Foucault, without directly referring to him, shows that Hobbes’s monster has become a machine. I argue that this machine is itself in a process of transformation today, and is in the way of taking the form of something that is neither organic nor inorganic, neither visible nor invisible, but felt. This is power as affective force. Power can no more be represented by metaphors. For metaphor is a concept that belongs to the world of metaphysics which exists only as a fantasy world, whereas today power has a more material existence than it has ever had and its materiality splits as it unites the psychosomatic and the sociopolitical realms of experience.
The automatization of power, that is, transformation of power from an organic state, as demonstrated by Hobbes, towards an inorganic state, as demonstrated by Foucault, has been studied in a different way and in a different context by Mark Poster in his Foucault, Marxism, and History. Influenced by Poster’s interpretation of Foucault in relation to Marxism, and in the context of the relationship between discourse and power, I reassert, in a different way and for different reasons, that Foucault’s conceptualization of the Panopticon is useful and yet insufficient in understanding the workings of power today in the face of the recent developments in technology.
In this new situation the subjects know that they are still locked in the Panopticon, but pretend that they are free floating across the Superpanopticon. This is because they are being locked deeper into the Panopticon; and there finding themselves dismembered, losing themselves in the terrible condition of being pushed further into the hitherto undiscovered corners of one’s own room, in their cells.
A new formulation of Foucault’s concept of bio-power, the Superpanoptic discourse reverses the roles of Eros and Thanatos; abuses our understandings and misunderstandings of the life drive and the death drive, as well as manipulating our inner conflicts and turning us into antagonists. It does this by erasing the necessary boundary between life and death, the organic and the inorganic, so as to create the conditions of possibility for manufacturing an illusory sense of oneness with the world, hence uniting the subject of statement (the enunciated) and the subject of enunciation which should remain separate from and/but contiguous to one another for the perpetual transformation and multiplication of life forms to take place at the same time.
– the host is a bit lacking but Rabinow is probably the most important intellectual of our time…
Paul Rabinow is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California (Berkeley), Director of the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory (ARC), and former Director of Human Practices for the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC). He is perhaps most famous for his widely influential commentary and expertise on the French philosopher Michel Foucault. He was a close interlocutor of Michel Foucault, and has edited and interpreted Foucault’s work as well as ramifying it in new directions.
Rabinow is known for his development of an “anthropology of reason”. If anthropology is understood as being composed of anthropos + logos, then anthropology can be taken up as a practice of studying how the mutually productive relations of knowledge, thought, and care are given form within…
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