[eDebate] the jon sharp video

Kevin Sanchez let_the_american_empire_burn
Sun Jun 28 23:49:35 CDT 2009


thanks for your polite and well-reasoned comments, jack. slight
modification: since i wasn't 'attacking' john sharp's lecture, it
requires no 'defense'. it's a fine introduction as far as they go. i
merely wrote to qualify the running together of structuralism and
positivism, as well as not permit popular notions like 'there are
many foucaults' and 'foucault's okay with contradiction' to distract
us from the seriousness and rigor involved in his historical studies.
despite appearances, his work is remarkably consistent, and we'll
agree, still full of emancipatory potential. thanks for pointing out
that the 'many foucaults'-thesis may help students "recognize the
limitations of their introductory attempts to grasp a great thinker
and still proceed with confidence". that was something i failed to
appreciate. i especially enjoyed the self-referential parts of jon's
lecture - 'the teacher is the one at the front of the class, facing
all of you...'.

on marx and foucault. as late as 1972, this alleged post-marxist
is still saying things like this (in conversation with deleuze),

"[A]s soon as we struggle against exploitation, the proletariat not
only leads the struggle but also defines its targets, its methods,
and the places and instruments for confrontation... if the fight is
directed against power, then all those on whom power is exercised
to their detriment, all who find it intolerable, can begin the struggle
on their own terrain and on the basis of their proper activity (or
passitivity). In engaging in a struggle that concerns their own
interests, whose objectives they clearly understand and whose
methods only they can determine, they enter into a revolutionary
process. They naturally enter as allies of the proletariat, because
power is extercised the way it is in order to maintain capitalist
exploitation. They genuinely serve the cause of the proletariat by
fighting in those places where they find themelves oppressed.
Women, prisoners, conscripted soldiers, hospital patients, and
homosexuals have now begun a specific struggle against the
particularized power, the constraints and controls, that are exerted
over them. Such struggles are actually involved in the revolutionary
movement to the degree that they are racial, uncompromising and
nonreformist, and refuse any attempt at arriving at a new disposition
of the same power with, at best, a change of masters. And these
movements are linked to the revolutionary movement of the
proletariat to the extent that they fight against the controls and
constraints which serve the same system of power." ('intellectuals
and power'. language, counter-memory, practice. page 216.)

we'd certainly dig in vain to find speeches like this coming from hegel
or nietzsche or heidegger; none of them sought to revitalize or update
the concept of the proletariat for revolutionary anti-capitalist struggle.

when dreyfus and rabinow define foucault's concept of 'bio-power' as
"the increasing ordering in all realms under the guise of improving the
welfare of the individual and the population" (beyond structuralism and
hermeneutics, page xxvi), or when they write that to "the genealogist
this order reveals itself to be a strategy, with no one directing it and
everyone increasingly enmeshed in it, whose only end is the increase
of power and order itself", we're right to detect nietzsche's historical
method and catch hints of heidegger's concept of 'standing-reserve',
but is there a more apt parallel than adorno's notion of our living in
'the administered world'? 

"This bio-power was without question an indispensable element in the
development of capitalism; the latter would not have been possible
without the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of
production and the adjustment of phenomena of population to economic
processes. ... If the development of the great instruments of the state,
as institutions of power, ensured the maintenance of production relations,
the rudiments of anatomo- and bio-politics, created in the eighteenth
century as techniques of power present at every level of the social body
and utilized by very diverse institutions (the family and the army, schools
and the police, individual medicine and the administration of collective
bodies), operated in the sphere of economic processes, their
development, and the forces working to sustain tehm. They also acted
as factors of segregation and social hierarchization, exerting their
influence on the respective forces of both these movements,
guaranteeing relations of domination and effects of hegemony. The
adjustment of the accumulation of men to that of capital, the joining
of the growth of human groups to the expansion of productive forces
and the differential allocation of profit, were made possible in part by
the exercise of bio-power in its many forms and modes of application.
The investment of the body, its valorization, and the distributive
managements of its forces were at the time indispensable. (history of
sexuality, volume one. 1978. pages 140-1.) a couple communists of
some repute put it even simpler: "A disciplinary society is thus a
factory-society", footnoting that,

"Foucault's primary theoretical concerns are that discipline is
deployed through institutional architectures, that the power of
discipline is located not in some central source but in the capillary
formations at its point of exercise, and that the subjectivities are
produced by internalizing discipline and enacting its practices. This
is all equally valid for our consideration here. Our primary focus,
however, is on how the practice and relationships of disciplinarity
that originated in the factory regime came to invest the entire
social terrain as a mechanism of both production and government,
that is, as a regime of social production." (empire, page 453).

jack's already on record mapping the legacy of marx's das kapital and
the frankfurt school on foucault's work.
-- adding to that, i'd merely cite from those two big chapters in volume 1:
chapter 10 on 'the working day', chapter 15 on 'machinery and large-scale

"To this end, and for 'extripating idleness, debauchery and excess',
promoting a spirit of industry, 'lowering the price of labour in our
manufactories, and easing the lands of the heavy burden of poor's
rates', our 'faithful Eckart' of capital proposes the well-tried method
of locking up workers who become dependent on public support (in
one word paupers) in 'an ideal workhouse'. Such an ideal workhouse
must be made a 'House of Terror', and not an asylum for the poor
'where they are to be pleantifully hed, warmly and decently clothed,
and where they do but little work'. ... The 'House of Terror' for
paupers, onyl dreamed of by the capitalist mind in 1770, was brought
into being a few years later in the shape of a gigantic 'workhouse'
for the industrial worker himself. It was called the factory. And this
time the ideal was a pale shadow compared with the reality." (ben
fowkes translation, pages 388-9.)

we're not far from the panopticon here - an ideal diagram of power
that's realized unevenly in various institutions and practices. marx:
"These 'small thefts' of capital from the workers' meal-times and
recreation times are also described by the factory inspectors as
'petty pilferings of minutes', 'snatching a few minutes' or, in the
technical language of the works, 'nibbling and cribbling at meal-times'...
*'Moments are the elements of profit'*" (page 352). foucault: "[I]t
is a question of extracting, from time, ever more available moments
and, from each moment, ever more useful forces. This means that
one must seek to intensify the use of the slightest moment, as if
time, in its very fragmentation, were inexhaustible or as if, at least
by an ever more detailed internal arrangement, one could tend
towards an ideal point at which one maintained maximum speed
and maxium efficiency" (discipline and punish, page 154).

another major cross-application is 'calculated leniency', which jon
partially approaches when he say that 'agency/choice are rewards
given to subjects who demonstrate that they can act responsibly'.
marx: "Even the lightening of the labor becomes an instrument of
torture, since the machine does not free the worker from the work,
but rather deprives the work itself of all content. ...The technical
subordination of the work to the uniform motion of the instruments
of labor, and the peculiar composition of the working group,
consisting as it does of individuals of both sexes and all ages,
gives rise to a barrack-like discipline, which is elaborated into a
complete system in the factory, and brings previously mentioned
labor of superintendence to its fullest development, thereby
dividing the workers into manual laborers and overseers, into the
private soldiers and the N.C.O.s of an industrial army. ... *The
overseer's book of penalties replaced the slave-driver's lash*."
(pages 548-50.) ...or the time-table for juvenile delinquents
replaced the draw-and-quartering of criminals.

anyway, i could go on. basically, we are in the panoptic machine
which is also a capitalist machine, and the political ramifications
were attended to more by foucault and marx than various other
german idealists. i'll contribute some further notes on the lecture
in question on cross-x.com shortly. i'm sure there's some mistakes
in what's above and i thank respondents for the opportunity to
flesh out these ideas in conversation. my only solace at being a
pissboy poser/word-game artist is the knowledge that one day, if
i work really hard and take his kind suggestions to heart, i could
be as erudite and respected a figure in debate as jack stroube. =P

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