[Some] Concepts of Life and the Living in the Societies of Control

September 21, 2011

Lazzarato discusses Deleuze and Foucault’s readings of societal structures, arguing that we have collectively shifted from a disciplinary society to one of control.

Beginning with a Foucaultian analysis of the factory model, which Hegel/Marx summarised as a dialectical form of exploitation (essentially based on the master-slave relationship), the author suggests that contemporary capitalist society has become more complex and has surpassed such a binary. Indeed, today we see a particular ‘multiplicity’ of events, beyond the (once argued) spiritual and/or capital contributors of capitalism. Lazzarato:

Power relations are virtual, unstable, non-localisable, non-stratified potentialities … the actualisation of these differential relations and singularities by institutions (state, capital, etc) that stabilise them, stratify them, and make them non-reversible, is simultaneously an integration (capture) and a differentiation

This may be a valid statement: no person in power is infinitely powerful. Every power-holder oneday becomes powerless. I think it is safe to conclude one day that person will die, too. Then they will have no power (beyond the power of the memory of that person). If we are to conclude anything from this statement, perhaps it is simply a reminder of the ephemerality of power and of powerful beings.

The author concludes the essay by arguing that (our perception of) society has become increasingly complex, indicated by the concept of ‘multiplicity’ and faux- (linguistic) complexity theories.

This is not a particularly good summary of the article, although I don’t believe it deserves one. I have so many issues with the article’s content and the overly convoluted language that I wonder whether this author has any intention of producing rigorous educational communication that extends beyond pure propaganda. Arguing that all identifiable states of society are oppressive is both naïve and nihilistic, and I think it is important that we remind ourselves that the reality(/ies) we have inherited are by and large constructs of earlier societies who aimed to create a better future for us. That we should choose to sulk about this, and what’s more disguise such apathy and lack of humanity within a scramble of torturously elaborate language makes me seriously wonder what the value of such writing is (or maybe it’s a precedent of what-not-to-do?). Yes, I believe a basic human instinct of ours is an intrinsic desire to reconstruct our world, perhaps as a kind of interpretation of our reality, and no I don’t believe we like to feel repressed – but surely thousands of years of history, art, architecture, literature, human spirit, has taught us that no matter how seemingly-restrictive our world, the ingenuity of the human mind means we are always capable of finding an escape.


One Response to “[Some] Concepts of Life and the Living in the Societies of Control”

  1. nicnacbr Says:

    Perhaps you need to not judge the language so readily. As a an architect you would have your own language that may seem impenitrable from a non-specialist POV. If you are going to write on philosophy then learn the semantics of the particular area. Then critique.

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