Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chapeau de paille

Francis Picabia
Chapeau de Paille,1921

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Furniture Study with German Annotations

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Private Moon

Leonid Tishkov - Boris Bendikov
Private Moon, 2003 – 2005

Russian Dreams
Curated by Olga Sviblova
Artists also include: AES+F Group, Alexander Ponomarev, Dubossarsky and Vinogradov,Yuri Avvakumov, Dmitri Gutov, Olga Chernysheva, Leonid Tishkov, Andrei Molodkin, Alexei Kostroma, Nikolai Polissky, Andrei Philippov,Vladimir Tarasov, Dmitry Gutov, Yuri Albert, Haim Sokol, MishMash Group, Julia Milner,Alexei Buldakov
December 4, 2008 - February 8, 2009
Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow

Friday, January 23, 2009

Knitting Cats

Educated shoppers go to Globus

Otto Baumberger, Wer rechnet kauft im Globus (Educated shoppers go to Globus), 1934


Kostas Bassanos, "From Here to Eternity", 2007, installation, cardboard box, slide projection
Nowhere at Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre Thursday 15th January-21st February

The great divide

The discipline of anthropology has split firmly into two factions - social anthropologists and evolutionary anthropologists. Hannah Fearn asks whether or not the warring sides can be reconciled

Renowned anthropologist Eric Wolf once described his discipline as "the most scientific of the humanities and the most humanistic of the sciences".

Perhaps he was attempting to capture the uniqueness of a subject that can talk to both academic camps but, by the time he died in 1999, his words articulated the growing split within the discipline.

Today, anthropology is at war with itself. The discipline has divided into two schools of thought - the social anthropologists and the evolutionary anthropologists. The schism between the two is simple but deeply ingrained. Academics in the subject clearly align themselves with one side or the other; once that choice is made it defines their career.

The division lies in the question of whether or not anthropology is a science, and if it accepts that Darwinian evolutionary theory guides research into human behaviour and the development of societies.

On one side are the evolutionary anthropologists. "(They believe) our behaviour is based on things that we did to find mates in our years of evolution," says Alex Bentley, a lecturer in anthropology at Durham University. "Then we have the social anthropologists. Some of them really strongly reject this kind of thinking. They consider it reductionist. They are focused on the specifics of culture."

Put crudely, social anthropologists describe and compare the development of human cultures and societies, while evolutionary anthropologists seek to explain it by reference to our biological evolution. The two sides of the one discipline are struggling to unite.

"They just do not see eye to eye. They don't see anything the same way," says Bentley. "It can be very difficult. In some departments they hardly speak. Professionally there is almost no overlap. One is more descriptive and the other is more analytical. It's a very clear dividing line in many departments. It often causes a lot of acrimony."

This division dates back to the 1970s, when eminent American anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon (now retired emeritus professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara) presented his work on the Yanomami tribes of Venezuela in the context of evolutionary biology.

At first, evolutionary anthropologists were considered the mavericks of the discipline and regarded with both amusement and disdain. But the popularity of the subdiscipline has grown over the decades, and universities now face a challenge in keeping their anthropology departments operating civilly. The divisions within the subject are even guiding the hiring process, with many recruiters ensuring a balance of interests when hiring new staff.

"(Departments) might say: 'We'll have a social anthropologist this time but next time we can have a biological anthropologist.' It's that much out in the open," continues Bentley. Even undergraduates are forced to select one route of study or another from the outset. The effect on the subject is obvious: "While the two sides aren't communicating (the discipline) is not working as efficiently as it could," Bentley concludes.

Although the debate may be hosted within academe, there is nothing considered about the war of words exchanged between the two camps. Today's anthropologists are certainly not afraid of a bit of mud-slinging.

"A lot of anthropologists are interpretivists; they are interpreting what they see. They're not working within the framework of the scientific method," says Ruth Mace, professor of evolutionary anthropology at University College London. "That's all well and good, but why should we be more interested in one person's interpretation over someone else's interpretation unless we have got some commonly accepted grounds for testing competing hypotheses?"

For Mace, the debate over whether to work within the "scientific method" is holding anthropology back. "If you're interested in making formal hypotheses about why people do what they do, we have to test those hypotheses," she says. "I'm a scientist - that's what I do. I think that evolutionary theory provides a very real framework for trying to understand that. If a discipline isn't saying anything that is of interest to any other discipline then that is a problem. The scientific method is a common currency across all scientific disciplines, most of the social sciences included. In that way, disciplines can speak to each other."

Mace believes that cultural anthropology is still very dominant, and that trying to work as an evolutionary anthropologist is difficult within a British university. "It's unfortunate that the discipline's divided," she says. "It's difficult to do science in a non-science department."

But Tim Ingold, chair of social anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, finds this view hard to accept. He says it is the biological anthropologists' refusal to compromise that is at the root of the split.

"They seem to be stuck on a very rigid form of argument, and it's one which they're not prepared to question. They already assume they have the correct answer. It's extremely frustrating. They're not prepared to accept any kind of criticism from people on the social side," Ingold says. "From where I sit, the biggest obstacle to satisfactory integration in this way is this dogmatic adherence to a fairly orthodox neo-Darwinian paradigm.

"I have always seen anthropology as something that bridges the divide between science and the humanities, but the terms on which most biological anthropologists insist that (the two sides) should be brought together are completely wrong and unhelpful."

Indeed, Ingold is concerned about the rise of evolutionary anthropology in US academe. "Everybody looking across the pond would say that the way in which things have gone there has been unhelpful to the discipline."

When Ingold established the department of anthropology, he recruited a team of social anthropologists. Despite this, he deliberately chose not to call it the "department of social anthropology" as he did not want to be divisive.

He says anthropology is now locked in a stalemate for which he blames the lack of movement on the part of the evolutionary anthropologists. "They're just not prepared to compromise," Ingold says. "I believe anthropology should be a science but there are many ways of doing science."

How can the discipline expect to unite if neither side is prepared to talk to the other and to compromise? Despite the clear division, many anthropologists remain hopeful. They believe a common ground can be found, and are working to bring both camps together.

Harvey Whitehouse, professor of anthropology at the University of Oxford, is one of them. He aims to show how the two sides of anthropology can work in tandem, and tells social anthropologists that they must accept that biological differences have an impact on the development of society if academic research in anthropology is to progress.

"Over the course of the 20th century, anthropology became 'mindblind', but more generally the discipline developed a kind of biological myopia. The future of anthropology lies in the development of much sharper vision in these areas," wrote Whitehouse in an insert for Joy Hendry's An Introduction to Cultural and Social Anthropology: Sharing Our Worlds. "Just as feminist scholarship has begun seriously to grapple with and contribute to the discoveries of evolutionary sciences and experimental psychology, so too must anthropology ... In my own area of specialist interest, the anthropology of religion, there can be little doubt that natural features of cognition contribute to the content and salience of beliefs in the afterlife."

In fact, the recent book Religion, Anthropology and Cognitive Science, co-authored by Whitehouse, shows just how easily ethnography, history and cognitive science can be integrated in an anthropological study of religion.

"Children, it now seems, cannot be raised to believe just anything; nor can adults be converted to any type of ideological system," Whitehouse wrote.

"Religions must exploit certain fundamental universal human intuitive biases and predilections if they are to get a foothold. The cognitivist project has certainly been valuable in explaining why many features of religious thinking and behaviour are much the same everywhere."

The Royal Anthropological Institute is at the vanguard of a new unity within the discipline. Hilary Callan, the institute's director, says the charity exists to represent the interests of all anthropologists. As such it has inevitably faced its critics.

"The discipline has suffered from the progressive divergence between the sub-disciplines. There has been a tendency for the biological end to be associated with the political right and the sociocultural with the political left. I would not support that polarisation. I think it's a false one," she explains.

"We are positioned as an institution that's representative of all of the subdisciplines. There have been debates about whether there has been over-representation of the interests of social anthropology at the expense of biological and evolutionary anthropology."

But Callan is optimistic, and such criticisms have not deterred the institute from its aim of getting biological and social anthropologists talking to each other. The institute is hosting lectures with a focus on all disciplines bringing the two forks together - psychology and behaviour; nature and culture; Darwinism and religion.

It is also publishing new texts looking at the oldest questions of anthropology, such as kinship, with the newest cross-disciplinary theories. Callan calls this progress the "green shoots of new growth".

"If there has been a problem it has been a problem of separateness, but that separateness has not been complete and without exception. The issue of reaching across boundaries is not just a question of bringing together biological and social anthropology," she says.

New research subjects, such as medical anthropology and the anthropology of tourism, are examples of this reaching out. At Durham University, Robert Barton, head of the anthropology department, has deliberately recruited a team of academics who will work to bring the two elements of the one discipline closer together. He cannot understand why the two subdisciplines have been kept separate for so long, and believes that the division has led anthropology to lose its way academically.

"There was a kind of confusion about what the aims (of anthropology) were," Barton says. "We're interested in the same kind of phenomena. Sometimes we're working in parallel but not really talking to one another about what methods of study we're using and how these might contribute to each other's interests."

Barton's employment strategy has been aimed at bringing in academics specifically interested in exploring the areas of interaction between social and biological anthropology, whether they are from a scientific or humanities background.

"What I am interested in doing here is bringing together those people who really do have something to say to each other," Barton explains. "There was a real barrier to that happening in terms of lack of understanding. In particular I think many social anthropologists misunderstood evolutionary biology. They caricatured it. One of my missions has been to break down those misperceptions that everything we're doing implies genetic determinism."

Barton's researchers are working on overlaps between the disciplines, and are focused on research that will reveal new truths about the human condition. An example of such work includes an analysis into whether the evolution of a pastoral way of life in certain parts of the world is linked to the biological capacity to digest milk. "That's the kind of process that people are interested in," he says.

Barton believes that his work to unite anthropologists also creates an opportunity to engage academics outside the discipline in a way that has been impossible until now because of persistent infighting.

"I'm very optimistic. We're going to see real collaboration going on across the social divide," he adds. "I'm totally convinced that it's essential they come together. I don't think there's any future for an anthropology that doesn't combine the different approaches and perspectives."

However, even here among those working to get the anthropology factions talking again, opinions are divided. At the Royal Anthropological Institute, Callan says that although evolutionary and social anthropologists can certainly work together profitably, they will never be united.

"What I think will happen, and what I hope will happen over the coming period, is that the specialisation and the proliferation of really excellent research within the subfields will continue," says Callan. "But there will be a growing core of common interest looking at the themes from different perspectives, and raising new questions and new kinds of answers to them.

"There will always be many anthropologies. The discipline won't speak with one voice or look in one direction."

By Hannah Fearn
Source: Times Higher Education , Nov.08

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Directed by Robert Bresson,1967

I threw my arms about those shoulders...

Darling, you think it's love, it's just a midnight journey.
Best are the dales and rivers removed by force,
as from the next compartment throttles "Oh, stop it, Bernie,"
yet the rhythm of those paroxysms is exactly yours.
Hook to the meat! Brush to the red-brick dentures,
alias cigars, smokeless like a driven nail!
Here the works are fewer than monkey wrenches,
and the phones are whining, dwarfed by to-no-avail.
Bark, then, with joy at Clancy, Fitzgibbon, Miller.
Dogs and block letters care how misfortune spells.
Still, you can tell yourself in the john by the spat-at mirror,
slamming the flush and emerging with clean lapels.
Only the liquid furniture cradles the dwindling figure.
Man shouldn't grow in size once he's been portrayed.
Look: what's been left behind is about as meager
as what remains ahead. Hence the horizon's blade.

Joseph Brodsky

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The March of the Pylons against Heidegger

The March of the Pylons against Heidegger
Wood, acrylic, plywood, varnish, veneer, felt, plastic
121 x 30 x 150 cm

Hotel Oush Grab

The buildings of Oush Grab after the re-occupation by the settlers and after the artists’ détournement

Source: Decolonizing Architecture @

Panopticon catz


Friday, January 9, 2009

Mobutu Style

Meeting in the Oval Office between Nixon and President Mobutu Sese Seku of Zaire, 1973


New Architecture and Urban Phenomena
in South Eastern Europe

In the western Balkans, the collapse of the socialist economic system in Yugoslavia and Albania has given rise to extensive informal building activity that represents a new form of urbanisation. The question is: how far do such urban transformations indicate patterns of future development for European cities in general? The exhibition uses examples from projects in Belgrade, Zagreb, Kotor, Prishtina and Tirana to illustrate the way architects, artists, urbanists and activists are dealing with these rapid new transformation processes. The outstanding yet hardly known buildings of socialist modernism in Yugoslavia are compared and contrasted with contemporary architecture.

»Balkanology« opens a new field of architectural discourse in Switzerland —the little-known architecture of the post-socialist period and the result of unregulated, uncontrolled urban planning in the countries of South Eastern Europe. The exhibition focuses on the impact of recent socio-political changes on architecture and urban planning.

The situation in South Eastern Europe is prototypical for urban development in transitional and post-conflict situations, from Prishtina to Belgrade, where weak or missing institutional structures make it impossible to achieve the regulation of construction processes. The wild, volatile spread of informal building structures is the aftermath of the kind of urban crisis that follows social upheavals or wars. At the same time, independently of regional particularities, these urban developments display a new kind of urban form that is quite different from informal settlements in countries outside Europe. Their specific forms result from a new intermeshing of spaces through visual worlds communicated by the media, migratory movements and cash flows.

»Balkanology« brings together leading architects and urban planners from South Eastern Europe and shows their approaches to these fundamental urban transformations. The exhibition will show the cultural, social and political dimensions of the urban phenomena of the region. The key question here is to what extent unregulated, informal urbanism develops new typologies and urban forms, and how these forms could also emerge under the banner of neo-liberal de-urbanisation in the rest of Europe.

The exhibition presents research projects and concrete interventions, architectural analyses and planning strategies. »Balkanology« deliberately avoids trying to achieve a picture of urban development that would be valid for the whole region. Instead, it uses selected examples from different locations to highlight specific local influences on architecture and urban construction, thus critically examining the potentialities for a re-qualification in urban planning.

Prishtina, 2008.

The term »Balkans« is generally synonymous with South Eastern Europe, a region with varying geographical definitions. This vague term for the area is a 19th-century invention. In the European, or Western European imaginary, the word »Balkan« stands for ambiguity, hybridity, or a state of transition; it is a concept that can be used positively or negatively. »Balkanology« goes beyond the clichés to draw a differentiated picture of urban development in the region and the forces that determine it.

Using selected examples, Maroje Mrduljaš, the editor of the Croatian architectural magazine Oris, and the Serbian architectural historian Vladimir Kulić will show how Yugoslavian architects and planners have tackled "modernity" and "internationality". Alongside chosen topics, the co-curators will set up an interrelation between historical and contemporary buildings and projects, and comment on them with reference to the phenomenon of "interrupted modernism" in Yugoslavia.

Curated by Kai Vöckler

Contemporary Architecture
Bevk – Perović arhitekti Housing Polje, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2005/Studio Capsula Social Housing, Island of Cres, Croatia 2005/Robert Claiborne, Lia Ruccolo, Ivan Markov Museum of Contemporary Art, Project, Novi Sad, Serbia, 2007/OSNAP Architecture Consultancy Srebrenica Memorial, Potočari, Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina 2006/Marijan Hržić Eurotower, Zagreb, Croatia, 2008/Slavija biro and ARCVS Reconstruction Business Centre “Ušće” (formerly Building of Social and Political Organisations), Belgrade, Serbia, 2005/Srdjan Jovanović Weiss / NAO Stadium Culture – Centre for New Media and Recreation, Project, Novi Sad, Serbia, 2007/Iva Letilović & Morana Vlahović Social Housing, Krapinske Toplice, Croatia, 2003/Hrvoje Njirić Mini Housing Complex “... this familiar feeling”, Gračani near Zagreb, Croatia, 2007/Ofis arhitekti Extension and Renovation of the Ljubljana City Museum, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2004/Helena Paver Njirić New Permanent Exhibition – Memorial Museum of the Jasenovac Memorial Area, Jasenovac, Croatia/
Goran Rako Archäologisches Museum Narona, Vid near Metković, Croatia, 2007/Randić-Turato Arhitektonski Biro Primary School Fran Krsto Frankopan, Island of Krk, Croatia, 2005/Re:act Terazije Terraces, Belgrade, Serbia, 2010/SCArS City Trade Centre Update, Skopje, Macedonia 2008/Hosoya Schaefer Architects Šmartinska Partnership Masterplan, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2008/Studio UP High School and Polyvalent Hall, Koprivnica, Croatia, 2007/Sadar Vuga Arhitekti Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 1999/Studio za arhitekturu - Igor Franić Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia, 2009/

Modern Architecture
Ivan Antić and Ivanka Raspopović Museum of Contemporary Art, New Belgrade, Serbia, 1965/Vojnin Bakić (Sculpture), Berislav Šerbetić (Architecture)Monument, Petrova Gora, Croatia, 1981/Bogdan Bogdanović Partisan Cemetery, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1965/Bogdan Bogdanović Jasenovac Memorial, Jasenovac, Croatia, 1966/
Nikola Dobrović Grandhotel, Lopud, Croatia, 1936/Nikola Dobrović Ministry of Defense and Headquarters of Yugoslav People’s Army, Belgrade, Serbia, 1963/Drago Galić
Apartment Buildings, Zagreb, Croatia, 1954/Mihailo Janković Federal Executive Council (Federal Government), New Belgrade, Serbia, 1962/Studio 71 Opera and Ballet, Skopje, Macedonia, 1981/Milorad Macura Apartment Building, Belgrade, Serbia, 1956/
Boris Magaš, Edo Šmidihen, Radovan Horvat Museum of Revolution (today Historical Museum), Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1963/Edo Mihevc Commercial and Apartment Building Kozolec, Ljubljana, Slowenia, 1957/Andrija Mutnjaković National and University Library, Prishtina, Kosovo, 1983/Juraj Neidhardt Apartment Buildings, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1958/Kazimir Ostrogović City Hall, Zagreb, Croatia, 1956/Jože Plečnik National and University Library, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 1940/Edvard Ravnikar Memorial Complex, Kampor, Island of Rab, Croatia, 1953/
Vjenceslav Richter Pavilion of Yugoslavia at the Expo, Brussels, Belgium, 1958/Vladimir Turina Flexible Swimming Pool, Project, Rijeka, Croatia, 1949/
Zlatko Ugljen Sherefudin’s White Mosque, Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1980
Ivan Vitić The Cultural Centre of the Yugoslav People’s Army (today: Public Library), Šibenik, Croatia 1961

The Truth Machine: the Relationship between Life and Sovereign Power

In the long awaited movie Sex and the City, one of the main protagonists, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), hires a personal assistant; she is a young, lower class woman who came from the southern U.S. to New York in search of a job and, indubitably, “happiness.” Being a personal assistant, she has to have the “necessary” commodities; she cannot afford them, but still she is forced to get them, though only for a short period of time. What is a necessary commodity other than a Louis Vuitton purse? Happiness is therefore not achieved (as this popular series/movie/brand promotes) by getting a job, a career or the like; not even by getting the commodity itself; but by getting a lifestyle. This example shows not just how commodity fetishism influences the cultural system of capitalist democracy, but how much life itself today plays the role of the rationalisation of power structures. Today it is not the commodity itself that is the fetish, but a form of life which is. What better way, then, to see the relationship between power and life than by taking a view on life that is neither life, nor power, but is something in between, an alien. The figure of an alien (illegal alien, excluded misfit) surpasses mere administrative questions of the regulation of foreign laborer status; it does not matter if we look at the suburban riots in Paris or even at the military blockade against Mexican immigrants on the southern U.S. border. An alien, as a “phobogenic” object (an object that creates fear in others), has become a sort of a foundation of the cultural system in capitalist democracy that rationalizes the political malfunction of these same democracies. When Joel Kovel describes the relation of the economic forms and patterns of racism, he finds three forms in historical phases of racism: dominant – in which the “savagery” of the black man that endangers the purity of a white woman is controlled by domination and violence; repulsive – in which the “contagious filth” of a black person is “approached” through avoidance; and a meta-racism (a designation of the present capitalist democracies) – in which a difference is being denied through a complete denial of the existence of racism.1 In all of these cases, as Ivan Ward remarks, “the phantom Negro” endangers cultural illusion and structures of power status quo.2 “The phantom Negro,” as an alien, is the ultimate phobogenic object. The present text is precisely about the relation of this phantom to the status quo capitalist power structure.

Sovereignty and Life
The Alien, in its ambiguous position, by not being completely inside, and neither being completely outside the law, exposes the very sovereignty of today’s power structure that is not the “supreme power over a body politic,”3 but is rather a sovereignty that organizes a social context in which individuals should crave for something else as compensation for the lack of participation in political processes, or for a lack of the political process at all.
Just what form of sovereignty are we talking about? First is the “imperial sovereignty”, which is not a sovereignty of a certain nation-state, but a global form of sovereignty that includes dominant nation-states along with supranational institutions, major capitalist organizations and other powers.4 And second, this sovereignty is marked less by definition, and more by paradox, like the one Giorgio Agamben refers to. The paradox of sovereignty, according to him, means that the “Sovereign is at the same time outside and inside of the legal order.”5 To paraphrase him further, I can state that the sovereign, by having a legal power to suspend the law, legally puts itself outside the law. The structure of this paradox that presents sovereignty as a border (in the sense of drawing a beginning and an end) is, as Agamben claims, a structure of exceptions. When Agamben quotes Schmitt, paraphrasing him, we see that “the Sovereign creates and guarantees the situation in its totality, the sovereign has the monopoly on that last decision; there lies an essence of state sovereignty, not as a monopoly on repression or rule, but as a monopoly of a decision.”6 In other words, the sovereign decides whether some situation is “normal” (where legal order is applicable), or whether it is to proclaim a state of exception (stating that the legal order is not to apply). Therefore, sovereignty of a capitalist state does not depend on power over certain political space; it depends on maintenance of a certain truth about that political space. That truth says that the only sovereignty is not some state sovereignty, but the sovereignty of capital itself (as an ongoing state of exception), and that the only politics it has is the politics of the market that supports life as commodity. Hence, once capital reached its initial accumulation within the nation state, it started to reproduce constantly, and in the process of discovering new forms of production, distribution and exchange, it changed the very notion of territory. As philosopher Marina Gržinić observed, de-territorialisation is not the process of erasing territories, but of re-territorialisation – the constant cannibalisation of old territories and the constant reinvention of new ones.
One such territory is life itself. Giorgio Agamben differentiates bare life: life for the sake of life only; Greek zoe; pure nature. This is the life of Homo Sacer, Holy man, a figure that, according to Agamben, can be killed but can not be sacrificed, a life that does not have anything more than its biological life (migrants stripped of any commodity, third world laborers, etc.). The other form of life is bios: life with style, of a citizen; the form of life that can be sacrificed (to the sovereign). Although it could seem that an alien might resemble bare life and although bios might be seen as an oppressor of bare life, our basic hypothesis here is that the figure of an alien is situated between these two forms of life. The alien is the ultimate phobogenic object, a blank position that attracts all residues of failed rationalizations of state-of-exception power structures. What this means is that an alien emerges somewhere in the bare life’s path toward the power structure, or in the path of bios moving away from the rationalization of power structures.

Relationship of Life and Power
As Agamben says, bare life is a life form that is excluded from human jurisdiction and that has not been included in God’s jurisdiction.7 The continuous sovereign sphere is one in which one can kill while committing neither murder nor sacrifice. And holy life, the one that can be killed but not sacrificed, is a life caught in this sphere. As such, and produced as such, according to Agamben, bare life in that sense is a primal effect of sovereignty. Western mainstream media reports and/or the policy makers, when reporting on the situation in Iraq, fail to acknowledge the thousands of dead Iraqis8 but rather acknowledge that a far less number of dead American soldiers (as soldiers, not as members of low class community in the U.S.) are, on the other side, a cause for panic in assessments of the effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy. Iraqi life is bare life, while a U.S. soldier’s life is bios. The death of an Iraqi is an humanitarian problem, while the death of a U.S. soldier is a political fact. Hence, the sovereignty of the capitalist state, through the lack of ruling over certain social organizations that seek a solution for its problems, rules over life, produces bare life and sustains bios. Production of bare life is paradoxically also a practice of killing it, as a practice of a sovereign’s “right” to rule over the possibility to cease life, or to organize all of life’s relationships and meaning. But bare life is not one that would perceive itself as a victim: it has a tendency to perceive itself as potential bios, potential “success story”. Bare life does see that the state of exception is not the anomaly, but the truth of capital, but it does not react against it, as it wants to become a part of it, to become the one who oppresses. Bare life, therefore, does not react towards the discriminatory hierarchy of state exception (truth of capital), but it tends to react against some other bare life, that allegedly stops it in its way of emancipation to the same hierarchy.

As Mona Chollet explains, in a Marxist model, a worker is called upon to resist a servile and humiliating position that does not allow him/her to compare his/her destiny to the destiny of a wealthy man and demand a share of the wealth.9 In this model, the worker identifies him/herself only to his/her fellow workers, employed and unemployed. According to Chollet, the genius of the political right is exactly in the twisting of this scheme, which has been effective in the past. Today a worker identifies him/her self with a wealthy man and compares himself to those who share his/her situation. Therefore, s/he “sees” that immigrants get social help and he or she doesn’t; s/he “sees” that the unemployed sleep longer, while s/he has to go to work. Chollet says that workers are therefore diverted from the legitimate target, and that this then creates the vicious circle: the more his/her life conditions are deteriorating, the more likely s/he is to vote for the politics that deteriorates them. This is what happens to bare life: the more it suffers, the more it wants to become integrated into the work processes of neo-liberal capitalism; the more it wants to become bios, life with style. It has a tendency not to resist the oppression, but to become an oppressor. As Hardt and Negri say, “Every sovereign power (…) necessarily forms a political body of which there is a head that commands, limbs that obey, and organs that function together to support the ruler.”10 But it seems that the sovereignty of capital does not even need a political body (as a demand for a potential of a different organization of the social); it just needs a body. Thus, bare life is not the only form produced by the sovereign, but the sovereign produces the relationship between two forms of life, in which one, bios, wants to stay included, while the other, bare life, struggles to be included. This obscene relationship marks the situation in which politics are being slowly killed by capitalism, where the tortured body of politics is not hidden, but presented as culture. And here, the main preoccupation of a slave (bios) and of the wannabe slave (bare life) becomes nothing but a lifestyle as an euphemism for a right to be indifferent, or for a right to become an oppressor. The same way the state socialist totalitarian rituals (mass parades, etc.) were used for compensation for other “sins” of their sovereigns, similarly capitalist democracies use entire cultures for the same compensation policy, for the same scope… but it can barely be seen as such.
As an example, the New York Times recently reported11 that there is a peep-show style artistic installation on Coney Island (NY), where two animatronics (demonstration figures) are simulating the act of waterboarding.12 This presentation of a method used by U.S. interrogators against alleged terror suspects clearly shows that something as deadly serious as torture not only symbolizes the legacy of Bush Jr.’s neo-conservative rule, but also the frivolity of its potential installation as public art/entertainment. Incidentally, the New York Times published this article in the Art & Design section of the paper. Therefore, culture has become the other name for political indifference that is nothing else but neo-liberalism (as a dominant form of representation of capitalist state), or in other words, lifestyle instead of a struggle for a more meaningful, or for some other meaning of life.

A Machine that Produces Truth
Like we said, alien is neither bare life, nor bios, but is in-between. How does this in-between look like? When the French of African/Arab heritage started to riot in Parisian (and other French) suburbs, the rioters were immediately presented as insignificant, lazy, unemployed people, who during pauses between dealing drugs like to burn cars. This discrediting of the rioters by the authorities and the mainstream media, besides being an intentional destruction of the political potential of the protests was in my opinion a strategy to keep bare life as bare life. Although probably a mass of the rioters did not want anything more than a job, the effect of the riots was such that it was recognized by the authorities as potentially capable of igniting questions that address the issue of inequality in a far broader, racial and class context. The political repercussions of the riots were pretty effectively denied, as the rioters were presented as a bunch of hooligans, as bare life. When somebody protests against class inequality, against G8 meetings or against globalization, they are a bunch of hooligans, but when somebody protests against Hugo Chavez, against Iranian leadership or against Chinese rule over Tibet, then those are political protests. This is the representation and repression strategy whose aim is to stop the emergence of an alien as a political figure. Not because they demand integration into a society, but because aliens as political figures invoke the possibility of more radical changes to the society all together. A moment when a certain life (bare life or bios) ceases to be such a life, and becomes an alien, is exactly a moment where either of the two (or both) starts to shape a political demand that goes beyond liberal capitalist dogma of the truth of capital. At the moment Parisian suburban riots started to receive (or at least started to get perceived as) a form of political demand that would address segregation (i.e., an issue of class), bare life became an alien and the political form of its demand was denied to it. When the riots developed beyond the boundaries of the suburbs, and started to refer to a process of inequality as a class, and when bare life started to reject being bare life, but at the same time refused to become bios, these are two cases when the alien as political figure emerged. It is a moment when bare life refuses to be sacred, refuses to be available for murder without sanction, and refuses to be available for sacrifice to the sovereign of capital. The alien is the figure that practices the Marxist model mentioned by Mona Chollet. It focuses its hate toward the very nature of the sovereignty of the capitalist state, toward its truth. It identifies not only with other aliens, but also with the possibility of conflict, the possibility of unmasking or exposing the hideous democratic/consumerist ritual as a totalitarian ritual. The position of an alien is not an embellished position; it does not mark some decorated, romanticized role to be coveted; above all, it is not an alienated subjectivity. An alienated subjectivity (the misfit member of a subculture, or some celebrity with a drug addiction everybody loves to hate) is mainstream today; as elaborated by Marina Gržinić, it is a way that legitimizes itself through a “right to choose” concept, which she elaborated in analyzing such films as Lost in Translation or Broken Flowers. Bill Murray as a lost, empty, depressed misfit character in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation or in Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers, presents not an alien but a “sensualised alienated position” to the point to become an attractive, stylish, alienated subjectivity.13

According to Hardt and Negri, “The multitude is an internally different, multiple social subject whose constitution and action is based not on identity or unity (or, much less, indifference), but on what it has in common.”14 In the context of this definition, the figure of an alien turns out to be a figure that exposes what is “in common,” what is the same for both bios and bare life. Exposing the truth of capital as nothing but capital itself is a disbelief in the definition of truth imposed by capital(ism). The alien, thus, is not an individual position (as “I”), and it is not a position that demands “emancipation”: it perceives itself as one of many whose “sameness” (common denominator) lies in the fact that they are all subjectivities produced by the order. Therefore, bare life, or even the relationship between different forms of life, is not the primal product of the order’s machine. Its primal product is the “truth” which the individual life tends to accept as its own system of belief; it is the form of life’s grand rationalization of the order, and of itself. This system of belief imposes that its particular truth is the only one possible. This is not a notion that would actualize a question about universal truth, but addresses the capitalist order that monopolizes truth as such, with the imposition of the (im)possibility of struggle for some other truth. This mise-en-scène of life is the capitalist machine’s main product.

Alien vs. Predator
In order to clarify this even further, let us refer to the action movie Alien vs. Predator (Twentieth Century Fox, 2004). In this movie, Aliens (disgusting, reptilian, completely unknown but resilient creatures – pure other) are beings that are created and nurtured as such by the hunter civilization of “Predators” for the sole purpose of being a “worthy” prey for them. The meaning of existence for Aliens is to resist as much as possible before the Predator hunters kill them. Can we draw a parallel here with Agamben? He says that the basic operation of sovereign power is a production of bare life as a source political element and the threshold of articulation between nature and culture. In pre-modern times, our “aliens” were the bare life that suffered under colonization from the (White) First world, and whose purpose was solely to be at service through slavery to their masters, the white colonizers, i.e., the “predators.” Then, not only was bare life used as a work force, but also as a justification for the segregation practiced by the white sovereignty; the same sovereignty as a “domination of culture” also relegated to itself the right to rationalize its imperialistic territorial gains by oppressing the “pure nature,” as the savages, the slaves, i.e. bare life, were defined. But after the era of colonization, the purpose of bare life (as a result of the imposition of the truth of capital) shifted from “being a slave” to “wanting to be a slave”; which reflects today’s bare life position that (mostly) tends to “succeed” in the First World, to become a lifestyle. It is not about achieving a decent life, but about embracing the perverted notion of a decent life as mindless consumerism. If the prime political relationship is an exclusion (a state of exception as an area of non-differentiation between the outer and inner, exclusion and inclusion), then “bare life” could be seen as life that “wants to be included” into capital, while bios (life of culture) is a life that, under a threat of exclusion from the capitalist order, wants to “stay included”. The paradigm of bios is Terezín (German: Theresienstadt) a camp where Jews lived in “better” conditions, where the Nazis could film them for propaganda purposes, to kill them later. Bare life and bios are therefore inscribed not in a form of capitalist democracy, where equality among human subjectivities is allegedly universal, but into an obscene, banal totalitarian ritual where equality means only that subjectivities are equal as commodities on the market. The state of exception, where capitalism can even suspend itself, is therefore a capitalist attempt to give itself some (ideological) meaning, though such meaning is not less banal than the unlimited power of the market, or the human equality that is defined by the market.

Hence, as the movie unfolds, after the Predator commander is killed, other predators take his body into a space ship… but in the final seconds of the movie, out of his body a newborn alien emerges, as a threat to everyone on the ship. Here, the alien refuses to stay on Earth (the predators’ battleground and concentration camp), and thus, it refuses to respect the rules of the game; it does not want to be in a camp at all. Instead of emancipating itself within the truth of the machine, the alien should start investing its own diverse skills and knowledge to emancipate itself through resistance against capitalism, by unmasking the border of capitalist truth, by showing its nature as totalitarian.

Šefik Šeki Tatlić

1 Cf. Ivan Ward, Phobia, Totem Books, Cambridge 2001. Joel Kovel’s quotation is from this book.
2 Ibid.
3 As defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary (
4 Cf. Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri, Multitude, War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Books, London 2005.
5 Cf. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer. Il potere sovrano e la nuda vita, Giulio Einaudi, Torino 1995.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
9 Cf. Mona Chollet,
10 Cf. Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri, op. cit.
12 A form of torture that consists of immobilising a person on his back with the head inclined downward and pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages.
13 Cf. Marina Gržinić, Re-Politicizing art, Theory, Representation and New Media Technology, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Schlebrügge.Editor, Vienna 2008.
14 Cf. Michael Hardt / Antonio Negri, op. cit.

Source: REARTIKULACIJA no. 5 - 2008

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I 've lived through some hard times ..

Emory Douglas, Poster from the Black Panther,1972

From Violence to Resistance

Everything advises us to set aside fetishism with respect to violence and non-violence. It is certainly stupid to measure the radicality of a struggle by the level of its illegality, and is to elevate forgiveness to an unquestionable criteria for action. On the other hand, this is not what preoccupies us the most: in what is referred to as conflict, the passage from latency to visibility always undertakes to alter the “eternal principles” adopted by professionals of politics.

With respect to the old, but not exhausted, question of forms of struggle, the discussion runs in circles, resorting to sophisms and comfortable quotations. On a closer analysis, this debate suffers the chain of effects of a drastic change of theoretical paradigm. A change so significant that it can separate what seemed inseparable and join what seemed opposites. In sum: the struggle against waged labor, unlike the struggle against tyranny, is not longer connected to the emphatic perspective of “taking power”.

Because of its rather advance characteristics, this begins to appear as an entirely “social” transformation, which confronts “power”, but without dreaming of an alternative organization of the State. To the contrary, it aims to contract and extinguish all forms of command over the activity of women and men and to end the State. As it has been said, while the “political revolution” was considered the inevitable premise for modifying and transforming social relations, now the latter becomes a preliminary step.

The struggle can carry its destructive nature to its [logical] end only in so far as it already assumes an other way of living, communicating and producing. Only if there is something to lose beyond one's chains. The theme of violence, idolized and exorcized, was without a doubt linked to the double edged sword of “taking power”. What happens when the existent form of the State is seen as the last possible State form, which deserves to corrupt itself and fall into ruin, but not - surely - to be replaced by a Super-state “of all the people”? Doesn’t violence come to be perhaps the new cult to follow? It seems it does not. In every case, we have an unforeseen paradox: the resort to force should be conceived in relation to a positive order that should be defended and safeguarded. The exodus from waged labor is not a concave gesture, an algebraic subtraction. We must construct different social relations and new forms of life: we must have much love for the present and much inventiveness. Therefore, the conflict will begin in order to preserve that “new” that it has instituted in the process. Violence, if there is violence, is not directed toward tomorrows, but rather at prolonging what already exists, even if informally.

Faced with the hypocrisy or the distracted credulity that today marks the discussion over legality or illegality, it is worth returning to a premodern category: the “ius resistentiae”. With this expression, medieval right did not refer to the obvious faculty of legitimate self-defence when under attack. Nor was it understood as a general uprising against constituted power. It also clearly differed from “sedition” and “rebellion”, in which the uprising is made against the present set of institutions, with the object of establishing different ones. The “right to resistance” has, by contrast, a rather specific and peculiar meaning. It can be exercised when an artisan’s corporation, or a whole community, or even an individual, finds some of its positive prerogatives - validated by tradition or fact - altered by the central power. The salient point of “ius resistentiae”, which constitutes its principal interest in terms of the question of legality or illegality, is the defense of an effective, tangible, “already” accomplished transformation of the forms of life. The large or small steps, small collapses or large avalanches, of the struggle against waged work allow for an unlimited right to resistance, whilst ruling out a theory of civil war.

Paolo Virno
Translation by Nate Holdren

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Сегодня снова я пойду... Today I will go once again...

Сегодня снова я пойду
Туда, на жизнь, на торг, на рынок,
И войско песен поведу
С прибоем рынка в поединок!

Today I will go once again
Into life, into haggling, into market,
And lead the army of my songs
To duel against the market tide.


Velimir Khlebnikov
Велими́р Хле́бников

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Modernizing Propaganda

Japanese Postcards

Pattern Pattern

These are graphic design tools for Néojaponisme readers: a number of red, white, and black patterns based on Modern Japanese graphic design from the 1950s.


Post-scriptum sur les sociétés de contrôle (english version)

I. Historical
Foucault located the disciplinary societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; they reach their height at the outset of the twentieth. They initiate the organization of vast spaces of enclosure. The individual never ceases passing from one closed environment to another, each having its own laws: first the family; then the school ("you are no longer in your family"); then the barracks ("you are no longer at school"); then the factory; from time to time the hospital; possibly the prison, the preeminent instance of the enclosed environment. It's the prison that serves as the analogical model: at the sight of some laborers, the heroine of Rossellini's Europa '51 could exclaim, "I thought I was seeing convicts."
Foucault has brilliantly analyzed the ideal project of these environments of enclosure, particularly visible within the factory: to concentrate; to distribute in space; to order in time; to compose a productive force within the dimension of space-time whose effect will be greater than the sum of its component forces. But what Foucault recognized as well was the transience of this model: it succeeded that of the societies of sovereignty, the goal and functions of which were something quite different (to tax rather than to organize production, to rule on death rather than to administer life); the transition took place over time, and Napoleon seemed to effect the large-scale conversion from one society to the other. But in their turn the disciplines underwent a crisis to the benefit of new forces that were gradually instituted and which accelerated after World War II: a disciplinary society was what we already no longer were, what we had ceased to be.
We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the environments of enclosure--prison, hospital, factory, school, family. The family is an "interior," in crisis like all other interiors--scholarly, professional, etc. The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces, prisons. But everyone knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the length of their expiration periods. It's only a matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the door. These are the societies of control, which are in the process of replacing disciplinary societies. "Control" is the name Burroughs proposes as a term for the new monster, one that Foucault recognizes as our immediate future. Paul Virilio also is continually analyzing the ultrarapid forms of free-floating control that replaced the old disciplines operating in the time frame of a closed system. There is no need to invoke the extraordinary pharmaceutical productions, the molecular engineering, the genetic manipulations, although these are slated to enter the new process. There is no need to ask which is the toughest regime, for it's within each of them that liberating and enslaving forces confront one another. For example, in the crisis of the hospital as environment of enclosure, neighborhood clinics, hospices, and day care could at first express new freedom, but they could participate as well in mechanisms of control that are equal to the harshest of confinements. There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.

II. Logic
The different internments of spaces of enclosure through which the individual passes are independent variables: each time one us supposed to start from zero, and although a common language for all these places exists, it is analogical. One the other hand, the different control mechanisms are inseparable variations, forming a system of variable geometry the language of which is numerical (which doesn't necessarily mean binary). Enclosures are molds, distinct castings, but controls are a modulation, like a self-deforming cast that will continuously change from one moment to the other, or like a sieve whose mesh will transmute from point to point.
This is obvious in the matter of salaries: the factory was a body that contained its internal forces at the level of equilibrium, the highest possible in terms of production, the lowest possible in terms of wages; but in a society of control, the corporation has replaced the factory, and the corporation is a spirit, a gas. Of course the factory was already familiar with the system of bonuses, but the corporation works more deeply to impose a modulation of each salary, in states of perpetual metastability that operate through challenges, contests, and highly comic group sessions. If the most idiotic television game shows are so successful, it's because they express the corporate situation with great precision. The factory constituted individuals as a single body to the double advantage of the boss who surveyed each element within the mass and the unions who mobilized a mass resistance; but the corporation constantly presents the brashest rivalry as a healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivational force that opposes individuals against one another and runs through each, dividing each within. The modulating principle of "salary according to merit" has not failed to tempt national education itself. Indeed, just as the corporation replaces the factory, perpetual training tends to replace the school, and continuous control to replace the examination. Which is the surest way of delivering the school over to the corporation.
In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory), while in the societies of control one is never finished with anything--the corporation, the educational system, the armed services being metastable states coexisting in one and the same modulation, like a universal system of deformation. In The Trial, Kafka, who had already placed himself at the pivotal point between two types of social formation, described the most fearsome of judicial forms. The apparent acquittal of the disciplinary societies (between two incarcerations); and the limitless postponements of the societies of control (in continuous variation) are two very different modes of juridicial life, and if our law is hesitant, itself in crisis, it's because we are leaving one in order to enter the other. The disciplinary societies have two poles: the signature that designates the individual, and the number or administrative numeration that indicates his or her position within a mass. This is because the disciplines never saw any incompatibility between these two, and because at the same time power individualizes and masses together, that is, constitutes those over whom it exercises power into a body and molds the individuality of each member of that body. (Foucault saw the origin of this double charge in the pastoral power of the priest--the flock and each of its animals--but civil power moves in turn and by other means to make itself lay "priest.") In the societies of control, on the other hand, what is important is no longer either a signature or a number, but a code: the code is a password, while on the other hand disciplinary societies are regulated by watchwords (as much from the point of view of integration as from that of resistance). The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it. We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals have become "dividuals," and masses, samples, data, markets, or "banks." Perhaps it is money that expresses the distinction between the two societies best, since discipline always referred back to minted money that locks gold as numerical standard, while control relates to floating rates of exchange, modulated according to a rate established by a set of standard currencies. The old monetary mole is the animal of the space of enclosure, but the serpent is that of the societies of control. We have passed from one animal to the other, from the mole to the serpent, in the system under which we live, but also in our manner of living and in our relations with others. The disciplinary man was a discontinuous producer of energy, but the man of control is undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network. Everywhere surfing has already replaced the older sports.
Types of machines are easily matched with each type of society--not that machines are determining, but because they express those social forms capable of generating them and using them. The old societies of sovereignty made use of simple machines--levers, pulleys, clocks; but the recent disciplinary societies equipped themselves with machines involving energy, with the passive danger of entropy and the active danger of sabotage; the societies of control operate with machines of a third type, computers, whose passive danger is jamming and whose active one is piracy or the introduction of viruses. This technological evolution must be, even more profoundly, a mutation of capitalism, an already well-known or familiar mutation that can be summed up as follows: nineteenth-century capitalism is a capitalism of concentration, for production and for property. It therefore erects a factory as a space of enclosure, the capitalist being the owner of the means of production but also, progressively, the owner of other spaces conceived through analogy (the worker's familial house, the school). As for markets, they are conquered sometimes by specialization, sometimes by colonization, sometimes by lowering the costs of production. But in the present situation, capitalism is no longer involved in production, which it often relegates to the Third World, even for the complex forms of textiles, metallurgy, or oil production. It's a capitalism of higher-order production. It no-longer buys raw materials and no longer sells the finished products: it buys the finished products or assembles parts. What it wants to sell is services but what it wants to buy is stocks. This is no longer a capitalism for production but for the product, which is to say, for being sold or marketed. Thus is essentially dispersive, and the factory has given way to the corporation. The family, the school, the army, the factory are no longer the distinct analogical spaces that converge towards an owner--state or private power--but coded figures--deformable and transformable--of a single corporation that now has only stockholders. Even art has left the spaces of enclosure in order to enter into the open circuits of the bank. The conquests of the market are made by grabbing control and no longer by disciplinary training, by fixing the exchange rate much more than by lowering costs, by transformation of the product more than by specialization of production. Corruption thereby gains a new power. Marketing has become the center or the "soul" of the corporation. We are taught that corporations have a soul, which is the most terrifying news in the world. The operation of markets is now the instrument of social control and forms the impudent breed of our masters. Control is short-term and of rapid rates of turnover, but also continuous and without limit, while discipline was of long duration, infinite and discontinuous. Man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt. It is true that capitalism has retained as a constant the extreme poverty of three-quarters of humanity, too poor for debt, too numerous for confinement: control will not only have to deal with erosions of frontiers but with the explosions within shanty towns or ghettos.

III. Program
The conception of a control mechanism, giving the position of any element within an open environment at any given instant (whether animal in a reserve or human in a corporation, as with an electronic collar), is not necessarily one of science fiction. Felix Guattari has imagined a city where one would be able to leave one's apartment, one's street, one's neighborhood, thanks to one's (dividual) electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be rejected on a given day or between certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that tracks each person's position--licit or illicit--and effects a universal modulation.
The socio-technological study of the mechanisms of control, grasped at their inception, would have to be categorical and to describe what is already in the process of substitution for the disciplinary sites of enclosure, whose crisis is everywhere proclaimed. It may be that older methods, borrowed from the former societies of sovereignty, will return to the fore, but with the necessary modifications. What counts is that we are at the beginning of something. In the prison system: the attempt to find penalties of "substitution," at least for petty crimes, and the use of electronic collars that force the convicted person to stay at home during certain hours. For the school system: continuous forms of control, and the effect on the school of perpetual training, the corresponding abandonment of all university research, the introduction of the "corporation" at all levels of schooling. For the hospital system: the new medicine "without doctor or patient" that singles out potential sick people and subjects at risk, which in no way attests to individuation--as they say--but substitutes for the individual or numerical body the code of a "dividual" material to be controlled. In the corporate system: new ways of handling money, profits, and humans that no longer pass through the old factory form. These are very small examples, but ones that will allow for better understanding of what is meant by the crisis of the institutions, which is to say, the progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of domination. One of the most important questions will concern the ineptitude of the unions: tied to the whole of their history of struggle against the disciplines or within the spaces of enclosure, will they be able to adapt themselves or will they give way to new forms of resistance against the societies of control? Can we already grasp the rough outlines of the coming forms, capable of threatening the joys of marketing? Many young people strangely boast of being "motivated"; they re-request apprenticeships and permanent training. It's up to them to discover what they're being made to serve, just as their elders discovered, not without difficulty, the telos of the disciplines. The coils of a serpent are even more complex that the burrows of a molehill.

Gilles Deleuze,Society of Control
L'autre journal, Nr. I, Mai 1990.

Profit and Pleasure

Crispin de Passe (1564-1637).

Post-scriptum sur les sociétés de contrôle


Foucault a situé les sociétés disciplinaires aux XVIIIè et XIXè siècles ; elles atteignent à leur apogée au début du XXè. Elles procèdent à l'organisation des grands milieux d'enfermement. L'individu ne cesse de passer d'un milieu clos à un autre, chacun ayant ses lois : d'abord la famille, puis l'école (« tu n'es plus dans ta famille »), puis la caserne (« tu n'es plus à l'école »), puis l'usine, de temps en temps l'hôpital, éventuellement la prison qui est le milieu d'enfermement par excellence. C'est la prison qui sert de modèle analogique : l'héroïne d'Europe 51 peut s'écrier quand elle voit des ouvriers « j'ai cru voir des condamnés... ». Foucault a très bien analysé le projet idéal des milieux d'enfermement, particulièrement visible dans l'usine : concentrer ; répartir dans l'espace ; ordonner dans le temps ; composer dans l'espace-temps une force productive dont l'effet doit être supérieur à la somme des forces élémentaires. Mais ce que Foucault savait aussi, c'était la brièveté de ce modèle : il succédait à des sociétés de souveraineté, dont le but et les fonctions étaient tout autres (prélever plutôt qu'organiser la production, décider de la mort plutôt que gérer la vie) ; la transition s'était faite progressivement, et Napoléon semblait opérer la grande conversion d'une société à l'autre. Mais les disciplines à leur tour connaîtraient une crise, au profit de nouvelles forces qui se mettraient lentement en place, et qui se précipiteraient après la Deuxième Guerre mondiale : les sociétés disciplinaires, c'était déjà ce que nous n'étions plus, ce que nous cessions d'être.

Nous sommes dans une crise généralisée de tous les milieux d'enfermement, prison, hôpital, usine, école, famille. La famille est un « intérieur », en crise comme tout autre intérieur, scolaire, professionnel, etc. Les ministres compétents n'ont cessé d'annoncer des réformes supposées nécessaires. Réformer l'école, réformer l'industrie, l'hôpital, l'armée, la prison ; mais chacun sait que ces institutions sont finies, à plus ou moins longue échéance. Il s'agit seulement de gérer leur agonie et d'occuper les gens, jusqu'à l'installation de nouvelles forces qui frappent à la porte. Ce sont les sociétés de contrôle qui sont en train de remplacer les sociétés disciplinaires. « Contrôle », c'est le nom que Burroughs propose pour désigner le nouveau monstre, et que Foucault reconnaît comme notre proche avenir. Paul Virilio aussi ne cesse d'analyser les formes ultra-rapides de contrôle à l'air libre, qui remplacent les vieilles disciplines opérant dans la durée d'un système clos. Il n'y a pas lieu d'invoquer des productions pharmaceutiques extraordinaires, des formations nucléaires, des manipulations génétiques, bien qu'elles soient destinées à intervenir dans le nouveau processus. Il n'y a pas lieu de demander quel est le régime le plus dur, ou le plus tolérable, car c'est en chacun d'eux que s'affrontent les libérations et les asservissements. Par exemple dans la crise de l'hôpital comme milieu d'enfermement, la sectorisation, les hôpitaux de jour, les soins à domicile ont pu marquer d'abord de nouvelles libertés, mais participer aussi à des mécanismes de contrôle qui rivalisent avec les plus durs enfermements. Il n'y a pas lieu de craindre ou d'espérer, mais de chercher de nouvelles armes.


Les différents internats ou milieux d'enfermement par lesquels l'individu passe sont des variables indépendantes : on est censé chaque fois recommencer à zéro, et le langage commun de tous ces milieux existe, mais est analogique. Tandis que les différents contrôlats sont des variations inséparables, formant un système à géométrie variable dont le langage est numérique (ce qui ne veut pas dire nécessairement binaire). Les enfermements sont des moules, des moulages distincts, mais les contrôles sont une modulation, comme un moulage auto-déformant qui changerait continûment, d'un instant à l'autre, ou comme un tamis dont les mailles changeraient d'un point à un autre. On le voit bien dans la question des salaires : l'usine était un corps qui portait ses forces intérieures à un point d'équilibre, le plus haut possible pour la production, le plus bas possible pour les salaires ; mais, dans une société de contrôle, l'entreprise a remplacé l'usine, et l'entreprise est une âme, un gaz. Sans doute l'usine connaissait déjà le système des primes, mais l'entreprise s'efforce plus profondément d'imposer une modulation de chaque salaire, dans des états de perpétuelle métastabilité qui passent par des challenges, concours et colloques extrêmement comiques. Si les jeux télévisés les plus idiots ont tant de succès, c'est parce qu'ils expriment adéquatement la situation d'entreprise. L'usine constituait les individus en corps, pour le double avantage du patronat qui surveillait chaque élément dans la masse, et des syndicats qui mobilisaient une masse de résistance ; mais l'entreprise ne cesse d'introduire une rivalité inexpiable comme saine émulation, excellente motivation qui oppose les individus entre eux et traverse chacun, le divisant en lui-même. Le principe modulateur du « salaire au mérite » n'est pas sans tenter l'Éducation nationale elle-même : en effet, de même que l'entreprise remplace l'usine, la formation permanente tend à remplacer l'école, et le contrôle continu remplacer l'examen. Ce qui est le plus sûr moyen de livrer l'école à l'entreprise.

Dans les sociétés de discipline, on n'arrêtait pas de recommencer (de l'école à la caserne, de la caserne à l'usine), tandis que dans les sociétés de contrôle on n'en finit jamais avec rien, l'entreprise, la formation, le service étant les états métastables et coexistants d'une même modulation, comme d'un déformateur universel. Kafka qui s'installait déjà à la charnière de deux types de société a décrit dans Le procès les formes juridiques les plus redoutables : l'acquittement apparent des sociétés disciplinaires (entre deux enfermements), l'atermoiement illimité des sociétés de contrôle (en variation continue) sont deux modes de vie juridiques très différents, et si notre droit est hésitant, lui-même en crise, c'est parce que nous quittons l'un pour entrer dans l'autre. Les sociétés disciplinaires ont deux pôles : la signature qui indique l'individu, et le nombre ou numéro matricule qui indique sa position dans une masse. C'est que les disciplines n'ont jamais vu d'incompatibilité entre les deux, et c'est en même temps que le pouvoir est massifiant et individuant, c'est-à-dire constitue en corps ceux sur lesquels il s'exerce et moule l'individualité de chaque membre du corps (Foucault voyait l'origine de ce double souci dans le pouvoir pastoral du prêtre - le troupeau et chacune des bêtes - mais le pouvoir civil allait se faire « pasteur » laïc à son tour avec d'autres moyens). Dans les sociétés de contrôle, au contraire, l'essentiel n'est plus une signature ni un nombre, mais un chiffre : le chiffre est un mot de passe, tandis que les sociétés disciplinaires sont réglées par des mots d'ordre (aussi bien du point de vue de
l'intégration que de la résistance). Le langage numérique du contrôle est fait de chiffres, qui marquent l'accès à l'information, ou le rejet. On ne se trouve plus devant le couple masse-individu. Les individus sont devenus des « dividuels », et les masses, des échantillons, des données, des marchés ou des « banques ». C'est peut-être l'argent qui exprime le mieux la distinction des deux sociétés, puisque la discipline s'est toujours rapportée à des monnaies moulées qui renfermaient de l'or comme nombre étalon, tandis que le contrôle renvoie à des échanges flottants, modulations qui font intervenir comme chiffre un pourcentage de différentes monnaies échantillons. La vieille taupe monétaire est l'animal des milieux d'enfermement, mais le serpent est celui des sociétés de contrôle. Nous sommes passés d'un animal à l'autre, de la taupe au serpent, dans le régime où nous vivons, mais aussi dans notre manière de vivre et nos rapports avec autrui. L 'homme des disciplines était un producteur discontinu d'énergie, mais l'homme du contrôle est plutôt ondulatoire, mis en orbite, sur faisceau continu. Partout le surf a déjà remplacé les vieux sports.

Il est facile de faire correspondre à chaque société des types de machines, non pas que les machines soient déterminantes, mais parce qu'elles expriment les formes sociales capables de leur donner naissance et de s'en servir. Les vieilles sociétés de souveraineté maniaient des machines simples, leviers, poulies, horloges ; mais les sociétés disciplinaires récentes avaient pour équipement des machines énergétiques, avec le danger passif de l'entropie, et le danger actif du sabotage ; les sociétés de contrôle opèrent par machines de troisième espèce, machines informatiques et ordinateurs dont le danger passif est le brouillage, et l'actif, le piratage et l'introduction de virus. Ce n'est pas une évolution technologique sans être plus profondément une mutation du capitalisme. C'est une mutation déjà bien connue qui peut se résumer ainsi : le capitalisme du XIXè siècle est à concentration, pour la production, et de propriété. Il érige donc l'usine en milieu d'enfermement, le capitaliste étant propriétaire des moyens de production, mais aussi éventuellement propriétaire d'autres milieux conçus par analogie (la maison familiale de l'ouvrier, l'école). Quant au marché, il est conquis tantôt par spécialisation, tantôt par colonisation, tantôt par abaissement des coûts de production. Mais, dans la situation actuelle, le capitalisme n'est plus pour la production, qu'il relègue souvent dans la périphérie du tiers monde, même sous les formes complexes du textile, de la métallurgie ou du pétrole. C'est un capitalisme de surproduction. Il n'achète plus des matières premières et ne vend plus des produits tout faits : il achète les produits tout faits, ou monte des pièces détachées. Ce qu'il veut vendre, c'est des services, et ce qu'il veut acheter, ce sont des actions. Ce n'est plus un capitalisme pour la production, mais pour le produit, c'est-à-dire pour la vente ou pour le marché. Aussi est-il essentiellement dispersif, et l'usine a cédé la place à l'entreprise. La famille, l'école, l'armée, l'usine ne sont plus des milieux analogiques distincts qui convergent vers un propriétaire, État ou puissance privée, mais les figures chiffrées, déformables et transformables, d'une même entreprise qui n'a plus que des gestionnaires. Même l'art a quitté les milieux clos pour entrer dans les circuits ouverts de la banque. Les conquêtes de marché se font par prise de contrôle et non plus par formation de discipline, par fixation des cours plus encore que par abaissement des coûts, par transformation de produit plus que par spécialisation de production. La corruption y gagne une nouvelle puissance. Le service de vente est devenu le centre ou l'« âme » de l'entreprise. On nous apprend que les entreprises ont une âme, ce qui est bien la nouvelle la plus terrifiante du monde. Le marketing est maintenant l'instrument du contrôle social, et forme la race impudente de nos maîtres. Le contrôle est à court terme et à rotation rapide, mais aussi continu et illimité, tandis que la discipline était de longue durée, infinie et discontinue. L'homme n'est plus l'homme enfermé, mais l'homme endetté. Il est vrai que le capitalisme a gardé pour constante l'extrême misère des trois quarts de l'humanité, trop pauvres pour la dette, trop nombreux pour l'enfermement : le contrôle n'aura pas seulement à affronter les dissipations de frontières, mais les explosions de bidonvilles ou de ghettos.


Il n'y a pas besoin de science-fiction pour concevoir un mécanisme de contrôle qui donne à chaque instant la position d'un élément en milieu ouvert, animal dans une réserve, homme dans une entreprise (collier électronique). Félix Guattari imaginait une ville où chacun pouvait quitter son appartement, sa rue, son quartier, grâce à sa carte électronique (dividuelle) qui faisait lever telle ou telle barrière ; mais aussi bien la carte pouvait être recrachée tel jour, ou entre telles heures ; ce qui compte n'est pas la barrière, mais l'ordinateur qui repère la position de chacun, licite ou illicite, et opère une modulation universelle.

L'étude socio-technique des mécanismes de contrôle, saisis à leur aurore, devrait être catégorielle et décrire ce qui est déjà en train de s'installer à la place des milieux d'enfermement disciplinaires, dont tout le monde annonce la crise. Il se peut que de vieux moyens, empruntés aux anciennes sociétés de souveraineté, reviennent sur scène, mais avec les adaptations nécessaires. Ce qui compte, c'est que nous sommes au début de quelque chose. Dans le régime des prisons : la recherche de peines de « substitution » au moins pour la petite délinquance, et l'utilisation de colliers électroniques qui imposent au condamné de rester chez lui à telles heures. Dans le régime des écoles : les formes de contrôle continu, et l'action de la formation permanente sur l'école, l'abandon cotres pondant de toute recherche à l'Université, l'introduction de l' « entreprise » à tous les niveaux de scolarité. Dans le régime des hôpitaux : la nouvelle médecine « sans médecin ni malade » qui dégage des malades potentiels et des sujets à risque, qui ne témoigne nullement d'un progrès vers l'individuation, comme on le dit, mais substitue au corps individuel ou numérique le chiffre d'une matière « dividuelle » à contrôler. Dans le régime d'entreprise : les nouveaux traitements de l'argent, des produits et des hommes qui ne passent plus par la vieille forme-usine. Ce sont des exemples assez minces, mais qui permettraient de mieux comprendre ce qu on entend par crise des institutions, c'est-à-dire l'installation progressive et dispersée d'un nouveau régime de domination. Une des questions les plus importantes concernerait l'inaptitude des syndicats : liés dans toute leur histoire à la lutte contre les disciplines ou dans les milieux d'enfermement, pourront-ils s'adapter ou laisseront-ils place à de nouvelles formes de résistance contre les sociétés de contrôle ? Peut-on déjà saisir des ébauches de ces formes à venir, capables de s'attaquer aux joies du marketing ? Beaucoup de jeunes gens réclament étrangement d'être « motivés », ils redemandent des stages et de la formation permanente ; c'est à eux de découvrir ce à quoi on les fait servir, comme leurs aînés ont découvert non sans peine la finalité des disciplines. Les anneaux d'un serpent sont encore plus compliqués que les trous d'une taupinière.

Gilles Deleuze
"Post-scriptum sur les sociétés de contrôle", in L 'autre journal, n°1, mai 1990