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Messages - Cain

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Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Re: A notebook
« on: February 12, 2009, 04:47:22 pm »
And again:

The essential difference is one of level: war occurs at a grand, societal level, whereas the game occurs at an interpersonal one. Note that the grand scale might be called a game, but should not be, since this plays into the hands of those politicians who do treat war like a game; and we can certainly describe friendships and other personal relations as strategic, but calling them “war” serves to diminish what is good in them, would sound paranoid.

Still, the model of war never really captured what Foucault was trying to do. War and strategy are models which suggest sovereignty, in that they suggest leadership. It is rather the Hobbesian war of all against all that most closely corresponds to Foucaultian power. A Freudian model would in fact do just as well, however: if archaeology looks at the “unconscious of knowledge” (OT x), then genealogy can be said to look at the political unconscious.

Like the psychic unconscious, discourses have their own unconscious, and so too does politics have its own unconscious, the strategies of power. The similarity to the unconscious mind is obvious: it has its own dynamic which is thoroughly concealed behind the explicit claims and interpretations associated with it, yet is nevertheless discoverable through an analysis of what is said at a level other than that of its explicit meaning.

Against the tendency to locate everything at the level of the masses and economics, Foucault claims that there is something highly specific going on at the level of government which is not reducible to what is going on below, that the state is not just the representation of struggles between subterranean forces.

Basically, power is less a confrontation between two adversaries or their mutual engagement than it is a question of “government.” This word must be allowed the very broad meaning it had in the sixteenth century. “Government” did not refer only to political structures or to the management of states; rather, it designated the way in which the conduct of individuals or of groups might be directed—the government of children, of souls, of communities, of families, of the sick. It covered not only the legitimately constituted forms of political or economic subjection but also modes of action, more or less considered and calculated, that were destined to act upon the possibilities of action of other people. To govern, in this sense, is to structure the possible field of action for others.

Foucault’s conception of power was always then one in which people related to one another, though also one in which the individuals involved in the games of power were themselves partly constituted by it, and the forces involved therefore operated at a “sub-individual” level.

There is indeed, however, a further criterion for what counts as a power relation: in a 1984 interview, Foucault identifies a power relationship as “a relationship in which one person tries to control the conduct of the other” (EW1 292; emphasis added).

On the side of the wielder of power, then, there must be some intention vis-à-vis the one who is to be affected. Otherwise there is no action upon an action, merely an action which affects another action, which any action whatever ultimately is. In the cases of communication and physical actions, they can affect others in such a way that power is involved, but also in such a way that it is not. If, in a blind rage perhaps, I shove someone out of my way and continue to walk, they may act to steady themselves, but this is completely irrespective of my intentions, which were just to get by. If I ask them to move, then it is power, since I act to try to make them act in turn. If I tell someone news that I do not know will affect them, and it does, profoundly, for reasons I could not have
known, this can hardly be power. But if, knowing this background, tell them the same news in the same nonchalant way, it can hardly not be power, hardly not be expected to provoke a response.

Thus when Foucault talks of power, he is not talking about one person having power over another, the legal right, but of one person actually exercising power over another. This includes acting “on the field of possibilities” (EW3 341); if I remove someone’s ability to do something, that too is power. The case of Locke’s (1690) locked room, where someone is willingly in a room, which has then been locked unbeknownst to them, thus removing the possibility of their leaving, would be a case of power. What is not power, in Foucault’s sense, is the mere possibility of acting on someone else’s activity: my capacity to intimidate people into doing things is not power unless it is actualised in actual intimidation.

Now, it is easier to grasp the point that what we mean our actions to do, our own intentionality, does not necessarily, or even particularly often, coincide with the actual effects of those actions than it is to grasp that all our actions, averaged over society, all our actions put together, between them have an intentionality of their own, which is neither our intentionality, nor even some corporate sense of purpose, nor Rousseauian general will.

In Foucaultian power, only  deliberate influence can concatenate into a network which exhibits strategic characteristics. Attempts of people to influence other people cohere together in a specific way. They take account of others’ attempts to influence people, come together in alliances, are determined (in a sense) by other power relations. One power relation does not occur irrespective of other power relations.

if someone wants me to do things, and I want other people to do things, these various potential
power relations will play against each other, tending towards some kind of integration, either through the elimination of certain power relations, or compromises in which they attain compatibility. This compatibility is itself strategic: an overall strategy emerges for the purpose of integrating various power relations. The people who are fed up with crime exercise their power on their rulers to do something about it, the rulers exercise power directly by hiring underlings and having them build and staff prisons, by passing laws that direct police and the judiciary, these people follow their orders and exercise power on criminals. The net effect of this is nothing less than the regular and continuing production of a class of delinquents. This might seem bizarre in that it exceeds, and indeed apparently contradicts, the motives of the agents involved, but in fact it is simply the way in which all the power relations have been integrated productively. This can be seen in the way that the production of delinquency in fact serves a number of purposes, such as the purpose of capital in dividing the working class and demonising a certain element as the cause of problems, which in fact ensures the very stable situation which produces this very criminal layer. This network, (relatively) stable though it is, contains any number of power relations in which the intent behind the power relation is not realised: prisoners often do not respond as warders try to get them to, for example. And this is a regular part of prison functioning, providing the occasion for the regular occurrences of brutality and disorder which perform roles in the formation of the kind of individuals who are produced by prisons, in the confirmation of the beliefs of wardens, the public, in innumerable ways, despite that no-one wants this. The system is only, as I say, relatively stable, however, which means that often enough effects are produced which do not abide by the settlement that the system represents. But even within the stability of the system, apparent disorder occurs which is in fact a regular part and effect of the strategies of power, which appears to be resistance, and which is resistance from the perspective of local power relations, but is not from the perspective of the grand strategies of power.

Power is co-extensive with the social body; there are no spaces of primal liberty between the meshes of its network.

Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Re: A notebook
« on: February 12, 2009, 04:43:39 pm »
Even more of the same:

Power organises itself by itself: it must adapt and take account of what it finds, an ever-changing environment. Foucault is clear, however, that power should not be understood on the model of an organism (PK 206).  Power, unlike an organism, is not autopoietic (to use another term Foucault never did), or “self-producing”: “these relations are not self-generating, are not self-subsisting, are not founded by themselves” (STP 4); (a strategy of) power is not a Luhmannian system. But neither does this mean that power’s intentionality arises simply by accident: rather it is produced from elsewhere, by the contestation of forces, which is itself self-organising.

The model Foucault chooses to employ instead of the organic model of autopoiesis used by Luhmann to understand social systems in understanding power is that of war: “power is war, the continuation of war by other means” (SD 15). Here Foucault reverses Clausewitz’s famous dictum, that war is politics by other means, into the claim “that politics is war by other means” (SD 15). This is pure Nietzschean genealogy, reminiscent of Nietzsche’s thesis that our present-day “civilised” society is the domination by slaves, rather than the absence of domination. It contradicts John Locke’s (1689) formula that the state of nature is a state of peace which descends into a state of war, followed by the establishment of civil society, which ends it: for Foucault it is war from the outset, which never ceases, but rather becomes civil society. Foucault also pointedly distinguishes himself from Thomas Hobbes, who of course, unlike Locke, believes that the state of nature is already a state of war from the outset, because Foucault does not agree with the argument, common to Hobbes and Locke, that government ends the state of war.

While Hobbes readily concedes the continuation of a state of war in the present despite the existence of the Leviathan, this is in fact only to the extent that the Leviathan’s dominance is not total. Foucault, on the other hand, self-consciously follows in the tradition of the left “political historicism” (SD 111) which sees war as “a permanent feature of social relations” (SD 110), something exemplified, not mitigated, by the state. The prime example of this is of course “class war,” which does not need any kind of open conflict to exist, but is rather an entrenched antagonism.

Now, there is obviously a difference between such permanent antagonism and war  simpliciter. Actual, physical violence is the most obvious criterion for making such a distinction, yet it is in fact neither necessary nor sufficient to this distinction, since all states that have ever existed at some point or other employ violence in a regular way in their running, in “keeping the peace,” and since wars themselves are not things which occur exclusively at the level of physical violence. We can thus see a continuum between war and politics: discourse and violence are always both present in either art; diplomacy and the knife are both tools of both war and politics.

When war starts, there is of course a kind of rupture in the international order, but power relations which cross the battle lines do not disappear entirely. Thus, we can see a certain kind of cooperation and mutuality between sides in even “total” conflicts. A war has a certain kind of semi-stable existence, which allows its incorporation into strategies of power, in which the war is presupposed in the strategic configuration of power relations on both sides of the battle lines, and in which a certain dynamic operates between the foes as the contest with one another for domination, just as individuals or groups do within society in peacetime. War is no more unidirectional than any other modality of power relations (it could not be, since the two are bound together): within the victor’s camp there has always been vying for position, strategy, alliance, and also within the defeated people. Hence alliances, implicit or explicit, across the lines of battle between mutually supportive tendencies in the other camp have always existed too: the Allies wanted the plotters against Hitler to succeed and, even if the two groups were not in direct communication, the Allies formed an essential component of the renegades’ plot to kill Hitler and rescue Germany, the Allies hoping to incite just such treachery within the ranks of the enemy.

Indeed, for Foucault, the peaceful state of society is an ossification of a previous state of war

Foucault, like the seventeenth-century political philosophers, posits a state of war, followed by the birth of civil society. Thus Foucault is genealogical in a sense which he shares with Locke as well as Nietzsche. For Foucault, however, unlike for the classical genealogists, including even Nietzsche to some extent, the establishment of civil society is a matter not of a compact between men to end war, nor of the forcible ending of war by a conquering leader, nor even of the cunning ruse against the warlike victors by the vanquished. It is rather a matter of a war which is self-organising, which, through the dynamic of the war itself forms civil society as a state of stabilisation, not by ending war with victory and thus peace, but by ossifying the battle lines and allowing for a new form of much more sophisticated and productive contention.

All the lines of force, across, behind, between the battle lines, carry over into the peace, with everyone contending even in so-called civil peace against one another, and every individual riven by struggles between sub individual forces. The difference between war and civil peace is only a relative lack of open violence in the latter, with the contention between forces possibly boiling over into new war or revolution, which may in turn result in a new settlement. Indeed, from the inversion of Clausewitz, Foucault concludes that “the final decision can only come from war, or in other words a trial by strength in which weapons are the final judges” (SD 16). Foucault calls this schema “Nietzsche’s hypothesis,” and it is indeed thoroughly Nietzschean, in that it sees society as a relentless struggle of contending wills to power.

This reality is at the heart of the thesis of Discipline and Punish: there is power wherever there is law, but the law neither describes nor prescribes what is happening at the level of power; the law is something flexible, which is applied very differently at different points, different times and different places (cf. DP 21–22). The law is something which does not do what it says it is doing: the net effect of a law which applies such-and-such penalties for such-and-such crimes cannot be discerned from the law itself.

"What is most dangerous in violence is its rationality. Of course violence itself is terrible. But the deepest root of violence and its permanence come out of the form of the rationality we use. The idea has been that if we live in the world of reason, we can get rid of violence. This is quite wrong. Between violence and rationality there is no incompatibility. My problem is not to put reason on trial, but to know what is this rationality so compatible with violence."

Foucault is still no pacifist, moreover, despite the above condemnation of violence. In 1983, provoked by a particular local manifestation of the early ’80s pacifist movement, Foucault (DE2 1357) identifies the problem of pacifism with the problem of the concept of peace, which he calls “a dubious notion,” and sets out the need for investigation along these lines.  Deleuze (1988, 70; emphasis in original) says that, for Foucault, violence is “a concomitance or consequence of force, but not a constituent element.” This is to say that “force relations” will always produce violence, but violence is not part of what makes something a force relation—open violence is not required all the time, but it is sure to happen sometimes where power is concerned. Foucault stipulates in “The Subject and Power” that power and violence are quite different things, but that does not mean that you can have one without the other.

The metaphor that in Foucault’s later work largely displaces that of war is that of the game. In the early ’70s, Foucault tends to insist on violence and war: power is violence, politics is warfare by other means, discourse is violence. In the late Foucault, the paradigm is the game: truth is a game (TS 15; EW1 281), power is a game (DE2 545; EW1 29).

Literate Chaotic / Re: Unofficial What are you Reading Thread?
« on: February 12, 2009, 03:51:10 pm »
Got bored of terrorism.  So I chucked all that aside and went for War, Diplomacy and the Rise of the Savoy 1690-1720, by Christopher Storrs. 

Literate Chaotic / Re: Order vs Chaos themes in fiction
« on: February 12, 2009, 03:44:11 pm »
Definitely Les Miserables and Dennis the Menace, yeah.

Or Kill Me / Re: Your body
« on: February 12, 2009, 03:37:16 pm »
Sorry guys, you're on your own for this one.  I decided that someone who thinks throwing around Wittgenstein and logical positivism references is a sign of intelligence (because like, thats not something every first year philosophy undergrad studies)  should be pitied, rather than made fun of.  And then I did something more productive with my time than poking someone whose interpersonal skills are roughly on the level of an aspie, and sat on my hand until it was numb, then jacked off.

Besides, as you all know, I think there are several members of this board at least as intelligent as myself.  LMNO, TOG, GA, Richter, Cram etc  I just have the time to hang around and read the books, inbetween plotting the inevitable downfall of my enemies.  Speaking of which, back to my plotting book.

Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Re: Verwirrung Blog roundtable discussion
« on: February 12, 2009, 11:37:00 am »
Yeah.  I've managed to get a few via the XKCD forums, because I have the link in my sig.  However, I think also going via sites like Warren Ellis' place, and places like, Boing Boing and just commenting occasionally, with a link to the blog via your profile, could do a lot.

Or Kill Me / Re: Your body
« on: February 12, 2009, 09:25:06 am »
Oh man, if I only I had read philosophy for the past 6 years.  Then I would be able to keep up with this conversation.  I don't even know who this Nietzsche fella is.  Name sounds kinda familiar...did he make those garlic sausages that are so popular in parts of Bavaria?

Techmology and Scientism / Re: CRAZY PREPARED
« on: February 11, 2009, 09:35:16 pm »
We bought slingshots in Peru.  And practiced with them, constantly.  Accurate, they are not.  Used in concert however, they are fucking terrifying, for everyone involved.

Or Kill Me / Re: It's Simple Really...
« on: February 11, 2009, 07:11:48 pm »
The Politics Show is like The Wright Stuff on meth, essentially.  And with about the same political nuance.  Which is, of course, why I watch it.

Or Kill Me / Re: It's Simple Really...
« on: February 11, 2009, 09:46:05 am »
Depends whats on the TV and what the written/drawn media actually is.

David Attenborough's Wildlife on One > All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder by Frank Miller (unless your sense of humour is especially warped) and the Ragnar Redbeard's Might Makes Right.

For example.  That's all besides the point however, since the original point was people whining about violence on TV and, you know, trying to ban it all in their ongoing attempt to ruin all sorts of fun everywhere for everyone.  I just raised those books to reiterate the point that historically, and indeed presently outside of the post-industral world, violence has been a lot worse than what we see on TV.  I have never seen, for example, a child soldier being raped and then told to kill other children on the Teevee, yet such things are a daily occurence in sub-Saharan Africa.  I think that this continues to happen may be a bigger problem than Jack Bauer shooting someone in the head, at a time after which most kids are in bed anyway.

Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Re: Informers versus Persuaders.
« on: February 11, 2009, 09:30:26 am »
We were in the Organic Chemistry lab, when the drugs started to take hold.  I remember saying something like "I feel a little lightheaded, maybe you should handle this Nitroglycerin."

Suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us, and the air was filled with what looked to be giant bats, swooping and and screeching and diving around the electron microscope... and a voice was screaming: Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?

"What are you yelling about?"

"Never mind. It's your turn at acid-base extraction."  No point mentioning these bats. I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.

We had two bags of ammonia, seventy-five pellets of Sodium hydride, five sheets of high quality Thiazole dyes, a salt shaker half full of sodium chloride, a whole galaxy of multi-colored Acenaphthoquinone, Cefazolin, Citronella oil, Triphenylmethane... Also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether and two dozen aspirin.

Not that we needed all that for our experiments, but once you get locked into a serious chemistry obsession, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a scientist in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we'd get into that rotten stuff pretty soon.

"One toke over the line, sweet Jesus."

"One toke. You poor fool. Wait till you see those goddamn bats."

I have a very slight cold.  Probably wont last until tomorrow.

Or Kill Me / Re: It's Simple Really...
« on: February 10, 2009, 06:48:43 pm »
Of course, if they turned the TV off and read something like Tacitus, or the History of the Third Reich, they'd soon realize they were whining anyway.

But that would involve, you know, reading.  Books and stuff.

Or Kill Me / Re: Your body
« on: February 10, 2009, 06:12:59 pm »
He was, when all was said and done, the most magnificent of several magnificent bastards in Illuminatus!

When I get a reply, I'll post it here.

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