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Fernanda Bruno & Paulo Vaz “Types of Self-Surveillance”

April 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Bruno, Fernanda; Vaz, Paulo 2003. Types of Self-Surveillance: From Abnormality to Individuals ’At Risk’. Surveillance & Society 1(3): 272-291.

In fact, any practice of surveillance entails self-surveillance as its historical counterpart and it is this simultaneity that accounts for the acceptance and legitimization of power relations. (273)

Self- surveillance is usually understood as the attention one pays to one’s behavior when facing the actuality or virtuality of an immediate or mediated observation by others whose opinion he or she deems as relevant  – usually, observers of the same or superior social position. But we propose to open the concept to include individuals’ attention to their actions and thoughts when constituting themselves as subjects of their conduct. (273)

Enlarging the concept of self-surveillance also entails assuming that there is no neat line distinguishing power from care. The crucial point is that individuals usually problematize their thoughts and behaviors through beliefs held as true in their historical context. (273)

We contend that self-surveillance does not depend only on an “invisible but unverifiable” power (Foucault, 1979: p. 201), but also on normalizing judgment. (274)

Today, on the contrary, individuals accept restricting their behavior in order to care for the ir health even and principally when they experience well-being. Contemporary medicine is producing the strange status of individuals ‘at risk’ (Lupton, 1995; Ogden, 1995, Novas and Rose, 2000; Petersen and Bunton, 2002), who can be viewed in fact as ‘patients before their time’ (Jacob, 1998: 102). We will thus argue that the alleged amplification of individual capacity to determine the shape of their future constitutes, in fact, a limitation to our freedom. (274)

Although normalizing judgment can be understood as an infra-penalty that partitioned an area that the law had left empty  – the vast domain of gestures, attitudes, quotidian activities, tasks, discourses, uses of time, habits, etc.  – its real novelty resides in the fact that these micro-penalties are not addressed so much at what one does, but at who one is (Foucault, 1979: 178). (277)

This ‘dividing practice’ must not be understood as only something that is imposed from the exterior upon individuals. On the contrary, the classification of each individual along the polarity ranging from normal to abnormal achieves its goal if it is active in the interior of individuals, if it makes them judge and conceive themselves according to this polarity. (277)

Individuals, then, fear potential abnormality not only in others but also within themselves, and thus refrain from doing what would characterize them, in their own eyes, as abnormal. The norm becomes the object of individuals’ desire instead of being only externally imposed. After all, where can the norm extract its value if not from that which it tries to negate? (278)

The greatest values of our society seem to be, in the relation with the self, well-being, prolonged youth, security, self-control and efficiency. These values imply the care of the self, directed towards risk and loss of control as the negativities to be avoided by individuals when thinking about what they can and should do. The problematic internal zone to be surveilled appears to be delimited by the concepts of risk, self-control and pleasure. (281)

The political aspects of risk are not restricted to the allocation of blame; they include creating  new dangers and ‘empowering’ individuals to confront them. (282)

To summarize, as risk works upon the distance between momentary pleasures and the possibility that  these pleasures may threaten the continuity of a pleasurable life, ‘sacrifice’ is aimed at keeping oneself alive and consuming. It is a compromise of sorts, between the instant logic of hedonism and the continuity of consumption, for the only possible reward for moderating pleasure at any given moment is its continued renewal multiplied by an extension of life’s duration. (285)

Until now, a person became ‘sick’ only after symptoms appeared. People would go to the doctor complaining of a few aches and pain. With availability of the data on the genome, future illnesses or risk of illnesses will be revealed… People will become patients before their time. Their condition, their future will be discussed in medical terms even though they feel fine and will remain in good health for years. (Jacob, 1998, p. 102). (287 – Jacob. F. (1998) Of Flies, Mice, and Men. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.)

Life now depends on knowing how to behave in the distance between everything that may happen and what is more probable of happening; it depends on the restriction of possibilities  – and not upon their invention and posterior realization. (287)

As one way of care emerges, it relegates others to historical forgetting. Certain ways of being a subject become historical impossibilities. Besides, each form of the care of the self has its own limits. We have argued that the limits in our way of caring are related to the status of the future. The future as risk functions, in reality, as a restriction to what can be done in the present and it may signify the disappearance of the future as an alterity to the present. The longing for a different life and even the belief in its possibility might be lost in the vicious circle produced by hedonism and security. (288)

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Categories: järelevalve, subjekt, võim

Fathali M. Moghaddam “Towards a Cultural Theory of Human Rights”

April 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Moghaddam, Fathali M. 2000. Toward a Cultural Theory of Human Rights. Theory & Psychology 10(3): 291-312.

In the present discussion I focus specifically on what I shall refer to as ’normative rights’, defined as rights that are informal and unwritten, but legitimized by norms, rules, roles, and other aspects of the normative system of a culture. (292)

The most compelling explanation of the evolution of cooperative behavior in humans, I believe, is cultural. We need to account for at least two things. First, we must explain how cultures that encouraged cooperation survived, but those that encouraged non-cooperative behavior did not survive. Second, we must describe the mechanisms by which cooperative behavior is transmitted from generation to generation. (295)

Instead of reducing the unit of analysis from the individual organism to the gene, we make the unit of analysis the collectivity and concern ourselves with the normative system that allows social interactions to take place smoothly. (295)

Such ’primitive’ social relationships, defined as social relations that have to be present in order for even a rudimentary human society to exist, became integral to everyday practices of social life, as people in groups tackled the enormous practical challenges of caring for the young and esuring the survival of the community. (296-7)

Thus, certain primitive social relations became integral to all forms of life we recognize as human. However, the survival of given primitive social relations does not signify their representing ’progress’; only superior ability to survive and perpetuate themselves under given environmental conditions. (298)

My contention, then, is that over the course of hundreds of thousands of years certain social relations became integral to human social life and were interpreted as rights and/or duties according to local cultures. (299)

The attribution of meaning to social relations then allowed people to talk about ’rights’ and ’duties’ in the abstract, and to generalize to other domains of social life where such ideas might apply. (299)

At the start of the 21st century cultural transmission relies heavily on mass communications systems that do not require direct face-to-face interactions between sources and targets of messages (Thompson 1990). Cultural transmission can take place over enormous distances and through indirect means […] (304)

My contention here is not that small groups are more democratic or that rights were upheld to a greater degree in pre-modern communities. Of course even those who have face-to-face contact can mistreat one another, as evidenced in cases of husbands mistreating wives, parents mistreating children, slave owners mistreating slaves, and so on. Rather, I am postulating that with modernization there emerged new means by which the rights of very large numbers of people could be systematically violated by relatively small numbers of elites. This became possible particularly because of the more sophisticated and effective apparatus for centralizing power in modern societies. (308)

Elites could also organize society, particularly through the legitimization provided by scientists and experts, so that some groups of people came to be defined as not having rights. Slaves, the insane, women, ethnic groups and other minorities have at one time or other been in this situation. (308)

Thus, the articulation of rights in the form of black-letter law arose out of social relations in modern industrial societies, and was particularly influenced by the centralization of power in the hands of elites. The gulf between elites and non-elites and the enormous concentration of power in elite hands has been to some extent counter-balanced by the emergence of formal legal systems which act as protective mechanisms, just as rules of politeness and the like protect normative rights. (309)

Jaan Valsiner “The Semiotic Construction of Solitude”

April 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Valsiner, Jaan 2006. The Semiotic Construction of Solitude: Processes of Internalization and Externalization. Sign Systems Studies 34(1): 9-33

It is through semiotic self-regulatory mechanisms that persons can overcome their immersion in the field of social relations (Gertz  et al. 2006), and develop their own private worlds in the middle of the public ones. (9)

Human life proceeds through negotiation between the perception and action that unite the actor and context, and the suggestions for feeling, thinking and acting that are proliferated through communication. Semiotic Demand Settings (SDS) are human-made structures of everyday life settings where the social boundaries of talk are set (Valsiner 2000: 125). (11)

Any human life context — including that of school — becomes culturally guided by some socio-institutional focusing of the person’s attention to it in three ways. First, there is the realm of no-talk — the sub-field of personal experiences that are excluded. The rest of the field is the  maybe-talk. Experiences within that field can be talked about — but ordinarily are not, as long as there is no special goal that makes that talking necessary. Most of human experiences belong to maybe-talk. The third domain of talking — the  hyper-talk  — is the socially (and personally) highlighted part of maybe-talk that is turned from a state of “ordinary” talking to that of obsessive talking. (12)

Such socially guided feeling and talking (as well as non-feeling and not talking) leads the processes of internalization and externalization. In order to consider these processes as theoretically relevant we need to assume that there is basic difference between the person and the social context. We consider this difference to be  inclusively separating the two — the person  is distinct from the social context while being a part of it. This — separate-yet-nonseparate — state of affairs allows for any Subject-Object distinction to be made, which in its turn can lead to reflection upon the relationship of the two. Thus, a person completely immersed in the social context — be it by trance, dance, or complete devotion — cannot reflect upon oneself in that context. (13)

The capacity to construct imaginary worlds proves the centrality of person in any social setting. The person is both part of the here-and-now setting (as it exists) and outside of that setting (as it is re-thought through importing imaginary scenarios, daydreams, new meanings). Creativity becomes possible thanks to such duality of contrast between the “as-is” and “as-if” fields that the person lives through in each setting. (13)

It can be said that the human mind func-tions “wastefully” — it produces many versions of subjective reflec-tions in (and in-between) the layers of internalization. Only some of them survive the sequential selection and reconstruction system. (16)

In settings of constant uncertainty of the impending future, the best adaptation strategy is abundant production of generative materials under the established expectation that the overwhelming manifold of those is shared by biological evolution and psychological develop-ment. (17)

However, the selecting agent who makes these “semiotic inputs” available to the internalization/externalization system is the person him or herself. What we call “the role of social interaction” is a actually person’s boundary-regulatory semiotic act (Valsiner 1999; 2004). The person opens (and closes) oneself to the varied forms of “social influence” — through semiotic self-regulation. (17-18)

The complex task for any educational system is the coordination of external (to the pupils) action limitations and the promotion of their internalizing of socially desired symbolic materials. If an educational system relies only on one of these two mechanisms — limiting  or (exclusive ‘or’ here) promotion — it necessarily fails. (19)

All social development is based on the united opposition of Self <> Other, acted out in constant relating by the Self with the Other. The profoundly social experience — made possible through semiotic mediation — becomes deeply private one […] (30)

Michel Foucault “Society Must Be Defended”

April 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Foucault, Michel 2004. Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France 1975-76. London: Penguin Books.

January 7

When  I  say  “subjugated  knowledges,”  I  mean  two  things.  On  the  one  hand,  I  am  referring  to historical  contents  that  have  been  buried  or  masked  in  functional coherences or formal systematizations. […]Subjugated  knowledges  are,  then,  blocks  of historical  knowledges  that were present in  the functional and systematic ensembles, but which were  masked, and  the critique was able to  reveal their existence by using, obviously enough, the tools of scholarship.

Second,  I  think subjugated  know ledges  should  be  understood as meaning  something  else  and,  in  a  sense,  something  quite  different. When I  say “subjugated  know ledges”  I  am also referring to a whole series  of knowledges  that  have  been  disqualified as  nonconceptual knowledges,  as  insufficiently  elaborated  knowledges:  naive  knowledges, hierarchically inferior knowledges, knowledges that are below the required level of erudition or scientificity. (7)

Well,  I think  it is  the  coupling  together  of the  buried scholarly  knowledge and  knowledges  that  were  disqualified by  the hierarchy of erudition and sciences that actually gave the discursive critique of the last fifteen years its essential strength. (8)

It  is  a  way  of playing local,  discontinuous,  disqualified, or nonlegitimized  know ledges off against the unitary theoretical instance that claims to  be able to  filter them,  organize  them into a hierarchy, organize them in the name of a true body of knowledge, in the name  of the rights of a  science  that  is  in the hands of the few.  Genealogies are therefore  not positivistic returns to a form of science  that  is  more  attentive  or  more  accurate. Genealogies  are, quite specifically, anti sciences. It is not that they demand the lyrical right to be ignorant, and  not that  they  reject  knowledge,  or invoke or celebrate some immediate experience that  has yet  to be captured by knowledge. That  is not what they are about. They are about the insurrection of knowledges. (9)

Compared  to  the  attempt  to  inscribe  know ledges  in  the  power­hierarchy  typical  of science,  genealogy  is,  then,  a  sort  of attempt  to desubjugate  historical knowledges, to set them  free, or in  other words to  enable  them  to  oppose  and  struggle  against  the  coercion of a  unitary,  formal,  and  scientific  theoretical  discourse. (10)

Archaeology is the method specific to the analysis of local discursivities, and genealogy is the tactic which, once it has described these local discursivities, brings into play the desubjugated knowledges that have been released from them. (10-11)

What I mean to say is this: In the case of the classic juridical theory of power, power is regarded as a right which can be possessed in the way one possesses a commodity, and which can therefore be transferred or alienated, either completely or partly,  through a  juridical  act  or an  act  that  founds  a  right-it does not matter which, for the moment-thanks to the surrender of something or thanks to a contract. Power is the concrete power that any individual can hold, and which he can surrender, either as a whole or in part, so as  to constitute a  power or a political sovereignty. In the body of theory to which I am referring, the constitution of political power is therefore constituted by this series, or is modeled on a juridical  operation  similar  to  an  exchange  of  contracts.  There  is therefore an obvious analogy, and it runs through all  these theories, between power and commodities, between power and wealth. (13)

Broadly speaking, we have, if you like,  in one case a political power which finds its formal model in the process of exchange, in the economy of the circulation of goods; and in the other case, political power finds its historical raison d’etre, the  principle of its concrete form and of its actual workings in the economy. (14)

We can, then, contrast two great systems for analyzing power. The first,  which  is  the  old  theory  you  find  in  the  philosophers  of  the seventeenth  century,  is  articulated  around  power  as  a  primal  right that is surrendered, and which constitutes sovereignty, with the con­

tract as the matrix of political power. And when the power that has been so constituted oversteps the limit, or oversteps the limits of the contract,  there  is  a  danger  that  it  will  become oppression.  Power­contract, with oppression as the limit, or rather the transgression of the limit. And then we have the other system, which tries to analyze power not in terms of the contract -oppression schema, but in terms of the war-repression schema.  At  this point,  repression  is not what oppression was in relation to the contract, namely an abuse, but, on the contrary, simply the effect and the continuation of a relationship of domination. Repression is no more than the implementation, within a pseudopeace that is  being undermined by a  continuous war, of a perpetual  relationship of force. (16-17)

14 January

Power  functions.  Power  is  exercised through networks, and  individuals  do  not  simply  circulate  in  those  networks;  they  are in  a  position  to  both  submit  to  and  exercise  this  power.  They  are never  the  inert  or  consenting  targets  of power;  they  are  always  its relays.  In  other  words,  power  passes  through  individuals.  It  is  not applied  to  them. (29)

In actual fact, one of the first effects  of  power  is  that  it  allows  bodies,  gestures,  discourses,  and desires to be  identified and constituted as something individual  The Individual is not, in other words  power’s opposite number; the  individual is one of power’s  first  effects,  The  individual  is in fact a power-effect,  and  at  the  same  time,  and  to  the  extent  that  he a power-effect the individual is a relay:  power passes through individuals it has constituted. (29-30)

The  discourse  of disciplines  is  about  a rule:  not  a  juridical  rule  derived  from  sovereignty,  but  a  discourse about a natural  rule,  or in  other  words a norm.  Disciplines will define not  a  code  of law,  but  a  code  of normalization,  and  they  will  necessarily refer  to  a theoretical  horizon that  is not the edifice of law, but the  field  of the  human  sciences.  And the jurisprudence of these  disciplines will  be that  of a  clinical  knowledge. (38)

To be more specific, what I  mean is this: I think that normalization, that disciplinary  normalizations,  are  increasingly  in  conflict with the juridical  system  of sovereignty; the  incompatibility  of the  two  is  increasingly  apparent;  there  is  a  greater  and greater  need  for  a  sort  of arbitrating discourse, for a sort of power and knowledge that has been rendered  neutral  because  its  scientificity  has become  sacred.  And  it is  precisely  in  the  expansion  of  medicine  that  we  are  seeing-I wouldn’t  call  it  a  combination  of,  a  reduction  of-but  a  perpetual exchange  or  confrontation  between  the  mechanics  of discipline  and the principle  of right. The development of medicine, the general medicalization  of behavior,  modes  of conduct,  discourses, desires, and  so on,  is  taking  place  on  the  front  where  the  heterogeneous  layers  of discipline and  sovereignty meet. (39)

21 January

Sovreignty is the theory that goes from subject to subject, that establishes the political relationship between subject and subject. (43)

It  therefore  assumes  the  existence  of three  “primitive”  elements: a subject who has to be subjectified, the unity of the power that has to be founded, and the legitimacy that has to be respected. Subject, unitary power,  and  law:  the  theory  of sovereignty  comes  into  play,  I think,  among  these  elements,  and  it  both  takes  them  as  given  and tries  to found them. (44)

We should not, therefore, be  asking subjects  how, why,  and  by  what  right  they  can  agree to being  subjugated.  but  showing  how  actual  relations  of subjugation manufacture subjects. (45)

The  great  pyramidal  description  that  the  Middle  Ages  or philosophico-political  theories  gave  of  the  social  body,  the  great image  of  the  organism  or  the  human  body  painted  by  Hobbes,  or even  the  ternary  organization  (the  three  orders)  that  prevailed  in France  (and  to  a  certain  extent  a  number  of  other  countries  in  Europe)  and  which  continued  to  articulate  a  certain  number  of  discourses,  or  in  any  case  most  institutions,  is  being  challenged  by  a binary  conception  of  society. (51)

The truth is,  in other words, a truth that can be deployed  only  from  its  combat  position,  from the  perspective  of the sought–for victory and ultimately, so to speak, of the survival of the speaking subject himself. This  discourse  established  a  basic  link  between  relations of force and relations of truth. (52)

It  is  no  longer:  “We  have  to defend  ourselves  against  society,”  but  “We  have  to defend  society against all the biological threats posed by the other race, the subrace, he  counterrace  that  we  are,  despite  ourselves,  bringing  into  existence.” At this  point, the racist  thematic  is  no  longer  a moment in the struggle between one social group and another;  it will promote the global strategy of social  conservatisms.  At this point-and this is a paradox,  given the  goals  and the  first  form of the  discourse I  have been talking about-we see the appearance of a State raCism: a raClsm that society will direct against itself, against its own elements and its own products.  This is the internal racism of permanent purification, and it will become one of the basic dimensions of social normalization. (61-2)

28 January

I  think  we  should reserve  the  expression  “racism”  or  “racist  discourse”  for  something that was basically  no  more  than  a  particular and  localized  episode in the  great  discourse  of race war  or  race  struggle.  Racist discourse was really  no  more  than  an  episode,  a  phase,  the  reversal,  or at  least  the reworking,  at  the  end  of the  nineteenth  century,  of the discourse of race  war. It was a reworking of that old discourse, which at that point was  already  hundreds  of  years  old,  in  sociobiological  terms,  and  it was  reworked  for  purposes  of  social  conservatism  and,  at  least  in  a certain  number  of  cases,  colonial  domination. (65)

History is the discourse of power, the discourse of the obligations power uses to subjugate;  it is also the dazzling  discourse  that  power  uses  to  fascinate,  terrorize,  and  immobilize.  In a  word,  power both binds and  immobilizes, and is both the  founder  and  guarantor  of order; and  history  is  precisely the  discourse that  intensifies and  makes more efficacious the  twin functions that guarantee order. In general terms, we can therefore say that until a very late  stage  in our society, history was the history of sovereignty, or  a  history  that  was  deployed  in  the  dimension  and  function  of sovereignty. (68)

Can  we  not  say that  until  the  end  of the  Middle  Ages  and  perhaps beyond that point, we had a history-a historical discourse and practice-that  was  one  of the  great  discursive rituals of sovereignty,  of a sovereignty  that  both  revealed  and  constituted  itself through  history as  a  unitary  sovereignty  that  was  legitimate,  uninterrupted, and dazzling.  Another  history  now begins to  challenge  it:  the counterhistory of dark servitude and  forfeiture.  This  is the counter history of prophecy and promise,  the counterhistory of the secret knowledge that has to be  rediscovered and  deciphered. This, finally,  is the counterhistory of the twin and simultaneous declaration of war and of rights. (73)

We might, in a word, say that at the end of the Middle Ages, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, we left, or began to leave, a society whose historical consciousness was still of the Roman type, or which was still  centered  on the rituals of sovereignty and  its  myths, and that we then  entered  a  society  of-let’s  say  it  is  of the  modern  type  (given that  there  is  no  other  word  for  it  and  that  the  word  “modern”  is devoid  of meaning)-a  society  whose  historical  consciousness centers not  on  sovereignty  and  the  problem  of  its  foundation,  but  on  revolution, its promises, and  its  prophecies of future  emancipation. (79-80)

The  idea  of  racial purity,  with  all  its  monistic,  Statist,  and  biological  implications:  that is what  replaces  the idea of race struggle. I  think  that  racism  is  born  at  the  point  when  the  theme  of racial purity  replaces  that  of race struggle,  and  when counterhistory begins to  be converted  into  a  biological  racism. (81)

In Soviet State racism, what revolutionary discourse  designated  as  the  class  enemy  becomes  a  sort  of biological threat. So, who is the class enemy now ? Well, it’s the sick, the deviant, the  madman.  As  a  result,  the  weapon  that  was  once  used  in  the struggle  against  the  class  enemy  (the  weapon of war,  or  possibly the dialectic  and  conviction)  is  now  wielded  by  a  medical  police  which eliminates class enemies as  though they were racial enemies. (83)

4 february

In  Hobbes’s  state  of primitive  war, the  encounter,  the  confrontation,  the  clash, is  not one between weapons or fists, or between savage  forces that have been unleashed. There are  no battles in Hobbes’s primitive war,  there  is  no blood and  there are  no  corpses.  There  are  presentations,  manifestations,  signs,  emphatic  expressions,  wiles,  and  deceitful  expressions;  there  are  traps, intentions  disguised  as  their  opposite,  and  worries  disguised  as  certainties.  We are  in  a  theater  where  presentations are  exchanged,  in a relationship  of  fear  in  which  there  are  no  time  limits;  we  are  not really  involved  in  a  war. […] We are not at war; we ar in what Hobbes specifically calls a state of war. (92)

What  Hobbes  is  trying to  demonstrate  is  that  the decisive  factor  in the  establishment  of sovereignty  is  not  the  quality of the  will, or even its form  or level  of expression.  Basically, it does not matter  if we  have  a  knife  to  our  throats,  or  if what  we  want  is  explicitly  formulated  or  not.  For  sovereignty  to  exist,  there  must  be – and  this  is  all  there  must  be-a  certain  radical  will  that  makes  us want  to  live, even  though  we cannot  do so  unless the  other  is willing to  let  us  live. (96)

11 february

So  what  is  this  new  subject  of history,  which  is both  the  subject that speaks in the historical narrative and what the historical narrative is  talking  about,  this  new  subject  that  appears  when  we  get  away from  the  State’s juridical or administrative  discourse  about the State? It  is  what  a  historian  of the  period  calls  a  “society.”  A  society,  but in the sense  of an association, group, or body  of individuals governed by  a  statute,  a  society  made  up  of  a  certain  number  of  individuals, and  which  has  its  own  manners, customs,  and even  its own law. The something  that  begins  to speak  in history,  that speaks of history, and of which history will speak,  is what  the vocabulary  of the  day  called a  “nation.” (134)

A ministry of history [from 1760s] was  established between the prince  and  the  administration  as  a  way  of reestablishing  the  link,  of making history  part  of the  workings  of monarchic  power  and  its administration.  A  ministry  of history  was  created  between  the  knowledge  of  the  prince  and  the  expertise  of  his  administration,  and  in order  to  establish, between the king and his administration,  in a controlled  way,  the  uninterrupted  tradition of the  monarchy. (138)

18 february

It  is  true  that  you  can  find  in the  Encyclopedie  what  I  would call a Statist  definition  of  the  nation  because  the  encyclopedists  give  four criteria for  the  existence  of the  nation.’  First,  it must be  a great  multitude of men;  second,  it must be a great multitude of men inhabiting a  defined  country;  third,  this  defined  country  must be  circumscribed by  frontiers;  fourth,  the  multitude  of  men  who  have  settled  inside those  frontiers  must  obey  the  same  laws  and  the  same  government. (142)

One last  remark, finally. The  reason Clausewitz could say one day, a  hundred  years  after  Boulainvilliers  and,  therefore,  two  hundred years after  the  English  historians,  that  war  was  the  continuation  of politics other  means  is  that,  in  the  seventeenth  century,  or at  the beginning of the eighteenth, someone was able to analyze politics, talk about  politics,  and  demonstrate  that  politics  is  the  continuation  of war  by  other  means. (163)

25 february

For  Boulainvilliers,  on  the  other  hand  (and  this,  I  think,  is  the important  point),  relations  of  force  and  the  play  of  power  are  the very  stuff  of  history.  History  exists,  events  occur,  and  things  that happen  can  and  must  be  remembered,  to  the extent that  relations of power,  relations  of  force,  and  a  certain  play  of power  operate  in  relations  among  men.  According  to  Boulainvilliers,  historical  narratives and  political  calculations  have  exactly the  same  object.  Historical  narratives and  political  calculations may not have the same goal, but there is  a  definite  continuity  in  what  they  are  talking about,  and  in  what is  at  stake  in  both  narrative  and  calculation.  In  Boulainvilliers,  we therefore  find-for  the  first  time,  I  think-a  historico-political  continuum. (169)

That a continuity has been established between historical narrative and the management of the State is, I believe, of vital importance. It is the use of the State’s model of managerial rationality as a grid for the speculative understanding of his tory  that  establishes  the  historico-political  continuum.  And  that continuum  now  makes it possible to use the same vocabulary and the same  grid  of  intelligibility  to  speak  of  history  and  to  analyze  the management of the  State. (170-171)

History does not  simply analyze or interpret  forces:  it  modifies  them.  The very  fact  of having  control over,  or  the  fact  of being right  in  the  order  of historical knowledge, in short,  of  telling  the  truth  about  history,  therefore  enables him  to occupy  a  decisive strategic  position. […]we have gone from a history  that established right by telling the story of wars  to  a  history  that  continues  the  war  by  deciphering  the  war and  the  struggle  that  are going on  within  all the  institutions of right and  peace.  History  thus  becomes  a  knowledge  of  struggles  that  is deployed  and  that  functions within  a  field  of struggles;  there  is now a link between the political fight and historical knowledge. (171)

History gave us the idea that we are at war; and we wage war through history. (172)

And it is this idea that makes historicism unacceptable to us, that means that we cannot accept something like  an  indissociable  circularity  between  historical knowledge  and  the  wars that  it  talks  about  and  which  at  the  same time  go  on  in  it.  So this  is  the  problem,  and  this,  if you  like,  is  our first  task:  We  must  try  to  be  historicists,  or  in  other  words,  try  to analyze  this  perpetual and unavoidable  relationship between the war that  is  recounted  by  history  and  the  history  that is  traversed by the war it is recounting. (173-174)

I  think  that  there  is  a  fundamental,  essential  kinship between tragedy  and  right, between  tragedy  and  public  right, just as  there  is probably  an essential  kinship  between the  novel  and  the  problem  of the  norm.  Tragedy  and  right,  the  novel  and  the  norm:  perhaps  we should  look  into  all  this. (175)

So,  another  new  excursus,  if  you  will  allow  me.  The  difference between  what  might  be  called  the  history  of  the  sciences  and  the genealogy  of know ledges  is  that  the  history  of sciences  is  essentially located  on an axis  that  is,  roughly speaking,  the  cognition-truth axis, or  at  least  the  axis  that  goes  from  the  structure  of cognition  to  the demand  for  truth.  Unlike the history  of the sciences, the genealogy of knowledges  is located on a different axis, namely the discourse-power axis  or,  if you  like,  the  discursive  practice-clash  of power  axis. (178)

[…]when we look at  the eighteenth century-we have to  see,  not  this  relationship  between  day  and  night,  knowledge  and ignorance,  but  something  very  different:  an  immense  and  multiple battle,  but  not  one  between  knowledge  and  ignorance,  but  an  immense and multiple battle between know ledges in the plural-knowledges that are  in  conflict because  of their  very  morphology, because they are  in the  possession of enemies, and because they have intrinsic power -effects. (179)

The  eighteenth  century  was  the  century  when  know ledges  were  disciplined, or when, in other words, the internal organization of every knowledge became  a  discipline  which  had,  in  its  own  field,  criteria of selection that  allowed  it  to  eradicate  false  knowledge  or  non knowledge.  We also have forms of normalization and homogenization  of knowledge­ contents,  forms  of  hierarchicalization,  and  an  internal  organization that could centralize knowledges around a sort of de facto axiomatization. (181-182)

Science in the singular did not exist before the eighteenth century. Sciences existed, and philosophy, if you like, existed. (182)

The university’S  primary  function  is  one  of selection,  not  so  much  of people (which  is,  after  all,  basically  not  very  important)  as  of  knowledges. […]Its  role  is  to  teach,  which means  respecting  the  barriers  that  exist  between  the  different  floors of the  university  apparatus.  Its  role  is  to  homogenize  know ledges by establishing  a  sort  of  scientific  community  with  a  recognized  status; its  role  is  to  organize  a  consensus. (183)

You  see,  once the  mechanism,  or the  internal  discipline of know ledges, includes controls,  and  once  those  controls  are  exercised  by  a  purpose-built  apparatus;  once  we  have  this  form  of  control-you  must  understand this-we  can  do  away  with  what  we  might  call  the  orthodoxy  of statements. (183-184)

The  problem  is  now:  Who  is speaking,  are  they  qualified  to speak, at what level is the statement situated, what set can it be fitted into, and how and  to what extent does it conform to other forms and other typologies of knowledge?  This allows a liberalism  that  is, if not boundless,  at  least  more  broad-minded  in  terms  of the  content  of statements  and,  on  the  other  hand,  more  rigorous, more  comprehensive-and  has  a  much greater wing area-at  the  level  of enunciatory procedures. […]We  move,  if you  like,  from  the  censorship  of statements to  the  disciplinarization  of enunciations,  or  from  orthodoxy  to  what  I  would call  “orthology,”  to  a  form  of  control  that  is  now  exercised  on  a disciplinary  basis. (184)

3 march

To  put  it  a different  way.  the great  adversary of this type  of analysis  (and  Boulainvilliers’s  analyses  will  become  instrumental  and  tactical  in  this  sense  too)  is.  if you  like.  natural  man or the savage.  “Savage”  is to be understood  in two  senses. The savage­noble or otherwise-is the  natural man whom the  jurists or theorists of right  dreamed up.  the  natural  man who existed before society existed.  who  existed  in  order  to  constitute  society.  and  who  was  the element  around  which  the  social  body  could  be  constituted. […]The  other  thing  they  are  trying  to  ward  off is  the other  aspect  of the  savage,  that  other  natural  man  or  ideal  element dreamed  up  by  economists:  a  man  without  a  past  or  a  history, who is motivated  only  by self-interest and  who  exchanges  the  product of his  labor  for  another  product. (194)

Well, the historico-political discourse inaugurated by Boulainvilliers creates another figure, and  he is the  antithesis of the savage  (who was  of great importance  in eighteenth-century  juridical  theory).  This  new  figure IS  Just  as  elementary  as  the  savage  of  the  jurists  (who  were  soon followed by the anthropologists) but is constituted on a very different basis: he is the barbarian.

The barbarian, in  contrast, is  someone  who  can  be  understood,  characterized,  and  defined  only in  relatIOn  to  a  civilization,  and  by the fact that  he  exists  outside  it. […] The barbarian cannot exist without the civilization he is trying to destroy and appropriate. (195)

The  savage  is  a  man  who  has  in  his hands,  so  to  speak,  a  plethora  of  freedom  which  he  surrenders  in order to protect his  life,  his  security,  his  property, and  his goods. The barbarian  never  gives  up  his  freedom. (196)

10 march

It was that role, that political reworking of the nation, of the idea of the nation, that led to the transformation that made a new type of historical discourse possible. (217)

First, that the nation  is not essentially  specified  by  its relations with other nations. What characterizes  “the”  nation is not a horizontal relationship with  other groups (such as other nations. hos­tile  or  enemy  nations.  or  the  nations. with which  it  is  juxtaposed). What does characterize  the nation is.  in contrast,  a vertical  relationship between a body of individuals who are capable of constituting a State, and the  actual  existence of the  State  itself.  It is in terms of this vertical  nation/State axis.  or this  Statist  potentiality/Statist  realization axis, that the nation is to be characterized and situated.

What does constitute the strength of a  nation  is  now something like  its  capacities,  its  potentialities,  and they are  all  organized  around  the  figure  of  the  State:  the  greater  a nation’s  Statist  capacity,  or  the  greater  its  potential.  the  stronger  it will  be. […] It is something else: its ability to administer itself, to manage, govern, and guarantee the constitution and workings of the figure of the State and of State power. Not domination, but State control. (223)

We now have, in contrast, a  history  in which war-the war for domination-will be replaced  by a  struggle  that  is,  so to speak,  of a  different  substance: not  an  armed  clash,  but  an  effort,  a  rivalry,  a  striving  toward  the universality  of the  State. The State, and  the universality of the State, become both what is at stake in the struggle, and the battlefield. […] We  will  have  a  civil  struggle,  and  the  military  struggle or bloody  struggle will  become  no more than an exceptional moment, a crisis  or an episode within it. (225)

In  the  history  and  the  historico-political  field of the  eighteenth  century,  the  present  was,  basically,  always  the  negative moment.  It  was  always  the trough of the wave,  always a  moment of  apparent  calm  and  forgetfulness.  The  present  was  the  moment when,  thanks  to  a  whole  series  of  displacements,  betrayals,  and  modifications  of  the  relationship  of  force,  the  primitive  state  of  war  had become,  as  it  were,  muddled  and  unrecognizable.

And  now  we  have  a  very  different  grid  of  historical  intelligibility. Once  hlstory IS  polarized  around  the  nation/State,  virtuality /actualIty,  functIOnal  totality  of  the  nation/real  universality  of  the  State, you  can  see  clearly that  the  present  becomes  the  fullest  moment,  the moment  of  the  greatest  intensity,  the  solemn  moment when  the  uni­versal makes its entry into the real. It is at this point that the universal comes  into  contact  with  the  real  in  the  present  (a  present  that  has just  passed  and  will  pass),  in  the  imminence  of  the  present,  and  it  is thIS  that  gives  the  present  both  its  value  and  its  intensity,  and  that (227)

establishes  it as  a principle of intelligibility.  The present is no longer the  moment of forgetfulness.  On  the  contrary,  it is the  moment when the  truth  comes  out,  when  what  was  obscure  or  virtual  is  revealed in the  full  light  of day.  As  a  result,  the  present  both  reveals the  past and  allows  it  to  be  analyzed. (228)

Basically, we have on the one hand a  history  written  in  the  form of domination-with  war  in  the  background-and  on the  other,  a  history  written  in  the  form  of totalization-a  history  in  which  what  has  happened  and  what  is  going  to happen,  namely  the  emergence  of the  State,  exists,  or  is  at  least  imminent,  in  the  present.  A  history  that is  written,  then,  both  in terms of an  initial  rift  and  a  totalizing  completion. (228)

17 march

Mustn’t life remain outside the contract to the extent that it was the first, initial and foundational reason for the contact itself? (241)

The right of sovereignty was the right to take life or let live. And then this new right is established: the right to make live and to let die. (241)

Unlike  discipline,  which  is  addressed  to  bodies,  the  new  nondisciplinary  power  is  applied  not  to  man-as-body  but to the living man, to  man··as-living-being;  ultimately,  if you  like,  to  man-as-species. (242)

So  after  a  first  seizure  of  power  over  the  body  in an  individualizing  mode,  we  have  a  second  seizure  of power  that  is not  individualizing but,  if you  like,  massifying, that is directed not at man-as-body but  at  man-as-species.  After the anatomo-politics of the human  body  established  in  the  course  of the  eighteenth  century,  we have,  at  the  end  of that century,  the  emergence  of something that is no longer an  anatomo-politics  of the human body, but  what I  would call  a  “biopolitics”  of the  human race. (243)

Death  was  no  longer  something  that  suddenly swooped  down  on  life-as  in  an  epidemic.  Death was now  something permanent,  something  that  slips  into  life,  perpetually  gnaws  at  it, diminishes  it  and  weakens  it. (244)

Biopolitics’  other  field  of  intervention  will  be  a  set  of  phenomena some  of  which  are  universal,  and  some  of  which  are  accidental  but which  can  never  be  completely  eradicated, even  if they  are  accidental. They  have  similar  effects  in  that  they  incapacitate  individuals,  put them  out  of  the  circuit  or  neutralize  them.  This  is  the  problem,  and it  will  become  very  important  in  the  early  nineteenth  century  (the time  of  industrializat ion),  of  old  age,  of  individuals  who,  because  of their  age,  fall  out  of  the  field  of  capacity,  of  activ ity.  The  field  of biopolitics  also  inc1udes  accidents,  infirmities,  and  various  anomalies. And  it  is  in  order  to  deal  with  these  phenomena  that  this  biopolitics will  establish  not  only  charitable  institutions  (which  had  been  in existence  for  a  very  long  time),  but  also  much  more  subtle  mechanisms  that  were  much  more  economically  rational  than  an  indiscriminate  charity  which  was  at  once  widespread  and  patchy,  and  which was  essentially  under  church  control.  We  see  the  introduction  of more subtle,  more  rational  mechanisms:  insurance,  individual  and  collective savings,  safety  measures,  and  so  on. (244)

Biopolitics’ last domain is, finally […]control  over relations  between  the  human  race,  or  human  beings  insofar  as  they are  a  species,  insofar  as  they  are  living  beings,  and  their  environment, the  milieu  in  which  they  live. (244-245)

[…]biopolitics  will  derive  its  knowledge  from,  and  define  its power’s  field  of intervention  in  terms  of,  the  birth  rate,  the  mortality rate, various  biological  disabilities,  and  the  effects  of the environment. (245)

Biopolitics deals with  the  population,  with  the  population  as  political  problem,  as  a problem  that  is  at  once  scientific  and  political,  as  a  biological  problem and  as  power’s  problem.  And  I  think  that  biopol itics  emerges  at  this time. (245)

Second,  the  other  important  thing-quite  aside  from  the  appearance  of  the  “population”  element  itself-is  the  nature  of the  phenomena  that  are  taken  into  consideration.  You  can  see  that  they  are collective  phenomena  which  have  their  economic  and  political  effects, and  that  they  become  pertinent  only  at  the  mass  level.  They  are  phenomena that  are aleatory and unpredictable  when taken  in  themselves or  indivi.dually,  but  which,  at  the  collective  level,  display  constants that  are  easy,  or  at  least  possible,  to  establish.  And  they  are,  finally, phenomena that  occur  over  a  period of time, which have to be studied over  a  certain  period  of  time;  they  are  serial  phenomena.  The  phenomena  addressed  by  biopolitics  are,  essentially,  aleatory  events  that occur  within  a  population  that  exists  over  a  period  of  time. (245-246)

On this  basis-and  this  is,  I  think, the  third  important  point-this technology  of power,  this  biopolitics, will  introduce  mechanisms with a  certain  number  of functions  that  are  very  different  from  the  functions  of  disciplinary  mechanisms.  The  mechanisms introduced  by biopolitics  include  forecasts,  statistical  estimates,  and  overall  measures. […]And  most  important of all,  regulatory  mechanisms  must  be  established  to  establish  an  equilibrium,  maintain an  average,  establish a  sort of homeostasis, and compensate  for  variations  within  this  general  population  and  its  aleatory field.  In  a  word,  security  mechanisms  have  to  be  installed  around  the random  element  inherent  in  a  population  of  living  beings  so  as  to optimize  a  state  of  life. (246)

[…] with this  technology  of  biopower,  of  this  technology  of power  over  “the” population  as such, over  men  insofar  as  they  are  living  beings.  It  is continuous,  scientific,  and  it  is  the  power  to  make  live.  Sovereignty took  life  and  let  live.  And  now  we  have  the  emergence  of  a  power that  I  would  call  the  power  of  regularization,  and  it,  in contrast, consists  in  making  live  and  letting  die. (247)

Now  that  power  is decreasingly  the  power of the  right  to take life, and  increasingly  the  right  to  intervene  to  make  live,  or  once  power begins  to  intervene  mainly  at  this  level  in  order  to  improve  life  by eliminating accidents,  the  random element, and  deficiencies, death becomes,  insofar  as  it  is  the  end  of life,  the  term,  the  limit,  or  the  end of  power  too.  Death  is  outside  the  power  relationship.  Death  is beyond the  reach  of power,  and  power  has  a grip on it only in general, overall,  or  statistical  terms.  Power  has  no  control  over  death,  but  it can  control  mortality. (248)

So  we  have  two  series:  the  body-organism-discipline-institutions series, and the population-biological processes-regulatory mechanisms­State.*  An  organic  institutional  set,  or  the  organo-discipline  of the institution, if you like, and, on the other hand, a biological and Statist set,  or  bioregulation  by  the  State. (250)

[…] the enemies who have to be done away with are not adversaries in the political sense of the term; they are threats, either external or internal, to the population and for the population. […] So you can understand the importance […] of racism to the exercise of such a power: it is the precondition for exercising the right to kill. If the power of normalization wished to exercise the old sovereign right to kill, it must become racist. (256)

In the  nineteenth century-and  this  is completely new-war  will be  seen  not  only  as  a  way  of improving  one’s  own  race  by eliminating the  enemy  race  (i n  accordance  with  the  themes  of  natural  selection and  the  struggle  for existence),  but  also  as a  way of regenerating one’s own  race.  As  more  and  more  of  our  number  die,  the  race  to  which we  belong  will  become  all  the  purer. (257)

Bert O. States “Etendus kui metafoor”

April 20, 2012 Leave a comment

States, Bert O. 2006. Etendus kui metafoor. Akadeemia 11: 2473-2515

[…] rakendame ühest semantilisest võrgustikust pärit mudelit teise võrgustiku teemale, mille omadusi me soovime metafoorse võrdlusega valgustada. Metafoor on see, mida teaduses nimetatakse „laskuvaks strateegiaks“ või „vähima seotuse printsiibiks“, mille puhul sarnasuse kahtlusele tuginedes saab mõttele suuna anda, nii et paljastuvad koorapärasused ja ebakorrapärasused, mille saab välja sortida (vt Pylyshyn 1986: 429). (2483)

Seega näib, et foto etteaste saab toimuda ainult reproduktsiooni vahendusel, et fotograafia on kõige ehedam reprodutseerimiskunst ning et see püsib elus vaid kohtudes ja taaskohtudes vaatajaga. Etendus järelikult on ajas taastatav, ehkki see ei ole ilmselt kunagi sama etendus, isegi mitte samale inimesele. (2489)

[…] viitab mõiste „ühekordne käitumine“ millelegi sellisele, mida inimkogemuses ei eksisteeri, või vähemalt mitte sellises kogemuses, mida teater omakorda püüab taastada. (2502)

[…] igasugune käitumine on teatud laadi enesejäljendus, sest te ei saa sinna lihtsalt midagi parata, et olete teie ise. (2502)

[…] raamimine ja etendus on vähemalt osalt kattuvad, kui mitte kokkulangevad põhimõtted. Raamimine on lihtsalt see viis, kuidas kunstiteos end etendamiseks üles seab või üles seatakse […] (2052-2053)

Ma tahan öelda seda, et ükski spetsiaalne sõnavara ega mõistete komplekt ei ammenda nähtust, mille kirjeldamiseks ta on mõeldud (etendus, teater, kunst), vaid lihtsalt „fikseerib“ selle ühe võimaliku kavatsuslikkuse või väljenduslikkuse nurga alt; sest nähtus ise on alati nimetu ja paljukujuline, enne kui sõnavara ta ühes tema avaldumisvormis lõksu püüab. (2503)

„Iga kunstiline etendus, selle asemel et korrata või jäljendada, on loome, mille taotluseks on tuua esile see, mida korratakse“ (Crease 1993: 111). (2508)

Niisiis tahan ma väita, et etenduseteooria peab algama ontoloogiliselt pinnalt, kust saab alguse ka inimlik soov osaleda etenduslikes transformatsioonides. See on punkt, kus etendaja ja pealtvaataja ei ole veel eristunud; on ainult püsiv huvi maailma hämmastavate võimaluste vastu (hääl, heli, materiaalne aine, käitumine), mille inimene oma tajus avastab ja otsekohe ka avastamisrõõmu tunneb. (2511)

Just siin on see, mida võiksime nimetada etenduslikkuse tuumaks või geeniks, millest võrsuvad kõik kunstilise etendamise hargnevad vormid: vahendi ja eesmärgi kokkulangemine, millegi esiletoomise ja sellele reageerimise üheaegsus käitumiaktis. (2512)

Robert Castel “From Dangerousness to Risk”

April 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Castel, Robert 1991. From Dangerousness to Risk. – Burchell, Graham; Gordon, Colin; Miller, Peter (eds). The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press: 281-298.

The new strategies dissolve the notion of a subject or a concrete individual, and put  in  its  place  a  combinatory  of factors,  the  factors  of risk. […] The essential component of intervention no longer takes  the  form  of the  direct face-to-face  relationship  between  the  carer and the cared, the helper and the helped, the professional and the client. It comes instead  to  reside in the  establishing  of flows  of population  based on the collation of a  range  of abstract factors deemed liable to  produce risk in general. (281)

The examination of the  patient  tends  to  become  the examination of the  patient’s  records  as  compiled  in  varying  situations  by  diverse professionals and specialists interconnected solely through the circulation of individual  dossiers. (281-282)

For classical  psychiatry,  ‘risk’  meant essentially  the  danger  embodied  in the  mentally  ill  person  capable  of  violent  and  unpredictable  action. Dangerousness  is  a  rather  mysterious  and  deeply  paradoxical  notion, since  it  implies  at  once  the  affirmation  of a  quality  immanent  to  the subject  (he  or  she  is  dangerous),  and  a  mere  probability,  a  quantum  of uncertainty, given that the proof of the danger can only be  provided after the  fact,  should  the  threatened  action  actually  occur. (283)

Hence the  special unpredictability  attributed to the  pathological  act:  all  insane  persons,  even  those  who  appear  calm, carry~a threat, but one whose realization still remains a matter of chance. (283)

Such  a  shift  becomes  possible  as  soon  as  the  notion  of  risk  is  made autonomous  from  that  of danger.  A  risk  does  not  arise  from  the  presence  of particular precise danger embodied in a concrete individual or group. It is the  effect of a  combination of abstract factors  which render more  or less probable  the occurrence  of undesirable  modes  of behaviour. (287)

One  does  not  start  from  a  conflictual  situation  observable  in experience,  rather one  deduces  it from  a  general  definition of the  dangers one  wishes  to  prevent. (288)

These preventive policies thus promote a new mode of surveillance:  that of systematic  predetection.  This  is  a  form  of surveillance,  in  the  sense  that the  intended  objective  is  that  of  anticipating  and  preventing  the emergence  of  some  undesirable  event:  illness,  abnormality,  deviant behaviour,  etc.  But  this  surveillance  dispenses  with  actual  presence, contract,  the  reciprocal  relationship  of watcher  and  watched,  guardian and  ward,  carer  and  cared. (288)

What the  new  preventive policies  primarily  address  is  no  longer individuals  but  factors,  statistical correlations  of heterogeneous  elements. […] Their primary aim is  not  to  confront a concrete  dangerous situation,  but  to  anticipate  all  the  possible  forms  of irruption of danger. (288)

1)      The separation of diagnosis and treatment, and the transformation of the caring function into an activity of expertise;

2)      The total subordination of technicians to managers. (290-291)

Instead of segregating and eliminating  undesirable  elements  from  the  social  body,  or  reintegrating them  more  or  less  forcibly  through  corrective  or  therapeutic  inter-ventions,  the  emerging tendency is  to  assign  different  social  destinies  to individuals  in  line  with  their  varying  capacity  to  live  up  to  the requirements  of competitiveness  and profitability.

But  one  has  to  ask  whether,  in  the  future,  it  may  not  become technologically feasible  to programme populations themselves,  on the basis of an  assessment  of  their  performances  and,  especially,  of  their  possible deficiencies.

[…] it would be possible thus  to objectivize absolutely any type  of difference, establishing on the basis of such a factorial definition a differential  population  profile. (294)

The  profiling  flows  of population  from  a  combination  of characteristics  whose collection depends on  an epidemiological method suggests  a rather  different  image  of  the  social:  that  of  a  homogenized  space composed of circuits laid out in advance, which individuals are invited or encouraged  to  tackle,  depending  on  their  abilities.  (In  this  way,  marginality itself, instead of remaining an  unexplored or rebellious  territory, can  become  an  organized  zone  within  the  social,  towards  which  those persons  will  be  directed  who  are  incapable  of  following  more  com-petitive  pathways.) (295)

Victoria Margree “Normal and Abnormal”

April 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Margree, Victoria 2002. Normal and Abnormal: Georges Canguilhem and the Question of Mental Pathology. Philosophy, Pshychiatry and Psychology 9(4): 299-312.

In the sphere of mental health, positivism is that which understands mental disorder on the model of physical illness (the „medical model“). […] This position is to be contrasted with anti-psychiatric positions […] which posit mental disturbances as originating in meaningful relations between people. (300)

If science is characterized by the periodic reinvention of its own norms, this is because science is something that living beings do, and life itself, at its most irreducible, is normative activity. (300)

Canguilhem defined life between vitalism and reductionism, as polarized activity. Life is fundamentally that which is not indifferent to its environment. […] As such, life is that which regulates its relationship to its environment through the adoption of norms of living, that is, patterns of behavior that express an evaluative relation to an environment, that judge a phenomenon to be good or bad for the organism’s survival. (301)

Health as such is a creative, propulsive, and dynamic state. It is fundamentally opposed to the adoption of a way of being that is fixed or static. […] For Canguilhem, tha state of health is of a necessarily indeterminate nature, being inherently uncontainable within fixed parameters. (301-302)

If sickness had no distinct being of its own but was merely a quantitative deviation from a set of constants, it was possible to convert the pathological back into the normal through knowledgeable human intervention. In this way the notion of the pathological itself began almost to disappear. To the extent that pathology existed at all, it was as a statistically abnormal state of affairs. (302)

As Canguilhem says, „The state of health is a state of unawareness where the subject and his body are one. Conversely, the awareness of the body consists in a feeling of limits, threats, obstacles to health“ (1991, 91).

„Wherever there is life there are norms. Life is polarized activity, a dynamic polarity, and that in itself is enough to establish norms“ (Canguilhem 2000, 351).

„Disease is a positive, innovative experience in the living being and not just a fact of decrease or increase“ (1991, 186). (303)

As such, whilst the pathological state is still normal in the sense that it prescribes and regulates ways of being according to a spontaneous valorization, it is not normative, in the fullest sense that refers to the capacity for continual revision and self-transcendence. Pathological norms are characterized by their conservatism and intolerance of change. If health is variability and flexibility – normativity – then pathology is defined as the reduction of these. (303)

This then is the radical import of Canguilhem’s thesis: the constancy and fixity that for the positivist tradition defined health, now define pathology. (304)

The immediate consequence of refusing the assimilation of pathology to biological abnormalities (in the statistical sense) is that the ascertaining of any particular phenomenon as pathological is never an objetive undertaking, in the sense of something that can be determined by measurement alone. […] The criterion for qualifying any biological fact as pathological is not then its deviation from the normal, but its reduction of the individual’s possibilities for interactions with its environment, which is felt as the experience og suffering and limit. (304)

First, if the same biological features can prove pathological under some conditions and healthy under others, then pathology is not located simply within the organisms, but in its reciprocal relationships with its environment. […] if no biological feature is inherently pathological, then the literal reference of even bodily illness is never, strictly speaking, the body. […] this is the same reference that makes physical pathology a concept of meaning and value. (305)

Second, we may say that in the human sphere, even the distinction between physical and mental illness is problematic once health and pathology are defined in terms of relationships to an environment. […] Therefore, both this environment and the human body itself are to some extent the product of social an psychological norms. (305)

For Canguilhem […] the pathological state is still normal in that it remains a regulation of behavior in response to vital values. […] The pathological norm is necessarily intolerant of infractions of its functioning. It buys the organism its continued existence but at the cost of its normativity. […] pathological mental phenomena such as psychoses can express an order, and […] this order is created by an attempt to make sense of an altered relation to the world.

First, this means that unusual or distressing mental states are, strictly speaking, never disorders. (306)

For Canguilhem, the antonym of pathological is not normal but normative. […] he establishes ilnness on the grounds of reduced capacity rather than social deviancy. (307)

[…] even when deviant or anomalous behaviors correspond to distinct biological abnormalities, these still are not sufficient to establish such behaviors as illnesses. […] Such a demonstration needs to establish that this feature impacts negatively upon the individual’s normativity, not merely that it is excessive or deficient with respect to a statistical norm and/or influences a behavior felt to be antisocial. […] all states are normal that enable the individual to exist creatively and flexibly within her environment, and this includes those structures or processes that are statistically anomalous. (308)

[…] for the human being, the pathological value of even a biological feature is never just biological. (308)

The concept schizophrenia could never fall simply within the domain of a biological science. This does not mean that it is not a medical concept; it means […] we have had to expand the definition of the medical to signify an evaluative activity attentive to human cultural and political norms.

I say political because norms of life are unintelligible except as the relation of an organism to its environment. […] An individual who is only able to act in accordance with societal norms is only apparently healthy because he has renounced that capacity to institute other norms that is inscribed in full normativity as the openness to being transcended. (310)

As such, any therapeutic intervention into the pathological norms of psychiatric symptoms is a political act, because it is one that refers an individual’s norms of life to the norms of a society. (310)

Psychiatrists and their patients have to make choices about the relative health gais of different forms of social actions, and no account of the organic, genetic etiology of psychiatric illness can remove this political dimension. (310)

Psychiatric concepts are healthy, not when they strive to be definitive, but when they are open to their own usurpation by new norms. (310)