Power and Life

the-necessity-of-obstacles-part-1

If any human-progress[1] has been made along the unwinding of the largely anti-human historical process, it can be found in Power’s[2] fascination with Life.

This is essentially a capitalist fascination and has resulted in life-preserving structures in civilisation like welfare and health services. But Power’s seemingly democratic interest in Life came at a price, for the mastery of Life also gives the Master the right to demand sacrifices. Capitalism’s interest in Life is generated by its need to maintain a demographic abundance to serve in its work-force. By making Life a priority, capitalism binds Life to its own economic model. Power ensures Life, but only as long as that Life is entwined within its own system. Not only does the service of Life that Power provides ensure survival, it also obliges Life to serve the Master and even die for the System in its wars: patria potestas. Power preserves you and guarantees your safety, but it may also demand the ultimate sacrifice from you if the need should arise.

By looking after the needs of Life, Power has been able to ensure that societies remain democratically docile and this has allowed democracy itself to run its course without threatening Power in any way. Nevertheless, it has also allowed for the potential of real human-progress by promoting Life as a value in itself.

The next great leap in human-progress can only come through a great Life-affirmation, that will, in itself, break the bonds binding Life to Power and to Wealth, in order for Life itself to become the driving motivator for humanity. Life is not Will to Power, Life is the very alternative to Power.

According to Foucault, the modernisation of our Western Society came through a transition in Power’s fascination with Life from life-as-blood to life-as-sex.[3]

A positive future transition would evolve in a way that moves away from life-as-sex into life-as-necessity.

If Power were to make this transition itself, then it could also save itself, but it seems easier to imagine Power being democratically replaced by Life than for it ever to be seduced by Necessity.

[1] by ‘human-progress’ we mean progress that is made for the benefit of humanity as a whole

[2] We give Power and Life capital letters to distinguish them from the common definition of those terms: by Power with a capital P we are talking about power as an invisible, but active and ubiquitous force which is firmly tied to the power wielded by all wealth and the organisational structure of the capitalist economy; Life with a capital L differs from the common definition by representing the idea of human life within the framework of the economic system driven by Power.

[3] See Foucault, HISTORY OF SEXUALITY, Vol. I, p.148.

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Sin & Sexuality, Foucault & Plato’s Noble Lie

 

van-der-goes-the-fall

Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump, Brexit or climate-change denial … we live in a world riddled by liars and lies. Given this global scenario it seems that Plato’s Noble Lie[1] is a crucial element in explaining our civilisation, which is really nothing more than a system upheld and maintained by lies.

Significant it certainly is that the Republic was written as an alternative to ‘democracy’, and the only way Plato could see of convincing the people that an elitist Republic could be better for them than a democracy would be by lying to them. Reality, Plato says, is whatever we believe it to be, or, what we make people believe it to be. Thus, the greatest success of contemporary civilisation has been its ability to fashion an absolutist power regime around the idea of democracy.

Foucault, in his History of Sexuality, showed how the absolutist gets right into the most intimate regions of our lives by inventing the lie of sin: a lie that directly targets our sexuality and invites power to make the fantasy of sin materialise in the form of the law.

“… the point to consider is not the level of indulgence or the quantity of repression but the form of power that was exercised. When this whole thicket of disparate sexualities was labelled … was the object to exclude them from reality?”

(Foucault, HISTORY OF SEXUALITY, Vol. I, p. 41)

When describing the ‘campaign’ against the ‘epidemic of children’s onanism’, Foucault says: “what this actually entailed, throughout the whole secular campaign that mobilised the adult world around the sex of children, was using these tenuous pleasures as a prop, constituting them as secrets (that is forcing them into hiding so as to make possible their discovery), tracing them back to their source, tracking them from their origins to their effects, searching out everything that might cause them or simply enable them to exist …” (Ibid, p. 42)

What we see in this and the rest of Foucault’s description of the oppression of masturbation is a representation of the way all power uses guilt, creating lies to assert itself.

First, create a false premise: yes, it can be as absurd as ‘masturbation is a mortal sin that the society needs to protect its innocents from’. Of course, the subject of the lie needs to be something that everyone does but that is not a general topic of conversation. Once the false premise is created, as Power knows that everyone is guilty of it, then it is a handy tool to have in order to get rid of opponents whenever necessary. The best sins to create are the ones that make us all sinners and breakers of the law and so, if you step on my toes, says Power, I will find your sins, bring them to the fore and crucify you for them.

The #METOO movement is noteworthy in this respect: women, who suffer terribly from power’s manipulation of them through the lie of sin embedded in their sexuality, have now taken the bull by the horns, so to speak and thrown the same stigma of sexual sin back in the face of Power.

What this has achieved more than anything else, is a discovery of the inherent weakness in the weapon of the Noble Lie. Like the Boy who Cried Wolf, lying stands on sandy soil, and a castle built on such foundations can easily come crashing down.

[1] If you don’t know what Plato’s Noble Lie is, here’s a link to the Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_lie

A NEW HETEROTOPIA

We first published this entry in June, 2013. We’ve now revised it in order to give it more clarity and consistency with the larger picture of the philosophical thesis we’re developing …

Michel Foucault, wrestling with the problem of the crisis of space, and, subsequently, the idea of the real and imaginary in spatial terms, came up with the concept of heterotopia to describe a place that is real and unreal at the same time[i] – as opposed to the Utopia which is imaginary only and does not exist.

In his essay Foucault lists the type of places that fit this dual-quality criterion, perhaps his most useful analogy being the mirror. You look in the mirror and see yourself, but you know that you are not really in the mirror. Nevertheless, the mirror exists. Your presence in the mirror is real and unreal at the same time.

The idea of the Heterotopia is an interesting one, that has generated more interest by our own Heterotopic existences in the virtual worlds we can inhabit on the Internet. However, we feel Foucault in a sense could not see the forest for the trees, for, from the point of view of the Human-whole, the very fabric of our civilisation itself is heterotopic and, consequently, so is our human condition. We live a dual reality existence that embraces reality (that which can be found in a space) and the imaginary (that which exists in no space) at the same time. In a sense then, the term Heterotopia opens doors to perceiving the concept of Idealism from a new angle. For this reason, we would like to keep Foucault’s term, but amplify its range.

Heterotopic realities can be true abstractions of what they are intended to be, or they can be false ones. A mirror image, for example, can be true if it is well-made or misleading if the image it reflects is distorted. Likewise, the images we create of ourselves in a social forum or chat room may be attempts to reflect our true personality, or they may be ways of presenting ourselves in another form all together. The ones that are constructed in a falsifying way, conceal the real purpose or nature of their original conception. We call these constructs masking-heterotopias.

Another example of the masking-heterotopia is civilisation. Civilisation is a thing edified from certain human fantasies in order to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the few within a form that seems admissible. It can only be admissible of course if it hides its desires and designs for wealth. At the same time, the demos, the people, or the civilian population, is also a masking-heterotopic construct. The demos is an ideated form of humanity that has emerged out of the desires of civilisation itself. The Wealth (yes, with a capital W) that runs civilisation began with its selfish-needs’ fantasy of what the human race could be used for, and turned them into a masking-heterotopic reality that the exploited themselves are largely unconscious of. In the masking-heterotopia, the admissible, imaginary form, once created, solidifies and becomes more and more real with time, but, in its essence, it is always that which was created as a mask over the real nature of the thing conceived.

To think of the people as something to be exploited for one’s own gain and for the maintenance of its own falsely heterotopic mega-construction, is a depressing pessimism. Nevertheless, the fact that human reality is an imaginative construct also bears very positive seeds.

If a civilisation serving Wealth can be imagined and constructed from that idea, then so can a future, authentically heterotopic civilisation serving the whole of humanity be construed in abstraction and made real in space. The greater our technological capacity grows the deeper should be our faith in our ability to create any kind of reality we wish.

Nevertheless, such a belief seems to frighten us more than inspire us. We not only have dreams to build; we also have horrible recurring nightmares. The idea of crashing once more into a Quixotic impossibility, a new Third Reich or a new Communist hell of terror and bureaucracy, paralyses us. The idea of the collective dreams, our collective ego-projections of grandeur, terrify us.

To create our own authentic Heterotopia, we need to overcome this fear. Overcome the fear and then imagine the future.

[i] See Michel Foucault’s essay, OF OTHER SPACES. A PDF copy can be found online via MIT http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf

Foucault’s manual for Anti-Fascism (with some notes)

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In his introduction to Deleuze and Guatarri’s Anti-Oedipus, Michel Foucault summarised the book into seven points which, he suggested, could serve as a guide for the everyday life of any anti-fascist. These seven points were:

  • “Free political action from all unitary and totalising paranoia.”[i] …or, in other words, avoid dogma at all costs.

We see this as the problems that arise from envisaging objectives as something fixed, or the perception of the Ideal as kind of frozen immobility. The essence of progress is that it is always moving beyond itself. The real revolutionary objective needs to be to maintain the linear impacts of progress and keep it out of the curving tendency that will render progress circular again.

  • “Develop action, thought and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchisation.”[ii]

… let us add communication and visibility through social networking as real instruments of democracy and subsequently as destabilising instruments on all attempts to impose dogmas. This has to be done by uncovering and exposing manipulations, especially the most subtle, which are the ones that contemporary dogmas thrive on.

  • “Withdraw allegiance for the old categories of the Negative (law, limit, castration, lack, lacuna), which Western thought has so long held sacred as a form of power and an access to reality. Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.”[iii]

Propagate a philosophical and artistic perspective of reality.

  • “Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable. It is the connection of desire to reality (and not its retreat into the forms of representation) that possesses revolutionary force.”[iv]
  • “Do not use thought to ground a political practice in Truth; nor political action to discredit, as mere speculation, a line of thought. Use political practice as an intensifier of thought, and analysis as a multiplier of the forms and domains for the intervention of political action.”[v]
  • “Do not demand of politics that it restore the ‘rights’ of the individual as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to ‘de-individualise’ by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualisation.”[vi]

Liberation of the individual must come through the liberation of humanity, not through the individual itself.

  • “Do not become enamoured of power.”[vii]

Escape the vicious circle of our sado-masochistic reality and our perverse fascination with power. Look for harmony rather than brutal domination and/or pathetic submission.

[i] (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, UMP, Minneapolis, 1983, Preface, p. xiii)

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Ibid, pp. xiii-xiv

[v] Ibid, p. xiv

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid

HETEROTOPIA

heterotopia 1

Michel Foucault, wrestling with the problem of the crisis of space, and, subsequently, the idea of the real and imaginary in spatial terms, came up with the concept of heterotopia to describe a place that is real and unreal at the same time[i] – as opposed to the Utopia which is imaginary only and does not exist.

In his essay Foucault lists the type of places that fit this dual-quality criterion, perhaps his useful analogy being the mirror. You look in the mirror and see yourself, but you know that you are not really in the mirror. Nevertheless, the mirror exists. Your presence in the mirror is real and unreal at the same time.

The idea of the Heterotopia is an interesting one, that has generated more interest by our own Heterotopic existences in the virtual worlds we can inhabit on the Internet. However, we feel Foucault in a sense could not see the forest for the trees, for, from the point of view of the Human-whole, the very fabric of our civilisation itself is heterotopic and, consequently, so is our human condition. We live a dual reality existence that embraces reality (that which can be found in a space) and the imaginary (that which exists in no space) at the same time. In a sense then, the term Heterotopia opens doors to perceiving the concept of Idealism from a new angle. For this reason, we would like to keep Foucault’s term, but amplify its range.

Heterotopic realities can be true abstractions of what they are intended to be, or they can be false ones. A mirror image, for example, can be true if it is well-made or misleading if the image it reflects is distorted. Likewise, the images we create of ourselves in a social forum or chat room may be attempts to reflect our true personality, or they may be ways of presenting ourselves in another form all together. The ones that are constructed in a falsifying way, conceal the real purpose or nature of their original conception. We call these constructs masking-heterotopias.

Another example of the masking-heterotopia is civilisation. Civilisation is a thing edified from certain human fantasies in order to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the few within a form that seems admissible. It can only be admissible of course if it hides its desires and designs for wealth. At the same time, the demos, the people, or the civilian population, is also a masking-heterotopic construct. The demos is an ideated form of humanity that has emerged out of the desires of civilisation itself. The Wealth (yes, with a capital W) that runs civilisation began with its selfish-needs’ fantasy of what the human race could be used for, and turned them into a masking-heterotopic reality that the exploited themselves are largely unconscious of. In the masking-heterotopia, the admissible, imaginary form, once created, solidifies and becomes more and more real with time, but, in its essence, it is always that which was created as a mask over the real nature of the thing conceived.

To think of the people as something to be exploited for one’s own gain and for the maintenance of its own falsely heterotopic mega-construction, is a depressing pessimism. Nevertheless, the fact that human reality is an imaginative construct also bears very positive seeds.

If a civilisation serving Wealth can be imagined and constructed from that idea, then so can a future, authentically heterotopic civilisation serving the whole of humanity be construed in abstraction and made real in space. The greater our technological capacity grows the deeper should be our faith in our ability to create any kind of reality we wish.

Nevertheless, such a belief seems to frighten us more than inspire us. We not only have dreams to build; we also have horrible recurring nightmares. The idea of crashing once more into a Quixotic impossibility, a new Third Reich or a new Communist hell of terror and bureaucracy, paralyses us. The idea of the collective dreams, our collective ego-projections of grandeur, terrify us.

To create our own authentic Heterotopia, we need to overcome this fear. Overcome the fear and then imagine the future.

[i] See Michel Foucault’s essay, OF OTHER SPACES. A PDF copy can be found online via MIT http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf