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Alain Badiou “The Communist Hypothesis”

November 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Badiou, Alain 2008. The Communist Hypothesis. New Left Review 49: 29-42.

If we posit a definition of politics as ‘collective action, organized by certain principles, that aims to unfold the consequences of a new possibility which  is  currently  repressed  by  the  dominant  order’,  then  we  would have to conclude that the electoral mechanism is an essentially apolitical procedure. (31)

What is the communist hypothesis? In its generic sense, given in its canonic Manifesto,  ‘communist’  means,  first,  that  the  logic  of  class—the  fundamental  subordination  of  labour  to  a  dominant  class,  the arrangement  that  has  persisted  since  Antiquity—is  not  inevitable;  it can be overcome. The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicable, one that will eliminate the inequality of wealth and even the division of labour. The private appropriation of mas-sive fortunes and their transmission by inheritance will disappear. The existence of a coercive state, separate from civil society, will no longer appear a necessity: a long process of reorganization based on a free association of producers will see it withering away. (34-35)

‘Communism’ as such denotes only this very general set of intellectual representations. It is what Kant called an Idea, with a regulatory function,  rather  than  a  programme.  It  is foolish  to  call  such  communist principles utopian; in the sense that I have defined them here they are intellectual patterns, always actualized in a different fashion. As a pure Idea of equality, the communist hypothesis has no doubt existed since the beginnings of the state. (35)

The political problem, then, has to be reversed. We cannot start from an  analytic  agreement  on  the  existence  of  the  world  and  proceed  to normative action with regard to its characteristics. The disagreement is not over qualities but over existence. Confronted with the artificial and murderous division of the world into two—a disjunction named by the very term, ‘the West’—we must affirm the existence of the single world right from the start, as axiom and principle. The simple phrase, ‘there  is  only  one  world’,  is  not  an  objective conclusion.  It  is  perfor-mative:  we  are  deciding  that  this  is  how  it  is  for  us. (38)

A first consequence is the recognition that all belong to the same world as myself: the African worker I see in the restaurant kitchen, the Moroccan I see digging a hole in the road, the veiled woman looking after children in a park. That is where we reverse the dominant idea of the world united by objects and signs, to make a unity in terms of living, acting beings, here and now. (39)

The single world of living women and men may well have laws; what it cannot have is subjective or ‘cultural’ preconditions for existence within it—to demand that you have to be like everyone else. The single world is precisely the place where an unlimited set of differences exist. Philosophically, far from casting doubt on the unity of the world, these differences are its principle of existence. (39)

The  simplest  definition  of  ‘identity’  is the series of characteristics and properties by which an individual or a group recognizes itself as its ‘self’. But what is this ‘self’? It is that which, across all the characteristic properties of identity, remains more or less invariant. It is possible, then, to say that an identity is the ensemble of properties that support an invariance. (39-40)

Defined  in  this  way,  by  invariants,  identity  is  doubly  related  to  difference: on the one hand, identity is that which is different from the rest;  on  the  other,  it  is  that  which  does  not  become  different,  which is invariant. The affirmation of identity has two further aspects. The first form is negative. It consists of desperately maintaining that I am not  the  other. […] The second involves the immanent development of identity within a new situation—rather like Nietzsche’s famous maxim, ‘become what you are’. The Moroccan worker does not abandon that which constitutes his individual identity, whether socially or in the family; but he will gradually adapt all this, in a creative fashion, to the place in which he finds himself. He will thus invent what he is—a Moroccan worker in Paris—not through any internal rupture, but by an expansion of identity. (40)

The political consequences of the axiom, ‘there is only one world’, will work  to  consolidate  what  is  universal  in  identities.  An  example—a local experiment—would be a meeting held recently in Paris, where undocumented  workers  and  French  nationals  came  together  to demand the abolition of persecutory laws, police raids and expulsions; to demand that foreign workers be recognized simply in terms of their presence: that no one is illegal; all demands that are very natural for people who are basically in the same existential situation—people of the same world. (40)

The virtue of courage constructs itself through endurance within the impossible; time is its raw material. What takes courage is to operate in terms of a different durée to that imposed by the law of the world. The point we are seeking must be one that can connect to another order of time. (41)

Nikolas Rose “The Politics of Life Itself”

April 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Rose, Nikolas 2001. The Politics of Life Itself. Theory, Culture & Society 18(6): 1-30

Of course, programmes of preventive medicine, of health promotion and health education still take, as their object, ‘the nation’s health’. Today, however, the rationale for political interest in the health of the population is no longer framed in terms of the consequences of unfitness of the population as an organic whole for the struggle between nations. Instead it is posed in economic terms – the costs of ill-health in terms of days lost from work or rising insurance contributions – or moral terms – the imperative to reduce inequalities in health. (5)

[…] within the political rationalities that I have termed ‘advanced liberal’ the contemporary relation between the biological life of the individual and the well-being of the collective is posed somewhat differently (Rose, 1996). It is no longer a question of seeking to classify, identify, and eliminate or constrain those individuals bearing a defective consti-tution, or to promote the reproduction of those whose biological character-istics are most desirable, in the name of the overall fitness of the population, nation or race. Rather, it consists in a variety of strategies that try to identify, treat, manage or administer those individuals, groups or localities where risk is seen to be high. (7)

Decision-making in the biomedical context takes place within a set of power relations that we could term ‘pastoral’. […] But this contemporary pastoral power is not organized or admin-istered by ‘the state’ […]Crucially, this pastoral power does not concern itself with the flock as a whole. […]Perhaps one might best describe this form of pastoral power as relational. It works through the relation between the affects and ethics of the guider – the genetic counsellors and allied experts of reproduction who operate as gatekeepers to tests and medical procedures – and the affects and ethics of the guided – the actual or potential parents who are making their repro-ductive decisions, and upon their networks of responsibility and obligation. (9)

These counselling encounters entail intense bi-directional affec-tive entanglements between all the parties to the encounter, and indeed generate multiple ‘virtual’ entanglements with parties not present – distant relatives, absent siblings, potential offspring. In these entanglements, the ethical relations of all the subjects to themselves and to one another are at stake – including the experts themselves. (10)

It is not surprising, then, that there is much professional optimism about the impact of recent advances in genomics, which seem to have the potential to shift the focus of regulatory strategies from group risk to indi-vidual susceptibility. Diagnoses of susceptibility attempt to move beyond the allocation of individuals to a risk group on the basis of factors and probabilities, to a precise identification of those particular individuals who are vulnerable to specific conditions or behavioural problems. (11)

Since it is now routine for doctors well as geneticists to consider that any individual’s vulnerability to any disease has a genetic component, consisting mostly of multiple genes and their interactions amongst themselves and with other environmental and biographical factors, the gaze of susceptibility is potentially unlimited. (11-12)

what is created here is what Ian Hacking (1992, 1995) might term a new and ‘interactive’ ‘human kind’: the individual biologically – increasing genetically – risky or at risk.

Thus these new practices for the identification of susceptibilities open a space of uncertainty. This is the expanding realm of the asymp-tomatically or presymptomatically ill – those individuals carrying the markers or polymorphisms of susceptibility who are neither phenomeno-logically or experientially ‘sick’ or ‘abnormal’. While the calculation of risk often seems to promise a technical way of resolving ethical questions, these new kinds of susceptibility offer no clear-cut algorithm for the decisions of doctors or their actual or potential patients. In this space, biopolitics becomes ethopolitics. (12)

The norm of indi-vidual health replaced that of the quality of the population. (13 – in liberal genetics)

Hence, the politics of the life sciences – the politics of life itself – has been shaped by those who controlled the human, technical and financial resources necessary to fund such endeavours. (15)

Biopolitics becomes bioeconomics, driven by the search for what Catherine Waldby has termed ‘biovalue’: the production of a surplus out of vitality itself (Waldby, 2000: 19).

The classical distinction made in moral philosophy between that which is not human – ownable, tradeable, commodifiable – and that which is human – not legitimate material for such commodifica-tion – no longer seems so stable. (16)

But an event is a matter of associ-ations, linking up a number of disparate little changes such that a thresh-old is crossed. That which was previously exceptional, remarkable, becomes routinely thinkable, perhaps even expected. Now all life processes seem to consist in intelligible chains of events that can be ‘reverse engineered’ and then reconstructed in the lab, and modified so that they unfold in different ways. (16)

Life now appears to be open to shaping and reshap-ing at the molecular level: by precisely calculated interventions that prevent something happening, alter the way something happens, make something new happen in the cellular processes themselves. As the distinction between treatment and enhancement, between the natural and the prosthetic blurs, the management and maximization of life itself have become the life’s work, not only of each individual, but of their doctors, together with the scientists, entrepreneurs and corporations who make the reworking of life the object of their knowledge, inventions and products (on enhancement, see Parens et al., 1998). Natural life can no longer serve as the ground or norm against which a politics of life may be judged. Dilemmas about what we are, what we are capable of, what we may hope for, now have a molecular form. Biopolitics now addresses human existence at the molecular level: it is waged about molecules, amongst molecules, and where the molecules themselves are at stake. (16-17)

The original biopolitical thesis implied a separation between those who calculated and exercised power and those who were its subjects, whose bio-logical existence was to be shaped for the benefit of each and all. This does seem to characterize policies seeking to modify the breeding patterns of individuals in the name of the population; the bloody techniques of negative eugenics; medical experimentation on prisoners and psychiatric inmates; euthanasia of those whose lives are not worth living; even such benign strategies as medical inspection of schoolchildren. (17)

In the second half of the 20th century, a new alliance formed between political aspirations for a healthy population and personal aspirations to be well: health was to be ensured by instrumentalizing anxiety and shaping the hopes and fears of individuals and families for their own biological destiny. The very idea of health was re-figured – the will to health would not merely seek the avoid-ance of sickness or premature death, but would encode an optimization of one’s corporeality to embrace a kind of overall ‘well-being’ – beauty, success, happiness, sexuality and much more. (17)

By the start of the 21st century, hopes, fears, decisions and life-routines shaped in terms of the risks and possibilities in corporeal and biological existence had come to supplant almost all others as organizing principles of a life of prudence, responsi-bility and choice. Selfhood has become intrinsically somatic – ethical practices increas-ingly take the body as a key site for work on the self. (18 – somatic individuality)

Biopolitics, here, merges with what I have termed ‘ethopolitics’: the politics of life itself and how it should be lived (Rose, 1999). […]In ethopolitics, life itself, as it is lived in its everyday manifestations, is the object of adjudication. If discipline indi-vidualizes and normalizes, and biopower collectivizes and socializes, ethopolitics concerns itself with the self-techniques by which human beings should judge themselves and act upon themselves to make themselves better than they are. (18)

As somatic individuals engage with vital politics, a new ethics of life itself is taking shape.

Within this new ethics, the human vital order has become so thoroughly imbued with artifice that even the natural has to be produced by a labour on the self – natural food, natural childbirth and the like. Even choosing not to intervene in living processes becomes a kind of intervention. (19)

On the one hand, our very personhood is increasingly being defined by others, and by ourselves, in terms of our contemporary understandings of the possibilities and limits of our corporeality. On the other hand, our somatic individuality has become opened up to choice, prudence and responsibility, to experimentation, to contestation – and so to a ‘vital politics’. (20)

‘The philosophical status’ – indeed the very ontology – of human beings is being reshaped through the decisions of entrepreneurs as to where to invest their capital and which lines of biomedical research and development to pursue. (20)

I have argued that life, today, is not imagined as an unalterable fixed endowment, biology as destiny, where the reproduction of individuals with a defective constitution is to be administered by experts in the interests of the future of the population. No longer are judgements organized in terms of a clear binary of normality and pathology. (20-21)

For the political vocation of the life sciences today is tied to the belief that in most, maybe all cases, if not now then in the future, the biological risky or at risk individual, once identified and assessed, may be treated or transformed by medical intervention at the molecular level. In the process, the familiar dis-tinction between illness and health has become problematic and contested. (21)

Two modes of such a ‘biological ethics’ are particularly striking. On the one hand, human rights now have a biological dimension and, partly in consequence, have gained a new kind of ‘species universality’. Legal, political and social rights were first linked to the capacities and obligations of individuals who were elements of a political association. But now, it seems, each human being has such rights, simply by virtue of their exist-ence as beings of this human kind. Individuals seem to have acquired a kind of biological citizenship – a universal human right to the protection, at least, of each human person’s bare life and the dignity of their living vital body. In the geopolitics of famine, drought, war and ethnic cleansing, in the vociferous anti-capitalist and anti-globalization movements, and in the local politics of health, it is now possible for human beings to demand the pro-tection of the lives of themselves and others in no other name than that of their biological existence and the rights and claims it confers. (21)

Michael Hardt “The Withering of Civil Society”

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Hardt, Michael 1995. The Withering of Civil Society. – Social Text No. 45: 27-44

In order to situate Foucault’s work on the terrain of Hegel’s civil society,  however,  we  need  to  take  a  step back  and  elaborate  some  of  the nuances  of  Foucault’s  theoretical perspective.  Hegel’s  understanding  of the  historical rise  of  civil  society and  the generalization of  its  educative social role does  correspond in several respects to the process  that Michel Foucault  calls the governmentalization of  the  State. (32)

The  exertion of power is organized through deployments,  which  are at once  ideological, institutional, and corporeal. This  is  not to say that there is no  State, but rather that it cannot effectively be isolated and contested  at a level separate from society. In Foucault’s framework, the modern State is not properly understood  as  the  transcendent  source  of  power  relations in society. On  the contrary, the State as such is better understood  as a result, the consolidation  or  molarization of  forces  of  “statization” (etatisation) immanent  to social power relations. (33)

The  State, Hegel  claims, is not the result but the cause; Foucault adds, not a transcendent but an immanent cause, statization, immanent  to  the  various  channels,  institutions, or  enclosures  of social production. (33)

Deleuze  suggests that it is more adequate, then, to understand the collapse of the walls defined by the enclosures not as  some  sort  of  social  evacuation but  rather as  the generalization of  the logics that previously functioned  within these limited domains  across the entire  society,  spreading like  a  virus.  The  logic of  capitalist production perfected  in  the factory now  invests  all forms  of  social production.  The same might  be  said also  for the school, the family, the hospital,  and the other disciplinary institutions. (35)

The  panopticon,  and disciplinary diagrammatics in general, functioned primarily in  terms  of  positions,  fixed points,  and identities. Foucault saw the production of identities (even “oppositional” or “deviant” identities, such as the factory worker and the homosexual)  as fundamental to the functions of rule in disciplinary societies. The  diagram of  control,  however,  is  not  oriented  toward position  and  identity, but rather toward mobility  and  anonymity. It  functions  on  the  basis  of  “the whatever,”5 the flexible and mobile performance of  contingent identities, and thus its assemblages or institutions are elaborated primarily through repetition and the production of simulacra. (36)

Control functions  on  the plane of  the simulacra of  society. The  anonymity and whateverness of the  societies  of control is precisely what gives them their smooth  surfaces. (37)

Marx calls the subsumption of labor real, then, when the labor processes themselves are born within capital and therefore when  labor  is incorporated not  as  an  external,  but  an  internal force, proper to capital itself. (38)

In this light, the real subsumption  appears as the completion  of capital’s project  and  the  fulfillment  of  its longstanding dream-to  present itself  as  separate from labor, and pose  a  capitalist society that does  not look to labor as its dynamic foundation. (39)

What  is subsumed, what  is accepted  into  the process,  is  no longer a potentially conflictive force but a product of the system itself; the real subsumption does not extend vertically throughout the various strata of society but rather constructs  a separate plane, a simulacrum of society that excludes  or marginalizes social  forces foreign to  the system. Social capital thus appears to reproduce itself autonomously, as if it were emancipated from the working class, and labor becomes  invisible in the system. The  contemporary decline  of labor unions  in both  juridical and political terms, as the right to organize and the right to strike become  increasingly irrelevant in  the constitution,  is only  one  symptom of  this  more  general
passage. (39)

Not  the State,  but  civil  society has  withered  away! In  other  words,  even  if  one were  to  consider  civil  society  politically  desirable-and  I hope  to  have shown that this position is at least contestable-the  social conditions necessary for civil society no longer exist. (40)

Civil society, as we  have seen, is  central to  a form of rule, or government, as Foucault says, that focuses, on the one  hand, on the identity of the citizen and the processes  of civilization and, on the other hand, on the organization  of  abstract labor. […] What has come  to  an end,  or more  accurately declined in importance in postcivil  society, then, are precisely these  functions  of  mediation or education and the institutions that gave them form. (40)

Instead  of  disciplining  the  citizen  as  a  fixed social identity, the new social regime seeks to control the citizen as a whatever identity, or rather as an infinitely flexible placeholder for identity. It tends  to  establish  an  autonomous  plane  of  rule,  a  simulacrum  of  the social-separate from  the  terrain  of  conflictive  social  forces. Mobility, speed, and flexibility are the qualities that characterize this separate plane of  rule.  The  infinitely programmable machine,  the  ideal  of  cybernetics, gives us at least an approximation of the diagram of the new paradigm of rule. (40-41)

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

October 19, 2011 Leave a comment

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

 

Key Concepts

Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governmentality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(…)

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

Agamben “The Coming Community”

Agamben, Giorgio 2005. The Coming Community. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

The coming being is whatever being. […] The common translation of this term [quodlibet] as „whatever” in the sense of „it does not matter which, indifferently” is certainly correct, but in its form the Latin says exactly the opposite: Quodlibet ens is not „being, it does not matter which,” but rather „being such that it always matters.” (1)

One concept that escapes the antinomy of the universal and the particular has long been familiar to us: the example. In any context where it exerts its force, the example is characterized by the fact that it holds for all cases of the same type, and, at the same time, it is included among these. It is one singularity among others, which, however, stands for each of them and serves for all. On one hand, every example is treated in effect as a real particular case; but on the other, it remains understood that it cannot serve in its particularity. Neither particular nor universal, the example is a singular object that presents itself as such, that shows its singularity. […] Exemplary being is purely linguistic being. Exemplary is what is not defined by any property, except by being-called. (9-10)

It is the Most Common that cuts off any real community. Hence the impotent omnivalence of whatever being. It is neither apathy not promiscuity nor resignation. These pure singularities communicate only in the empty space of the example, without being tied by any common property, by any identity. They are expropriated of all identity, so as to appropriate belonging to itself […] (10-11)

Truth cannot be shown except by showing the false, which is not, however, cut off and cast aside somewhere else. On the contrary, according to the etymology of the verb patefacere, which means „to open” and is linked to spatium, truth is revealed only by giving space or giving a place to non-truth – that is, as a taking-place of the false, as an exposure of its own innermost impropriety. (13)

Whatever is the matheme of singularity, without which it is impossible to conceive either being or the individuation of singularity. (17)

This means that the idea and common nature do not consitute the essence of singularity, that singularity is, in this sense, absolutely inessential, and that, consequently, the criterion of its difference should be sought elsewhere than in an essence or a concept. The relationship between the common and the singular can thus no longer be conceived as the persistence of an identical essence in single individuals, and therefore the very problem of individuation risks appearing as a pseudoproblem. (18)

Decisive here is the idea of an inessential commonality, a solidarity that in no way concerns and essence. Taking-place, the communication of singularities in the attribute of extension, does not unite them in essence, but scatters them in existence. (18-19)

Whatever is the thing with all its properties, none of which, however, constitutes difference. […] the human face is neither the individuation of a generic facies nor the universalization of singular traits: It is whatever face, in which what belongs to common nature and what is proper are absolutely indifferent. (19)

[…] the passage from potentiality to act, from common form to singularity, is not an event accomplished once and for all, but an infinite series of modal oscillations. (19)

The passage from potentiality to act, from language to the word, from the common to the proper, comes about every time as a shuttling in both directions along a line of sparkling alteration on which common nature and singularity, potentiality and act change roles and interpenetrate. The being that is engendered on this line is whatever being, and the manner in which it passes from the common to the proper and from the proper to the common is called usage – or rather, ethos. (20)

What is most proper to every creature is thus its subtitutability, its being in any case in the place of the other. (23)

Ease is the proper name of this unrepresentable space. The term „ease” in fact designates, according to its etymology, the space adjacent, the empty place where each can move freely, in a semantic constellation where spatial proximity borders on opportune time (ad-agio, moving at ease) and convenience borders on the correct relation. […] In this sense, ease names perfectly that „free use of the proper” […] (25)

Only the idea of this modality of rising forth, this original mannerism of being, allows us to find a common passage between ontology and ethics. The being that does not remain below itself, that does not presuppose itself as a hidden essence that chance or destiny would then condemn to the torment of qualifications, but rather exposes itself in its qualifications, is its thus without remainder – such a being is neither accidental nor necessary, but is, so to speak, continually engendered from its own manner. (28)

Perhaps the only way to understand this free use of the self, a way that does not, however, treat existence as a property, is to think of it as a habitus, an ethos. (28-29) – But a manner of rising forth is also the place of whatever singularity […] (29)

The being that is properly whatever is able to not-be; it is capable of its own impotence. Everything rests here on the mode in which the passage from potentiality to act comes about. The symmetry between the potentiality to be and the potentiality to not-be is, in effect, only apparent. In the potentiality to be, potentiality has as its object a certain act, in the sense that for it energhein, being-in-act, can only mean passing to a determinate activity […] as for the potentiality to not-be, on the other hand, the act can never consist of a simple transition de potentia ad actum: It is, in other words, a potentiality that has as its object potentiality itself, a potentia potentiae. (35-36)

Only a powe that is capable of both power and impotence, then, is the supreme power. (36)

The world is now and forever necessarily contingent or contingently necessary. Between the not being able to not-be that sanctions the decree of necessity and the being able to not-be that defines fluctuating contingency, the finite world suggests a contingency to the second power that does not found any freedom: It is capable of not-being, it is capable of the irreparable. (40)

The fact that must contitute the point of departure for any discourse on ethics is that there is no essence, no historical or spiritual vocation, no biological destiny that humans must enact or realize. This is the only reason why something like an ethics can exist, because it is clear that if humans were or had to be this or that substance, this or that destiny, no ethical experience would be possible – there would be only tasks to be done. (43)

There is in effect something that humans are and have to be, but this something is not an essence nor properly a thing: It is the simple fact of one’s own existence as possibility or potentiality. (43)

Breaking away from the double chains of biological destiny and individual biography, it took its leave of both the inarticulate cry of the tragic body and the dumb silence of the comic body, and thus appeared for the first time perfectly communicable, entirely illuminated. […] the body now became something truly whatever. (48)

While commodification unanchors the body from its theological model, it still preserves the resemblance: Whatever is a resemblance without archetype – in other words, an Idea. (48)

This is also the basic exodus of the human figure from the artwork of our times and the decline of portraiture: The task of the portrait is grasping a unicity, but to grasp a whaterverness one needs a photographic lens. (49)

And yet it is precisely this tiny displacement, this „everything will be as it is now, just a little different,” that is difficult to explain. This cannot refer simply to real circumstances, in the sense that the nose of the blessed one will become a little shorter […] The tiny displacement does not refer to the state of things, but to their sense and their limits. It does not take place in things, but at their periphery, in the space of ease between every thing and itself. This means that even though perfection does not imply a real mutation it does not simply involve an external state of things, an incurable „so be it.” (54)

[…] if instead of continuing to search for a proper identity in the already improper and senseless form of individuality, humans were to succeed in belonging to this impropriety as such, in making of the proper being-thus not an identity and an individual property a singularity without identity, a common and absolutely exposed singularity – if humans could, that is, not be-thus in this or that particular biography, but be only the thus, their singular exteriority and their face, then they would for the first time enter into a community without presuppositions and without subjects, into a communication without the incommunicable. (65)

Whatever is the figure of singularity. Whatever singularity has no identity, it is not determinate with respect to a concept, but neither is it simply indeterminate; rather it is determined only through its relation to an idea, that is, to the totality of its possibilities. Through this relation, as Kant said, singularity borders all possibility and thus receives its omnimoda determinatio not from its participation in a determinate concept or some actual property […] but only by means of this bordering. It belongs to a whole, but without this belonging’s being able to be represented by a real condition: Belonging, being-such, is here only the relation to an empty and indeterminate totality. (67)

Whatever adds to singularity only an emptiness, only a threshold: Whatever is a singularity plus an empty space, a singularity that is finite and, nonetheless, indeterminable according to a concept. But a singularity plus an empty space can only be a pure exteriority, a pure exposure. Whatever, in this sense, is the event of an outside. (67)

The outside is not another space that resides beyond a determinate space, but rather, it is the passage, the exteriority that gives it access – in a word, it is its face, its eidos. The threshold is not, in this sense, another thing with respect to the limit; it is, so to speak, the experience of the limit itself, the experience of being-within an outside. This ek-stasis is the gift that singularity gathers from the empty hands of humanity. (68)

Being-called or being-in-language is the non-predicative property par excellence that belongs to each member of a class and at the same time makes its belonging an aporia. (73)

In other words, in the terms that interest us here, if the word through which a thing is expressed were either something other than the thing itself or identical to it, then it would not be able to express the thing. (74)

Whatever is singularity insofar as it relates not (only) to the concept, but (also) to the idea. This relation does not found a new class, but is, in each class, that which draws singularity from its synonymy, from its belonging to a class, not toward any absence of name or belonging, but toward the name itself, toward a pure and anonymous homonymy. While the network of concepts continually introduces synonymous relations, the idea is that which intervenes every time to shatter the pretense of absoluteness in these relations, showing their inconsistency. Whatever does not therefore mean only […] “substracted from the authority of language, without any possible denomination, indiscernible”; it means more exactly that which, holding itself in simple homonymy, in pure being-called, is precisely and only for this reason unnameable: the being-in-language of the non-linguistic. What remains without name here is the being-named, the name itself; only being-in-language is subtracted from the authority of language. […] the name, insofar as it names a thing, is nothing but the thing insofar as it is named by the name. (76-77)

It is clear that the spectacle is language, the very communicativity or linguistic being of humans. […] The extreme form of this expropriation of the Common is the spectacle, that is, the politics we live in. But this also means that in the spectacle our own linguistic nature comes back to us inverted. (80)

The risk here is that the word – that is, the non-latency and the revelation of something (anything whatsoever) – be separated from what it reveals and acquire an autonomous consistency. (81)

Whereas under the old regime the estrangement of the communicative essence of humans took the form of a presupposition that served as a common foundation, in the society of the spectacle it is this very communicativty, the generic essence itself (i.e., language), that is separated in an autonomous sphere. What hampers communication is communicability itself; humans are separated by what unites them. (82)

[…] language is not only consituted in an autonomous sphere, but also no longer even reveals anything – or better, it reveals the nothingness of all things. (82)

[…] the era in which we live is also that in which for the first time it is possible for humans to experience their own linguistic being – not this or that content of language, but language itself, not this or that true proposition, but the very fact that one speaks. Contemporary politics is this devastating experimentum linguae that all over the planet unhinges and empties traditions and beliefs, ideologies and religions, identities and communities. (83)

The novelty of the coming politics is that it will no longer be a struggle for the conquest or control of the State, but a struggle between the State and the non-State (humanity), and insurmountable disjunction between whatever singularity and the State organization. (85)

Whatever singularities cannot form a societas because they do not possess any identity to vindicate nor any bond of belonging for which to seek recognition. In the final instance the State can recognize any claim for identity – even that of a State identity within the State […] What the State cannot tolerate in any way, however, is that the singularities form a community without affirming an identity, that humans co-belong without any representable condition of belonging (even in the form of a simple presupposition). […] For the State, therefore, what is important is never the singularity as such, but only its inclusion in some identity, whatever identity […] A being radically devoid of any representable identity would be absolutely irrelevant to the State. (86)

Whatever singularity, which wants to appropriate belonging itself, its own being-in-language, and thus rejects all identity and every condition of belonging, is the principal enemy of the State. (87)