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
on where we are located within society, we are all governed and managed
by a multiplicity of institutions – schools, TV, factories, prisons,
etc. One of the main goals of the institutional hierarchy and structure
is to render us docile and manageable = useful.
- They use different
mechanisms of power to accomplish this. One of the more common and least
discussed mechanisms of power is the disciplinary power of normalization
= the production of useful individuals.
- This mechanism
has become so well developed that it is now seen as essential for successful
- Now there
are new sets of crimes = stepping outside of the norm, executed by all
of these diverse institutions.
- In the application
of this power, such institutions use the truth/knowledge produced by
Human Sciences (Psychology, Cognitive Science, Biology, Physiology,
Sociology, etc).= 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 is up to them to decide the character
of the prisoner (“good behavior”.), student (aptitude),
population (criminal), worker (stressed), child (ADD), etc. = KNOWLEDGE/TRUTH
and POWER are in this context never separate from one another = production
of truth/discourse is a bloody political battle field full of contesting
power relations. One cannot discuss truth without considering POWER
– whom does this truth serve? !
The point about talking about this is:
1. recognize and respond – so far most of the
focus has been on repression and exclusion. With the recognition of
the everpresent link between knowledge/truth and power, our strategies
can become so much more sophisticated (not “truth will set you
free”, or “speak Truth to Power”!).
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 respectful 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 – careful attention needs
to be paid to our own structures. Because, the use of this technology
is not necessarily outcome of megalomanial desires – rather, it
is a response to difficulties of management.
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 – although, due to its usefulness it has often
been linked up in networks (which is where it become more visible –
e.g. courts and psychiatry, psychology and factory). Generally, it is
based on the knowledge produced by the small number of truth producing
institutions (universities, sciences, media, etc) – apparatuses
- 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.
- one of the earliest representations of this power is seen in military.
Before the introduction of firearms, groups of foot soldiers were seen/used
as projectiles (= no individuals). 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 POWER.
in capitalism 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 labor.
- 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, populations,
- 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.
Foucault takes a close looks at prisons to show the development of this
power mechanism – it was one of the first places where it was
explicitly thought out – they are at the forefront in many ways
for the past 200+ yrs. Which is why schools, factories, offices, etc
have been more and more resembling prisons.
have always horribly failed at accomplishing their stated goal (“reduction
of crime”). Since their inception they have escalated the rate
of recidivism! But the reason why they have been constantly spreading
is because they are excellent mechanisms of control/normalization.
- 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. In short, penalty does not simply ‘check’
illegalities (if at all); it ‘differentiates’ them, it provides
them with a general ‘economy’.
are a strategy of illegalities. They are useful in producing a drug
trade $, elimination of dissent, elimination of common criminals ( who
have sympathy from public) by transforming them into career criminals
(feared by public), prison labor $, keeping whole communities in check,
etc. A manageable prison ends up also being useful to manage large sections
of the population outside of its walls = a network of management. What
is good for the warden also ended up being good for the mayor, GE, LAUSD,
- Under the pretext of explaining action they keep defining the individual
(e.g. In prison, the offender is transformed into a delinquent. In other
institutions they have the insane, the addict, the gifted child, etc).
Thus, they don’t only focus on the acts but try to change individuals
to fit wherever in the society the are supposed to fit. Then they trim
our edges so that we will stay within the appropriate box.
- 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/who/what 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
(e.g. efficiency expert teams, grades).
2. The ‘offences’ are 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 has the function of
reducing gaps. Punishment is often directed toward building up the individual
to where they should be in the particular task (e.g. endless training
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 (e.g.
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,
with extensive use of examination, emerges 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
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 is not pain, but the surveillance itself –
along with an array of judges at every point: teacher-judge, supervisor-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 as ‘out
of ordinary’. 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).
- This is one
of many mechanisms. Currently, it seems like the institutions keep shifting
between normalization/discipline (productive) and control/exclusion
(restrictive) – which is less useful but is cheaper. Here race,
gender, class, etc, come into play in a major way.2
- people always have and will keep resisting such colonization by creating
instances/situations where they are unmanageable (e.g. prison culture,
truancy, cheating, gluing locks, hacking, etc) – which is why
Knowledge/Truth are constant battlefields. Consequently these institutions
often have to fall back on the cruder mechanism of control/exclusion.
[maybe minorities are excluded and controlled more not just because
we are simply hated/“other”, but also because maybe we have
more tools for resistance – e.g. due to support networks, family
size/cohesion (kinship dynamics), awareness of alternatives, cynicism,
- 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?
- Depending on where we are within society, we find yourself under the
reign of a different monsters (employers, patriarchy, schools, racism,
etc) 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 just 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 heads), 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.
- One of the
main targets of change has to become the 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
whom does the given truth serve?!?
POSSIBLE DISCUSSION TOPICS
- Voting 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 “natural laws”.
- 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”).
“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 some of them want to adjust, disciplinary institutions are
the only game in town – not adjusting generally leads you to the
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 within institutional contexts 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 of tricksters).
(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.
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