Archive for the ‘kapitalism’ Category

Michael Dillon & Luis Lobo-Guerrero “The Biopolitical Imaginary of Species Being”

April 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Dillon, Michael; Lobo-Guerrero, Luis 2009. The Biopolitical Imaginary of Species Being. Theory, Culture & Society 26(1): 1-23

Here, in the 21st century, under a rapidly evolving bioeconomical regime, we are dealing with a biopolitical imaginary governed by two, albeit intimately related, transformatory processes. The first concerns the transformation of what it is to be a living thing which are taking place under the molecularisation of life, The second is concerned with the transformation of life into value, in the form of commodity and capital, which is taking place under the globalisation of capital.

What these authors nonetheless do share is a discourse of being which is not confined to life, and a discourse of belonging which is not confined to value thinking, the politics of subjectivity and identity politics, or the rigours of economic exchange.

One has to be classifiable to exist in species terms. One now has to be classifiable as informational code to be admitted to the category of contemporary biological species. One has to be in circulation as value to exist as economic species. In contesting these intimately related processes, these authors clarify how the political imaginary of species being demarcates and differentiates itself specifically by excluding from its very imagining, the invaluable, the incalculable, the un-encodable, the irredeemably opaque, the defiant, and the simply non-circulating. Theirs is in many ways a preoccupation with the not knowable that contours every form of knowing.

They go two disturbing steps further. They demonstrate how valuation as such excludes the invaluable. Excluding the invaluable, they also explain, is a profoundly violent process.

And there are life forms that may be fundamentally inimical to life itself. Weighing life is not something that only biopolitics does. It is how biopolitics weighs life as species being which differentiates the biopolitical imaginary.

When life as species being and freedom as technique were first brought into the domain of rule, technologies of freedom were first linked then also to changing understandings of ‘life’ as species being. Governing through freedom thereby became susceptible to changing accounts of species being; because the life of species being and the rule of freedom are so intimately implicated in biopolitical governance and regulation.

Taking our lead from The Order of Things, in which Foucault specified how Life, Labour and Language, comprised the quasi-transcendentals of ‘Man’, we conclude that a new order of the real has emerged represented less by the politics of ‘Man’ and more by what Nikolas Rose describes as the politics of ‘Life Itself’

If the proper study of ‘Man’ was once said to be ‘Man’, ultimately the proper study of the complex adaptive behaviour of species being as emergent whose positivities are now specified in terms of Circulation, Connectivity and Complexity is that of  the ‘Contingency’ universally claimed to pervade the living of living things these days.

However much freedom is an artefact of liberal regimes of power, it has ineluctably also become linked in biopolitics to the prevailing cultural and scientific expression of what it is to be a living thing. Governing through freedom increasingly thereby becomes governing through Contingency. Such governing through Contingency is increasingly also governing through emergency, since the complex adaptive emergence of the contemporary understanding of what it is to be a living thing is the emergency of its continuous emergence.

Governing through Contingency necessarily, therefore, operates through a hypertrophy of in-security in which the powers of freedom are continuously evolved with the powers of surveillance and emergence in the positive development of a permanent state of emergency […]

Liquefaction of information served the commodification of language. Liquefaction and commodification via information also serves to intensify the liquefaction and commodification of life understood informationally. Circulating bodies these days simply are, bodies-in-formation.

Here, then, while economic circulation and exchange, together with commodification, is obviously fundamental, Foucault locates economic circulation within a much broader account of Circulation, such that the economy relies upon other circulatory factors and considerations.

Circulation is also a function of Connectivity; a matter in effect of ‘propinquity’. Circulation helps engender new forms of nearness, proximity and association different from those of cultural specificity or territorial contiguity.

Concerned with collective phenomena, then, whose economic and political effects only become pertinent at the level of the mass, biopolitically relevant phenomena are Foucault notes: ‘phenomena that are aleatory and unpredictable when taken in themselves or individually, but which at the collective level, display constraints that are easy or at least possible to establish’ (2003: 246).

In as much as biopolitics is a security dispositif, he says, ‘[S]ecurity mechanisms have to be installed around the random element inherent in a population of living beings so as to optimise a state of life’ (2003: 246).

It [contingency] is an ontological as well as an epistemic category. In particular it is important to emphasise in addition that contingency’s provenance and prominence these days is founded in its association with the biopolitical imaginary of species being – specifically what it is to be a living thing – and the ethos and structure of the bioeconomy in which the properties of living things are employed to create value.

It is the property of life as emergence, both its ontological condition and its adaptive, epistemic, challenge.  Thus governing biopolitically turns Contingency – the definitive property of life in the biopolitical imaginary of species being – into the definitive epistemic object of rule.

The epistemic challenge that it is said to face in seeking to govern the emergent conditions of its own very own condition of possibility as species existence, species being must know and govern through command of Contingency. The proper study of the politics of life itself thus becomes the scientific study of the contingent.

In short, traditional classifications as well as traditional modes of classifying – the very reliability of taxonomising as such – become radically problematised as what it is to be a living thing becomes equated with information or code. The reason is that this movement is reversible.

Whereas for the governmental Foucault, therefore, freedom was an artefact of liberal regimes of power/knowledge (hence the phrase ruling or governing through freedom), for the biopolitical Foucault, as species replaces subject, another worm is seen to enter into the liberal ordering of things. For when rule takes ‘life’ as its referent object, freedom becomes critically dependent on the specification of species existence. Rule through freedom that takes life as its referent object begins to shift its character accordingly. Above all it becomes grounded in Contingency.

Freedom founded in radical Contingency changes the very nature of the freedom through which biopolitical rule progresses, as well as the techniques that it employs. It is that which accounts for the astonishing expansion and complexification of the domain of risk, the emphasis on resilience and ultimately also the hypertrophy of in-security – the emergency of emergence – that began to characterise liberal societies long before the war on terror precipitated it into a juridical state of emergency. Amongst other things, it is the logic of the care for life that is driving pre-emption globally as much as it is health care prevention locally (BMA, 2005).


Brian Massumi “Requiem for Our Prospective Dead”

March 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Massumi, Brian 1998. Requiem for Our Prospective Dead (Toward a Participatory Critique of Capitalism). – Kaufman, Eleanor; Heller, Kevin Jon (eds). Deleuze and Guattari: New Mappings in Politics, Philosophy, and Culture. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press: 40-64

The object of capitalist power does not preexist the exercise of that power. Productive power is exercised on points of indeterminacy: on molecules of genericness fusing singular atoms of sociality in an unstable primal soup of power. (54)

Every socially recognized class is a potential market. Productive capitalist power is directly a market-expansion tool; and conversely, every market-expansion tool is directly a form of capitalist power. The creation of a niche market through advertising is the creation of niche power-object that is also a potential political constituency. Social emergence, the irruption of new forces of existence, are precapitalized. In other words, the power to exist has been transformed into an internal variable of the capitalist supersystem. (55)

Life and death are fused in the generic figure of „humanity“ in crisis, then are reparticularized, reimplanted, proceduralized, and valorized in a variety of ways. (55)

It is as artificial to separate command from control as it is to separate death from life. Command (power over life, power of death) and control (power to enliven), though really distinct, cofunction. They are intervowen into the fabric of everyday life, and their uneasy ground-level mixes can be seen to lie along the same continuum of power. On that continuum, the quality of their respective effects converge. On the one hand, the command subtraction of a potential provokes a reflexive evasion or adaptive alteration: command is also productive of life; control is its by-product. On the other hand, the field of noncoercive, incitative, power-of-control channelings is punctuated and porously delimited by command attacks, to which it regularly appeals in self-defense. Command and control are reciprocal by-products, as are life and death. (56)

Foucault’s disciplinary institutions can be seen as normative command centers radiating control, productive less of sovereignty than of eddies of social order. (56)

„Control“ is best taken in a sense close to its cybernetic sense: systems’ control of input, output, and the transformative operations effected in the autonomous machine – applied to bodies (defined as broadly as possible, to include images) rather than to information. (57)

Control involves the assimilation of powers of existence, at the moment of their emergence (their phased passing), into a classificatory schema determining normative orbits around which procedural parameters for negotiation and advocacy are set. It has to do with the production of socially valorized normative entities. (57)

The meaning of normative has changed. Normativity becomes synonymous with collective visibility and social operativity – with living itself (and with illness and death „with dignity“, in other words actively transformed int an affirmation of life). (57)

The principle of modulation states that the capitalist supersystem must be characterized, globally, as a modulatory social control system conditioned by and conditioning command (the „political“ defined narrowly as autocratic decision backed by effective force). (58)

Deviance, decoding, and structural escape are also, in effect, determined (as channeled transformative passage, captive social fluidity productive of new norms, codes, symbolic structures). (59)

In the deregulatroy environment of contemporary capitalism, every apparatus of government power is under intense pressure to reinvent itself as a self-reflective, self-producing system subordinated less to the will of a „people“ than to measurable output criteria defined in directly capitalist terms („productivity“ and „profitability“). (59)

Resistance, if it is possible (and again, I think it is), needs to be reinscribed in the generic. As it is usually conceived, resistance starts from a particularity and either defends or deepens that particularity. But particularity is an effect of the very system of determination that resistance is meant to resist. It is a reductive embodiment of the singular-generic in a serially determinate, normatively specifiable entity. Resistance must be reconceptualized as an operation on the generic: its direct embodiment as multply singular. The tactical embodiment of the groundless ground of capitalist power would short-circuit its channelings. It would dephase controlled emergence: in other words, envelop locally the globality of its phasings (this is the technical definition of „singularity“ in chaos theory). Resistance would be the condensation of vital powers of emergence – and multiple deaths. In other words, it would define itself less as an oppositional pracitce than as a pragmatics of intensified ontogenesis: at life’s ledge. This is the countercapitalist principle of vitalist metaconstructivism. This principle can only be fully theorized through its own pragmatic application. In other words, experimentation. (60)