Archive for September, 2013

Thomas Lemke “Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction”

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

 Lemke, Thomas 2011. Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction. London; New York: New York University Press.


1. Life as the basis of politics

The organicist concept understands the state not as a legal construction whose unity and coherence is the result of individuals’ acts of free will but as an original form of life, which precedes individuals and collectives and provides the institutional foundation for their activities. The basic assumption is that all social, political, and legal bonds rest on a living whole, which embodies the genuine and the eternal, the healthy, and the valuable. The reference to “life” serves here both as a mythic startingpoint and as a normative guideline. Furthermore, it eludes every rational foundation or democratic decision-making. From this perspective, only a politics that orients itself toward biological laws and takes them as a guideline can count as legitimate and commensurate with reality. (10)

Within this heterogeneous field of research [biopolitology], it is possible to identify four areas to which most of the projects can be assigned. The first area comprises reception of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. At its center stands the historical and anthropological question of the development of human beings and the origins of state and society. A second group of works takes upethological and sociobiological concepts and findings in order to analyze political behavior. Works interested in physiological factors and their possible contribution to an understanding of political action fall into the third category. A fourth group focuses on practical political problems (“biopolicies”), which arise from interventions in human nature and changes to the environment (Somit and Peterson 1987, 108; Kamps and Watts 1998, 17–18; Blank and Hines 2001; Meyer-Emerick 2007). (16)

Common to all representatives of “biopolitics” is thus a critique of the theoretical and methodological orientation of the social sciences, which, in their view, is insufficient. They argue that the social sciences are guided by the assumption that human beings are, in

principle, free beings, a view that gives too much significance to processes of learning and socialization and thereby fails to see that human (political) behavior is in large part biologically conditioned. From this perspective, the “culturalism” of the social sciences remains “superficial” as it systematically ignores the “deeper” causes of human behavior. (17)

The thesis thatbiological factors play a role in the analysis of social and political behavior is not the problem; the question is, rather, how the interaction is understood […] (19)


2. Life as an object of politics

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the meaning of biopolitics assumed another form. It was not so much focused on the biological foundations of politics but rather disclosed life processes as a new object of political reflection and action. In light of the ecological crisis that was increasingly being addressed by political activists and social movements, biopolitics now came to signify policies and regulatory efforts aimed at finding solutions to the global environmental crisis. (23)

Such questions led ultimately to a second stratum of meaning in biopolitics [in the 1970s, with the development of genetics], one that is situated close to the considerations and concerns of bioethics. These relate to the collective negotiation of, and agreement on, the social acceptability of what is technologically possible. (26)

It is safe to say, then, that since the 1970s “life” has become a reference point for political thinking and political action in two respects. On the one hand, we can say that the human “environment” is threatened by the existing social and economic structures and that policymakers need to find the right answers to the ecological question and to secure the conditions of life on Earth and the survival of humanity. On the other hand, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know, because of bioscientific discoveries and technological innovations, what exactly the “natural foundations” of life are and how these can be distinguished from “artificial” forms of life. (27)

Central to the technocentric version of biopolitics, however, is not the adaptation of “society” to a separate “natural environment” but rather the environment’s modification and transformation through scientific and technological means. (28)

Biopolitical questions are fundamental precisely because not only are they objects of political discourse, but they also encompass the political subject him- or herself. (30)

Biopolitics cannot simply be labeled a specific political activity or a subfield of politics that deals with the regulation and governance of life processes. Rather, the meaning of biopolitics lies in its ability to make visible the always contingent, always precarious difference between politics and life, culture and nature, between the realm of the intangible and unquestioned, on the one hand, and the sphere of moral and legal action, on the other. (31)


3. The Government of Living Beings: Michel Foucault

First, biopolitics stands for a historical rupture in political thinking and practice that is characterized by a rearticulation of sovereign power. Second, Foucault assigns to biopolitical mechanisms a central role in the rise of modern racism. A third meaning of the concept refers to a distinctive art of government that historically emerges with liberal forms of social regulation and individual self-governance. (34)

Foucault distinguishes “two basic forms” of this power over life: the disciplining of the individual body and the regulatory control of the population (1980, 139). (36)

This technology [of security] aims at the mass phenomena characteristic of a population and its conditions of variation in order to prevent or compensate for dangers and risks that result from the existence of a population as a biological entity. The instruments applied here are regulation and control, rather than discipline and supervision. (37)

Two series, therefore, may be discerned: “the body–organism–discipline–institution series, and the population–biological processes–regulatory mechanisms–State” (ibid., 250). (37)

[…] “individual” and “mass” are not extremes but rather two sides of a global political technologythat simultaneously aims at the control of the human as individual body and at the human as species (see Foucault 2003, 242–243). (38)

[…] biopolitics marks a movement in which the “right” is more and more displaced by the “norm.” The absolute right of the sovereign tends to be replaced by a relative logic of calculating, measuring, and comparing. (39)

[…] the power over death is freed from all existing boundaries, since it is supposed to serve the interest of life. What is at stake is no longer the juridical existence of a sovereign but rather the biological survival of a population. (39)

Racism fulfills two important functions within an economy of biopower. First, it creates fissures in the social domain that allow for the division of what is imagined in principle to be a homogeneous biological whole (for example, a population or the entire human species). […] The second function of racism goes even further. It does not limit itself to establishing a dividing line between “healthy” and “sick,” “worthy of living” and “not worthy of living.” Rather, it searches for “the establishment of a positive relation of this type: ‘The more you

kill, the more deaths you will cause’ or ‘The very fact that you let more die will allow you to live more’” (ibid., 255). Racism facilitates, therefore, a dynamic relation between the life of one person and the death of another. (41-42)

Foucault conceives of liberalism not as an economic theory or a political ideology but as a specific art of governing human beings. Liberalism introduces a rationality of government that differs both from medieval concepts of domination and from early modern state reason: the idea of a nature of society that constitutes the basis and the border of governmental practice. (45)

At the center of liberal reflection is a hitherto unknown nature, the historical result of radically transformed relations of living and production: the “second nature” of the evolving civil society (see Foucault 2007). (45)

The coordinates of governmental action are no longer legitimacy or illegitimacy but success or failure; reflection focuses not on the abuse or arrogance of power but rather on ignorance concerning its use. (46)

In this context, Foucault gives a new meaning to the concept of technologies of security, which he used in earlier works. He regards security mechanisms as counterparts to liberal freedom and as the condition for its existence. Security mechanisms are meant to secure and protect the permanently endangered naturalness of the population, as well as its own forms of free and spontaneous self-regulation. (47)

With liberalism, but not before, the question arises of how subjects are to be governed if they are both legal persons and living beings (see ibid. 2008, 317). (48)

„[A]gainst this power . . . the forces that resisted relied for support on the very thing it invested, that is, on life and man as a living being. . . . [W]hat was demanded and what served as an objective was life, understood as the basic needs, man’s concrete essence, the realization of his potential, a plenitude of the possible. Whether it was Utopia that was wanted is of little importance; what we have seen has been a very real process of struggle; life as a political struggle was in a sense taken at face value and turned back against the system that was bent on controlling it.” (50, Foucault, History of Sexuality I, 1980, 144–145)


6. The Disappearance and Transformation of Politics

The growing recognition and acknowledgment of the life of a human being who suffers from an illness displaces the recognition of the life of a citizen who has experienced violence, often resulting from political agitation. In place of political life that confronts a legal-administrative order to reconstruct the history of a persecution, we find biological life that documents a history of illness against the background of medical knowledge. The right to life has increasingly moved from the political arena to the humanitarian one. According to Fassin, it is now apparently more acceptable to reject an application for asylum as unfounded than to reject a medical report that recommends temporary residency for medical reasons (2006, 2001). (88)


7. The End and Reinvention of Nature

The body is increasingly seen not as an organic substratum but as molecular software that can be read and rewritten. (93)

Foucault’s concept of biopolitics remains bound to the notion of an integral body. His analyses of disciplinary technologies which are directed at the body, in order to form and fragment it, are based on the idea of a closed and delimited body. By contrast, biotechnology and biomedicine allow for the body’s dismantling and recombination to an extent that Foucault did not anticipate. (94)

Central to this political epistemology of life is no longer control of external nature but rather the transformation of inner nature. As a consequence, biology is conceived of no longer as a science of discovery that registers and documents life processes but rather as a science of transformation that creates life and actively changes living organisms (Haraway 1991; Rheinberger 2000; Clarke et al. 2003). (94-95)

To start with, “human material” transcends the living person. The person who dies today is not really dead. He or she lives on, at least potentially. […] Death can be part of a productive circuit and used to improve and extend life. The death of one person may guarantee the life and survival of another. (95)

Today, it is not so much state sovereignty as medical-administrative authorities who decide on matters of life and death. They define what human life is and when it begins and ends. (95)


8. Vital Politics and Bioeconomy

The concept of vital politics, which Nikolas Rose employs in his discussion of the molecularization and informatization of life, was already in use much earlier in a completely different context. The term played a prominent role in the work of Wilhelm Röpke and Alexander Rüstow, two significant representatives of postwar German liberalism and architects of the social market economy (soziale Marktwirtschaft). In the 1950s and ’60s, they used the term “vital politics” to refer to a new form of the political that was grounded in anthropological needs and that has an ethical orientation. The negative point of reference here is a mass society that erodes social integration and cohesion. “Massification” (Vermassung) is the antonym of vital politics, representing the “worst social malady of our time” (Rüstow 1957, 215). Whereas massification emerged from the dissolution of original social bonds and forms of life, vital politics aims to promote and reactivate them. Contrary to social policy, which focuses on material interests, vital politics takes intoaccount “all factors upon which happiness, well-being, and satisfaction in reality depend” (Rüstow 1955, 70). (105)

Vital politics fulfills two important functions in ordoliberal thinking. First, it serves as a critical principle against which political activity can be measured and which relates the economy back to a comprehensive order that is external to it and ethically grounded. Second, the vital-political dimension of the social market economy asserts its superiority over the “inhumane conditions” existing in the Soviet Union, where fundamental human needs were ignored (ibid, 238). (107)

Whereas for the ordoliberals vital politics points to the conflictual relationship between economic principles and an ethically superior and anthropologically grounded order,there are two 20th-century theories which, by identifying the human being as homo economicus, defuse possible conflicts between politics, ethics, and economy. These two theories, the concept of Menschenökonomie(human economy) and human capital theory, have less to do with accommodating the economy to life processes than with improving, enhancing, and optimizing those processes. In both cases, human life does not serve as a measure of the economy but is itself subordinated to the economic imperative of valorization. (107)

Through the lens of human capital theory, a human being is a rational actor who is constantly allocating scarce resources in the pursuit of competing goals. All activity is presented as a choice between attractive and less attractive alternatives. The basis of this theory is a methodological individualism, whereby a person maximizes benefits and weighs options in a marketplace in which offers and demands coexist in perpetual interplay. (110)

Becker and Schultz understand human capital to mean the abilities, skills, and health, as well as such qualities as the outer appearance and social prestige, of a person. It consists of two components: an inborn corporeal and genetic endowment, and the entirety of the abilities that are the result of “investments” in appropriate stimuli—nutrition, upbringing, and education, as well as love and care. (110)


9. Prospect: An Analytics of Biopolitics

If politics in the classical sense refers to a state beyond existential necessities, biopolitics introduces a reflexive dimension. That is to say, it places at the innermost core of politics that which usually lies at its limits, namely, the body and life. Seen this way, biopolitics again includes the excluded other of politics. Indeed, neither politics nor life is what it was before the advent of biopolitics. Life has ceased to be the assumed but seldom explicitly identified counterpart of politics. It is no longer confined to the singularity of concrete existence but has become an abstraction, an object of scientific knowledge, administrative concern, and technical improvement. (117)

And politics? Politics has also changed in the light of biopolitical rationalities and technologies. It has made itself dependent on life processes that it cannot regulate and whose capacities for self-regulation it must respect. However, it is precisely this limitation that has provided politics with many options for different forms of intervention and organization. (117)

Roberto Esposito “Third Person”

September 23, 2013 Leave a comment

Esposito, Roberto 2012. Third Person: Politics of Life and Philosophy of the Impersonal. Cambridge; Malden: Polity Press.


1. The Double Life: The Machine of the Human Sciences

The  classic  vitalists,  like Bordeu  or  Barthez,  limited  themselves  to  removing  the  living

organism  from the  general  laws  of physics,  and  by  doing so  they ended up depriving it of a normative principle capable of unifying its  variety  of expressions  within  a  scientifically  described  framework.  Bichat,  on  the  other  hand,  identified  the specific  status  of the living body precisely in its active opposition to the pressure of death. (21)

“The measure of life then,  in general, is the difference which exists  between  the effort of external  powers,  and  of  internal  resistance.  The  excess  of  the  former announces its weakness; the predominance of the latter is an indication of its  strength.” (21, Bichat, Recherches, 43-44)

To  arrive  at the  deepest  truth  about a  body,  medical science is  forced  to  insinuate  itself into  the  same  cut that  etched death  into  the  body,  and  then  redouble  it. (22)

This  predominance is exercised primarily from the outside, by the environmental forces that squeeze life into a circle it cannot break and whose fatal power  it can  only resist  as  long  as  its  own energy remains. But  then,  at  the  same  time,  death  also  exercises  its  ascendancy from  inside  the  body,  where  its  possibility,  indeed  its  necessity, takes  seat  from  the  moment  of  birth,  like  a  tumor  that  grows progressively and  inexorably.  Rather  than  a  clean cut that chops off the  head  in  a  single  sweep,  death  appears  as  a  dull  murmur accompanying  and silently gnawing at every moment of life,  distributing  itself  into  many  little  deaths,  which  only  at  a  certain point join together to form one lethal event. (22)

[…] there  is  organic  life  before birth,  when  the  fetus  experiences  only  a  nutritive  life,  and  at the end,  with  the  advent  of  death,  when  organic  life  continues  for some  time  after  animal  life  has  ended,  as  can  be  seen  from  the growth  of  nails  and  hair  even  after  the  ‘first’  death.  A  double death,  in  short,  is  matched  by  a  double  life,  which has  unequal importance  not  only  because  it  is  geared  for  different  purposes, but  also  because it has a  different intensity. (23)

What begins  to  break  down,  or  at  least  become  unrecognizable  in  its canonical formulation, is the very idea  of the  person,  understood as a site of legal and political imputation. […] It is  as  if  a  non-human  –  something  different  from  and earlier  than  animal  nature  itself –  had  taken  up  residence  in  the human  being;  or  as  if it  had  always  been  there, with  dissolutive effects on the personal  modality of this  being.  From this moment on, the role of politics – now inevitably biopolitics – will no longer be to define the relationship between human beings  as much as to identify the precise  point at which the frontier is  located  between what  is  human  and  what,  inside  the  human  itself,  is  other  than human. (24)

The  unity of life – in full harmony with the perspective opened  up  by  Bichat  –  is  no  longer  broken  down  by  the  old dualism  between  body  and  soul,  but  by the  biological  difference between  an  organic  type  of  “life  within”  and  a  relational  “life outside.” (25)

Not that Comte  disputes the  importance  of  the  vegetative  part  that  links  humans  to  all other  living  beings;  but  he  locates  the  specificity  of the  human in the possibility,  albeit partial  and  problematic,  of overturning this primacy  in  favor  of  animal  life.  Although  always  driven  by  a natural,  biological  impulse,  in certain circumstances  humans can come  to  break  the  cycle  of  individual  self-preservation  for  the purpose  of  social  order. This  is  the  always  reversible  passage  from  the  level  of  “biocracy”  to  that  of  “sociocracy.”  (29-30)

[…] knowledge of  life  is,  for  Comte,  the  exteriority  inside  of  which  political science, even before seeking answers, must seek the questions that cannot  be  framed  in  its  own  vocabulary. (30)

But – and this is the crucial point – for the subject, being inside the world means to  be  somehow  outside  oneself,  to  be  part  of  something  that  at the same time includes and transcends  oneself. This something  is life:  not  only  of the  single  individual  but  of the  large  collective body that includes the individual, while exceeding it, in the totality of humankind. (31)

Inevitably  embedded  in  life,  death  constitutes  both  its absolute  outside  and  the  internal  center  of  irradiation  from which  living  beings  experience  the  limits  of  their  own identity and  the  extent  of  their  alteration. (32, of Comte)

If one were  to  summarize  the  role played by anthropology in the reciprocal  process  of  drawing  implications  between  politics  and biology,  one  might  say  that it concerns  the  transfer  of its  object- the human being as a living species – from the sphere of history to  the  sphere  of nature.  This  move  –  the  naturalization  of what had  always  been  represented  in  historical  terms  –  was  precisely what enabled  the  taxonomic placement of the  human being  in  a hierarchical  scale  that (in  its  lower ranks  at  least)  included characteristics  from  the  animal  world.  The  human  being,  or  at  least its  sub-types,  can  only  be animalized  if  it  is  first  dehistoricized. However,  in order for this shift  to take place  in all its scope  and leaving no traces behind, so to speak, it was necessary to overcome an obstacle of no small importance, because  it coincided with the essential difference between any type of human being and any type of animal: that is to say, language. While any other human ability can  in  some  way  be  at  least  compared,  if  not  identified,  with  a corresponding capacity  in  some  of  the  higher  animals, this  is  not true  for  verbal  language,  which  is  proper to  the  life  form  called Homo sapiens.It is this difficulty – the need to overcome it – that lends the highest strategic importance to another discipline, located at  the  point  of  juncture  between  anthropology  and  biopolitics, namely  linguistics.  The  observation  we  made  previously  about how the mutual exchange between the human sciences has a  productive role in bringing about a paradigm shift, in terms of legitimization  as  well,  comes  forcefully  back  into  consideration.  One might  say  in  this  respect  that,  as  anthropology  is  the  semantic commutator  that  allows  politics  to  model  itself  on  biology,  linguistics – more specifically, comparative grammar – constitutes the flow channel for the complete politicization of anthropology. (36-37)

If language  as  such was  the  last ontological  obstacle  to  the  full  naturalization  of the

animal-human, or human-animal, the science that studies it identifies a  primary level whose roots  are firmly established in nature. (39)

If  different  languages  correspond  to different  biological  structures,  language  is  the  best  reference  for classifying the various human races. But, since different languages have different values, the corresponding races will also necessarily have  different  values.  This  is  how  the  biological  superiority  of certain  racial  characteristics  determined  the  equally  biological superiority of certain languages, while the superior quality  of the languages  confirmed  the  superior  quality  of  the  races  who  used them. (41)

When  he  writes  that  “it  is  a  matter  of introducing  history  into  the  family  of  natural  sciences,”51  his intention  is  more  complex  than  that  of  simply  juxtaposing  the languages  of  biology  and  history.  His  aim  is  rather  to  translate history itself into the language of the natural sciences. This is made possible  through  a  double  homologation  that,  on the  one  hand, models  historical  order  on  the  basis  of  individual  development,

while  on  the  other  hand  it  derives  individual  development  from the evolutionary fate of the species.  Instead of limiting himself to naturalizing  history,  it  is  as  if  Gobineau  had  stretched  out  the segment  he  had  previously  dehistoricized  over  the  long  duration of  humanity’s  life. (46-47, of Gobineau)

Language does not have the  same  substance  as  spirit,  nor  is  it  a  part  of  the  body.  This  is proven by certain illnesses in which the  absence of speech is compatible with a  state of perfect physiological health; or, conversely, by diseases in which  the  dissolution  of the  body does  not lead  to a  similar crisis  in  linguistic capacity –  at  least  not  until  the  spirit is also struck dead. In other words, although they are born together, there  is  no  guarantee  that  spirit,  body,  and  language  will  die  at the same time. (49)

Only  when  united  by  the  same  race  can spirit, body, and language – the three  “individuals”  that comprise the animal called human – experience their vital power most fully. Life as such – any life, even  one that is formless or degraded, with a tendency to degenerate like  that of all  modern peoples exposed to ethnic hybridization – is always possible; Gobineau still cannot imagine that we can, or should, act on life to extinguish or restrictit. He merely states that  “the idiomatic individual  born and living in the brain of a common man is never equal to another idiomatic individual  which  partakes  of the  attributes  of the  same  race  and is  attached  to  a  superior  person.” (49-50)

The  animal  – explicitly breaking even with the  Darwinian paradigm, which had also  formed the epistemological framework  of Haeckel’s monism – no  longer  constitutes  the  place  of origin  of the  human  species, but the  measure  of its  internal  difference.  Hence, after  a detailed description  of  the  various  races  on  the  basis  of  hair  type,  skin color, and shape of the skull – which forms a hierarchy going from homo  australis through  homo  mongolicus up  to  the  Caucasian and Indo-Atlantic – we learn that the higher animals are closer to humans  than  to  other  lower  animals,  but  also  that  the  lower humans  are  more  similar  to  animals  than  to  the  higher  humans. (52, of Haeckel)

This  means  that  domesticated  animals,  or  animals  that  can  be domesticated, are located in the hierarchy of living species between primitive races  and civilized races – and that therefore  humanitasis split into two distinct parts, set off from each  other  by a  transversal  line  formed  by  reference  to the  animal.  The  animal  is  not the origin of the human  species,  but rather the  line  of separation inscribed within the  human species. (52)

Death is no longer the unavoidable background, or continuous challenge, out of which  life  emerges  and  against which  it exerts resistance, but  the  primary instrument  of its preservation and  enhancement. The  conceptual  and  operational  locus  where  this  reversal  takes form is the concept – or, more precisely, the ‘practice’ – of humanity. (56)


2. Person, Human, Thing

The concept  of  ‘person’ was intended  to  fill  in  the  chasm  opened up between the poles of human being and citizen that had existed since the Declaration of 1789. (70)

Even  when  interpreted  in  secular  terms,  in  short, the idea of person is never entirely reducible to that of the biological substrate of the subject it designates; rather, its most significant meaning is to be found precisely in a  sort of excess, of a spiritual or moral character,  that makes more  of the  ‘person,’  yet without letting it coincide completely with the  self-sufficient individual  of the  liberal tradition.  It is  actually  the  locus  of their most  intense combination: the inseparable relationship between body and  soul in a  single  entity,  open to relationship with other persons. (71)

Already the  separation initially established by Bichat between the two types of life – organic and animal – with  the  quantitative  and temporal dominance of the first over the second, had disrupted the idea of the person as responsible for his or her own actions and,  thus,  as  a  site of legal  imputation for obligations and rights. Subsequently, when this biological division was transferred from the body of the individual to that of humanity, the process of depersonalization was driven to the point of no return.  Sucked  back  into  its  purely  corporeal  substratum,  the biospiritual core  that the  modern  tradition  had called  person was now deprived  of all  its  attributes,  in favor of collective  entities – national,  ethnic  or  racial  in character – whose  fates were predestined  by indissoluble  blood ties. (71)

My  thesis  is  that  the  dispositif  of  the  person, intended  by  the creators  of the Declaration  on  Human  Rights to fill  in the chasm between man  and citizen left gaping  since  1789,

produced  an  equally  profound  gap  between  rights  and  life.  The very  paradigm  that  appears  to  be  a  vehicle  for  their  epochal reunion acts instead as  a  separation filter,  or  as  a  differential diaphragm  between two elements  that fail to meet up,  except in the form  of  their  separation. (74)

Both  the  Cartesian  tradition  –  with  the  prior  distinction between res extensaand res cogitans- and the Lockean tradition, which  assigned  a  functional  rather  than  substantial  character  to personal identity, are inscribed within this  division: in both cases, ‘person’ qualifies that which, in a human being, is other than and beyond body.  Far from identifying the living being in its entirety, inside  of  which  it  is  nonetheless  inscribed,  person  corresponds rather to the irreducible  difference that separates the living  being from  itself. (76)

The  moment  all  human  beings  were  considered  to  be bearers  of  a  rational  will,  regardless  of  differences  in  status  or social  standing,  they were for this very reason  also  considered to possess  a  legal  personality.  In  this  way,  instead  of  rights  being superordinate  to  the  subject,  they  become  the  subject’s  defining trait,  understood  as the power any subject has  over itself and the things  that  belong  to  it.  From  this  point  of  view,  the  difference between  homo and  persona that  the  Romans  upheld  no  longer had  a  reason  to  exist. (82)

The  moment the  person  ceased  to  be  a  general  category into which someone could be transferred, passing in  and out of it the way they did in Rome, and  became  a  quality implicit in every human  being,  it  revealed  itself  to  be  different  and  superimposed on the natural substrate it was implanted in. And this all the more as – or to the extent to which – it was identified with the rational and  volitional  or  moral  part  of the  individual,  the  part  invested with a universal value, so to speak. This is exactly how that splitting, or doubling, that first separated the human being as a simple homo from  the  general  category  was  re-established  within  every individual. (82-83)

Far from  disappearing, the splitting  action  penetrated  from  the  outside  inside,  dividing  the human  being into two areas:  a  biological  body  and  a  site  of legal imputation,  the  first  being  subjected  to  the  discretionary  control of  the  second.  Once  again,  and  perhaps  even  more  than  before, the person is not the same  as the  human  being in its entirety. The person is  actually  superimposed onto the  human  being – but also juxtaposed  with  it –  as  an  artificial  product  of the very law  that defines  it  as  such. (83)

The  fact  that  the  person  is  constrained  to  obey  the sovereign  outwardly,  in  the external  sphere  of his  or her  actions, but  not  inwardly,  in the internal  sphere  of his  or her conscience and  judgment,  which  remained  free,  splits  the  person  into  two different parts, which later would be reproduced in the irreconcilable modern dichotomy between human  being and citizen.  Separated  from  everyone  else  by  the  vertical  thread  that  binds  him or

her,  individually,  to  the  sovereign,  each  person  is  splayed  apart from its  own inside  in  such a  way that the two  are impossible to reunite.  This  is the  double  effect – of personalization  and  deper­sonalization – that  sovereignty  has  on  the  body  of  the  person:  it makes the person something that no longer has body, and the body something that can no longer  be  a person. (87)

[…] a person is the entity that is qualified by its dominion over its own biological substrate, a whole that can unify and dominate its parts. (88)

For liberal culture –  unlike  Nazism  – the  dividing  line  between  animal  and  human

passes  through the individual,  and not through a  racial hierarchy of peoples. The  fact remains, however – actually  it  becomes  even more  evident  –  that  the  reasoning  behind  the  relationship  thus established  between  body  and  thing  is  in  any  case  analogous:  if

you  start  from  an  instrumental  conception  of  life  –  whether enlisted  in  the  service  of the  sovereign  state  or  of the  individual – the condition  of one  tends  to slide into that of the other.  Now, contrary  to  what  has  been  assumed,  making  the  definition  of human  rights  dependent  on  the  language  of the  person  has  not managed to stop this drift. And the reason why it has been unsuccessful,  as  we  have  shown  by  opening  up  a  wider  perspective on  the  issue,  is  that what  created  this  drift  is  the  very  language of  the  person  itself.  To  the  extent  that  this  language  identifies, inside the human, an extracorporeal core defined in terms of will and  reason,  it  necessarily  ends  up  thrusting  the  body  into  an animal or vegetal  dimension,  putting it in  direct contact with the sphere  of things. (91)

[…] in a  tradition  that dates  back  to John Locke  and  John  Stuart  Mill,  a  person  is  such  –  a  human  being takes  on personhood,  in  other words – when  it has  ownership of itself.  While,  for  Locke,  “every  man  has  a  property  in  his  own person:  this  no  body  has  any  right  to  but  himself,”31  for  Mill, “the only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns  himself,  his  independence  is,  of  right,  absolute.  Over himself,  over  his  own  body  and  mind,  the  individual  is  sovereign.”32  Even  in  this  case,  the  body  –  over  which  the person exercises his or her proprietary dominion – is thought of as thing, as  a  bodily  thing  or  a  reified  body.  Therefore  in  each  individual the  dispositif  of the  person  works  at  the  same  time  toward  per­sonalization  (in  the  rational  part)  and  toward  depersonalization (in the animal or bodily part).  In short, only a  non-person, living matter  with  no  personhood,  can  give  rise  to  something  like  a person  as  the  object  of  its  own  subject.  Just  as,  conversely,  a person  is  a  person  if  it  reduces  to  thingness  that  out  of  which  it arises on the basis of its own rational-spiritual status. (92)

The general transition  of humankind  toward  thingness,  which  has  become  the predominant  tendency  of our  time,  was  opened  up  by  this  continuous  transition from human to  animal,  from animal  to vegetal, and from vegetal to mineral. Neither the difference between animate and inanimate beings nor the difference between natural and artificial have withstood  the  allied  pressure  of  economy  and  technology. (96)

In any case, whether you start from the  beginning or from the end of life, what really qualifies  as  ‘person’  only  occupies the central section: that of adult, healthy individuals. Before and after this  lies  the  no  man’s  land  of  the  non-person  (the  fetus),  the quasi-person  (the  infant),  the  semi-person  (the  elderly,  no  longer mentally or physically  able),  the  no-longer-person  (the patient  in a  vegetative  state),  and,  finally,  the  anti-person  (the  fool,  whom Singer  puts  in  the  same  relation  to  the  intelligent  human  being as  obtains  between  the  animal  and  the  normal  human  being  – albeit with  a clear preference  for  the  animal). (97)

Newborn babies cannot see themselves as beings who might or might not have a future, and so cannot have a desire to continue living. For the same reason, if a right to life must be based on the capacity to want to go on living or on the ability to see one self as a continuing mental subject, a newborn baby cannot have a right to life. (98-99, Peter Singer „Writings on an ethical life”, p. 162)

The part of the person that should be rejected is precisely the one that says ‚I’ or ‚we’; better still, the logical thread that ties individual self-consciousness to collective consciousness in the grammatical mode of the first person. (102)


3. The Third Person

Just  as  the person – in the  alternating form  of the  I and  the  you – can  only refer  to  itself in  a  purely  discursive  situation,  similarly  the  third person  –  the  non-person  –  always  refers  to  an  objective  type  of external referent. (107)

[…] the third is ‚he who is absent’. […] What is absent is always the subjective quality of the person or, better perhaps, the personal identity of the subject. (107)

Rather,  it  is  everyone  –  and  therefore  no  one,  as  Benveniste concluded,  following  a  different  line  of  reasoning.  Since  he/she does not exist for me,  for you,  or  ultimately,  says the  author,  for itself, it simply is not.  It is  an  opening,  or the  outside,  of the  personal relationship. It is a relationship without personhood and, at the same  time,  a  person  without relationship:  it is the  unrelated, the irrelative,  and the impersonal. (118)

For  the  third person to  be  identifiable – not a third inside the second person, hollowed out or scooped out from its  foundation,  but rather  one  that is  external  even  to  it,  located outside the first and second persons and actually constituted in an absolute outside – in order for this to happen, the dialogical structure of the face-to-face relationship – and thus  of the intersubjective  dialectic  that goes  along  with  it –  must  be  forced  open  and broken  down.  The language  of the person – or even  of persons, as  all  those  evoked  by  Levinas  are  –  must  be  turned  inside  out, into the form of the  impersonal.  This  would  lead  the  verticality of  transcendence  back  onto  a  plane  of  immanence  and  would multiply  the  singular  into  the  plural. (125)

As Blanchot maintained, literature  opens  up a  field of intensity in which the subject is sucked into the statement and, thus, catapulted into its own outside. (135)

[…] writing expresses nothing outside of writing itself. But if this is the case, if writing is always writing about  writing,  then,  evidently,  the  outside  of  literature  has  the form  of  an  inside;  it  never  crosses  over  its  own  pre-established confines. (136)

The reason why  this  outside is so  elusive is that somehow,  and without diminishing its degree of extraneity in  any  way,  it  lies  within  us:  we  ourselves  are  looked  at  from  a point of view that does not coincide, and indeed collides, with the transcendental point of view of our person, which flows out onto the  radically  immanent  plane  of  the  impersonal.  What  is  it  that we  are – beyond  or  before  our  person – without ever  being  able to become masters  of it?  What is it that traverses  us  and troubles us, to the point of turning over into its opposite, if not life itself? (137)

[…] power is what generates the resistance of that onto which it discharges itself. This explains why life, distinct from the subjectivity of the person as that which both underlies and overturns it into its material exteriority, constitutes the object of biopower, but also the locus that most opposes it. (139)

Precisely because it is impersonal,  the event coincides, in short, with an outflowing of singularities that have neither the apperceptive  form  of the  I nor the  transcendental  form of consciousness. This is what Deleuze defines as the plane  of immanence, meaning a  sphere  of life that  is  entirely coextensive with itself –  in which the cause is one with its effect, so to speak, and the actor with what is acted upon. (143)

The  only  avenue  for  escaping  the  dialectic  between  personalization and depersonalization,  which we  are  by  now  familiar  with, passes  through the  deconstruction  of the category of person, following a logic that privileges multiplicity and contamination over identity  and  discrimination. (145)

Whether this control passes through a  sovereign mediation  of an  external nature  or is entrusted to the will  of  the  individual  owner,  the  body  remains  exposed  to  a mechanism  of  appropriation,  disassemblage,  and  manipulation that ends up assimilating the  body to a thing owned  by others or by itself. Even the semantics of the Catholic discourse on the inaccessibility  of  life  –  its  absolute  value  deriving  from  the  act  of  a Creator  who  maintains  possession  over  it  –  remains  within  the same  paradigm.  The  body  is  always  at the  disposal  of  a  person, whether  divine  or  human,  who  is  not  coextensive  with  it  and whose  transcendence in relation to  the  body  is actually the  basis of its definition. (147)

What changes with respect to the plane of the subjects, besides a  certain  spatiality  that  is  irreducible  to  predefined  boundaries, is  a  temporality  that does not have the  stable  form  of presence, but  rather  the  form  of  the  event,  extending  between  past  and future.  Haecceity never has an origin or an end – it is not a point: it  is  a  line  of  slippage  and  assemblage  [ concatenamento].  It  is made  up  not  of  people  and  things,  but  of  speeds,  affects,  and transitions;  just  as  its  semiotics  is  composed  of  proper  nouns, verbs in the infinitive,  and indefinite pronouns. Haecceity is composed  of  third  persons,  traversed  and  liberated  by  the  power  of the  impersonal. (149)

Michel Foucault “Labour, Life, Language”

September 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Foucault, Michel 2008. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences. London; New York: Routledge.

8. Labour, Life, Language

[…] the thought that is contemporaneous with us, and with which, willy-nilly, we think, is still largerly dominated by the impossibility, brought to ligh towards the end of the eighteenth century, of basing syntheses in the space of representation, and by the correlative obligation – simultaneous but immediately divided against itself – to open up the transcendental field of subjectivity, and to constitute inversely, beyond the object, what are for us the ‚quasi-transcendentals’ of Life, Labour, and Language. (272)

Production, life, language […] are fundamental modes of knowledge which sustain in their flawless unity the secondary and derived correlation of new sciences and techniques with unprecedented objects. (275)

From Cuvier onward, function, defined according to its non-perceptible form as an effect to be attained, is to serve as a constant middle term and to make it possible to relate together totalities of elements without the slightest visible identity. What to Classical eyes were merely differences juxtaposed with identities must now be ordered and conceived on the basis of a functional homogeneity which is their hidden foundation. When the Same and the Other both belong to a single space, there is natural history; something like biologybecomes possible when this unity of level begins to break up, and when differences stand out against the background of an identity that is deeper and, as it were, more serious than that unity. (288-289)

Animal species differ at their peripheries, and resemble each other at their centres; they are connected by the inaccessible, and separated by the apparent. Their generality lies in that which is essential to their life; their singularity in that which is most accessory to it. The more extensive the groups one wishes to find, the deeper must one penetrate into the organism’s inner darkness, towards the less and less visible, into that dimension that eludes perception; the more one wishes to isolate the individuality of the organism, the further must one go towards its surface, and allow the perceptible forms to shine in all their visibility; for multiplicity is apparent and unity is hidden. In short, living species ‘escape’ from the teeming profusion of individuals and species; they can be classified only because they are alive and on the basis of what they conceal. (291)

From Cuvier onward, it is life in its non-perceptible, purely functional aspect that provides the basis for the exterior possibility of a classification. The classification of living beings is no longer to be found in the great expanse of order; the possibility of classification now arises from the depths of life, from those elements most hidden from view. Before, the living being was a locality of natural classification; now, the fact of being classifiable is a property of the living being. (292)

In any case, this series of oppositions, dissociating the space of natural history, has had important consequences. In practice, this means the appearance of two correlated techniques which are connected and support each other. The first of these techniques is constituted by comparative anatomy: this discipline gives rise to an interior space, bounded on the one hand by the superficial stratum of teguments and shells, and on the other by the quasi-invisibility of that which is infinitely small. (293)

The second technique is based on anatomy (since it is a result of it), but is in opposition to it (because it makes it possible to dispense with it); this technique consists in establishing indicative relations between superficial, and therefore visible, elements and others that are concealed in the depths of the body. Through the law of the interdependence of the parts of an organism, we know that such and such a peripheral and accessory organ implies such and such a structure in a more essential organ; thus, it is possible ‘to establish the correspondence between exterior and interior forms which are all integral parts of the animal’s essence’. (294)

Whereas for eighteenth-century thought the fossil was a prefiguration of existing forms, and thus an indication of the great continuity of time, it was henceforth to be the indication of the form to which it once really belonged. Anatomy has not only shattered the tabular and homogeneous space of identities; it has broken the supposed continuity of time. (294)

[…] living beings, because they are alive, can no longer form a tissue of progressive and

graduated differences; they must group themselves around nuclei of coherence which are totally distinct from one another, and which are like so many different plans for the maintenance of life. Classical being was without flaw; life, on the other hand, is without edges or shading. Being was spread out over an immense table; life isolates forms that are bound in upon themselves. Being was posited in the perpetually analysable space of representation; life withdraws into the enigma of a force inaccessible in its essence, apprehendable only in the efforts it makes here and there to manifest and maintain itself. In short, throughout the Classical age, life was the province of an ontology which dealt in the same way with all material beings, all of which were subject to extension, weight, and movement; and it was in this sense that all the sciences of nature, and especially that of living beings, had a profound mechanistic vocation; from Cuvier onward, living beings escape, in the first instance at least, the general laws of extensive being; biological being becomes regional and autonomous; life, on the confines of being, is what is exterior to it and also, at the same time, what manifests itself within it. (297)

The living being must therefore no longer be understood merely as a certain combination of particles bearing definite characters; it provides the outline of an organic structure, which maintains uninterrupted relations with exterior elements that it utilizes (by breathing and eating) in order to maintain or develop its own structure. (298)

The living being, by the action and sovereignty of the same forces that keeps it in discontinuity with itself, finds itself subjected to a continuous relation with all that surrounds it. (298)

From Cuvier onward, the living being wraps itself in its own existence, breaks offits taxonomic links of adjacency, tears itself free from the vast, tyrannical plan of continuities, and constitutes itself as a new space: a double space, in fact – since it is both the interior one of anatomical coherences and physiological compatibilities, and the exterior one of the elements in which it resides and of which it forms its own body. But both these spaces are subject to a common control: it is no longer that of the possibilities of being, it is that of the conditions of life. (299)

Historicity, then, has now been introduced into nature – or rather the realm of living beings; but it exists there as much more than a probable form of succession; it constitutes a sort of fundamental mode of being. (300)

Paradoxically, Ricardo’s pessimism and Cuvier’s fixism can arise only against a historical background: they define the stability of beings, which henceforth have the right, at the level of their profound modality, to possess a history; whereas the Classical idea, that wealth could grow in a continuous process, or that species could, with time, transform themselves into one another, defined the mobility of beings, which, even before any kind of history, already obeyed a system of variables, identities, or equivalences. (301)

In any case, the constitution of a living historicity has had vast consequences for European thought. Quite as vast, without any doubt, as those brought about by the formation of an economic historicity. At the superficial level of the great imaginative values, life, henceforth

pledged to history, is expressed in the form of animality. The animal, whose great threat or radical strangeness had been left suspended and as it were disarmed at the end of the Middle Ages, or at least at the end of the Renaissance, discovers fantastic new powers in the nineteenth century. (301)

If living beings are a classification, the plant is best able to express its limpid essence; but if they are a manifestation of life, the animal is better equipped to make its enigma perceptible. Rather than the calm image of characters, it shows us the incessant transition from the inorganic to the organic by means of respiration or digestion, and the inverse transformation, brought about by death, of the great functional structures into lifeless dust. (302)

The plant held sway on the frontiers of movement and immobility, of the sentient and the non-sentient; whereas the animal maintains its existence on the frontiers of life and death. Death besieges it on all sides; furthermore, it threatens it also from within, for only the organism can die, and it is from the depth of their lives that death overtakes living beings. Hence, no doubt, the ambiguous values assumed by animality towards the end of the eighteenth century: the animal appears as the bearer of that death to which it is, at the same time, subjected; it contains a perpetual devouring of life by life. It belongs to nature only at the price of containing within itself a nucleus of antinature. Transferring its most secret essence from the vegetable to the animal kingdom, life has left the tabulated space of order and become wild once more. The same movement that dooms it to death reveals it as murderous. It kills because it lives. Nature can no longer be good. (302)

In relation to life, beings are no more than transitory figures, and the being that they maintain, during the brief period of their existence, is no more than their presumption, their will to survive. And so, for knowledge, the being of things is an illusion, a veil that must be torn aside in order to reveal the mute and invisible violence that is devouring them in the darkness. (303)

Thus a system of thought is being formed that is opposed in almost all its terms to the system that was linked to the formation of an economic historicity. The latter, as we have seen, took as its foundation a triple theory of irreducible needs, the objectivity of labour, and the end of history. Here, on the contrary, a system of thought is being developed in which individuality, with its forms, limits, and needs, is no more than a precarious moment, doomed to destruction, forming first and last a simple obstacle that must be removed from the path of that annihilation; a system of thought in which the objectivity of things is mere appearance, a chimera of the perceptions, an illusion that must be dissipated and returned to the pure will, without phenomenon, that brought those things into being and maintained them there for an instant; lastly, a system of thought for which the recommencement of life, its incessant resumptions, and its stubbornness, preclude the possibility of imposing a limit of duration upon it, especially since time itself, with its chronological divisions and its quasispatial calendar, is doubtless nothing but an illusion of knowledge. (304)

Georges Canguilhem “A New Concept in Pathology: Error”

September 17, 2013 Leave a comment

Canguilhem, Georges 1991. The Normal and the Pathological. New York: Zone Books.

A New Concept in Pathology: Error

Disease is not a fall that one has, an attack to which one succumbs, but an original flaw in macromolecular form. If, in principle, organization is a kind of language, the genetically determined disease is no longer a mischievous curse but a misunderstanding. (278)

But it must not be forgotten that information theory cannot be broken down, and that it concerns knowledge itself as well as its objects, matter or life. In this sense to know is to be informed, to learn to decipher or to decode. There is then no difference between the error of life and the error of thought, between the errors of informing and informed information. The first furnishes the key to the second. (277)

Heredity is the modern name of substance. (280)

If there were a perfect, finished finality, a complete system of relations of organic agreement, the very concept of finality would have no meaning as a concept, as a plan and model for thinking about life, for the simple reason that there would be no grounds for thought, no grounds for thinking in the absence of all disparity between possible organization and real organization. The thought of finality expresses the limitation of life’s finality. If this concept has a meaning, it is because it is the concept of a meaning, the concept of a possible, and thus not guaranteed, organization. (281)

[…] to dream of absolute remedies is often to dream of remedies which are worse than the ill. (281)

To define abnormality in terms of social maladaptation is more or less to accept the idea that the individual must subscribe to the fact of such a society, hence must accomodate himself to it as to a reality which is at the same time a good. […] If societies are badly unified sets of means, they can be denied the right to define normality in terms of the attitude of instrumental subordination which they valorize under the name of adaptation. (283)

[…] the organism is not thrown into an environment to which he must submit, but he structures his environment at the same time that he develops his capacities as an organism. (284)

In the 1943 Essay we called „normativity” the biological capacity to challenge the usual norms in case of critical situations, and proposed measuring health by the gravity of the organic crises which are surmounted by the establishment of a new physiological order. (284-285)

We shall say that the healthy man does not become sick insofar as he is healthy. No healthy man becomes sick, for he is sick only insofar as his health abandons him and in this he is not healthy. The so-called healthy man thus is not healthy. His health is an equilibrium which he redeems on inceptive ruptures. The menace of disease is one of the components of health. (287)

Étienne Balibar “Three Concepts of Politics”

September 12, 2013 Leave a comment

Balibar, Étienne 2002. Three Concepts of Politics. – Balibar, É. Politics and the Other Scene. London; New York: Verso, 1-39.

I shall call the first concept the autonomy of politics, and I shall link this with the ethical figure of emancipation. By contrast, I shall call the second concept the heteronomy of politics, or politics related to structural and conjunctural conditions, and I shall connect this to the figures (we shall see that these are themselves multiple) of transformation. It will then be necessary to introduce – on the basis of certain aporias of the second concept, but as a new figure in its own right – a concept I shall call the heteronomy of heteronomy, as this will show that the conditions to which a politics relates are never a last instance: on the contrary, what makes them determinant is the way they bear subjects or are borne by them. (1)

Autonomy of Politics

No one may be liberated or elevated to a position of equality – let us say, may be emancipated – by an external, unilateral decision, or by a higher grace. Only reciprocally, by mutual recognition, can this be achieved. (3-4)

The autonomy of politics (in so far as it represents a process that has its origin and its end in itself alone, or in what will be termed citizenship) is not conceivable without the autonomy of its subject, and this in turn is nothing other than the fact, for the people, that it ‘makes’ itself, at the same time as the individuals who constitute the people confer basic rights upon one another mutually. There is autonomy of politics only to the extent that subjects are the source and ultimate reference of emancipation for each other. (4)

[…] in reality, the whole history of emancipation is not so much the history of the demanding of unknown rights as of the real struggle to enjoy rights which have already been declared. (6)

But, contrary to what Marx believed, the ‘dominant ideas’ cannot be those of the ‘dominant class’. They have to be those of the ‘dominated’, the ideas which state their theoretical right to recognition and equal capacity. (7)

Heteronomy of Politics

[…] Marx’s politics, in equal measure to the politics of emancipation, pursues the aim of establishing the autonomy of its subjects, but it regards that autonomy as a product of its own movement, not as a prior assumption. Its perspective is one of a becoming-necessary of liberty. Whereas the proposition of equal liberty presupposes the universality of rights, always referring these back to an ever-available transcendental origin, Marxian political practice is an internal transformation of conditions, which produces as its outcome (and quite simply produces, in so far as it is put into practice – that is, produces ‘in struggle’) the need for freedom and the autonomy of the people (designated as the proletariat). (10)

To transgress the limits of the recognized – and artificially separated – political sphere, which are only ever the limits of the established order, politics has to get back to the ‘non-political’ conditions of that institution (conditions which are, ultimately, eminently political). It has, in other words, to get back to the economic contradictions, and gain a purchase on these from the inside. (11)

Subjectivation is the collective individualization which occurs at the point where change changes, where ‘things begin to change differently’ – that is to say, wherever the tendency immanent in the system of historical conditions finds itself affected from within by the action of an equally immanent counter-tendency. (13)

Particularly interesting in this theorization, as deployed in lie concrete analyses which run from Discipline and Punish to lie College de France lectures on ‘bio-power’ and ‘bio-politics’, is the fact that the distance between conditions and transformation is reduced to a minimum: indeed, the two become contemporaneous (in a present which is at once ontological, ethical and political, the analysis of which is the very aim of that critical thought which Foucault attempted, at the same moment, to redefine combining the teachings of Nietzsche and Kant). (15)

What then becomes absolutely objectless is the idea of a dialectics of ‘mediations’ by which to conceive, following the thread of historical time, the junction between the conditions and the transformative practice, with its ‘critical’ encounters between objective and subjective conditions, class conflicts and mass movements, forces and consciousnesses, and so forth. For historical conflict is always-already inherent in power relations, and is always active in their institutionalization – or at least, it should be – ideally. (16)

[Strategies]. We might say it is a general – or generalizable – schema for the anticipation and control of the reactions of adverse individuality; or, better, a schema for the transformation of the bodily dispositions of individuals in such a way that their reactions become predictable and controllable. Such a schema can be implemented by institutions, by groups and, in the last analysis, by individuals. It can be incorporated both into a vast social structure over the very long term and into a transient, local configuration, but the principle of its effectiveness is always ‘micropolitical’, since it lies in the way the technologies of power are applied’ righ t down to the finest mesh of society’. (16-17)

The question posed here does not merely have a pragmatic dimension; it is, fundamentally, metaphysical. Just as there was, in Marx, a problematic of the becoming-necessary of liberty (in the tradition of Spinoza and Hegel), so we should see in Foucault’s work here (in a manner different from the ‘outside’ or ‘foldings’ of the theoretical analyses Deleuze writes of) a production of contingency, which I shall venture to term a becoming-contingent of resistances. But is this not the point Foucault hesitated over, while at the same time it opened up several possible directions to him, between which his politics (if not his ethics) found itself torn? (17)

Only life can be ‚governed’; only a living being can be disciplined in such a way as to become productive. (18)

[…] the study of the techniques of the elf is not so much an evasion of the question posed by massive structures of domination as the search for a more originary level of determination and, as a result, for a point of construction – or deconstruction – for politics. (19)

This ‚work of self on self’ generates, then, both the normal form of a culture and the deliberately run risk of becoming different from what one was. This ‚double-bind’ situation is no less dialectical (in the Kantian sense) than the preceding one. (20)

The Heteronomy of Heteronomy: The Problem of Civility

Rather than identities, we should speak of identifications and processes of identification, for no identity is either given or acquired once and for all (it can be fixed, but that is not the same thing). Identity is the product of an invariably uneven, unfinished process, of hazardous constructions requiring greater or lesser symbolic guarantees. Identification is received from others, and continues always to depend on them. (27-28)

[…] every identity is ambiguous. […] An identity of whatever kind […] is always overdetermined. It always fulfils several functions at one and the same time (one is not a ‘teacher’ only to teach one’s students, and even less is one a student simply to study). It is always in transit between several symbolic references (for example, current events cause us to ask once again, without any possible resolution of the question, whether Islam today is a religious, national-cultural or anti-imperialist identity). In this sense, too, identity is always wid.e of the mark; it is always in danger of mistaking itself or being mistaken. It always has to express itself successively through different commitments. (28)

We must, then, suppose that the role of institutions is precisely to reduce – without suppressing- the multiplicity, complexity and conflictuality of identifications and senses of belonging, if need be by applying a preventive violence or a ‘symbolic’ and material _ corporeal – organized counter-violence. This is why there is no society (no viable or liveable society) without institutions and counter-institutions (with the oppressions they legitimate and the revolts they induce). But institutions are not a politics. At most they can be the instruments or the products of a politics. (29)

I shall call a politics which regulates the conflict of identifications between the impossible (and yet, in a sense, very real) limits ofa total and a floating identification, ‘civility’. Civility in this sense is certainly not a politics which suppresses all violence; but it excludes extremes of violence, so as to create a (public, private) space for politics (emancipation, transformation), and enable violence itself to be historicized. (29-30)

However, the form in which it is most interesting to discuss the question is that which attempts, conversely, to reconcile tile idea of civility with that of an autonomy of the multitude – that is to say, with democratic forms. I might even be tempted to arguc that civility becomes a politics, in the strong sense of the term – distinct from a civic education or discipline, or even a socialization – every time in history it presents itself as the development of – or complement to – the democratic principle. (30)

[…] no concept of politics is complete. Each presupposes the others in the space and historical time of ‘life’. No emancipation without transformation or civility; no civility without emancipation or transformation, and so on. But there is no sense trying to turn these complex presuppositions into a system, or arrange them in some invariant order. If we do that, we shall obtain only another political philosophy, a schema for the transformation of political problems into a representation of the political. In so far as the concepts we have discussed here concern politics, they can be articulated only on individual pathways (or, more precisely, at the meeting-point of individual pathways). Such pathways, like truth, are necessarily singular; hence no model exists for them. (35)

Juri Lotman ja Boriss Uspenski “Kultuuri semiootilisest mehhanismist”

September 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Lotman, Juri; Boriss Uspenski 2013. Kultuuri semiootilisest mehhanismist. – Uspenski, B. Vene kultuuri jõujooni. Valik artikleid. Tartu: Ilmamaa, 207-239.

Kultuur on struktuursuse generaator, ja sedaviisi loob ta inimest ümbritseva sotsiaalse sfääri, mis biosfääri kombel teeb võimalikuks elu – siiski mitte orgaanilise, vaid ühiskondliku elu.

Kuid selleks, et niisugust rolli täita, peab kultuur eneses sisaldama struktuuripõhist „šabloone väljatöötavat seadet”. Seda funktsiooni loomulik keel täidabki. Nimelt tema varustab koosluse liikmed intuitiivse struktuuritajuga; oma võimega muuta reaalide „avatud” maailm nimede „suletud” maailmaks paneb ta inimesi tõlgendama struktuuridena niisugust laadi nähtusi, mille struktuursus ei ole enesestmõistetav. Seejuures ilmneb, et tervel real juhtudest polegi oluline, kas see või teine mõtet kujundav alge on struktuur otseses mõttes. Piisab, et kommunikatsioonis osalejad peavad seda struktuuriks ja kasutavad seda struktuurina, et sedamööda hakkaksid ilmnema selle struktuuriomased jooned. Mõistagi on eriti tähtis, et kultuuri keskmes on sedavõrd võimas struktuursuse allikas, nagu seda on keel.

Struktuursuse presumptsioonil, mis keelelise suhtlemisvilumuse resultaadina välja kujuneb, on võimas korrastav toime kommunikatsioonivahendite kompleksile tervikuna. Niisiis baseerub kogu inimkogemuse säilitamise ja vahendamise süsteem teataval konstsentrilisusel, mille keskmes asuvad enesestmõistetavamad ja püsikindlamad (n-ö kõige struktuursemad) struktuurid. Äärealadele lähemal paiknevad moodustised, millede struktuursus ei ole ilmne või pole leidnud tõestust, kuid mis üldistesse märgilis-kommunikatsioonilistesse situatsioonidesse sisestatuna funktsioneerivad struktuuridena. Niisugustel kvaasistruktuuridel on inimkultuuris nähtavasti väga kaalukas koht. Veel enamgi: just teatav seesmine korrastamatus, poolik plaanipärasus tagab nii inimkultuuri suurema sisemise mahutavuse kui ka dünamismi, mida korrapärasemad süsteemid ei tunne. (Lotman, Uspenski 2013: 211-212)

Gilles Deleuze “Dispositif?” & “Question on the Subject”

September 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Deleuze, Gilles 2007. What Is a Dispositif? – Deleuze, G. Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975-1995. Los Angeles; New York: Semiotext(e), 343-352.

The Self is not knowledge or power. It is a process of individuation that effects groups or people and eludes both established lines of force and constituted knowledge. It is a kind of surplus value. Not every apparatus necessarily has it. (346)

Apparatuses are therefore composed of lines of visibility, utterance, lines of force, lines of subjectivation, lines of cracking, breaking and ruptures that all intertwine and mix together and where some augment the others or elicit others through variations and even mutations of the assemblage. (347)

What counts is the newness of the regime of enunciation itself in that it can include contradictory utterances. […] the newness of the regime counts more than the originality of the utterance. Each apparatus is thus defined by its content of newness and creativity, which at the same time indicates its ability to change or even break for the sake of a future apparatus, unless, on the contrary, there is an increase of force to the hardest, most rigid and solid lines. (349)

In every apparatus, we have to distinguish between what we are (what we already no longer are) and what we are becoming: the part of history, the part of currentness. History is the archive, the design of what we are and cease being while the current is the sketch of what we will become. Thus history or the archive is also what separates us from ourselves, while the current is the Other with which we already coincide. (350)

Not prediction, but being attentive to the unknown knocking at the door. (351)

„[…] our reason is the difference between discourses, our history the difference between times, our self the difference between masks.” (352, Foucault „The Archaeology of Knowledge”).


Deleuze, Gilles 2007. Response to a Question on the Subject. Deleuze, G. Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975-1995. Los Angeles; New York: Semiotext(e), 353-355.

A philosophical concept fulfills one or more Functions in fields of thought that are themselves defined by internal variables. There are also external variables (states of things, moments of history) in a complex relationship with the internal variables and the functions. This means that a concept is not created and does not disappear at whim, but to the extent that new functions in new fields dismiss it relatively. That is also why it is never very interesting to criticize a concept: it is better to construct new functions and discover new fields that make the concept useless or inadequate. (353)

Events raise very complex questions of composition and decomposition, speed and slowness, longitude and latitude, power and affect. Counter to any psychological or linguistic personalism, they lead to promoting a third person and even a „fourth” person singular, the non-person or It, in which we recognize ourselves and our community better than in the empty I-You exchanges. We believe that the notion of the subject has lost much of its interest in favor of pre-individual singularities and non-personal individuations. (355)