Thursday, November 17, 2011

individuation in the panopticon; the struggle for collectivity

From this post about Foucault By Jeremy Antley.

Antley quotes from Foucault's lectures published as Psychiatric Power.

the panoptic design gives the center a means of obtaining 'mind over mind' power. This is accomplished by the individualizing nature of the panopticon, as it places the focus of the gaze, the body, on a singular subject. The result Foucault notes,
...means that in a system like this we are never dealing with a mass, with a group, or even, to tell the truth, with a multiplicity: we are only ever dealing with individuals. ... All collective phenomena, all the phenomena of multiplicities, are thus completely abolished. (75)

Worth remembering in light of the difficulties of imagining collectivity or solidarity even in the cauldron of protest, and why it can seem as though protest is an ego-mode of political action akin to recycling, etc. "I am doing my part" without worrying about how or whether it fits into larger coordinations of action. Such political action reinforces the basis of panoptic society while seeming to enact the freedom to "make a difference."

Antley suggests panoptic subjectivation can be thwarted with new technologies of augmentation that allow lateral communication between cells -- that more or less supplant panopticon with a rhizomatic network structure. Not sure about that. My pessimistic thought is that the cells are dependent on the center for the subjectivity they have learned to treasure, and structure their protest and political participation in such a way as to preserve the center's monopoly on authentication of selves. Social recognition still must flow through a "center" of some sort to be legitimized.

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