Space Generating Bodies and Vice Versa

According to Foucault, racism is an inevitable tool of the nation state, which it uses to stratify and modify its citizen. Racism is not occasional slippage of the system, it is a part of the system, its integral, system-generating part. (I’d say that the same is true in regard to misogyny.)

Biopolitics is concerned with great masses of people, as opposed to the old (pre-eighteenth century) sovereign power, which concentrated on attaining control over the individual bodies. The control over bodies did not disappear, but was permeated with new types of control, subtler, and more nuanced. If in the sovereign power was the right to let live and make die, in a new era, the era biopolitics, it was a power of ‘“make” live and “let” die.’ (241)

This new mode of power, the mode of ruling over the human-being-as-a-species, rather than human-being-as-an-individual, required new methods of control, care, and management. And such methods emerged—hygiene routines, insurance, safety trainings, mandatory medical service, and so on.

Foucault critics Socialism as being but another version of capitalism, because Socialism re-implemented all these methods and tools, and never offered any critique of them—to the contrary, embraced the new Leviathan of biopolitics, still more devoid of individual features than ever, and no any less horrifying than in the Hobbesian imagination.

It is in these settings that camps appear, according to Agamben. Agamben conducted a revolution in the understanding of camps. Rather than attempting to decipher the nature of camps from the events that took and are taking place there, he asked, to the contrary, what are the nature of things which happened as derived from what camp is (Agamben, 2003). In it, he follows Benjamin, who, and this is a Marxian insight, positioned “space” before the “events,” “space” before the “bodies” which it produced (and not vice versa). Agamben shows that camp is intrinsic to the new social order—the camp, where all laws are suspended, is a place inevitably resurfacing in the biopolitical mode of power, in a nation state which is busy with its endless purification and sustaining of its population.

Dehumanized “zoe” is both camp’s production and its first victim, whereas “bios,” political life, as long as it remains in power at least. Perhaps it is possible to think about “zoe” and “bios” as about a cast division of our times, and this division has class, racial, gender, sexuality, and mental health dimensions. There is always a possibility for “bios” to slip into “zoe,” but there is hardly any possibility for “zoe” to rise to “bios.”

 

References

Agamben, Georgio. Means Without End: Notes on Politics. University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

Foucault, Michel. Society Must Be Defended. Pikador, New York. 2003.

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City as Language

The city and the language we speak are both the products of human activity preceding us. By the time we are born, they are already there. Saussure pointed out that despite the ultimate arbitrariness with which a sequence of sounds starts to denote an object, once the word is assigned to its meaning, or a meaning to a word, the use of it far from being arbitrary (Saussure, 1998). Voloshinov adds that the multiplicity of the word’s meanings is such that it is equal to the multiplicity of the contexts in which the word is used (Voloshinov, 1973). The meaning of the word is, therefore, engendered by the context. The word is still a word, it retains its unity, its singularity, because the variety of its meanings fall into some area, but there are no two contexts where the word’s meaning is quite the same.

Likewise, applying this logic of thought to the city, one can suggest that it might be more or less of an occasion that the street laid in one direction, but once it is there, its functioning is no longer random, the street is liable to the certain logic of its development and use, it offers the type of activities, gestural patterns, paths, entertainment, business, speed of walking, et cetera. The environment shapes our experience in an endless multiplicity of ways.

City is a text written in an architectural language, and it is readable and decipherable, can be edited and re-written.

American cities have their own peculiar logic of development. In the younger cities, where there is no historical neighborhood built by the pattern of medieval European cities with their narrow streets, accurate churches and houses, the streets often cross one another at the ninety degree angles, forming the net of sorts. There is has some futuristic functionality in this principal reduction of the entangled streets of the European city as we know it, which was built with a different idea behind it. The architects ruthlessly invade the space with the embodiment of their fancies, phantasms, and fantasies, but in the old times they had to convince the sovereign in the sustainability of their ideas.

Visual sociologist Luc Pauwels suggests: “The city can be looked upon as a huge, out of control syntagma—a combination of numerous paradigmatic choices made by many semi-independent actors, with different, often conflicting interests. Some signs have lost their meaning but remain to send their obsolete message (to buy a no longer existing product of an out of market manufacturer). These remnants of the past together with the uncontrolled combination of numerous signs that are competing for attention create a visual data overload and ‘noise’ that may prove highly confusing, while at the same time they may become a source of entertainment for the attentive observer.”

Finally, a city which is ruining because of decline and subsequent gradual abandonment is like the language going out of use.

 

References

 

Pauwels, Luc. 2012. “Street Discourse: A Visual Essay on Urban Signification” (6.1), an essay in his essay “Conceptualising the ‘Visual Essay’ as a Way of Generating and Imparting Sociological Insight: Issues, Formats and Realisations,” Sociological Research Online, 17 (1) 1, http://www.socresonline.org.uk/17/1/1.html [retrieved 1/11/2016]

Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1998. Course of General Linguistics. Reprint Edition; Open Court Classics

Voloshinov, V.N. 1973. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Seminar Press, in liaison with the Harvard Univerity Press and the Academic Press Inc.