Archive for December, 2016

Martin Heidegger “The Question Concerning Technology”

December 29, 2016 Leave a comment

Heidegger, Martin 1977. The Question Concerning Technology. – Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. New York; London: Garland Publishing, 3-35.

For centuries philosophy has taught that there are four causes : (1) the causa materialis, the material, the matter out of which, for example, a silver chalice is made ; (2) the causa formalis, the form, the shape into which the material enters ; (3) the causa finalis, the end, for example, the sacrificial rite in relation to which the chalice required is determined as to its form and matter; (4) the causa efficiens, which brings about the effect that is the finished, actual chalice, in this instance, the silversmith. What technology is, when represented as a means, discloses itself when we trace instrumentality back to fourfold causality. (6)

What we call cause [Ursache] and the Romans call causa is called aition by the Greeks, that to which something else is indebted [das, was ein anderes verschuldet]. The four causes are the ways, all belonging at once to each other, of being responsible for something else. (7)

It is of utmost importance that we think bringing-forth in its full scope and at the same time in the sense in which the Greeks thought it. Not only handcraft manufacture, not only artistic and poetical bringing into appearance and concrete imagery, is a bringing-forth, poiesis. Physis also, the arising of something from out of itself, is a bringing-forth, poiesis. Physis is indeed poiesis in the highest sense. For what presences by means of physis has the bursting open belonging to bringing-forth, e.g., the bursting of a blossom into bloom, in itself (en heautoi). In contrast, what is brought forth by the artisan or the artist, e.g., the silver chalice, has the bursting open belonging to bringing forth not in itself, but in another (en alloi), in the craftsman or artist. (10-11)

We are questioning concerning technology, and we have arrived now at aletheia, at revealing. What has the essence of technology to do with revealing? The answer : everything. For every bringing-forth is grounded in revealing. Bringing-forth, indeed, gathers within itself the four modes of occasioning-causality-and rules them throughout. Within its domain belong end and means, belongs instrumentality.l1 Instrumentality is considered to be the fundamental characteristic of technology. If we inquire, step by step, into what technology, represented as means, actually is, then we shall arrive at revealing. The possibility of all productive manufacturing lies in revealing. Technology is therefore no mere means. Technology is a way of revealing. If we give heed to this, then another whole realm for the essence of technology will open itself up to us. It is the realm of revealing, i.e., of truth. (12)

[…] what is decisive in techne does not lie at all in making and manipulating nor in the using of means, but rather in the aforementioned revealing. It is as revealing, and not as manufacturing, that techne is a bringing-forth. (13)

Technology is a mode of revealing. Technology comes to presence [West] in the realm where revealing and unconcealment take place, where aletheia, truth, happens. (13)

What kind o f unconcealment i s it, then, that i s peculiar to that which comes to stand forth through this setting-upon that challenges? Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering. Whatever is ordered about in this way has its own standing. We call it the standing-reserve [Bestand] . The word expresses here something more, and something more essential, than mere “stock.” The name “standingreserve” assumes the rank of an inclusive rubric. It designates nothing less than the way in which everything presences that is wrought upon by the challenging revealing. Whatever stands by in the sense of standing-reserve no longer stands over against us as object.  (17)

[…] because man is challenged more originally than are the energies of nature, i.e., into the process of ordering, he never is transformed into mere standing-reserve. Since man drives technology forward, he takes part in ordering as a way of revealing. But the unconcealment itself, within which ordering unfolds, is never a human handiwork, any more than is the realm through which man is already passing every time he as a subject relates to an object. (18)

That which primordially unfolds the mountains into mountain ranges and courses through them in their folded togetherness is the gathering that we call Gebirg [mountain chain] . That original gathering from which unfold the ways in which we have feelings of one kind or another we name Gemüt [disposition]. We now name that challenging claim which gathers man thither to order the self-revealing as standing-reserve : Ge-stell [Enframing] . (19)

In Enframing, that unconcealment comes to pass in conformity with which the work of modern technology reveals the real as standing-reserve. This work is therefore neither only a human activity nor a mere means within such activity. The merely instrumental, merely anthropological defnition of technology is therefore in principle untenable. And it cannot be rounded out by being referred back to some metaphysical or religious explanation that undergirds it. (21)

Where do we find ourselves brought to, if now we think one step further regarding what Enframing itself actually is? It is nothing technological, nothing on the order of a machine. It is the way in which the real reveals itself as standing-reserve. (23)

[When] man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the orderer of the standing-reserve, then he comes to the very brink of a precipitous fall; that is, he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve. Meanwhile man, precisely as the one so threatened, exalts himself to the posture of lord of the earth. in this way the impression comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only insofar as it is his construct. This illusion gives rise in turn to one final delusion: it seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself. (27)

In truth, however, precisely nowhere does man today any longer encounter himself, i.e., his essence. Man stands so decisively in attendance on the challenging-forth of Enframing that he does not apprehend Enframing as a claim, that he fails to see himself as the one spoken to, and hence also fails in every way to hear in what respect he ek-sists, from out of his essence, in the realm of an exhortation or address, and thus can never encounter only himself. (27)

The threat to man does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal machines and apparatus of technology. The actual threat has already affected man in his essence. The rule of Enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth. (28)

Thus Enframing, as a destining of revealing, is indeed the essence of technology, but never in the sense of genus and
essentia. If we pay heed to this, something astounding strikes us: It is technology itself that makes the demand on us to think in another way what is usually understood by “essence.” But in what way? (30)

As the essencing of technology, Enframing is that which endures. Does Enframing hold sway at all in the sense of granting? No doubt the question seems a horrendous blunder. For according to everything that has been said, Enframing is, rather, a destining that gathers together into the revealing that challenges forth. Challenging is anything but a granting. It seems, so long as we do not notice that the challenging-forth into the ordering of the real as standing-reserve still remains a destining that starts man upon a way of revealing. As this destining, the coming to
presence of technology gives man entry into That which, of himself, he can neither invent nor in any way make. For there is no such thing as a man who, solely of himself, is only man. (31)

Once there was a time when the bringing-forth of the true into the beautiful was called techne. And the poiesis of the fine arts also was called techne. In Greece, at the outset of the destining of the West, the arts soared to the supreme height of the revealing granted them. They brought the presence [Gegenwart] of the gods, brought the dialogue of divine and human destinings, to radiance. And art was simply called techne. It was single, manifold revealing. It was pious, promos, i.e., yielding to the holding sway and the safekeeping of truth. (34)

The poetical brings the true into the splendor of what Plato in the Phaedrus calls to ekphanestaton, that which shines forth most purely. The poetical thoroughly pervades every art, every revealing of coming to presence into the beautiful. (34)

Because the essence of technology is nothing technological, essential reflection upon technology and decisive confrontation with it must happen in a realm that is, on the one hand, akin to the essence of technology and, on the other, fundamentally different from it. Such a realm is art. but certainly only if reflection on art, for its part, does not shut its eyes to the constellation of truth after which we are questioning. (35)

Frédéric Gros “The Fourth Age of Security”

December 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Gros, Frédéric 2014. The Fourth Age of Security. – Lemm, Vanessa; Vatter, Miguel (eds). The Government of Life. Foucault, Biopolitics, and Neoliberalism. New York: Fordham University Press, 17-28.

The frst age of security is the spiritual age and corresponds to the frst sense taken on by the term “security” in the West. The word “security” derives from the Latin securitas, which can be deconstructed into sine curae: without troubles, without cares. The Greek equivalent, a-taraxia, also means without worries, without unrest. Security designates, in its frst problematization, the mental state of the wise man that has attained defnitive serenity through a series of appropriate spiritual exercises. Here, security has a spiritual meaning, rather than a political one. (17-18)

The goal is to reach in this way a perfect mastery of oneself and of one’s emotions, to constitute a strong ego that would be able to act in the world and confront the world’s hazards without ever allowing oneself to become destabilized. This Stoic security designates the stability of a subject who does not allow him- or herself to be moved by anything and who has at his or her disposal spiritual means that are powerful enough to prevail over all of the world’s misfortunes. This frst sense of security as serenity, as the condition of the wise man, as steadiness of disposition has been of great importance for our culture. (19)

It is important to understand that in this frst sense “security” does not refer to the feeling of being protected or to the absence of any danger, but instead to the capacity to maintain the tranquility of one’s soul in the middle of these dangers and to find the source of security exclusively within oneself. (19)

The second age of security is the imperial age, a concept that has often been suggested by Foucault, even if he never devoted any longer exploration to this problem. (19)

This synthesis between the ideas of Empire, peace, and security had already been prepared by the Roman Empire in the time of Nero when one could fnd coins engraved with the motto “pax et securitas.” But in the European Middle Ages this security, a propaganda theme in the Roman Empire, becomes a political program founded on a mystical hope. In millenarian doctrine, this thousand-year period before the Last Judgment will witness simultaneously the end of history and the disappearance of borders. Indeed, this period of peace and security presupposes the establishment of a single Empire, the Empire of the last days, which brings together all nations around one single faith and in one single political space. One sole flock, as these millennium texts repeat over and again, with one solitary shepherd. The great problem that confronts the medieval West is how to know who this last Emperor will be: will he be French (a new Charlemagne), German (a new Frederick), or might it even be the pope, leader of Christendom? (20)

For here security is Empire; security is the unifcation of worlds; security is the end of history. (20)

The third age of security corresponds to the history of Western Europe and the rise of political philosophies centered on the state of nature and the social contract, that is, Hobbes, Locke, Spinoza, and Rousseau. (21)

This third age of security can be understood on the basis of the disappearance of the medieval dream of Empire, starting with the construction of a new political space composed of a plurality of sovereign states, each attempting to maintain its individual place in the midst of all the others, exemplifed by Westphalian Europe. Here it is no longer a question of security as a spiritual condition, nor of the myth of an Empire of the last days. Instead, the goal is to think the consistency of a nation-state in the midst of history. Security will be defned as the consistency of the state, which is simultaneously the consistency supplied by the state to the rights of its citizens and to the existence of its subjects, and the consistency that the state provides for itself as one political subject in relation to others. Indeed, the very meaning of the word “security” is immediately divided into internal security and external security. (21)

[…] all modern political philosophers want to give a double meaning to the word “nature”: it refers either to the savage immediacy of the state of nature, or to the conformity to Reason and God (natural law or laws). The creation of society and the institution of the state have as their purpose to make possible the application of the laws of nature understood as rational and divine laws: let ownership gained through labor be guaranteed, let the equality of all before the law be respected, let public freedom be preserved, let human solidarity be maintained and encouraged. In all these texts, security does not appear as a right among others, but as the very movement through which our natural dispositions must be assured, guaranteed, maintained, and all this against the eventual abuses of power by a biased, unjust state and against the influence of pressure groups representing particular interests. Security is the process through which consistency must be given by the state and by society to the fundamental, natural dispositions of man,
which, in the state of nature, are precarious and in vain. (22)

For a state, then, external security signifies the defense of its territorial integrity, the development of its military power, the necessity of alliances (which will always be fragile and reversible), the cynical calculation of its interests, the development of a systematic suspicion all other countries, and its ability to start wars or make peace as soon as its interests come into play. In expressions such as “nuclear security,” “UN Security Council,” or “collective security system” it is this sense of “security” which is predominant, and which has been predominant in Europe across the nineteenth century and up to the end of the Cold War. I refer to this sense of security as sovereign security. (22-23)

Biopolitics names the fourth age of security. […] The object of security has changed. The great statements of political realism named, as the principal object of security, the defense of the state’s territorial integrity, which may require the sacrifce of citizens. The doctrine of human security instead proclaims insistently that living populations and individuals ought to constitute the new object of security. They are what must be protected: what is sacred is no longer the sovereignty of the state, but the life of the individual. From here arises the principle of the right to interference, or what international institutions today defne as the “responsibility to protect.” (23)

As soon as the state is no longer the frst and fnal object of security, everything that is involved in the life of civil populations becomes an object of security. In this manner, one speaks today of “nutritional security” and “energy security.” The chief characteristic of these new objects of security is that they are constituted by flows: the flow of food, of energy, but also of images and of data (and, by simple extension, one speaks of “traffic security,” “information security,” “internet security,” etc.). (23-24)

This redistribution of objects also involves a redistribution of the principal actors of security. Previously, the state constituted itself simultaneously as the sole object and sole subject of security. Once the object of security is seen as constituted by civil populations, or by various flows, the principal actors of security change as well. One witnesses a double movement that leads constantly to the delegitimization of the state as sole actor of security: on the one hand, a privatization of security in which private companies and organisms present themselves as specialists in the control of a given flow, and on the other hand, a humanitarianization of security in which the protection of civil populations will fall under the aegis of humanitarian organizations that do not, unlike states, seek to protect one or more given sets of political subjects, but strive to come to the aid of civil populations that are at risk of death, no matter what the nature of this risk may be. (24)

After the Second World War, through the work of Donald Winnicott and Margaret Mahler (and later through the work of Franz Veldman and the school of haptonomy), an idea took shape in contemporary psychology that security is to be defned as the internal construction of the subject: security is what allows the child to grow up successfully. From here on child psychology is redefned as a technique for making the child secure. Security is understood simultaneously as protection—that is, the child must feel surrounded by a protective barrier, safe from external threats—and as the control of flow, since security is based on the regularity of flows of food and a regulated exchange, between parent and child, of the flows of communication and affection. It is striking the way in which the question of security is no longer posed in terms of closure as in the modern age, where the two symbols of security were the prison, for internal security, and the border, for external security, but, instead, in terms of the control of circulations and exchanges. The key sites of security are no longer borders defining the spaces of states, but, within the territory itself, airports and railway stations, that is, the nodal points of communication and exchange. The problem becomes one of “traceability”: the ability to determine, at any given moment, what is moving, where it is coming from, where it is going, what it is doing in its current place, and if it actually has a right of access to the
network in which it is moving or if its use of the network is unauthorized. (25)

This new definition of security thus produces a continuous stream of threats, whether these are economic, climactic, social, ecological, political, hygienic, medical, or nutritional. Everything is part of one single continuum: natural disasters, epidemics, terrorist attacks, civil wars, rivalries between crime syndicates vying for the control of illicit traffcking in arms, drugs, people, climate change, poverty and unemployment, and so on. Today, all these threats are considered as risks to society understood in the broadest possible sense. In the interior of states, this continuum of threats is produced through the concept of “global security” which stands to a given population as “human security” stands to the whole of humanity, and which entails, in France and elsewhere, the fusion of all those institutional security authorities that had heretofore been separate. (26)

The biopolitical age of security has led to this great equivalence of all threats. This continuity and equalization entail the effacement of figures such as the worker, the citizen, the patriot, and so forth. All of them disappear for the beneft of the living individual whose vital nucleus must be secured, and nothing exists outside of the great community of living bodies, the security of which will be the responsibility of private organisms acting with the blessing of the state. (26)

The suspect must be distinguished from the enemy, who typically belongs to the third age of security. The enemy comes from the exterior and by the very fact of his threat patches up the holes in the national community. The enemy is identifiable and definable: he is a calculating and rational agent. The suspect, however, is by definition non-locatable and unpredictable. He is here, close at hand, and his threatening presence turns me into a stranger even to my closest neighbors. We live in an age of suspicion and distrust: suspect individuals, suspicious packages, suspect food. This generalized distrust appears as the shadowy side of globalization. On the other hand, one finds the victim. The new dispositif of security turns the individual, rather than the state, into a sacred object. Thus it is the suffering of the individual, his victimized condition, which now becomes scandalous. This figure of the victim makes the biopolitical security function through a new regime of affects that turn on compassion, which for its part is triggered by the various stagings offered by the media. Security, pity, image: this is the new articulation, different from the old system of sovereignty which drove national security through heroism and narrative. (27)

Spiritual security presupposes spiritual vigilance: the vigilance of the wise man who pays careful attention to his spiritual capacities and means of support, as well as to his possible weaknesses, as studied by Foucault in Hermeneutics of the Subject as one of the aspects of the care of the self. Imperial security presupposes paternal solicitude: the Emperor watches over his subjects like the shepherd over his flock, with that kindly care studied by Foucault in his writings on pastoral government. Sovereign security presupposes centralized surveillance of internal and external enemies, all submitted to the total gaze of the state as in Bentham’s Panopticon, the kingdom of spies. Biopolitical security implies flow control: the control of movements and communications, but in a decentralized fashion, depending on competing transnational networks, which immediately raises the question of access: who will have the right of access to any given network to control or redistribute any given flow? (27)

Paolo Virno “A Grammar of the Multitude”

December 22, 2016 Leave a comment

Virno, Paolo 2004. A Grammar of the Multitude. For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life. Los Angeles; New York: Semiotext(e).



For Spinoza, the multitudo indicates a plurality which persists as such in the public scene, in collective action, in the handling of communal affairs, without converging into a One, without evaporating within a centripetal form of motion. Multitude is the form of social and political existence for the many, seen as being many: a permanent form, not an episodic or interstitial form. For Spinoza, the multitudo is the architrave of civil liberties (Spinoza, Tractatus Politicus). (21)


Hobbes detests – and I am usinge here, after due consideration, a passionate, not very scientific word – the multitude; he rages against it. In the social and political existence of the many, seen as being many, in the plurality of which does not converge into a synthetic unity, he sees the greatest danger of a „supreme empire“; that is to say, for the monopoly of political decision-making which is the State. (22)


In the De Cive, in which the horror of the multitude is exposed far and wide, we read: „The People us somewhat that is one, having one will, and to whom one action may be attributed“ (Hobbes, De Cive, ch XII, section VIII). The multitude, for Hobbes, is inherent in the „state of nature“; therefore, it is inherent in that which precdes the „body politic“. (22)


In liberal thought, the uneasiness provoked by the „many“ is toned down by means of having recourse to the pairing of the terms public-private. The multitude, which is the polar opposite of the people, takes on the slightly ghostly and mortifying features of the so-called private. (23)


„Private“ signifies not only something personal, not only something which conerns the inner life of this person or that; private signifies, above all, deprived of: deprived of a voice, deprived of a public presence. In liberal thought, the multitude survives as a private dimension. (24)


The contemporary multitude is composed neither of „citizens“ nor of „producers“; it occupies a middle region between „individual and collective“; for the multitude, then, the distinction between „public“ and „private“ is in no way validated. (25)


Forms of Dread and Refuge: Day One

Where is it that one can find unconditional refuge? Kant answers: in the moral “I”, since it is precisely there that one finds something of the non-contingent, or of the realm above the mundane. The transcendent moral law protects my person in an absolute way, since it places the value which is due to it above finite existence and its numerous dangers. The feeling of the sublime (or at least one of its incarnations) consists of taking the relief I feel for having enjoyed a fortuitous place of refuge and transforming it into a search for the unconditional security which only the moral “I” can guarantee. (31)


Two forms of protection (and of security) correspond to these two forms of risk (and of dread). In the presence of a real disaster, there are concrete remedies (for example, the mountain refuge when the snowslide comes crashing down). Absolute danger, instead, requires protection from… the world itself. But let us note that the “world” of the human animal can not be put on the same level as the environment of the non-human animal, or rather, of the circumscribed habitat in which the latter animal finds its way around perfectly well on the basis of specialized instincts. There is always something indefinite about the world; it is laden with contingencies and surprises; it is a vital context which is never mastered once and for all; for this reason, it is a source of permanent insecurity. While relative dangers have a “first and last name,” absolute dangerousness has no exact face and no unambiguous content. (32)


The Kantian distinction between the two types of risk and security is drawn out in the distinction, traced by Heidegger, between fear and anguish. Fear refers to a very specific fact, to the familiar snowslide or to the loss of one’s job; anguish, instead, has no clear cause which sparks it off. (32)


Outside of the community, fear is ubiquitous, unforeseeable, constant; in short, anguish-ridden. The counterpart of fear is that security which the community can, in principle, guarantee; the counterpart of anguish (or of its showing itself to the world as such) is the shelter procured from religious experience. (32)


One could say, perhaps, that “not feeling at home” is in fact a distinctive trait of the concept of the multitude, while the separation between the “inside” and the “outside,” between fear and anguish, is what earmarked the Hobbesian (and not only Hobbesian) idea of people. The people are one, because the substantial community collaborates in order to sedate the fears which spring from circumscribed dangers. The multitude, instead, is united by the risk which derives from not feeling at home, from being exposed omnilaterally to the world. (34)


[…] we could say that the “life of the mind” becomes, in itself, public. We turn to the most general categories in order to equip ourselves for the most varied specific situations, no longer having at our disposal any “special” or sectorial ethicalcommunicative codes. The feeling of not-feeling-at-home and the preeminence of the “common places” go hand in hand. The intellect as such, the pure intellect, becomes the concrete compass wherever the substantial communities fail, and we are always exposed to the world in its totality. The intellect, even in its most rarefied functions, is presented as something common and conspicuous. The “common places” are no longer an unnoticed background, they are no longer concealed by the springing forth of “special places.” The “life of the mind” is the One which lies beneath the mode of being of the multitude. Let me repeat, and I must insist upon this: the movement to the forefront on the part of the intellect as such, the fact that the most general and abstract linguistic structures are becoming instruments for orienting one’s  own conduct-this situation, in my opinion, is one of the conditions which define the contemporary multitude. (37)


The absence of a substantial community and of any connected “special places” makes it such that the life of the stranger, the not-feeling-at-home, the bios xenikos, are unavoidable and lasting experiences. The multitude of those “without a home” places its trust in the intellect, in the “common places:” in its own way, then, it is a multitude of thinkers (even if these thinkers have only an elementary school education and never read a book, not even under torture). (39)


My thesis, in extremely concise form, is this: if the publicness of the intellect does not yield to the realm of a public sphere, of a political space in which the many can tend to common affairs, then it produces terrifying effects.A publicness without a public sphere: here is the negative side — the evil, if you wish — of the experience of the multitude. (40)


[…] contemporary multitude is fundamentally based upon the presumption of a One which is more, not less, universal than the State: public intellect, language, “common places” (just think, if you will, about the World-wide Web…). Furthermore, the contemporary multitude carries with it the history of capitalism and is closely bound to the needs of the labor class. (43)


When we speak of “multitude,” we run up against a complex problem: we must confront a concept without a history, without a lexicon, whereas the concept of “people” is a completely codified concept for which we have appropriate words and nuances of every sort. (43)


  1. Labor, Action, Intellect

Labor is the organic exchange with nature, the production of new objects, a repetitive and foreseeable process. The pure intellect has a solitary and inconspicuous character: the meditation of the thinker escapes the notice of others; theoretical reflection mutes the world of appearances. Differently from Labor, political Action comes between social relations, not between natural materials; it has to do with the possible and the unforeseen; it does not obstruct, with ulterior motives, the context in which it operates; rather, it modifies this very context. Differently from the Intellect, political Action is public, consigned to exteriority, to contingency, to the buzzing of the “many;” it involves, to use the words of Hannah, “the presence of others” (Human Condition, Chap. V, “Action”). The concept of political Action can be deduced by opposition with respect to the other two spheres. (50)


Contemporary labor has introjected into itself many characteristics which originally marked the experience of politics. Poiesis has taken on numerous aspects of praxis. This is the first aspect of the most general form of hybridization which I would like to address. (50)


I maintain that things have gone in the opposite direction from what Arendt seems to believe: it is not that politics has conformed to labor; it is rather that labor has acquired the traditional features of political action. My reasoning is opposite and symmetrical with respect to that of Arendt. I maintain that it is in the world of contemporary labor that we find the “being in the presence of others,” the relationship with the presence of others, the beginning of new processes, and the constitutive familiarity with contingency, the unforeseen and the possible. I maintain that post-Fordist labor, the productive labor of surplus, subordinate labor, brings into play the talents and the qualifications  which, according to a secular tradition, had more to do with political action. (51)


The inclusion of certain structural features of political praxis in contemporary production helps us to understand why the post-Ford multitude might be seen, today, as a de-politicized multitude. There is already too much politics in the world of wage labor (in as much as it is wage labor) in order for politics as such to continue to enjoy an autonomous dignity. (51)


Let us consider carefully what defines the activity of virtuosos, of performing artists. First of all, theirs isan activity which finds its own fulfillment (that is, its own purpose) in itself, without objectifying itself into an end product, without settling into a “finished product,” or into an object which would survive the performance. Secondly, it is an activity which requires the presence of others, which exists only in the presence of an audience. (52)


One could say that every political action is virtuosic. Every political action, in fact, shares with virtuosity a sense of contingency, the absence of a “finished product,” the immediate and unavoidable presence of others. On the one hand, all virtuosity is intrinsically political. (53)


Where there is an end product, an autonomous product, there is labor, no longer virtuosity, nor, for that reason, politics. (53)


[…] where an autonomous finished product is lacking, for the most part one cannot speak of productive (surplus-value) labor. Marx virtually accepts the equation work-without-end-product = personal services. In conclusion, virtuosic labor, for Marx, is a form of wage labor which is not, at the same time, productive labor (Theories of Surplus-value: 410-411). (54)


Language is “without end product.” Every utterance is a virtuosic performance. And this is so, also because, obviously, utterance is connected (directly or indirectly) to the presence of others. Language presupposes and, at the same time, institutes once again the “publicly organized space” which Arendt speaks about. (55)


There is more to the story. The speaker alone — unlike the pianist, the dancer or the actor— can do without a script or a score. The speaker’s virtuosity is twofold: not only does it not produce an end product which is distinguishable from performance, but it does not even leave behind an end product which could be actualized by means of performance. In fact, the act of parole makes use only of the potentiality of language, or better yet, of the generic faculty of language: not of a pre-established text in detail. The virtuosity of the speaker is the prototype and apex of all other forms of virtuosity, precisely because it includes within itself the potential/act relationship, whereas ordinary or derivative virtuosity, instead, presupposes a determined act (as in Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations, let us say), which can be relived over and over again. (56)


It is enough to say, for now, that contemporary production becomes “virtuosic” (and thus political) precisely because it includes within itself linguistic experience as such. If this is so, the matrix of post-Fordism can be found in the industrial sectors in which there is “production of communication by means of communication”; hence, in the culture industry. (56)


In the culture industry, that is to say, it was therefore necessary to maintain a certain space that was informal, not programmed, one which was open to the unforeseen spark, to communicative and creative improvisation: not in order to favor human creativity, naturally, but in order to achieve satisfactory levels of corporate productivity. However, for the Frankfurt School, these aspects were nothing but un-influential remnants, remains of the past, waste. What counted was the general Fordization of the culture industry. Now, it seems to me, from our present perspective, that it is not difficult to recognize that these purported remnants (with a certain space granted to the informal, to the unexpected, to the “unplanned”) were, after all, loaded with future possibilities.These were not remnants, but anticipatory omens. The informality of communicative behavior, the competitive interaction typical of a meeting, the abrupt diversion that can enliven a television program (in general, everything which it would have been dysfunctional to rigidify and regulate beyond a certain threshold), has become now, in the post-Ford era, a typical trait of the entire realm of social production. (59)


On one hand, spectacle is the specific product of a specific industry, the so-called culture industry, in fact. On the other hand, in the post-Ford era, human communication is also an essential ingredient of productive cooperation in general; thus, it is the reigning productive force, something that goes beyond the domain of its own sphere, pertaining, instead, to the industry as a whole, to poiesis in its totality. In the spectacle we find exhibited, in a separate and fetishized form, the most relevant productive forces of society, those productive forces on which every contemporary work process must draw: linguistic competence, knowledge, imagination, etc. Thus, the spectacle has a double nature: a specific product of a particular industry, but also, at the same time, the quintessence of the mode of production in its entirety. (60)


My hypothesis is that the communication industry (or rather, the spectacle, or even yet, the culture industry) is an industry among others, with its specific techniques, its particular procedures, its peculiar profits, etc.; on the other hand, it also plays the role of industry of the means of production. (61)


Up to this point we have discussed the juxtaposition between Labor and Politics. Now, however, the third facet of human experience comes into play, Intellect. It is the “score” which is always performed, over and again, by the workers-virtuosos. I believe that the hybridization between the different spheres (pure thought, political life and labor) begins precisely when the Intellect, as principal productive force, becomes public. Only then does labor assume a virtuosic (or communicative) semblance, and, thus, it colors itself with “political” hues. (64)


With the infinite potential of one’s own linguistic faculty as the only “score,” a locutor (any locutor) articulates determined acts of speech: so then, the faculty of language is the opposite of a determined script, of an end product with these or those unmistakable characteristics. Virtuosity for the post-Fordist multitude is one and the same as the virtuosity of the speaker: virtuosity without a script, or rather, based on the premise of a script that coincides with pure and simple dynamis, with pure and simple potential. (66)


The general intellect is the foundation of a social cooperation broader than that cooperation which is specifically related to labor. Broader and, at the same time, totally heterogeneous. We go back to one of the themes addressed during the first day of our seminar. While the connections of the productive process are based on a technical and hierarchical division of tasks, the acting in concert which hinges upon the general intellect moves from common participation to “life of the mind,” that is, from the preliminary sharing of communicative and cognitive abilities. However,

cooperation in excess of the Intellect, instead of annulling the co-actions of capitalistic production, figures as its most eminent resource. Its heterogeneity has neither voice nor visibility. On the contrary, since the appearance of the Intellect becomes the technical prerequisite of Labor, the acting in concert beyond labor which it brings about is in turn subsumed into the criteria and hierarchies which characterize the regime of the factory. (67)


The crucial question goes like this: is it possible to split that which today is united, that is, the Intellect (the general intellect) and (wage) Labor, and to unite that which today is divided, that is, Intellect and political Action? Is it possible to move from the “ancient alliance” of Intellect/Labor to a “new alliance” of Intellect/political Action? (68)


  1. Multitude as Subjectivity

The predicates we will attribute to the grammatical subject of “multitude” are: a) the principle of individuation, that is, the ancient philosophical question which hinges onwhat enables singularity to be singular and an indi vidual to be individual; b)Foucault’s notion of “bio-politics”: c) emotional tonalities, or Stimmungen, which define, today, the forms of life of the “many:”opportunism and cynicism (let us note, however: by emotional tonality I do not mean a passing psychological rippling, but a characteristic relation with one’s own being in the world); d) lastly, two phenomena, which, analyzed also by Augustine and byPascal, rise to the rank of philosophical themes in Heidegger’s Being and Time: idle talk and curiosity. (75-76)


Multitude signifies: plurality — literally: being-many — as a lasting form of social and political existence, as opposed to the cohesive unity of the people. Thus, multitude consists of a network of individuals; the many are a singularity. (76)


When we speak of a process, or a principle, of individuation, we should keep clearly in mind what precedes individuation itself. This has to do, first of all, with a preindividual reality, that is to say, something common, universal and undifferentiated. The process which produces singularity has a non-individual, pre-individual incipit. (76)


Two of Simondon’s theses are particularly fitting to any discussion of subjectivity in the era of the multitude. The first thesis states that individuation is never concluded, that the pre-individual is never fully translated into singularity. Consequently, according to Simondon, the subject consists of the permanent interweaving of preindividual elements and individuated characteristics; moreover, the subject is this interweaving. (78)


The subject is a battlefield. Not infrequently do pre-individual characteristics seem to call into question the act of individuation: the latter reveals itself to be a precarious, always reversible, result. At other times, on the other hand, it is the precise and exact “I” which appears to endeavor to reduce for itself, with feverish voracity, all of the pre-individual aspects of our experience. (78)


According to Simondon, within the collective we endeavor to refine our singularity, to bring it to its climax. Only within the collective, certainly not within the isolated subject, can perception, language, and productive forces take on the shape of an individuated experience. This thesis allows us to have a better understanding of the opposition between “people” and “multitude.” For the multitude, the collective is not centripetal or coalescent. It is not the locus in which the “general will” is formed and state unity is prefigured. Since the collective experience of the multitude radicalizes, rather than dulling, the process of individuation, the idea that from such experience one could extrapolate a homogeneous trait is to be excluded as a matter of principle; it is also to be excluded that one could “delegate” or “transfer” something to the sovereign. The collective of the multitude, seen as ulterior or second degree individuation, establishes the feasibility of a non-representational democracy. Conversely, we can define a “non-representational democracy” as an individuation of the historical-social pre-individual: science, knowledge, productive cooperation, and general intellect. (79)


In my opinion, to comprehend the rational core of the term “bio-politics,” we should begin with a different concept, a much more complicated concept from a philosophical standpoint: that of labor power. (81)


What does “labor-power” mean? It means potential to produce. Potential, that is to say, aptitude, capacity, dynamis. Generic, undetermined potential: where one particular type of labor or another has not been designated, but any kind of labor is taking place, be it the manufacturing of a car door, or the harvesting of pears, the babble of someone calling in to a phone “party-line,” or the work of a proofreader. Labor-power is “the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in the physical form, the living personality, of a human being” (Capital, Volume l: 270). (81)


The living body becomes an object to be governed not for its intrinsic value, but because it is the substratum of what really matters: labor-power as the aggregate of the most diverse human faculties (the potential for speaking, for thinking, for remembering, for acting, etc.). Life lies at the center of politics when the prize to be won is immaterial (and in itself non-present) labor-power. (83)


It is not a question, here, of the productivity of actual labor, but of the exchangeability of the potential to work. By the mere fact that it can be bought and sold, this potential calls into question the repository from which it is indistinguishable, that is, the living body. (83)


In fact, “labor-power” does not designate one specific faculty, but the entirety of human faculties in as much as they are involved in productive praxis. “Labor-power” is not a proper noun; it is a common noun. (84)


During the twentieth century, nihilism seemed to be a collateral counterpoint to the processes of rationalization both of production and of the State. That is to say: on one side, labor, on the other, the precariousness and changeable nature of urban life. Now, however, nihilism (the practice of not having established practices, etc.) has entered into production, has become a professional qualification, and has been put to work. (85)


Let us begin with this idle talk which positions itself in the preeminent role of social communication, with its independence from every bond or presupposition, with its full autonomy. Autonomy from predefined goals, from limiting tasks, from the obligation of giving a faithful reproduction of the truth. With idle talk the denotative correspondence between things and words reaches a new low. Discourse no longer requires an external legitimization,based upon the events which it concerns. It constitutes in itself an event consisting of itself, which is justified solely by the fact that it happens. (89-90)


Idle talk damages the referential paradigm. The crisis of this paradigm lies at the origin of the mass media. Once they have been freed from the burden of corresponding point by point to the non-linguistic world, terms can multiply indefinitely, generating one from the other. Idle talk has no foundation. This lack of foundation explains the fleeting, and at times vacuous, character of daily interaction. Nevertheless, this same lack of foundation authorizes invention and the experimentation of new discourses at every moment. (90)


It seems to me that idle talk makes up the primary subject of the post-Fordist virtuosity discussed in the second day of our seminar. Virtuosos, as you will recall, are those who produce something which is not distinguishable, nor even separable, from the act of production itself. Virtuosos are simple locuters par excellence. But, now I would add to this definition the non-referenced speakers; that is, the speakers who, while speaking, reflect neither one nor another state of affairs, but determine new states of affairs by means of their very own words: those who, according to Heidegger, engage in idle talk. This idle talk is performative: words determine  acts, events, states of affairs (Austin, How to Do Things with Words). Or, if you wish, it is in idle talk that it is possible to recognize the fundamental nature of performance: not “I bet.” or “I swear,” or “I take this woman as my wife,” but, above all, “I speak.” In the assertion “I speak,” I do something by saying these words; moreover, I declare what it is that I do while I do it. (90)


It goes without saying that distraction is an obstacle to intellectual learning. Things change radically, however, if sensory learning is put into play: this type of learning is absolutely favored and empowered by distraction; it lays claim to a certain level of dispersion and inconstancy. Thus, mass media curiosity is the sensory learning of technically reproducible artifices, the immediate perception of intellectual products, the corporeal vision of scientific paradigms. The senses — or better, the “greed of sight” — succeed in appropriating an abstract reality, that is to say, concepts materialized in technology; and they do so not leaning forward with curiosity butmaking a showy display of distraction. Thus, (absent-minded) curiosity and (non-referential) idle talk are attributes of the contemporary multitude: attributes loaded with ambivalence. naturally; but unavoidable attributes. (93)

Michael Hardy & Antonio Negri “Empire”

December 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Hardt, Michael; Negri, Antonio 2000. Empire. Cambridge; London: Harvard University Press.


1.2 Biopolitical Production

[Foucault n]ever succeeded in pulling his thought away from that structuralist epistemology that guided his research from the beginning. By structuralist epistemology here we mean the reinvention of a functionalist analysis in the realm of the human sciences, a method that effectively sacrifices the dynamic of the system, the creative temporality of its movements, and the ontological substance of cultural and social reproduction. In fact, if at this point we were to ask Foucault who or what drives the system, or rather, who is the “bios,” his response would be ineffable, or nothing at all. What Foucault fails to grasp finally are the real dynamics of production in biopolitical society. (28)


The first consists in the analysis of the recent transformations of productive labor and its tendency to become increasingly immaterial. The central role previously occupied by labor power of mass factory workers in the production of surplus value is today increasingly filled by intellectual, immaterial, and communicative labor power. It is thus necessary to develop a new political theory of value that can pose the problem of this new capitalist accumulation of value at the center of the mechanism of exploitation (and thus, perhaps, at the center of potential revolt). The second, and consequent, research project developed by this school consists in the analysis of the immediately social and communicative dimension of living labor in contemporary capitalist society, and thus poses insistently the problem of the new figures of subjectivity, in both their exploitation and their revolutionary potential. The immediately social dimension of the exploitation of living immaterial labor immerses labor in all the relational elements that define the social but also at the same time activate the critical elements that develop the potential of insubordination and revolt through the entire set of laboring practices. After a new theory of value, then, a new theory of subjectivity must be formulated that operates primarily through knowledge, communication, and language. (29)


The productivity of bodies and the value of affect, however, are absolutely central in this context. We will elaborate the three primary aspects of immaterial labor in the contemporary economy: the communicative labor of industrial production that has newly become linked in informational networks, the interactive labor of symbolic analysis and problem solving, and the labor of the production and manipulation of affects. (30)


The most complete figure of this world is presented from the monetary perspective. From here we can see a horizon of values and a machine of distribution, a mechanism of accumulation and a means of circulation, a power and a language. There is nothing, no “naked life,” no external standpoint, that can be posed outside this field permeated by money; nothing escapes money. Production and reproduction are dressed in monetary clothing. In fact, on the global stage, every biopolitical figure appears dressed in monetary garb. “Accumulate, accumulate” This is Moses and the Prophets!” (32)


The great industrial and financial powers thus produce not only commodities but also subjectivities. They produce agentic subjectivities within the biopolitical context: they produce needs, social relations, bodies, and minds – which is to say, they produce producers. In the biopolitical sphere, life is made to work for production and production is made to work for life. It is a great hive in which the queen bee continuously oversees production and reproduction. (32)


What the theories of power of modernity were forced to consider transcendent, that is, external to productive and social relations, is here formed inside, immanent to the productive and social relations. Mediation is absorbed within the productive machine. The political synthesis of social space is fixed in the space of communication. This is why communications industries have assumed such a central position. They not only organize production on a new scale and impose a new structure adequate to global space, but also make its justification immanent. Power, as it produces, organizes; as it organizes, it speaks and expresses itself as authority. (33)


The communications industries integrate the imaginary and the symbolic within the biopolitical fabric, not merely putting them at the service of power but actually integrating them into its very functioning. (33)


It would be difficult to say which is more important for the Empire, the center or the margins. In fact, center and margin seem continually to be shifting positions, fleeing any determinate locations. We could even say that the process itself is virtual and that is power resides in the power of the virtual. (39)


4.1 Virtualities

When we say that political theory must deal with ontology, we mean first of all that politics cannot be constructed from the outside. Politics is given immediately; it is a field of pure immanence. Empire forms on this superficial horizon where our bodies and minds are embedded. It is purely positive. There is no external logical machine that constitutes it. The most natural thing in the world is that the world appears to be politically united, that the market is global, and that power is organized throughout this universality. Imperial politics articulates being in its global extension – a great sea that only the winds and current move. The neutralization of the transcendental imagination is thus the first sense in which the political in the imperial domain is ontological. (354)


Throughout modernity, the immeasurable was the object of an absolute ban, an epistemological prohibition. This metaphysical illusion disappears today, however, because in the context of biopolitical ontology and its becomings, the transcendent is what is unthinkable. When political transcendence is still claimed today, it descends immediately into tyranny and barbarism. (355)


Labor appears simply as the power to act, which is at once singular and universal: singular insofar as labor has become the exclusive domain of the brain and body of the multitude; and universal insofar as the desire that the multitude expresses in the movement from the virtual to the possible is constantly constituted as a common thing. Only when what is common is formed can production take place and can general productivity rise. Anything that blocks this power to act is merely an obstacle to overcome – an obstacle that is eventually outflanked, weakened, and smashed by the critical powers of labor and the everyday passional wisdom of the affects. The power to act is constituted by labor, intelligence, passion, and affect in one common place. (358)


Imperial command produces nothing vital and nothing ontological. From the ontological perspective, imperial command is purely negative and passive. Certainly power is everywhere, but it is everywhere because everywhere is in play the nexus between virtuality and possibility, a nexus that is the sole province of the multitude. Imperial power is the negative residue, the fallback of the operation of the multitude; it is a parasite that draws its vitality from the multitude’s capacity to create ever new sources of energy and value. A parasite that saps the strength of its host, however, can endanger its own existence. The functioning of imperial power is ineluctably linked to its decline. (362)


Today’s celebrations of the local can be regressive and even fascistic when they oppose circulations and mixture, and thus reinforce the walls of nation, ethnicity, race, people, and the like. The concept of the local, however, need not be defined by isolation and purity. In fact, if one breaks down the walls that surround the local (and thereby separate the concept from race, religion, ethnicity, nation, and people), one can link it directly to the universal. The concrete universal is what allows the multitude to pass from place to place and make its place its own. This is the common place of nomadism and miscegenation. Through circulation the common human species is composed, a multicolored Orpheus of infinite power; through circulation the human community is constituted. Outside every Enlightenment cloud or Kantian reverie, the desire of the multitude is not the cosmopolitical state but a common species. As in a secular Pentecost, the bodies are mixed and the nomads speak a common tongue. (362)


Biopower is the name for the real subsumption of society under capital, and both are synonymous with the globalized productive order. Production fills the surfaces of Empire; it is a machine that is full of life, and intelligent life that by expressing itself in production and reproduction as well as in circulation (of labor, affects, and languages) stamps society with a new collective meaning and recognizes virtue and civilization in cooperation. (365)


Intelligence and affect (or really the brain coextensive with the body), just when they become the primary productive powers, make production and life coincide across the terrain on which they operate, because life is nothing other than the production and reproduction of the set of bodies and brains. (365)


4.3 The Multitude Against Empire

The multitude today […] resides on the imperial surfaces where there is no God the Father and no transcendence. Instead there is our immanent labor. The teleology of the multitude is theurgical; it consists in the possibility of directing technologies and production toward its own joy and its own increase of power. The multitude has no reason to look outside its own history and its own present productive power for the means necessary to lead toward its constitution as a political subject. (396)


A material mythology of reason thus begins to be formed, and it is constructed in the languages, technologies, and all the means that constitute the world of life. It is a material religion of the senses that separates the multitude from every residue of sovereign power and from every “long arm” of Empire. The mythology of reason is the symbolic and imaginative articulation that allows the ontology of the multitude to express itself as activity and consciousness. The mythology of languages of the multitude interprets the telos of an earthly city, torn away by the power of its own destiny from any belonging or subjection to a city of God, which has lost all honor and legitimacy. To the metaphysical and transcendent mediations, to the violence and corruption are thus opposed the absolute constitution of labor and cooperation, the earthly city of the multitude. (396)


If in a first moment the multitude demands that each state recognize juridically the migrations that are necessary to capital, in a second movement it must demand control over the movements themselves. The multitude must be able to decide if, when, and where it moves. It must have the right also to stay still and enjoy one place rather than being forced constantly to be on the move. The general right to control its own movement is the multitude’s ultimate demand for global citizenship. This demand is radical insofar as it challenges the fundamental apparatus of imperial control over the production and life of the multitude. Global citizenship is the multitude’s power to reappropriate control over space and thus to design the new cartography. (400)


In postmodernity […], time is no longer determined by any transcendent measure, any a priori: time pertains directly to existence. Here is where the Aristotelian tradition of measure is broken. In fact, from our perspective the transcendentalism of temporality is destroyed most decisively by the fact that it is now impossible to measure labor, either by convention or by calculation. Time comes back entirely under collective existence and thus resides within the cooperation of the multitude. (401)


[…] time is reappropriated on the plane of immanence. It is not given a priori, but rather bears the stamp of collective action. The new phenomenology of the labor of the multitude reveals labor as the fundamental creative activity that through cooperation goes beyond any obstacle imposed on it and constantly re-creates the world. The activity of the multitude constitutes time beyond measure. Time might thus be defined as the immeasurability of the movement between a before and an after, an immanent process of constitution. (402)


In the biopolitical context of Empire, however, the production of capital converges ever more with the production and reproduction of social life itself; it thus becomes ever more difficult to maintain distinctions among productive, reproductive, and unproductive labor. Labor – material or immaterial, intellectual or corporeal – produces and reproduces social life, and in the process is exploited by capital. (402)


There are no time clocks to punch on the terrain of biopolitical production; the proletariat produces in all its generality everywhere all day long. (403)


This generality of biopolitical production makes clear a second programmatic political demand of the multitude: a social wage and a guaranteed income for all. The social wage stands opposed first of all to the family wage, that fundamental weapon of the sexual division of labor by which the wage paid for the productive labor of the male worker is conceived also to pay for the unwaged reproductive labor of the worker’s wife and dependents at home. (403)


It is not even possible to support the old slogan “equal pay for equal work” when labor cannot be individualized and measured. The demand for a social wage extends to the entire population the demand that all activity necessary for the production of capital be recognized with an equal compensation such that a social wage is really a guaranteed income. Once citizenship is extended to all, we could call this guaranteed income a citizenship income, due each as a member of society. (403)


[…] in the imperial regime ideology, critique becomes directly the critique of both political economy and lived experience. How can sense and meaning be oriented differently or organized in alternative, coherent communicative apparatuses? How can we discover and direct the performative lines of linguistic sets and communicative networks that create the fabric of life and production? Knowledge has to become linguistic action and philosophy has to become a real reappropriation of knowledge. In other words, knowledge and communication have to constitute life through struggle. A first aspect of the telos is posed when the apparatuses that link communication to modes of life are developed through the struggle of the multitude. (404)


Now we can formulate a third political demand of the multitude: the right to reappropriation. The right to reappropriation is first of all the right to the reappropriation of the means of production. Socialists and communists have long demand that the proletariat have free access to and control over the machines and materials it uses to produce. In the context of immaterial and biopolitical production, however, this traditional demand takes on a new guise. The multitude not only uses machines to produce, but also becomes increasingly machinic itself, as the means of production are increasingly integrated into the minds and bodies of the multitude. (406)


[…] reappropriation means having free access to and control over knowledge, information, communication, and affects – because these are some of the primary means of biopolitical production. Just because these productive machines have been integrated into the multitude does not mean that the multitude has control over them. Rather, it makes more vicious and injurious their alienation. The right to reappropriation is really the multitude’s right to self-control and autonomous self-production. (407)