At the risk of being repetitive
and hence possibly boring, for those who have already read these notes,
I chose to post them before the presentation in order to counter the
traditional power dynamic between presenter and participant, teacher
and student, lecturer and audience - where the one up front often tries
to increase her/his significance by maintaining scarcity of information.
- Depending on where you are, you find
yourself under the reign of different monsters/institutions (school,
prison, patriarchy, racism, the boss, etc). They use different mechanisms
of power to colonize us. One of the more common and least discussed
mechanisms of power is the disciplinary power of normalization = the
production of docile and manageable individuals. This mechanism became
prevalent by the end of the 18th c. (Some of this existed before (e.g.
monks), however, there is a difference in methods and scale.)
the point about talking about it is:
1. recognize and respond – so far most of the focus has been on
repression and exclusion.
2. it is a useful way of thinking about the world and is a useful language
since it allows one to work with other without feeling like forcing
them to line up under one flag = it is a language of peace. Hence it
also counteracts all totalizing forces who do try to institute homogeneity
of views, languages, cultures, desires, etc. (e.g. liberals, conventional
leftists, various monotheists,)
3. so that we don’t reproduce this – attention needs to
be paid to our structures and outcomes. Because, the use of this technology
is rarely outcome of megalomanial desires – rather, it is a response
to difficulties given prevalent structural conditions and desires =
many institutions have found the use of this power to be very useful
for management of individuals.
- Consequently this form of power (and power in general) is not centralized
in any one location – no master base. 1 It is a diffused practice
across society – in some places it acts as a network (which is
where it become more visible – e.g. courts and psychiatry, psychology
and factory). Now there are new sets of crimes –stepping outside
of the norm, executed by schools, prisons, psychologists, social workers,
counselors, factories, etc. which are partly based on the knowledge
produced by human sciences = there is a mutual relationship between
knowledge and power (truth often has the opposite effect of setting
you free). These are apparatuses of knowledge - it became up to them
to decide the character of the prisoner (“good behavior”.),
student (aptitude), population, worker, child, etc.
- This mechanism is so well developed that it has become necessary for
what has become the ‘successful’ management.
- This is one of many mechanisms. Currently, it seems like the institutions
keep shifting between normalization/discipline and control/exclusion
(which is less useful but also cheaper). Here race, gender, class, etc,
come into play in a major way. 2
- one of the earliest representations of this power is seen in military.
Before the introduction of firearms, groups of soldiers were seen/used
as projectiles. Rifles à necessity for skilled soldiers à
view/use/production of INDIVIDUAL soldiers as machines capable of being
shaped. = need to focus on every minor movement, Psychology, etc. à
control/production of soul rather than just the body. = PRODUCTIVE/POSITIVE
- similarly, in cap we are not exploited for our land, grain, resources,
etc (we don’t have any), instead the target is our labor à
need for control of the soul to produce a disciplined and docile ( =
NORMALIZED) proletariat. It’s necessary for management and extraction
- of course, since then this mechanism
of power has spread into various other types of arenas – the production
(for management/control) of students, children, wives, clients, audiences,
- and even CRIMINALS. In Abu Graid prisoner
photo controversy, it is more ok to have used the whole thing for psych
control rather than just sadistic torture (“oh, they were just
gonna use the photos to embarrass them”). The target is not just
the body but also/especially the soul.
Focault looks at prisons to show this. PRISONS have always been horrible
at accomplishing their stated goal (reduction of crime). But the reason
why they have been constantly spreading is because they are excellent
mechanisms of control/normalization.
o They produce a certain body which is useful and is fruitfully invested
by laying down the limit of tolerance, of giving free rein to some,
of putting pressure on others, of excluding a particular section, of
making another useful, of neutralizing certain individuals [and communities]
and of profiting from others.
o In short, penalty does not simply ‘check’ illegalities;
it ‘differentiates’ them, it provides them with a general
‘economy’. Punishments are a strategy of illegalities. E.g.
drug trade $, elimination of dissent, elimination of common criminals
(sympathy from public) by transforming them into career criminals (fear
from public), prison labor, keeping whole communities under check, etc.
[what was use for the Abu Graid prisoners?]
is made possible because of the existence of discipline – otherwise,
they wouldn’t let us. The whole structure of rights and defenses
from tyranny are a mere façade when considering that behind them
lurks the ever-present disciplinary forces of everyday life –
the cop in our head. Hence, power is rendered asymmetrical by individualizing
and “correcting”. This whole representative democratic system
is dependent on disciplinary power in order to maintain cohesion –
otherwise how else can you convince 200mil people to accept a decision
as a “right” one. The people who are supposed to decide
on social laws are molded by disciplines who proclaim to be based on
- POWER is only tolerable when it masks a substantial
part of itself. It’s success is proportional to its ability to
hide its own mechanisms. Obedience is only likely when people think
of power only as restrictive, thereby thinking that they at least have
some measure of freedom (through “choice”).
- Under the pretext of explaining action we keep defining the individual
(e.g. insane, addict, etc). Thus, we don’t only punish crime but
try to change individuals to fit wherever in the society the are supposed
to fit. (power-knowledge-right)
- In prison, the offender is transformed
into a delinquent – so the focus shifts from the act to the person’s
life. Same with therapists, social workers, boot camps, etc. They look
at the individual’s biography, compile thick file folders in order
to produce a body of knowledge to determine what about the individual
leads them to be where they are. Where to intervene with punishment,
reward – inclusion or exclusion, in order to position the particular
body in a desired location.
1. At the heart of all disciplinary systems functions a small penal
mechanism, modeled after the courts but more nit-picking at small details.
2. The ‘offences’ were also of different kind within these
systems. They were not just negative (breaking a rule), but also positive
– of not measuring up
3. Disciplinary punishment in such institutions (e.g. school, military)
has the function of reducing gaps. Punishment is often directed toward
building up the individual to where they should be in the particular
4. In discipline, punishment is only one element of a double system
of gratification-punishment. The people at the bottom are encouraged
to perform to get the reward as much as the people on top perform out
of fear of punishment. Consequently, all behavior falls between the
poles of good and bad, instead of just prohibition. It is a whole math
of punishment. This ends up differentiating not just acts by individuals
themselves but their nature, their potentialities, their value.
5. Ranks and grades (hierarchical organization) not only marks the gaps
and hierarchies of qualities, but it also acts as reward and punishment.
Out of this, through the use of examination, comes out the individual
– a creation of discipline and normalization – individual
case, rank, file, cell, station, grade, position, number – the
individual is the outcome of all of this.
– knowing that you are being watched but being unable to verify
it has become an important aspect or discipline/normalization.The one
who is monitored, eventually starts monitoring oneself knowing that
s/he is always being watched… even when they are not (e.g. non-monitored
security cameras, emails, etc). The control mechanism in not pain, but
the surveillance itself – along with an array of judges at every
point: teacher-judge, social worker-judge, doctor – judge, show
host –judge. These judge the soul (not just the act), which leads
to the application of disciplinary power through micro-management.
The new forms of more prevalent constant
electronic monitoring systems (electronic traces [credit cards], cameras,
etc) require a more precise definitions of the norm in order to know
what to spot. à narrowing down the little boxes in which we are
supposed to fit.
- The individual and even institutional
intentions are irrelevant. Yes some security cameras are there to prevent
rape, some social workers want to help those who are in a very bad condition.
What matters are the methods used (disciplinary power) and the consequent
outcomes that the produce (normalization = docile, manageable bodies).
- people always have and will keep resisting (e.g. prison culture, gay
lib), which is why they often have to fall back on control/exclusion.
[maybe minorities are excluded and controlled more not just because
they are simply hated/“other”, but also because maybe we
are more capable of resistance – e.g. due to family size/cohesion,
awareness of alternatives, cynicism, etc.] Therefore, different mechanisms
of power are exercised depending on what works in the particular circumstance
– focusing only on one will keep us running in circles. White
people need to liberate themselves as much as the rest of us need to
liberate ourselves. If they are so much better off, what’s up
with all the anti-depressants?
on where you are, you find yourself under the reign of a different monsters
à different groups put priorities into different battles. In
more diverse areas (e.g. LA), the coexistence of multiplicity of such
concerns is in itself an issue. Many try to oversimplify things and
propose that all monsters are the shadows of one monster (capitalism,
or racism, or patriarchy, or bad parenting, or lack of religion/spirituality,
etc) and try to bully us all to march, in a disciplined fashion, under
one flag. Imagining that they have found the one “Truth”
for everyone, these little monsters try to make it big through totalization
- by understanding and actively opposing the mechanism of normalization
(especially the cop in our own head), we can have easier time producing
solidarity (not unity! Fuck unity and its one flag) between those who
are ready to respect us in our difference.
- The state can only operate on the basis of other, already existing
power relations (shouldn’t solely focus on the state).
- The problem is not changing people’s consciousness, but the
political, economic, institutional regime of the production of Truth
which is presently attached to social, economic, and cultural hegemony.
The political question is truth itself.
- it’s not about telling the truth, but about paying attention
to whom does the given truth serve
“Look, society is complex – now – there are a lot
more confusing challenges that people need help with in order to be
able to function without hurting themselves and/or others. They need
to be empowered to produce a kind of a life for themselves that they
themselves want. These aren’t happy go lucky people, the helping
professions more often than not only intervene into the life of those
who are miserable and themselves want to be able to adjust, to be outside
of the horrific conditions in which they find themselves.”
Yes, those who do not measure up, who do
not normalize become punished in a very harsh way (à keeps the
rest of us scared straight). Of course they want to adjust, disciplinary
institutions are the only game in town – not adjusting generally
leads you to the skid row. [maybe (especially outside of institutions)
some the’rapists don’t aim to have people adjust, but the
point that the institutional structure pressures them in this direction
can be noted by seeing how the trend is to push toward adjustment].
The end outcome (not necessarily = intention) of the human professions
is to keep this population accounted, measured, located, and arranged
in a manner that will maintain them manageable (“managing cases”:)
Human professions utilize disciplinary power and contribute to the production
of docile and manageable bodies – the only kind of bodies that
can adjust to the workplace and the school (with the possible exception
(ALSO, they act as pressure valves when tensions build up – like
= They contribute to the current functioning of this society. Like the
concentration camp doctors, they keep the wheels turning. Our alternatives
to this are not that different from the alternatives that were/are available
to those doctors.
There are many uses to a scalpel – I choose to use mine toward
the production of alternatives à the elimination of dependency
on such institutions and discourses.
According to Foucault there is no ‘Truth’, instead there
are truths, all of which are produced within mechanisms of power. Power
is everywhere, and it arises out of the disparity between various forces
that are always at war, that always contest over claims to the truth.
Nobody, no group exclusively possesses it over any group/one else. It’s
like a chain – it’s never localised in any one’s/group’s
People are not only the target but also always the elements of its articulation
– its vehicle. Power establishes a network through which it freely
circulates, but this does not mean that it is equally distributed, or
that it is centralised up top and penetrates into the base, “rather
one must conduct an ascending analysis of power” (p 96). Each
body (individual, or group) has its own techniques, trajectory, tactics,
and mechanisms of power (p. 96).
The various groupings of elites colonize, invest, utilize, transform,
displace, extend etc. by ever more general mechanisms and forms of global
domination. Each unit of society has some power (tactics, techniques
etc.) but these are invested and annexed by more global phenomena in
a subtle fashion – the more general powers of economic interests
are able to engage WITH these technologies that are at once both relatively
autonomous of power and act as its “infinitesimal elements”
One way in which this is done is through the very concealment of the
way in which power works. By making people think that power is simply
restrictive (through propaganda, the way in which laws are explained
– ‘the juridical discourse’, etc.), power conceals
its most important element – its ability to crate.
CONTROL SOCIETY is one of constant and never ending modulation
where the modulation occurs within the flows and transactions between
the forces and capacities of the human subject and the practices in
which he or she participates. One is always in continuous training,
life-long learning, perpetual assessment, continual incitement to buy,
to improve oneself, constant monitoring of health and never-ending risk
management. Control is not centralized but dispersed, it flows through
a network of open circuits that are rhizomatic and not hierarchical.
In such a regime of control, we are not dealing with subjects with a
unique personality that is the expression of some inner fixed quality,
but with elements, capacities, potentialities. These are plugged into
multiple orbits, identified by unique codes, identification numbers,
profiles of preferences security ratings ands o forth: a ‘record’
containing a whole variety of bits of information on our credentials,
activities, qualifications for entry into this or that network.
In our societies of control, it is not a question of socialising and
disciplining the subject ab initio. It is not a question of instituting
a regime in which each person is permanently under the alien gaze of
the eye of power exercising individualising surveillance. It is not
a matter of apprehending and normalising the offender ex post facto.
Conduct is continually monitored and reshaped by logics immanent within
all networks of practice. Surveillance is ‘designed in’
to the flows of everyday existence. In these circuits of inclusion,
the calculated modulation of conduct according to principles of optimisation
of benign impulses and minimisation of malign impulses is dispersed
across the time and space of ordinary life. What is entailed here is
the calculated instrumentalization and enhancement of control features
that are potential within a whole variety of practices in the service
or specific projects for the management of conduct.
[the shift is partly due to the failures of the machines to enforce
normalization (e.g. they never succeeded in stomping out prison culture)
which made it costly à control is cheaper]. (Nicholas Rose)
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
by Michel Foucault
The History of Sexuality:
by Michel Foucault
and history: Mode of production versus mode of information
by Mark Poster
(you can find the
full text at http://www.humanities.uci.edu/mposter/books/)
Governing the Soul:
the shaping of the private self
by Nicholas Rose
By Robert Michels