘game’. (78)

UK reality TV, then, offers a culture of judgement: judgements meted out on particular bodies in front of large, unseen audiences. This emphasis on judgement distinguishes recent reality TV from the longer history of media-based instruction and lifestyle presentation, but also fits it more widely with the culture of management surveillance and self-disciplining in neoliberal workplaces and governance. (81)

First, the very different time-cycles of politics and media tend to merge. In principle, politics […] requires an ‘extended time-horizon’, whereas both the technological capacities and the economic dynamics of media tend towards an ever-accelerated cycle of news production and the exchange of news as commodity. The conflict is ‘resolved’ by political time increasingly mimicking, indeed becoming virtually identical to, media time. […] Instead of the political future remaining open for as yet undetermined deliberation, the future is swallowed up in the needs of the present. (83)

Second, the context and boundaries of politics are transformed by this intense symbiosis of media and politics. […] What if the workings of the media/politics cycle themselves, far from increasing politics’ accountability via media to voters, favour a shift away from political deliberation and towards what Theda Skocpol calls politics as ‘management’, or even worse a more violent ‘preemptive politics’ based on the manipulation of fear? (84)

The loss of a wider deliberative language for politics may be neoliberal democracy’s most far-reaching legacy. Government by targets, far from repairing, actualizes neoliberalism’s failure to provide a working model for democracy. The result is a political perpetuum mobile running on at great speed, but with few reference-points, whether from past, present or future, to interrupt its futility. (86)

Philosophies of voice

The multiplicity of possible identifications is not the point. The interesting question is why the act of telling one’s story in public (so that it can be heard, and this fact in turn be registered) should be the act that constitutes recognition. The answer cannot be that a particular state (or states, in general) require it, since the TRC was a political innovation of global significance. The answer must be that giving an account of oneself for exchange in the world in which one acts is a basic feature of what we humans do as humans, and so a possible starting-point for recognizing someone as a political subject. (109)

Sociologies of voice

‘Identity’ and ‘subjectivity’ relate more directly to the terrain we have called ‘voice’; ‘identity’ to the process of ‘express[ing] oneself … through essential identities and stable oppositions’ and ‘subjectivity’, by contrast, to the less socially oriented struggle to defend an autonomous space of individual action. It is clear that the process of ‘voice’ crosses both: it is both the an attempt to achieve a satisfying narrative that fills the gaps social narratives leave unfulfilled and the carving out of an exclusive space of personal reflection. (116)

[…] our practices of recognition (an so our practices of voice) are limited by the histories of the spaces where we find ourselves: the histories of others’ struggles of recognition before us, the history of our own struggle to be recognized by contrast to particular others. Spaces for voice are therefore inherently spaces of power; their link to power does not just derive from institutions such as government seeking to manage them. So a sociological approach to voice can never just be based on a celebration of people speaking or telling stories: it must be placed in a sociological context […] We need to grasp the long history of materialization (the hidden evaluations) that has gone on before someone speaks or falls silent. (130 – my emphasis)

Sociologies of voice, then, involve both a practice of recognition (listening to others’ voices, registering them as important) and a realistic analysis of the obstructions to recognition, even at times when we are told we have a voice, we can reinvent ourselves, we can be heard. (131-132)

Stephen Harold Riggins “The Power of Things”

October 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Riggins, Stephen Harold 1990. The Power of Things: The Role of Domestic Objects in the Presentation of Self. – Riggins, Stephen Harold (ed). Beyond Goffman: Studies in Communication, Institution and Social Interaction. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter: 341-368

Both Goffman and symbolic interactionists stress the ’negotiation’ of social experience by people whi are in each other’s immediate presence. The meaning of an object is thus established through human interaction primarily in situations in which the object is used and conversely the meaning of interaction can be mediated and/or structured by artifacts. (343)

The analysis of material artifacts draws one’s attention beyond the immediate present to the influence of people absent in intimate situations, to the past, and to signs which are more than self-referential. (346 – mutual presence/interaction without being physically copresent)

Categories of symbols (Goffman):

1)      Status objects – For Goffman, status symbols have significance because they ’express’ a style of life and cultural values. As symbols of prestige, they represent the social solidarity of one group and the exclusion of others. Practically any material artifact can be classified as a status object because nearly all objects convey information relevant to status ranking. (347-348)

2)      Esteem objects – Esteem symbols show hoe well a person fulfills general duties irrespective of rank. […] In terms of domestic objects, this category would include displays of occupational achievement awards, but it could be expanded to include exhibits of achievement in the intimate spheres of life. Publicly displaying greeting cards and art by relatives and friends would be examples. (349)

3)      Occupational objects – Given the crucial role work plays in the identity of many people, this is an important category even though it would probably not include many domestic artifacts. Tools displayed in the home of someone who uses them professionally would be an example. (349)

4)      Indigenous objects and exotic objects – […] an object-saturated environment of indigenous objects can also function in the same [status-representing] manner if it indicates an exceptional knowledge of a region or long-term residence. A mixture of the indigenous and cosmopolitan may say as much about reference groups and attitudes to the local society as about prestige. (350)

5)      Collective objects – This category refers to artifacts which represent community ties. (350)

6)      Stigma objects – Material artifacts are associated with identities which are ‘spoiled’, in either a moral or physical sense, by deviant activities or physical disabilities. Examples would include: crutches, canes, books in Braille, syringes. (350)

7)      Disidentifying objects. – To be able to publicly present the self through objects implies the possibility of deliberate self-misrepresentation. This can be accomplished in part by displaying disidentifying symbols, objects which disassociate a person from any undesired attribute. (350-351) – scholarly looking spectacles worn by illiterate people.

8)      Alien use – Goffman distinguished between the ‘official’ and ‘alien’ uses of objects. The former is the original use objects are intended to have by their makers; the latter is any unintended use such as a lamp fashioned out of discarded plumbing. (351)

9)      Social facilitators (G: ‘safe supply’) – A safe supply is an activity involving objects, such as knitting or smoking a pipe, that people use to fill potentially awkward silences in group interaction. (351)

Intrinsic qualities of individual objects (Beyond Goffman):

1)      Time indicators. – The passage of time through a domestic environment can be traced in several ways, first through time or timing devices (clocks, timers, metronomes), second by various natural or conventional temporal indices. […] The term temporal homogeneity can be used to refer to an environment in which artifacts appear to have been produced at about the same time or made to appear that way. Temporal heterogeneity is the mixing of objects manufactured at different times […] (352)

2)      Size and proportions. – The meanings of objects are affected by size because users/viewers apparently compare them to their customary dimensions. They can be assessed with respect to two extremes: miniaturization and monumentality. (353)

3)      Way of production. – handmade vs mass production (353)

4)      Modes and degrees of agency. – Mode refers to whether an object requires an action as its complement (active) or does not (passive). (353)

Even if each individual object can be viewed as being endowed with intrinsic qualities, it should not be forgotten that objects are never perceived in isolation. It is therefore necessary to set forth a secondary category of dimensions of objects: that of display syntax or how objects are displayed in relation to each other. (354)

1)      Co-location. – […] the placement of two or more objects in the same perceived space […] (355)

2)      Highlighting and understanding. – The term highlighting will be used to refer to display technics which attract attention to individual objects or to groups of objects. Understating is defined as deflecting attention from artifacts. (355)

3)      Clustering and dispersing.

The final sets of dimensions are more global than the preceding ones; they are general mood-setters for a range of interactions. (356)

1)      Status consistency. – A democratic ethos can be conveyed by the display of objects chosen primarily for sentimental reasons or by treating objects of widely varying value in the same way. An adherence to elitism can be conveyed by avoiding objects of primarily sentimental value and publicly displaying only prestige artifacts. (356)

2)      Degree of conformism. – By exhibiting objects in domestic settings owners display conformity or non-conformity to the current or traditional rules of interior decoration. (356)

3)      Referencing and mapping. – It appears that two general procedures are followed when speakers tell stories about their domestic objects. In one case artifacts are used by the speakers to qualify the self as knowledgeable. […] Alternatively, speakers may give stories in which objects are continually related to themselves. […] The term mapping refers to this type of verbal account. Mapping may be seen as a subcategory of referencing in that it consists of referencing the self. Only humans can map objects. But objects can reference other objects in the sense that they provide information that allows one to construct meanings. As mapping and referencing deal with objects and relations which are absent, they are the opposite of co-location, a concept dealing with artifacts which are in one another’s proximity. (357)

4)      Flavor. – […] a global category which summarizes the general intuitive impression of an inhabited room […] (357) The term flavor has the advantage of referring to a range of identifiable but elusive qualities whose reality is undeniable. One might distinguish between the deprived, minimal, or bohemian flavor of a home, to mention only houses with few objects. Flavor is the broadest category in this paper. All other categories should be seen as its subcategories […] (358)

Gilles Deleuze “Uus mõttepilt”

October 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Deleuze, Gilles 2011. Nietzsche ja filosoofia: Uus mõttepilt. – Akadeemia Nr 10: 1860-1870

[…] ei ole olemas tõde, mis enne tõeks olemist poleks mõne tähenduse täideminek või mõne väärtuse teokssaamine. […] Sest mõeldav või mõeldud tähendus läheb alati täide ainult sel määral, mil jõud, mis talle mõtlemises vastavad, võtavad ühtlasi enda valdusse, omandavad midagi mõttevälist. […] Mõtlemise tõde tuleb tõlgendada ja hinnata jõudude või väe järgi, mis teda mõtlema panevad – mõtlema just seda, mitte toda. (1861)

Uus mõttepilt tähendab kõigepealt seda: tõde ei ole mõtte element. Mõtte element on tähendus ja väärtus. Mõtte kategooriad ei ole mitte tõde ja vale, vaid suursugune ja labane, kõrge ja madal, vastavalt nende jõudude loomusele, mis on mõtlemise enda oma valdusse võtnud. (1862)

Panna tõde proovile madalusega, kuid niisamuti panna vale proovile kõrgusega – see on kriitika tõeline ülesanne ja ainuke viis, kuidas „tões“ orienteeruda. […] Filosoofia ei teeni ühegi parajasti valitseva jõu huve. Filosoofiat on vaja kurvastamiseks. Filosoofia, mis ei kurvasta kedagi ega vaidle kellelegi vastu, ei ole filosoofia. (1863)

Erinevalt eksimuse ajatust mõistest ei ole madalus lahutatav oma ajast, teisisõnu, vaimustusest oleviku ja käibel oleva vastu, mis teda sünnitab ja milles ta liigub. Just sel põhjusel on filosoofial ajaga olemuslik side: olles alati oma aja vastu, oma kaasaegse maailma kritiseerija, loob filosoof mõisteid, mis pole ei igavesed ega ajaloolised, vaid õigeajatud ja ajakohatud. (1865) – mõtte negatiivne olek ei ole eksimus (1863)

Mõtlemine kui aktiivne tegevus on alati mõte teises astmes, mitte ühe võime loomulik rakendus, vaid erakordne sündmus mõtte enda sees, mõtte enda jaoks. […] Siiski tuleb ta kõigepealt sellesse astmesse tõsta, et ta saaks „kergeks“, „jaatavaks“, „tantsivaks“. Kuid iial ei saavuta ta seda astet, kui välised jõud ta kallal vägivalda ei tarvitaks. On vaja, et tema kui mõtte kallal tarvitataks vägivalda, on vaja, et mingi vägi teda mõtlema paneks, heidaks ta aktiivseks-saamisesse. Säärast piirangut, säärast väljaõpetamist nimetab Nietzsche kultuuriks. Kultuur on Nietzsche järgi väljaõpetamine ja valik. See väljendab jõudude vägivalda, mis haarab mõtte enda valdusse, et teha temast aktiivne, jaatav asi. – Me ei ole seda kultuuri mõistet mõistnud seni, kuni pole aru saanud kõikidest aspektidest, milles ta vastandub meetodile. Meetod eeldab alati mõtleja head tahet, „kaalutletud otsust“. Kultuur seevastu on vägivalla üle elanud mõte, mõtte kujundamine valivate jõudude toimel, väljaõpetamine, mis paneb mängu kogu mõtleja mitteteadvuse. Kreeklased ei rääkinud mitte meetodist, vaid paideia’st; nad teadsid, et mõte ei mõtle heast tahtest, vaid tänu jõududele, mis temasse toimivad, et teda mõtlema sundida. (1867)

Kirikute ja tiikide kultuurialased tegevused on õigupoolest üks kultuuri enda pikaajalise märterluse vorm. Kui riik soodustab kultuurii, siis „teeb ta seda üksnes iseenda soodustamiseks ega arva hetkekski, et võiks olla sihte, mis on tema hüvedest ja tema olemasolust ülemad.“ (1869)

Mõtlemise teooria sõltub jõudude tüpoloogiast. Ja tüpoloogia saab omakorda alguse topoloogiast. Mõtlemine sõltub teatud koordinaatidest. Meil on tõed, mille me oleme ära teeninud, vastavalt kohale, kuhu me oma eluolu kanname, ajale, mil me ärkvel püsime, elemendile, mida me kõige tihedamini külastama. Ei ole vääramat ideed kui see, et tõde tulvab kuskilt allikast. (1869)

Me ei mõtle seni, kuni meid ei sunnita minema sinna, kus asuvad need tõed, mis panevad mõtlema, sinna, kus toimivad jõud, mis muudavad mõtlemise millekski aktiivseks ja jaatavaks. Mitte meetod, vaid paideia, kujundamine, kultuur. Meetod on üldjuhul vahend, et vältida sellistesse kohtadesse sattumist või jätta endale võimalus sealt pääsemiseks (lõng labürindis). (1870)

Geoffrey Bennington “Sovereign Stupidity and Autoimmunity”

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Bennington, Geoffrey 2009. Sovereign Stupidity and Autoimmunity. – Cheah, Pheng; Guerlac, Suzanne (eds). Derrida and the Time of the Political. Durham and London: Duke University Press: 97-113

[…] government (as executive) as such is usurpatory with respect to sovereignty (which is in principle legislative and only legislative) as such. Execution is already a usurpation of legislation. (99) Rousseau

This originary usurpation is possible only because sovereignty is from the start a little less than sovereign, is willing,, by definition, but is thereby also wanting or failing, just because it needs an executive in the first place to supplement itself and secure itself as sovereign. A sovereign that remained itself, purely sovereign, in its defining self-sufficiency, indivisibility, inalienability, an perfection, […] would not even be sovereign, insofar as its will would find no possibility of execution, and it would therefore do nothing and be nothing, certainly not sovereign. A truly or simply sovereign sovereign would not even be sovereign. (99)

Here then is the case of autoimmunity: the very attempt the sovereign makes to establish itself as self-same and thereby immune from other entails opening itself up to usurpation and eventual destruction. (100)

Whatever government is permanently […] instituted, it will always (if it is to be legitimate) have its roots in this radically “democratic” moment. So even though […] Rousseau does not really think that democratic government is feasible, democracy is in at the beginning of politics, at the precise point, in fact, at which the political emerges from the natural and in so doing begins its inevitable decline back to the natural. (101)

Democracy is, then, a kind of zero degree of politics, on the very edge of the state of nature, the state-of-nature-of-politics, the nature that remains to haunt politics even as politics is supposed to be the emergence from nature. (104)

This kind of configuration, with all the important differences one might bring out between Rousseau, Hobbes and Spinoza, seems at the very least to double democracy up. On the one hand it gives it this primary position, as a kind of originary (and quasi-natural) state of the State. In Hobbes, the other forms can come into being only on the basis of this primary democracy; in Spinoza, democracy is explicitly the most natural form; in Rousseau, as we have seen, it is as it were the obvious (if impractical) form of government for the Sovereign to adopt, or at least the only legitimate way that any form of government can be instituted. On the other hand, as it were after this archidemocratic moment, democracy is just one form of government or regime among others. I want to argue that all forms of government […] remain haunted by this primary moment, which is constitutive of sovereignty itself, and importantly a moment of nature. As is perhaps clearest in Spinoza, democracy has a natural quality to it, and this quality brings with it something less than, or other than, rationality. (105-106)

I want to suggest that this archidemocratic moment […] says something important about the political as such, insofar as it implies a plurality or multiplicity that will always work against the unitary aspirations of sovereignty, but also that its somewhat fabulous quality is problematic, marking any particular empirical instantiation of democracy as rather less than fabulous, or as intrinsically wanting. We’re always dissatisfied with our democracy, which seems by definition never quite democratic enough. […] this quality of being wanting is also democracy’s best (indeed only) chance. (106)

Democracy is a kind of limit case of government […] (107)

[…] a curious consequence of this positioning of democracy , whereby it seems as though it should be the best (the most sovereign) form of sovereignty […] but constantly shows up as the least sovereign form. Democracy would be the best form, says Rousseau, as Derrida recalls, for a “people of gods”, for which read, a people without politics, for a nonpolitical polis. Democracy is fabulous just because it is the form politics would take if it were not political. The “politics of politics”, however, means that politics is political, and therefore that democracy is struck by a kind of impossibility. (107)

[…] so [as the principle of differance] with democracy, which is and remains political only to the extent that it is never quite itself, and the demos, thank goodness, somewhat in spite of itself, never quite becomes a people of gods. (108)

This non-self-coincidence of a any sovereignty and any demos is what allows Derrida to open up the dimension of the à-venir, the to-come, that consistently marks his thinking about democracy, the opening to the unforeseeable event as such, the other, the arrivant, the “messianic” opening through which, a priori, no Messiah will never enter. And just this dimension is what enables him, in his late work, to play the unconditional against the sovereign. But the unconditional in this sense is not so much just opposed to sovereignty […] as at work already in sovereignty as the inevitable motivation for its ambitions, and as its principle of the ruin or dispersion. Indeed, that opening is none other than the possibility of the very “exception” that defines sovereignty itself in Schmitt’s famous definition […] (109)

[…] the sovereign cannot be sovereign unless it involves this opening, this opening that it may seem bound to want to close (that it contains, then). (109)