Posts Tagged ‘subjectivity’

Paul Veyne “The Final Foucault and His Ethics”

Veyne, Paul 1993. The Final Foucault and His Ethics. Critical Inquiry 20(1): 1–9.

Foucault’s books are, strictly speaking, the works of a historian, at least in the eyes of those who have acknowledged that all history is interpretative; but Foucault would not have written all the historians’ books. For the interpretation that is history has as its second agenda the project of being a complete inventory, whereas Foucault played the part of historian only with respect to points where the past masks the genealogy of our present. (3)

[…] in thinking they are seeking the truth of things, people succeed only in establishing the rules according to which they will be said to be speaking truly or falsely. In this sense, knowledge is not only linked to the powers that be, it is not only a weapon of power, it is not even power at the same time that it is knowledge; knowledge is only power, radically, for one can only speak truly by virtue of the force of the rules imposed at one time or another by a history whose individuals are at once, and mutually, actors and victims. Thus by truths we do not mean true propositions to be discovered or accepted but the set of rules that make it possible to utter and to recognize those propositions held as true. (3)

[…] the aim of Foucault the philosopher was not to claim that, for example, the modern state is characterized by a grand act of setting aside, of exclusion rather than of integration, which would obviously be  exciting to discuss; his aim was to show that every gesture, without exception, at the level of the state or not, always fails to fulfill the universalism of a reason and always leaves emptiness outside, even if the gesture is one of inclusion and integration. Similarly, when Kant spoke of the transcendental constitution of space and time, he was not inviting us to proceed with it: the difficult point would rather be that without knowing it we have not been proceeding with it. (5)

The other generous misunderstanding had to do with the famous void; people imagined that the finitude of every discursive practice was only empirical, to such an extent that the metaphorical void became, for some, a real space, inhabited by all the outcasts, rejects, and lepers and buzzing with all the forbidden or repressed words. The historical task was then to allow them to be heard: a rational account of the negativity of contradictories finally reestablished an encouraging philosophy that based our good feelings on reason. And yet, if there is one thing that distinguishes Foucault’s thought from that of some others, it is the firm resolve not to serve a dual function, not to reduplicate our illusions, no to establish as finally true what everyone would like to believe, not to prove that what is or ought to be has every reason to be. The rarest of phenomena, here is a philosophy without a happy end. Not that it end badly: nothing can “end,” since there is no end point any more than the is an origin. Foucault’s originality among the great thinkers of our century lay in his refusal to convert our finitude into the basis for new certainties. (5)

To be a philosopher is to make a diagnosis of present possibilities and to draw up a strategic map – with the secret hope of influencing the choice of combats. Enclosed in his own finitude, in his own time, man cannot think just anything at any time. (6)


Judith Revel “Identity, Nature, Life. Three Biopolitical Deconstructions”

February 21, 2018 Leave a comment

Revel, Judith 2009. Identity, Nature, Life. Three Biopolitical Deconstructions. Theory, Culture & Society 26(6): 45–54.

[…] from the 1960s, the radical critique of identities directs us to the analysis of power that principally takes the form of analyses of knowledges; yet, there is also, inseparably as its other side, an interrogation of the modes of subjectivation that could attempt to escape the objective frame of power and allow non-selfsame (non-identitaire) subjectivities to emerge. Of course, the trace of this non-selfsame is not easily discernible in Histoire de la folie or in Les Mots et les choses (The Order of Things), though it is quite explicit in the texts that Foucault devoted to ‘literary’ figures in the wake of his analysis of Raymond Roussel, as I have has argued elsewhere (Revel, 2004). The problem then becomes that of how to prevent a subjective individuation from being immediately identified, that is, objectified and subjected to the system of knowledges/powers (savoirs/pouvoirs) in which it is inscribed. (46-47)

There is for Foucault a clear distinction to be made between what the relations of power construct in the form of an identity (that is, an objectified, reified identity, reduced to a number of definite characteristics, one that becomes the object of specific practices and knowledges), and the way in which subjectivity itself constructs its relation to itself. In the first case it is a matter of a subjection that fixes identities on the basis of a number of determinations that are supposed to ‘speak the truth of the subject’, such as when sexuality is transformed into ‘symptoms’ circumscribing the individual. In the second case, the refusal of this reduction of subjectivity to identity leads Foucault to theorize another form of the relation to oneself and others, namely, in the concept of a way of life (mode de vie). (48)

Foucault: “For me, this notion of way of life is important. . . . A way of life can be shared amongst individuals of different ages, statuses, social conduct. It can give rise to intense relations that are nothing like those which are institutionalized, and it seems to me that a way of life can generate a culture and an ethics. To be gay is not about identifying oneself with the psychological traits and the visible masks of the homosexual, but to seek to define and develop a way of life.” (1994c: 165). (48)

It is clear from this statement that Foucault understands a way of life as a set of relations that does not exclude this or that difference but preserves them as such in the process of relating; it is thus the bringing into the common (mis en commun) of differences at the level of difference, and the constitution on this differential ground as foundation of something which is of the order of a commonality, or that partakes of differences. This is at the opposite end of all the theorizations of the relation to the other that essentially operate through a decentring of oneself towards the other – oneself as another. Foucault is trying to work out how it is possible to live the relation to the other in such a way that differences – the self, the other – are neither reified, objectified, reduced to the least common denominator (such as a contrived universalization, or a reduction to sameness), or what one must rely upon to have access to the other. (48)

In this view, the conduct of existence is always inclusive of a relation to others, that is, it is an apprenticeship, a mutual construction and a subjectivation. It both forbids a return to individualism (such as the idea of the individual as the free entrepreneur of him/herself) and resists every temptation towards the naturalization, substantialization or essentialization of the self. (49)

Every singularity is irreducible because its emergence and becoming occurs in a determinate context, inside a web of relations and contacts that necessarily include other subjectivities also in process of becoming. New modes of life emerge as part of that process, but relations of power and the effects of dispositifs continue to operate. Foucault rejected the idea that there could be an outside of power, since resistance can only take place from inside a complex web in which resistance and power, subjectivation and objectification, strategies of liberation and subjection, substantialization and the logic of becoming, are interwoven. It follows from this analysis that nothing can transform the motor of resistance – the process of becoming of subjectivity – into an impersonal force, a ‘third person’, or a disqualification of singularities, as indicated in some readings of Foucault in Italy; the arguments above indicate that such
readings lead to a political impasse. (49)

Because of this, I think that in some admittedly different readings of Foucault by Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito or Paolo Virno, the argument for the passage to singularity by way of a third party (which eliminates attributes), the impersonal or the pre-individual obeys nothing more than a logical necessity and rests on an error, namely the inversion of the relation between commonality and a de-subjectivized singularity. The political cost of conceptualizing the common as the reassuring residue when one removes a layer of individualization from singularity is a new post-modern metaphysics. The common is not the reassuring starting point for the production of the political but its outcome; by eliminating singularity, one eliminates what makes resistance possible. (49)

[…] if biololitics puts to work a new form of regulation, namely the norm, that relies on the idea of a ‘biological’ naturality of life – which social medicine claims to preserve and protect – and if biopolitics inscribes in the norm new techniques of management of both individuals and populations, it means that relations of power in the 19th century have put in place an unprecedented reference to naturality in order to transform the latter into a new instrument of control. (50-51)

It can be seen from the above that Foucault thought it important to make clear three issues. First, life is not exclusively biological, as we saw in the discussion of ways of life as strategies of resistance in his analyses of subjectivity and ethics in the 1980s. Second, this means that powers over life or biopowers are not biological alone but include dispositifs of subjection and exploitation, of captation and regulation, of the control and ordering of existence in the wide sense. Third, this ‘biologization’ of life, now extended through biotechnologies and genetic engineering, appears to be, paradoxically, at the centre of some Italian readings of the biopolitical. (51)

Scott Yates and Dave Hiles “Towards a ‘Critical Ontology of Ourselves’?”

February 19, 2018 Leave a comment

Yates, Scott; Hiles, Dave 2010. Towards a “Critical Ontology of Ourselves”? Foucault, Subjectivity and Discourse Analysis. Theory & Psychology 20(1): 52–75.

Power produces more than knowledge and systems of social apparatus, however. It also “produces the very form of the subject” (Foucault, 1989, p. 158). The individual is not a pre-given phenomenological subject, an “elementary nucleus” (Foucault, 1980) onto which power fastens, or some form of original sovereign will standing opposite its antithesis of a power that constrains and limits it (Foucault, 1984/1988). It is, instead, “one of the prime effects of power that certain bodies, certain gestures, certain discourses, certain desires, come to be identified and constituted as individuals” (Foucault, 1980, p. 98). (56)

Foucault’s strong emphasis on this dissolution of the sovereign, ahistorical phenomenological subject is what gives rise to readings of his work as denying wholesale the existence of subjectivity (and even, in a wider sense, human agency; McWhorter, 2003). However, as McWhorter (2003) points out, Foucault’s conception of subjectivity is more sophisticated than this, embodying a rejection only of an ahistorical subjectivity alongside a deeper concern for the constitution of forms of subjectivity as actually experienced. (57)

[…] whilst disturbing the concept of the autonomous, self-thematizing subject, Heidegger’s thinking contains a central awareness of Dasein’s agency and experience and its potential for choosing ways of being. As Dreyfus (2004) points out, such a conception had no parallel in the early work of Foucault, but this was something he later came to regret and correct. (58)

Power is “exercised over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free” (p. 221). Subjects in power relations are “faced with a field of possibilities in which several ways of behaving, several reactions … may be realized” (p. 221). At the same time, however, it must be acknowledged that power relations are often “fixed in such as way that they are perpetually asymmetrical” (Foucault, 1984/1997a, p. 292), and there is only “extremely limited” margin for action, freedom, or resistance. (59)

These technologies of the self coalesce around and take hold of specific thoughts, desires, behaviours, or practices, and are related to imperatives to shape one’s conduct in specific ways. It is here that Foucault talked about “government” (e.g., 1982, 1993) in a broad sense to refer to the intersection of strategies by others to govern one’s conduct alongside the actions one performs in relating to and governing oneself. (61)

This is well expressed by Hook (2007). Drawing on Foucault and Rose, he differentiates these technologies of the self from technologies of subjectivity, which refer to broad sets of regulative practices that bring the ambitions and strategies connected to various forms of government of individuals into alignment with individuals’ own ideals. They can be thought of as forms of subjectification that “involve the operation of a type of power that connects the norms of authorities to the motivating ideals we have of ourselves” (Hook, 2007, p. 246). (61)

There is thus a gap between technologies of subjectivity and practices of the self. Foucault’s work implies a degree of freedom in practices of the self, but it must also be noted that they do not entail an uncomplicated zone of liberation” (Hook, 2007, p. 248)—the project of ethical self-relationship and self-formation becomes thinkable only against the background of the systems of thought and the technologies of subjectivity available within a culture. (61)

Hubert J.M. Hermans “The Dialogical Self: Toward a Theory of Personal and Cultural Positioning”

February 15, 2018 Leave a comment

Hermans, Hubert J.M. 2001. The Dialogical Self: Toward a Theory of Personal and Cultural Positioning. Culture & Psychology 7(3): 243–281.

The central concept, the dialogical self, is inspired by two thinkers, James and Bakhtin, who worked in different countries (the USA and Russia, respectively), in different disciplines (psychology and literary sciences), and in different theoretical traditions (pragmatism and dialogism). The dialogical self finds itself, as a composite term, at the intersection of these traditions. (244)

In James’ view, the I is equated with the selfas-knower and has three features: continuity, distinctness and volition (see also Damon & Hart, 1982). The continuity of the self-as-knower is characterized by a sense of personal identity, that is, a sense of sameness through time. A feeling of distinctness from others, or individuality, also follows from the subjective nature of the self-as-knower. Finally, a sense of personal volition is reflected in the continuous appropriation and rejection of thoughts by which the self-as-knower proves itself as an active processor of experience. (244)

In James’ view, the Me is equated with the self-as-known and is composed of the empirical elements considered as belonging to oneself. Because James (1890) was aware that there is a gradual transition between Me and mine, he concluded that the empirical self is composed of all that the person can call his or her own, ‘not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands and horses, and yacht and bank-account’ (p. 291). (244)

In James’ view, the self was ‘extended’ to the environment. The extended self can be contrasted with the Cartesian self, which is based on a dualistic conception, not only between self and body but also between self and other (Hermans & Kempen, 1993). Self and other do not exclude one another (self versus other), as if the other is simply ‘outside the skin’. With his conception of the extended self, James has paved the way for later theoretical developments in which contrasts, oppositions and negotiations are part of a distributed, multivoiced self. (244-245)

For Bakhtin, the notion of dialogue opens the possibility of differentiating the inner world of one and the same individual in the form of an interpersonal relationship. The transformation of an ‘inner’ thought of a particular character into an utterance enables dialogical relations to occur between this utterance and the utterance of imaginal
others. (245)

“The intersection, consonance, or interference of speeches in the overt dialog with the speeches in the heroes’ interior dialogs are everywhere present. The specific totality of ideas, thoughts and words is everywhere passed through several unmerged voices, taking on a different sound in each. The object of the author’s aspirations is not at all this totality of ideas in and of itself, as something neutral and identical with itself. No, the object is precisely the act of passing the themes through many and varied voices, it is, so to speak, the fundamental, irrescindable multivoicedness and varivoicedness of the theme.” (Bakhtin, 1929/1973, p. 226) (246)

In James’ work the I (self-as-knower) is portrayed as a unifying principle that is responsible for organizing the different aspects of the Me as parts of a continuous stream of consciousness. As such, James seems to emphasize the continuity of the self more than its discontinuity. In other parts of his foundational work, however, James (1890) speaks explicitly of the ‘rivalry and conflict of the different selves’ (p. 309), dealing with the inherent discontinuity of the self. (246)

In summary, James, as a theorist of the self, acknowledged not only the unity but also the multiplicity of the self. Bakhtin, on the other hand, as a literary theorist, elaborated on the multiplicity of characters in the polyphonic novel by introducing the notion of multivoicedness. Further, although James acknowledged the intrinsic social nature of the self in terms of competing characters, Bakhtin elaborated more extensively on the voices of the characters and their mutual dialogical relationships. Although James’ thinking on the self certainly admitted the possibility of a multiplicity of characters, Bakhtin’s polyphonic novel, if applied to the self, can be seen as a challenge not only to the notion of individuality (the self as discrete from other selves), but also to the unity and continuity of the self. If the self is considered in terms of a polyphonic novel, the implication is a far-reaching decentralization of the self in terms of a decentralized plurality of characters. (247-248)

A particular feature of the dialogical self is the combination of continuity and discontinuity. In line with James, there is a continuity between my experience of, for example, my wife, children, ancestors and friends because, as belonging to the ‘Mine’, all of them are extensions of one and the same self. In line with Bakhtin, however, there is a discontinuity between the same characters as far as they represent different and perhaps opposed voices in the spatial realm of the self. As my wife and my children, they are continuous; as my wife and my children, they are discontinuous. In this conception the existence of unity in the self, as closely related to continuity, does not contradict the existence of multiplicity, as closely related to discontinuity. (248)

In contrast to the individualistic self, the dialogical self is based on the assumption that there are many I-positions that can be occupied by the same person. The I in the one position, moreover, can agree, disagree, understand, misunderstand, oppose, contradict, question, challenge and even ridicule the I in another position. In contrast to the
rationalistic self, the dialogical self is always tied to a particular position in space and time. As Merleau-Ponty (1945/1962) would have it, there is no ‘God’s eye view’. As an embodied being, the person is not able to freely ‘fly above’ his or her position in space and time, but he or she is always located at some point in space and time. (249-250)

The dialogical self is ‘social’, not in the sense that a self-contained individual enters into social interactions with other outside people, but in the sense that other people occupy positions in a multivoiced self. The self is not only ‘here’ but also ‘there’, and, owing to the power of imagination, the person can act as if he or she were the other and the other were him- or herself. This is not the same as ‘taking the role of the other’, as Mead (1934) meant by this expression that the self is taking the actual perspective of the other. Rather, I’m able to construe another person or being as a position that I can occupy and as a position that creates an alternative perspective on the world and myself. (250)

[…] the spatial character of the polyphonic novel leads to the supposition of a decentralized multiplicity of I-positions as authors of a variety of stories. The I moves in an imaginal space (which is intimately intertwined with physical space) from the one to the other position, creating dynamic fields in which self-negotiations, selfcontradictions and self-integrations result in a great variety of meanings (Josephs, 2000). (252)

When speakers produce unique utterances, they always speak in social languages at the same time. Although the speaker may not be aware of the influence of social languages, these languages shape what individual voices can say. For this simultaneity of individual and collective utterances Bakhtin used the term ‘ventriloquation’, which means that one voice speaks through another voice or voice type as found in social language. When Bakhtin refers to ‘multivoicedness’, he not only has in mind the simultaneous existence of different individual voices, but also the simultaneous existence of an individual voice and the voice of a group (Wertsch, 1991). (262)

A central feature of collective voices is that they organize and constrain the meaning systems that emerge from dialogical relationships. Sampson (1993), for example, argued that societal relationships are governed by polar opposites leading to ‘social dichotomies’, such as male versus female, young versus old or white versus black. Within these dichotomies, the master term (e.g. young) is defined as possessing particular properties that the opposite term (e.g. old) lacks. (262-263)

In the tradition of authors like Bakhtin and Vygotsky, Linell emphasized that meanings are not entirely constructed ab novo in interaction. Rather, they belong to a cultural capital inherited and invested by new actors through history. This heritage implies that the microcontext of concrete dialogical relationships cannot be understood without some concept of macroframes (organizational and ethnographic context). Every utterance has a history in preceding dialogues and an embeddedness in situation and culture (see also Lyra, 1999). (264)

[…] the notion of social power or dominance is an intrinsic feature of dialogical processes and, moreover, closely associated with the position a person occupies in a particular institution. As such, dominance is an indispensable concept for the analysis of cultural processes. Dominance relations organize and constrain not only the interactions within societies or groups, but also the interactions between different cultural groups. (265)

Montaigne: “We are all framed of flaps and patches, and of so shapeless and diverse contexture, that every piece, and every moment plays its part. And there is as much difference found between us and ourselves, as there is between ourselves and others.” (pp. 196–197). (276)

Hubert J.M. Hermans “The Dialogical Self as a Society of Mind”

February 15, 2018 Leave a comment

Hermans, Hubert J.M. 2002. The Dialogical Self as a Society of Mind. Theory & Psychology 12(2): 147–160.

Self and society both function as a polyphony of consonant and dissonant voices. More specifically, they share two main features that are necessary for understanding their dynamics. First, both in a multivoiced society and in a multivoiced self, there is opportunity for intersubjective interchange. Second, both in society and in the self, the relationships between the several positions are characterized by dominance or social power. As some individuals or groups in a society have more social power or influence than other individuals and groups, the voices of some positions in the self are more easily heard and have, in a particular situation, more opportunity for expression and communication than others. In sum, dialogical interchange and dominance are intrinsic features of the dialogical self. (148)

In Bakhtin’s view, individual speakers are not simply talking as individuals, but in their utterances the voices of groups and institutions are heard. Bakhtin was interested in social languages, such as social dialects, professional jargons, languages of generations and age groups, languages of the representatives of various circles and passing fashions. Speakers always speak in social languages when producing unique utterances, and thus social languages shape, beyond awareness, what the individual voices can say. Such ‘social languages’ represent collective voices because they go beyond the unique utterances of individual people. Although Bakhtin did not say much about cultures, cultural voices also can be considered as collective voices. (149)

Endel Tulving “Chronestesia”

October 5, 2017 Leave a comment

Tulving, Endel 2002. Chronestesia: Conscious Awareness of Subjective Time. In: Stuss, Donald T.; Knight, Robert T. (eds). Principles of Frontal Lobe Function. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 311-325

chronestesia, which is tentatively defined as a form of consciousness that allows individuals to think about the subjective time in which they live and that makes it possible for them to “mentally travel” in such time. (311)

Noetic consciousness is evolutionarily older and the more “primitive” of the two, and is the default mode of the semantic memory system. Noetic awareness accompanies an individual’s memory-based interaction with aspects of its environment in the present. When individuals think about the “facts of the world,” they are noetically aware of what they are thinking, as well as aware of such awareness. Noetic consciousness also provides individuals with access to their own past, but the mode of such access is one of “knowing”, not “remembering” (Gardiner, 1988; Rajaram, 1993). Autonoetic consciousness has a more recent origin in evolution and is more advanced than noetic, because in addition to allowing people to know what happened in the past it also allows them to re-experience past experiences. Autonoetic awareness accompanies retrieval of information about one’s personal past as well as projection of one’s thoughts into the future. When individuals remember the past, they are autonoetically aware of what they did or thought at an earlier time, and they are also aware of such awareness. (313)

Although both autonoesis and chronestesia imply awareness of self in time, the emphasis on self versus time is different in the two concepts: in autonoesis the emphasis is on awareness of self, albeit in subjective, whereas in chronesthesia the emphasis is on awareness of subjective time, albeit in relation to self. (315)

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)