David Chandler “Resilience and the Autotelic Subject”

Chandler, David 2013. Resilience and the Autotelic Subject: Toward a Critique of the Societalization of Security. International Political Sociology 7: 210-226.

Fillipa Lentzos and Nikolas Rose, for example, in their critique of understandings that security discourses seem to be leading to the securitization of life, observe that we are witnessing “perhaps the opposite of a ‘Big Brother State’” (Lentzos and Rose 2009:243). Discourses of resilience do not centrally focus upon material attributes (military equipment, technology, welfare provisions, etc.) that can be provided by governments as a way of protecting populations or responding after an event. Resilience concerns attributes of the population, both as individuals and communities, which cannot be directly provided by state authorities. For this reason, discourses of resilience do not fit well with traditional liberal framings of security practices as state-centric, national or territorial forms of mobilization, protection, or regulation. (211)

It appears that resilience practices are transforming security discourses from concerns with external threats to fears over the domestic or internal coping and adaptive capacities of individuals and their communities. (212)

Once the human subject is understood as lacking in the capacity to make “free choices,” the private sphere of freedom and autonomy becomes problematized and “life”—that is, the formally private sphere beyond and separate from the public sphere of government—becomes the subject of governance.4 This focus on the inner world of both the state (the milieu of societal life) and the individual (their decision-making capability) operates to efface the traditional subject categories upon which liberal discourses of security, sovereignty, rights, and law were based. Discourses of societal resilience thereby societalize security in their reduction of the formally separate liberal sphere of securing rights and interests into the “everyday practices” of the social sphere, now understood as the source or cause of the problems to be dealt with (see Chandler 2010, 2012b). (214)

The problematic of “bounded rationality” suggests that societal resilience needs to inculcate generic capabilities to equip people with the capacity to make decisions in situations where they have limited knowledge or experience. The inculcation of resilience, in fact, depends on the dematerializing or abstraction from specific risks or insecurities, to become a mode of life, a way of social being: “Risk communication cannot be detached from our everyday lives. It has to be hotwired into our decision-making processes and behaviours” (Edwards 2009:43). In making resilience a matter of the “everyday,” the exceptional event becomes subsumed into the life process itself—choices of university, life partner, insurance policy, child rearing, etc.—subsuming responses to external risk, such as terrorist attack or environmental disaster, under the generic policy concerns of societal governance. (215)

In terms of genealogical framings, it is important to emphasize that what is key in the work of new institutional economics, and developed in the ideas of Hayek, is a conceptual framework of critique and inversion of classical liberal assumptions. This critique was based upon the dethroning or decentering of the human subject as a rational agent, capable of securing itself through knowing and shaping its external world. Even though Hayek does not explicitly frame his understanding in terms of resilience, the individual, subject-centered problematic of learning and adaption, and the influential role of the societal milieu—central to today’s societal discourses of resilience—is fully present. (216)

Giddens states that in the preliberal age, or pre-Enlightenment era, the main conceptual framework for dealing with, or rationalizing, unexpected events or contingencies was through the understanding of fate or nature or God— catastrophic events could not be prevented, merely accepted. In the liberal era, the dominant framework of understanding was that of “risk” or “accident,” a framework which highlighted the borders of control and could be calculated, minimized, or insured against—the point being that “accidents” or “risks” were conceptualized as external factors, outside control.7 Giddens argues that today there is no outside to the human world and therefore no external risk. Once the problem is understood in terms of manufactured risk—setbacks and damage as a consequence of the decisions we take ourselves—work on the self is the only area through which these problems can be addressed. (218-219)

Giddens’ work is very important for understanding and drawing out the consequences of a societalized conception of security within discourses of resilience, and its relationship to our understanding of the human subject. The key point Giddens makes is that societal security has to be addressed at the level of the inner life or the inner capacities of the individual, rather than the material level. This transformation occurs through welcoming insecurity and establishing a proactive relationship to potentially destabilizing security risks: “Schemes of positive welfare, orientated to manufactured rather than external risk, would be directed to fostering the autotelic self. The autotelic self is one with an inner confidence which comes from self-respect, and one where a sense of ontological security, originating in basic trust, allows for a positive appreciation of social difference. It refers to a person able to translate potential threats into rewarding challenges, someone who is able to turn entropy into a consistent flow of experience. The autotelic self does not seek to neutralize risk or to suppose that “someone else will take care of the problem”; risk is confronted as the active challenge which generates self-actualization.” (1994:192, emphasis added) (220)

The autotelic self is understood as an individual capable of self-governing in a world of contingency and radical
uncertainty. The autotelic self turns insecurity into self-actualization, into growth. The subject being interpellated—the “autotelic self”—is very different from the universalized subject of liberal modernity. Whereas the modern liberal subject was assumed to have the will and capacity to collectively act on and to transform, to secure and to know its external world, the transformative activity of the autotelic self is restricted to the internal and cognitive realm. (220)

The reduction of politics to the administration of life was a central concern for Arendt, who argued that “through society it is the life process itself which in one form or another has been channeled into the public realm” (1998:45). The problematic of the societal influencing of behavioral choices she believed “reduce[d] man as a whole, in all his activities, to the level of a conditioned and behaving animal” (1998:45). Rather than understanding and resolving problems through action in the external world, this framing “concerns only a possible change in the psychology of human beings—their so-called behaviour patterns—not a change of the world they move in” (1998:49). For Arendt, this was a “psychological interpretation, for which the absence or presence of a public realm is as irrelevant as any tangible, worldly reality” (1998:49). (220)

The reduction in social, economic, political, and ecological questions to ones of individual choice-making capacities and environmental choice-shaping interventions is so pervasive, we often do not give the broader discourses of societal resilience a second thought. In essence, discourses of societal resilience seek to extend the responsibility of individuals to the world itself, insofar as it becomes reduced to the product of individual behavioral choice. Here, the subject, considered individually and communally, is held to be autotelic—to cognitively construct its own life or world. (222-223)

Cavelty, Kaufmann and Kristensen “Resilience and (In)security: Practices, Subjects, Temporalities”

Cavelty, Myriam Dunn; Kaufmann, Mareile; Kristensen, Kristian Soby 2015. Resilience and (In)security: Practices, Subjects, Temporalities. Security Dialogue 46(1): 3-14.

The basic assumption is that the (in)security of a subject is not only dependent on the character and severity of the threat it is exposed to (its vulnerability), but also on the subject itself – namely, its resilience to detrimental events. The concept thus aspires to describe mechanisms for maintaining stability, survival, and safety – mechanisms that seem equally applicable to the individual, society, nature, and technical systems. (4)

Resilience links security to logics of governance rooted in ecology, engineering, and psychology, which were previously not prominent in the security discourse. It provides novel conceptual linkages and forms of knowledge and asks for interdisciplinary epistemic communities as well as new modes of governance, including more and different types of actors. These interlinkages are the key to understanding how resilience functions in the realm of security, and how resilience is inscribed in a longer historical sequence dealing with the relationship between threats and the threatened and between effect and the affected. (5)

By acknowledging and accepting the idea of an unstable, unpredictable environment, the rise of resilience marks a significant shift from the predictable to the contingent. In contrast to risk analytics and other strategies that mainly seek to prevent and prepare for a potentially disruptive future, resilience is characterized by a temporality that combines the present with the future, but also actively deals with insecurities of the past. (5)

Underlining the importance of the disastrous event splits time into past and future and gives particular political significance to the practices of resilience – which either refer to overcoming past events or potential future disruption. In preparing for resilience, it is the imagined event of the future that determines the present. In enacting resilience, it can also be the disastrous event of the past that determines action in the present (and potentially the future, too). Therefore, resilience is related to technologies of preparedness, but also to the actual process of ‘coping’ (O’Malley, 2010: 488). With this emphasis on adapting to new situations, the discourse of resilience becomes ‘a discourse of futurity’ (Schott, 2013: 213). At the same time, it is backwards-oriented and encourages ‘actors to learn from catastrophes so that societies can become more responsive to further catastrophes on the horizon’ (Evans and Reid, 2013: 91). Resilience therefore promotes a vision of uncertain and traumatic futures (O’Malley, 2010: 488, 492) in tandem with the possibility of overcoming past adverse events and experiences. (7)

[…] resilience redistributes responsibilities – and possibilities of blame. It moves from government to municipalities, from national to local, from security authorities to the citizen – expecting and encouraging beneficial self-organization in the face of crisis by those units that are both knowledgeable of local contexts and directly affected by the adverse event (Hagmann and Dunn Cavelty, 2012). Such a responsibilization has been discussed as a form of  empowerment by some, especially if linked to participation and citizen-led initiatives (Bulley, 2013; Rogers, 2013a). Others have warned against an overly romantic notion of community, which is sought through resilience attempts targeted at the vulnerable (Bulley, 2013). Resilience programs create the subject they speak about and valorize it as either resilient and desirable or vulnerable, undesirable and in need of state intervention. (7)

not only the possibility of disruptive one-time events integrates the need for future resilience into the present. Structurally different from disastrous events are chronic emergencies that have already materialized and continuously materialize in the present. In its assumed universal applicability, resilience is also used to provide answers to such persistent insecurities. Chronic emergencies – for example, climate change (Methmann and Oels, 2015) – inject yet another temporality into the resilience concept. This already materialized insecurity requires a specific set of skills in the resilient subject to deal with insecurity, as the authors of this special issue illustrate. Howell’s account of the soldier takes yet a different angle on the chronic aspect of insecurity, since a resilient soldier, by dealing with the crisis of combat, also contributes to its perpetuation. Resilience thus not only responds to but actively extends crisis, adding to the temporality of the continuous (Howell, 2015). In sum, resilience assembles diverse security practices of dealing with a disruptive past, a potentially disruptive future and ongoing, chronic disruption in the present, all of which emphasize the reiterative temporality of resilience practices. (9)

Resilience thus brings the subject into the focus of security policies – not as an entity to be protected but as an active and responsible contributor to security. This results in a specific relationship between political practices and subjects. Not only is the subject a central enactor of resilience, but resilience policies and practices are productive of specific subjects: the autonomous, organized, emergency-managing subject who behaves in the way that the respective political rationale or practice promotes. (10)

Brad Evans and Julian Reid “Dangerously Exposed: The Life and Death of the Resilient Subject”

Evans, Brad; Reid, Julian 2013. Dangerously Exposed: The Life and Death of the Resilient Subject. Resilience 1(2): 83-98.

[…] the game of survival has to be played by learning how to expose oneself to danger rather than believing in the possibility of ever achieving freedom from danger as such. (83)

Resilience, then, describes much more than the mere capacities of species to persist. It describes the ways in which life learns from catastrophes so that it can become more responsive to further catastrophes on the horizon. It promotes adaptability so that life may go on living despite the fact that elements of it may be destroyed. It confronts all of us living beings, ranging from weeds to humans, with the apparent reality that managing our exposure to dangers is as much as we can hope for because danger is a necessity for our development. (84)

The underlying ontology of resilience, therefore, is actually vulnerability. To be able to become resilient, one must first accept that one is fundamentally vulnerable. (84)

To increase its resilience […], the subject must disavow any belief in the possibility to secure itself and accept, instead, and understanding of life as a permanent process of continual adaptation to threats and dangers which are said to be outside its control. As such, the resilient subject is a subject which must permanently struggle to accommodate itself to the world, and not a subject which can conceive of changing the world, its structure and conditions of possibility. However, it is a subject which accepts the dangerousness of the world it lives in as a condition for partaking of that world and which accepts the necessity of the injunction to change itself in correspondence with threats now presupposed as endemic. (85)

Resistance here is transformed from being a political capacity aimed at the achievement of freedom from that which threatens and endangers to a purely reactionary impulse aimed at increasing the capacities of the subject to adapt to its dangers and simply reduce the degree to which it suffers. This conflation of resistance with resilience is not incidental but indicative of the nihilism of the underlying ontology of vulnerability at work in contemporary policies concerned with climate change and other supposedly catastrophic processes. (85)

Liberalism […] is a security project. From its outset, it has been concerned with seeking answers to the problem of how to secure itself as a regime of governance through the provision of security to the life of populations subject to it. It will, however, always be an incomplete project because its biopolitical foundations are flawed; life is not securable. (85-86)

Resilience is premised upon the ability of the vulnerable subject to continually re-emerge from the conditions of its ongoing emergency. Life quite literally becomes a series of dangerous events. Its biography becomes a story of non-linear reactions to dangers that continually defy any attempt on its behalf to impress time with purpose and meaning. (87)

While the logic of security works on the principle of achieving freedom from dangers, resilience assumes the need to engage with them because their realisation is unavoidable. (87)

Resilience […] evidences most clearly how liberal power is confronting the realities of its own self-imposed political foreclosure as the reality of finitude is haunted by infinite potentiality. This brings us to a pivotal moment in the history of liberalism as the project finally abandons its universal aspirations, along with any natural claims to promote all life as a self-endowed subject with inalienable rights. With the outside vanquished to the disappointing realisation of endemic crises, sheer survivability becomes the name of the political game. (91)

[…] resilience is a form of neoliberal interventionism which, speaking in a governing tone, nevertheless, segregates life on account of its vulnerable qualities as a self-propelling tendency and emancipatory orientation. The connections here to contemporary austerity measures are particularly striking. Such calls have nothing to say about political processes or opening new sites for emancipation. The political is, in fact, pathologised as an unnecessary impediment to the austere vision. What is demanded is a new sense of social responsibility that places the burden of the crises directly onto the shoulders of the globally impoverished, thereby rendering social safety nets as part of the wider systemic problem. (94)

Post-utopianism takes on a number of distinct features in which idealised lifestyles are no longer presented as a common good but a matter of exclusivity. If there is any resonance to idealism, it is not premised on inclusion but the need to be able to ‘opt-out’ of the social landscape. (96)

Judith Butler “Precarious Life”

Butler, Judith 2004. Precarious Life. – Precarious Life. The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London; New York: Verso Books, 128-152.

[Levinas]: “The celebrated “right to existence” that Spinoza called the conatus essendi and defined as the basic principle of all intelligibility is challenged by the relation to the face. Accordingly, my duty to respond to the other suspends mu natural right to self-survival, le droit vitale. My ethical relation of love for the other stems from the fact that the self cannot survive by itself alone, cannot find meaning within its own being-in-the-world.” (132)

Thus the face, the name for the face, and the words by which we are to understand its meaning – “Thou shalt not kill” – do not quite deliver the meaning of the face, since at the end of the line, it seems, it is precisely the wordless vocalization of suffering that marks the limits of linguistic translation here. The face, if we are to put words to its meaning, will be that for which no words really work; the face seems to be a kind of sound, the sound of language evacuating its sense, the sonorous substratum of vocalization that precedes and limits the delivery of any semantic sense. (134)

[Levinas]: “The Other is the sole being I can wish to kill. I can wish. And yet this power is quite the contrary of power. The triumph of this power is its defeat as power. At the very moment when my power to kill realizes itself, the other has escaped me … I have not looked at him in the face, I have not encountered his face. The temptation of total negation … this is the presence of the face. To be in relation with the other face to face is to be unable to kill. It is also the situation of discourse.” (138)

Levinas explains in one interview that “face and discourse are tied. It speaks, it is in this that it renders possible and begins alls discourse.” (138)

[…] it is only on the condition that we are addressed that we are able to make use of language. It is in this sense that the Other is the condition of discourse. If the Other is obliterated, so too is language, since language cannot survive outside of the conditions of address. (138-139)

The situation of discourse is not the same as what is said or, indeed, what is sayable. For Levinas, the situation of discourse consists in the fact that language arrives as an address we do not will, and by which we are, in an original sense, captured, if not, in Levinas’s terms, held hostage. (139)

Spinoza writes in The Ethics that the desire to live the right life requires the desire to live, to persist in one’s own being, suggesting that ethics must always marshal some life drives, even if, as a super-egoic state, ethics threatens to become a pure culture of the death drive. It is possible, even easy, to read Levinas as an elevated masochist and it does not help us to avert that conclusion when we consider that, when asked what he thought of psychoanalysis, he is said to have responded, is that not a form of pornography? (140)

It is important to distinguish among kinds of unrepresentability. In the first instance, there is the Levinasian view according to which there is a “face which no face can fully exhaust, the face understood as human suffering, as the cry of human suffering, which can take no direct representation. Here the “face” is always a figure for something that is not literally a face. Other human expressions, however, seem to be figurable as a “face” even though they are not faces, but sounds or emissions of another order. The cry that is represented through the figure of the face is one that confounds the senses and produces a clearly improper comparison: that cannot be right, for the face is not a sound. And yet, the face can stand for the sound precisely because it is not the sound. In this sense, the figure underscores the incommensurability of the face with whatever it represents. Strictly speaking, then, the face does not represent anything, in the sense that it fails to capture and deliver that to which it refers. (144)

[…] the human is not identified with what is represented but neither is it identified with the unrepresentable; it is, rather, that which limits the success of any representational practice. The face is not “effaced” in this failure of representation, but is constituted in that very possibility. Something altogether different happens, however, when the face operates in the service of a personification that claims to “capture” the human being in question. For Levinas, the human cannot be captured through the representation, and we can see that some loss of the human takes place when it is “captured” by the image. (144-145)

These are two distinct forms of normative power: one operates through producing a symbolic identification of the face with the inhuman, foreclosing our apprehension of the human in the scene; the other works through radical effacement, so that there never was a human, there never was a life, and no murder has, therefore, ever taken place. In the first instance, something that has already emerged into the realm of appearance needs to be disputed as recognizably human; in the second instance, the public realm of appearance is itself constituted on the basis of the exclusion of that image. (147)

Mitchell Dean “Four Theses on the Powers of Life and Death”

March 27, 2017 Leave a comment

Dean, Mitchell 2004. Four Theses on the Powers of Life and Death. Contretemps 5: 16-29.

First Thesis. The right of death is ancient. The power over life, by contrast, is quite new. Its emergence in the eighteenth century has brought the most devastating of consequences. (17)

Foucaultʼs peculiar contribution to the theory of sovereignty is the focus on the right of death. His genealogy here echoes Batailleʼs theme of sovereignty as linked to the denial of the sentiments that death controls. “Life beyond utility is the domain of sovereignty,” states Bataille.9 The implication of this is that sovereign existence is the capacity to live in the present moment beyond the concern for the needs to sustain life. The moral corollary is that “sovereignty requires the strength to violate the prohibition against killing.”10 Bataille claims his defnition of sovereignty has little to do with the sovereignty of states. This is a basic insight. Sovereignty—the power of killing—is today practiced in the biomedical domain by health professionals and administrators, by relatives and carers, and by prospective parents and mothers, all under the watchful guardianship of institutional ethical committees, legal regulation and therapeutic expertise. (18-19)

Second Thesis: It is not merely the succession or addition of the modern powers over life to the ancient right of death but their very combination within modern states that is of significance. How these powers are combined accounts for whether they are malign or benign. (20)

Pace Bauman, it is not simply the development of instrumental rationality in the form of modern bio-power, or a bureaucratic power applied to life that makes the Holocaust possible. It is the system of linkages, re-codings and re-inscriptions of sovereign notions of fatherland, territory, and blood within the new bio-political discourses of eugenics and racial hygiene that makes the unthinkable thinkable. (20)

On the one hand, the economic rationality that provides a limit to government refers before all else to the means of the sustenance of life. On the other, the sovereign individual has rights, especially in the era of international human rights, simply by virtue of merely living itself. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” reads the frst article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If there is optimism in Foucaultʼs approach, it is one that cannot rely on a movement that checks the powers over life. The more liberalism and modern rights movements seek to defend us from the dangers of bio-powers, it would seem, the more they make possible its extension. (21)

Third Thesis. The powers over life are as ancient as sovereign power and law themselves. We do not need to ask for a historical point of connection between the powers of life and death because they are  constitutive of the sacred character of political community. (22)

While Agamben, like Foucault, might reject a concern for who has power within the political order, he holds that it remains necessary to examine the role of sovereignty as constituting the threshold of the juridical-political order. Politics has always been about life, in so far as the good life might be the end of a political community, and questions of basic existence, once satisfed by human association, can be placed as outside properly political concerns. (23)

Where Foucault tends to identify a government of life and the living as a feature of distinctively modern political formations, Schmittʼs view of sovereignty already contains a notion of a power concerned with life. He writes that “Every general norm demands a normal, everyday frame of life to which it can be factually applied and which is subjected to its regulations… For a legal order to make sense, a normal order must exist, and he is sovereign who definitely decides whether this normal situation actually exists.” Sovereignty thus is a structure that decides on what this normal everyday frame of life is and whether or not this normal frame of life is effective. (24)

The relation of exception is one of the ban: in abandoning individuals, the law does not merely put them in a sphere of indifference, but rather leaves them “exposed and threatened on the threshold in which life and law, outside and inside, become indistinguishable.” To be banned is to be placed outside the
juridical-political order that defnes the normal frame of life of a political community. But in the act of being placed outside this order, who or what is banned is included in the power that places he, she, them or it there. (24)

For Agamben, however, homo sacer is not just a fgure uncovered by legal philology of ancient Rome; it is subject to recurrent materialisations in history. These include its paradigmatic manifestation in the concentration camps, notions of universal human rights, the emergence of mass refugee movements from the early twentieth century, those on life-support systems, medical judgments on euthanasia, and in the Versuchspersonen or human guinea pigs of the Nazi doctors. Some might want to say that homo sacer can also be found in the myriad petri dishes, test-tubes and ante-natal clinics of our times. Bare life, is today found—at its most elemental—in the sequences of the letters A, G, C, T, that stand for the chemical bases, the purines and the prymidines, that make up the genetic code. Zoē has found a new representation in the colour-coded sequences of three billion letters of the genome. (26)

The positive side of Agambenʼs thesis is frst that it avoids the recurrent bipolar structure of Foucaultʼs attempts to investigate the character of modern politics and its relation to life. For Foucault, politics can only be approached as the articulation or displacement of the poles of a series of oppositions: the right of death and the power of life, sovereignty and bio-politics, the ʻcity-citizenʼand ʻshepherd-flockʼ games, individualizing and totalizing character of modern powers, techniques of government and techniques of self, reason of state and liberalism, etc. But the point at which they link, overlap, interact, or enter a zone of indistinction is diffcult to discern. Foucault proposes their relations are demonic, but cannot tell us why or how. Agamben proposes a possible topography of the state of exception in which the sovereign ban captures life in the political order but outside the political community, and zoē and bios enter into irreducible indistinction. (26)

Fourth thesis: Bio-politics captures life stripped naked (or the zoē that was the exception of sovereign power) and makes it a matter of political life (bios). Today, we seek the good life though the extension of the powers over bare life to the point at which they become indistinguishable. (27)

If we are to take Agamben seriously, this desire for inclusion may have the effect not simply of widening the sphere of the rule of law but also of hastening the point at which the sovereign exception enters into a zone of indistinction with the rule. Our societies would then have become truly demonic, not because of the re-inscription of sovereignty within bio-politics, but because bare life which constituted the sovereign exception begins to enter a zone of indistinction with our moral and political life and with the fundamental presuppositions of political community. In the achievement of inclusion in the name of universal human rights, all human life is stripped naked and becomes sacred. Perhaps in a very real sense we are all homo sacer. Perhaps what we have been in danger of missing is the way in which the sovereign violence that constitutes the exception of bare life—that which can be killed without committing homicide—is today entering into the very core of modern politics, ethics, and systems of justice. (28)

Francois Hartog “Time and Heritage”

March 14, 2017 Leave a comment

Hartog, Francois 2005. Time and Heritage. Museum International 57(3): 7-18.

A conference, conceived by the Hellenist, Marcel Detienne, a specialist in comparative approaches, provided the opportunity to resume the concept once again and develop it further, along with another anthropologist, Gérard Lenclud. This was a way to pursue, by slightly shifting the intermittent but recurrent dialogue, which had occasionally faded but never been completely abandoned, between anthropology and history that Claude Le ´vi-Strauss had initiated in 1949. The ‘regime of historicity’, we then wrote, could be understood in two ways. In a restricted sense, as the way in which a society considers its past and deals with it. In a broader sense, the regime of historicity designates ‘the method of
self-awareness in a human community’. How, in the words of Lévi-Strauss, it ‘reacts’ to a ‘degree of historicity’ which is identical for all societies. More precisely, the concept provides an instrument for comparing different types of history, but also and even primarily, I would now add, highlights methods of relating to time: forms of experiencing time, here and elsewhere, today and yesterday. Ways of being in time. (8)

The Places of Memory by the historian Pierre Nora led to the diagnosis of a ‘heritagization’ of the history of France, if not of France itself, to the extent that the shift from one regime of memory to another led us from ‘history-memory’ to ‘history-heritage’. In this respect, the definition attributed by the law of 1993 concerning monumental heritage is remarkable: ‘Our heritage is the memory of our history and the symbol of our national identity.’ Proceeding from memory, heritage becomes the memory of history, and as such, a symbol of identity. Memory, heritage, history, identity, and nation are united in the polished style of the legislator. (10)

However, it is less a question of an obvious, assertive identity, more a question of an uneasy identity that risks disappearing or is already largely forgotten, obliterated, or repressed: an identity in search of itself, to be exhumed, assembled, or even invented. In this way, heritage comes to define less that which one
possesses, what one has, than circumscribing what one is, without having known, or even been capable of knowing. Heritage thus becomes an invitation for collective anamnesis. The ‘ardent obligation’ of heritage, with its requirements for conservation, renovation, and commemoration is added to the ‘duty’ of memory, with its recent public translation of repentance. (10)

In recent years, the surge of patrimony, in phase with that of memory, has grown to a scale that reaches the limit of what could be ‘everything is heritage’. As memories are increasingly claimed or demanded, everything could be considered heritage or liable to become heritage. The same inflation seems to reign. As ‘heritagization’ or ‘museifization’ always approaches closer to the present, it had to be stipulated, for example, ‘that no work of a living architect could legally be considered as an historic monument’.14 This is a clear indication of the present historicizing itself, as mentioned above. (12)

[…] the most authentically modern today would be the historical past, but according to modern standards. Only the facades are preserved. (12)

The museified gaze is thus directed towards that which surrounds us. We would like to prepare, starting from today, the museum of tomorrow, assembling today’s archives as if they were already yesterday’s, caught as we are between amnesia and the desire to forget nothing. For whom if not for ourselves, in the first place? (14)

[…] the contemporary surge of heritage is distinguished from earlier movements by the rapidity of its
expansion, the multiplicity of its expressions and its highly presentist nature, even though the present has taken on a wider meaning. The memorial takes precedence over the monument or the latter turns into a memorial. The past attracts more than history; the presence of the past, the evocation and the emotions win out over keeping a distance and mediation; finally, this heritage is itself influenced by acceleration: it
should be done quickly before it is too late, before night falls and today has completely disappeared. (16)

[…] a future which no longer remains to be conquered or made to happen, without hesitating, if necessary, to brutalize the present. This future is no longer a bright horizon towards which we advance, but a line of shadow that we have drawn towards ourselves, while we seem to have come to a standstill in the present, pondering on a past that is not passing. (16)

Alain de Libera “When Did the Modern Subject Emerge?”

Libera, Alain de 2008. When Did the Modern Subject Emerge? American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 82(2):  181-220.

A fair assessment of late ancient and medieval views on the subject is essential for any reconstruction of a history of subjectivity with the subject. Such an assessment, I suggest, is best made in two steps: 1) a discussion of Heidegger’s account of the dominance of the subject in the modern age, and account that is based on the distinction between “subjecticity” or “subjectness” (Subiectität) and “subjectivity” (Subjektivität); 2) a study of the genealogy of Nietzsche’s alleged grammatische Gewöhnung. The two steps are intimately connected: the distinction between subjecticity and subjectivity and the “grammatical habit” constitute two major components of a conceptual scheme I call “mental attributivism”, whose rise and fall deserve a very thorough archaeological scrutiny if we are to understand what exactly happened to the “subject” in early modern philosophy. (186)

To begin with, let us focus on Heidegger’s account of what he calls the “emphatic positing of the subject in Modern Age.” The term Subiectität, which is rendered as “subjecticity” or “subjectness” in English translations, has a precise meaning: at first blush it points to the very quality of being a subjectum, ontologically speaking; that is, according to the meaning of the Greek hypokeimenon, which it translates, to the quality of being “that-which-lies-before, which, as ground, gathers everything onto itself.” (186)

[…] Heidegger does not limit himself to saying that with Descartes man is conceived as a subjectum; he pushes further by asserting that within Descartes’s metaphysics man “comes to play the role of the one and only subject proper.” (187)

Subjecticity thus becomes subjectivity: being is no longer merely created being (ens creatum); it is “certain being, indubitable, truly thought,” in a word: “representation” (ens certum, indubitatum, vere vogitatum, cogitatio). The Cartesian shift from subjecticity to subjectivity may be summed up in four major claims: “1) Man is subject in the sense of representing I-ness; 2) The beingness of beings is equivalent to representedness through and for the I-subject; 3) Truth means the same as secure conveyance of what is represented in the self-representing representation: truth is certitude; 4) Man is the measure of all beings in the sense of the presumption of the de-limitation of representing to self-securing certitude.” (Heidegger, Nihilism, 136-7) (188)

[…] from Descartes onwards up to Nietzsche himself one must consider “the subjecticity (not subjectivity) of the essence of man as the foundation for the objectivity of every subject (everything which is present).” (190)

The modern age is “the age of subjectness,” in which “every analysis of the situation is grounded, whether it knows it or not, in the metaphysics of subjectness.” The metaphysics of subjectness is not reducible to the ontology of “subjectivity” in the sense of “subjectivism.” To be a subject is “to be in the subject-object relation”; to be in that relation “is what constitutes the subjectness of the subject.” (190)

Let me first define what “subjecthood” is in traditional (that is, late ancient and medieval) philosophy. Inherence and predication are the two components of subjecthood. The notion of subjecthood links that of which there can be predicates, the so-called “logical subject,” and that in which there are accidents, the so-called “physical subject.” According to this distinction, Heidegger’s claim should be rephrased as follows: the modern subject emerged when this sub-jective pattern – the subjecthood of the physical subject, which is a substrate for accidents in a change, and at the same time, the subjecthood of the logical subject, which is a substrate for the predicates in a proposition – was extended to the human mind, to a mental subject, thus subjecthood becoming subjectivity. (194)

Let me define what I will hereafter call “mental attributivism.” By “mental attributivism” I understand any interpretation of the soul (or thought, or understanding, or mind) that contains or implies an assimilation of mental or psychic activities, operations, or dispositions to attributes or predicates of a subject defined as an “ego” or an “I”. (195)

The only Cartesian contribution to the emergence of the subject in its modern, “Cartesian,” sense – that is, the first-person relationship between thought and existence, not to say personal identity – is to accept the general axiom that we cannot conceive an act without a subject (that is, Nietzsche’s grammatische Gewöhnung) and to reject, as contrary to all linguistic usage and logic (contra omnem loquendi usum omnemque logicam), the idea that every subject should be material, when logicians and others commonly assert that some substances are spiritual, others corporeal. This is not enough to allow one to consider Descartes as the “father of modern subjectivity.” Descartes’s claim is that there are incorporeal substances – let us say incorporeal subjects. This claim is not primarily concerned with the idea that the thinking thing should be I as a subject – subject of thought, thinking subject. It is concerned with Hobbes’s thesis according to which the expressions “incorporeal substance” or “incorporeal subject” imply a contradiction – in other words, that to say that “x is an incorporeal substance” amounts to saying that “there is no x” […]. (200)

In the Explicatio mentis humanae Regius had argued that there could perfectly be a single subject for thought and extension, intended as two different modes of the same substance. To prove his thesis, he claimed that “there is no reason why the mind should not be a sort of attribute co-existing with extension in the same subject.” For Descartes, this was the second and apparently the last opportunity to deal with the question of subjecthood. To Regius’s claim Descartes responds that “attributes which constitute the natures of things,” as thought and extension do, “cannot be said [to be] present together in one and the same subject; for that would be equivalent to saying that one and the same subject has two different natures – a statement that implies a contradiction, at least when it is a question of a simple subject … rather than a composite one.” (201)

[…] some of Descartes’s most fundamental claims: 1) thought and extension are not two modes of the same substance; 2) they are essential or main or principal attributes of two different substances: mind and body; 3) two different modes can inhere in the same subject; 4) two essential or principal attributes cannot have the same subject; 5) each substance has only one essential or principal attribute; 6) there is no subject common both to thought and extension. (201)

Man is such [a composite] entity: “That which we regard as having at the same time both extension and thought is a composite entity, namely a man – an entity consisting of a soul and a body.” This was exactly the thesis that Descartes had expressed in the Sixth Meditation: Peter Strawson’s two-subjects theory. Man is not his soul. Man is not his mind. Man is a subject composed of two substances, mind and body, which are the simple subjects, substantially different, of principal or essential attributes that are in each case unique: thought and extension. (202)

Thus, there is no “Cartesian subject” in Descartes, both because the Cartesian theory of mind and thought lacks a concept of subject – this was the core of Hobbes’s criticism – and, paradoxically, because there are too many subjects in his philosophy: mind and body, the two substances whose composition constitutes the composite entity called “man.” (203)

In the description of the mens-notitia-amor triad (On the Trinity IX, v, 8) the doctrine of the circumincession of the Persons of the Trinity is evoked even more directly in order to conceptualize the mutual indwelling of mens and its acts: “The mind, love and knowledge … each is a substance in itself, and all are found mutually in all, or each two in each one, consequently all are in all … These three, therefore, are in a marvelous manner inseparable from one another; and yet each of them is a substance, and all together are one substance or essence, while the terms themselves express a mutual relationship.” This is exactly what the Aristotelian hypokeimenon pattern would not and could not allow. Yet in the Middle Ages, the two conflicting patterns – the perichoretic and the Aristotelian – merged into a single one, giving rise to the concept of a mental subject, mentally active, in a modern sense. (206)

Arguing against Augustine, the Peripatetics posited the existence of a potentia subjectiva in order to demonstrate the existence of “a subject of knowledge acts that are oriented toward objects.” According to [Peter] Olivi, this conjecture, which certainly would look to moderns lie a decisive step toward subjectivity, lacked what the Augustinian model was meant to supply: self-certainty, certitudo infallibilis sui esse […]. Indeed, it actually says nothing about the ego or the I; it makes it possible to posit that my acts have a subject, but it does not establish that I am that subject. (207)

In order to arrive at the self-certainty of the moderns, one would have to take one more step: assume that I can directly intuit that I myself am the subject of my acts. One should, in a word, go back to Augustine’s perichoretic conception of the soul and adapt the “peripatetic” language of subjecthood to it. […] that would precisely mark the beginnings of “subjectivity,” or at least one of the preconditions for those beginnings. I think that this is the step taken by Peter Olivi when he expressly makes the perception of my acts depend upon “my prior perception of myself as subject of those acts.” This leads him to formulate the theorem that “in the perception of my acts, the perception of the subject itself [that is to say, of me as the suppositum of my own acts] comes first according to the natural order of things” […]. (207)

According to Olivi, the subject is perceived first because “according to the natural order of things, the subject is perceived before the predicate is attributed to it as such […]” – a psycholinguistic fact. With this claim, the “subjectivation” of the mind is now complete in every dimension, including the assumption of the linguistic or logical form of predication, which is backed up by the introduction of the word ego into the analysis of linguistic communication. (208)

From a modern point of view, Olivi’s subject satisfies all the requirements set forth in ego-based psychology. It meets the requirement of a doer for every deed. Olivi’s theory states that if there is thinking, there must be something that thinks. But it also establishes that I am this something. There is a grammatical move, a logical move, and a theological move. (209)

[…] if the equivalence of hypostasis, suppositum, and individua substantia (a Thomistic commonplace) is granted, the principle that actions belong to subjects brings about everything required for a concept of person or personality. It makes possible the interpretation of man as subiectum which Heidegger considered to be the exclusive trademark of Cartesianism. Such a concept includes three main elements: subsistence, individuality, and rationality. They are combined by Thomas in the following way: every substance is a suppositum, every suppositum is an individual (an individual substance), but it is not the case that every individual (individual substance) which is a suppositum is a person: only the supposita having dominion over their own actions, which can act of themselves (that is, rational individuals) are persons. (210)

The core argument is the principle actions belong to singulars. Nothing can act or be acted upon but a singular. […] That is the reason why human beings are called persons. There can be no persons but subjects which can act of themselves, that is to say, which can both be considered and consider themselves as subjects-agents of their own actions. (211)

[…] the axiom actiones sunt suppositorum cannot be found in Aristotle. It is an adage formulated in the Middle Ages on the basis of the only genuine Aristotelian axiom, stated in Metaphysics, Book I, chap. 1 (981a16-17): “actions and generations are all concerned with the individual.” (213)

The obvious meaning of the principle (which is also mentioned in Politics, 1267b23-1269a29, esp. “for what is written must be universal [in nature], whereas actions are concerned with individuals”) is that actions and generations bear on individuals, or that what results from an action or a generation can only be an individual. In the statement that every action is of an individual, “of” must be read as an objective genitive, meaning “about,” peri, circa. (214)

The medieval adage, however, states just the opposite. Actiones sunt suppositorum means actions are “of” individuals in the sense of subjective genitive, which denotes “the person who makes or produces something or who has a feeling,” as in dicta Platonis, “the utterances of Plato,” or timores liberorum, “the fears of the children.” (214)

The Leibnizian suppositum is some one who has a biographical definition. I am not a thinking thing “outfitted with the quality of thinking.” I am not even the one thinking I am I. I am an I, this I, a singular I: a subject including a set of action-attributes that make him/her an individual episode in the (best possible) world story. Leibniz’s new conception of the “subject” does not merely consist in equating suppositum, substance, and individually subsisting being. It is also firmly grounded in a set of agency principles. One is the principle stating that “actions belong to the suppositum.” Another is the principle maintaining that subjects are denominated by their actions, acts or activities: subjectum denominatur a propria actione. This is Leibniz’s praxeological answer to the Hobbesian ontological principle according to which “an essence is that accident for which we give the thing – the subject – its name,” the scholastic Accidens denominat proprium subiectum. The third principle states what one could call “metaphysical attributivism”: Praedicatum inest subiecto. (218)