cultivating & crashing

an organic collection of notes, observations, and thoughts

Tag: theory

Thoughts during Foucault

I went to a couple lectures on Foucault given by my thesis supervisor, because one can never know too much about this brilliant man. Here are some notes/thoughts.

Foucault thinks that sex is a master key of a person; he claims it is the way a person is understood.

Management of life and body:
time is hyperstructured

Disciplinary power does not stand in opposition to pleasure. Under surveillance, the pleasure of evading surveillance and that of being surveyed arise. Facebook is a great example.

Annoyed at the realization to what extent I am a docile body. So amenable to power, knowing it so well, playing so well by the rules of the game, even when they shift. So rational, so keen, so hyperconscious of myself and my presentation of self. Disciplinary power is strong in me. The feeling of being a fraud because of being aware of the unwritten rules, and being aware of using them to my benefit. In order to be genuine, we must be unwitting—something I am not.

The shift from repressive to disciplinary power is analogous to the shift from physical colonization to economic colonization; the move toward less violent and more efficient control of areas.

Power as productive: disciplinary power that says “yes, but”; cooptation, incorporation, normalization. Very hard to fight, to resist. Mostly because disciplinary power is such that we don’t want to counter it, but play its game. The Rebel Sell, which explains how the argument of counterculture breaks down in the face of (or, more accurately, is coopted by) capitalism, describes this kind of power. It’s why buying local, organic heirloom tomatoes or underground punk albums is not affront to capitalism, but a perpetuation of it. The consumption of things that are obscure or not massively produced does not challenge the dominant economic system; such consumption simply opens new venues for market enterprise.

Further evidence for pomo as project

In reading about the history of Canadian midwifery, the point is made that feminist theory has failed to do justice to women and their reality. Whereas in the 70s the women’s movement promoted the feminist critique of the medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth, it recent decades it’s become clear that this mobilization came from the perspective of and catered to white, middle-class, heterosexual women, and artificially homogenized the experience of mothers and midwives. Now, in 2011, the literature reflects a more nuanced and subsequently more accurate representation of midwifery that accounts for race, gender, power, and class.

This adds to the argument that the efforts of modernity are not yet completely dead, not rendered obsolete after the advent of postmodernity. The movement toward a refining of theory and thought reflects this. The term late modernity, instead of postmodernity, helps to illustrate the point: it is a problematization and maturation of the project of modernity, not a complete denial of it. We don’t become nihilistic when confronted with an obstacle, but grapple with it and get to work. Because what pomo teaches us is that we still have lots to learn, lots to understand, and lots to do in order to get there. Justice is still important and decisions still need to be made; it’s the way to choose that needs to be helped.

Simon blowing my mind

how do you fight ideology? With counter ideas with the express purpose of revealing the truth of ideology.

All of cultural theory comes in through this one gap. The act of revealing, this is the first move. Kantian: do as I say and you will see through the truth.

Ideology is used incorrectly. Critique is punching through the veil that ideology manufactures. But this is wrong.

Althusser: ideology is in capitalism but not from it. So he wants a theory of ideology. In general, it:
involves unequal relations
ideology is not historical; part of the sociality implied in being human (capitalism just one thing)
assemblages of invisible body that affect us – only sociologists can see it working because they have the right training/idea to see it

poststructuralist lacan, psychoanalysis. Like society has a subconsciousness. Mark lafrance, sometimes dagenais
you think you’re free, but other stuff going on that you don’t see. We share this with psychoanalysis, but don’t formulate it this way.

The dream is the imagined reality you want, desire. In ideology, men represent themselves to themselves in the way that they want to be. (before, sun king is a piece of god and all the power relations that entails)

why do we created these fabricated stories of reality?
Despots did it to control people, and the residue of history has remained.
Material reality sucks, alienation makes everything being away from you, not your real work, life has no meaning, we need to find a way to not get depressed. So we live in a way that molifies our malaise. Consumption is part of capitalist reality. “buy the car and you’ll feel like you did something significant.”
Actually, says Althusser, that’s weak ideology.
124: it is not about dreams and reality, actually. It’s about our relation to our reality.

In new move: ideology is a story ourselves so that we don’t have to deal with (reality) our stories about reality. (can you hear the seidman? Stories?)
all that we understand of social reality “always already” ideological. Before you even get there, it’s no place for ideology that doesn’t exist. NO BEDROCK reality to access. Nothing there to see when you put on the glasses. Always already ideological.

There is no “true consciousness” of seeing the reality (Kant, taking off tutelage)

if you can’t get out of the matrix, what do we do? What does revolution looks like?
every hollywood film falls back to kantian, modernist move. Someone who will see way forward, see the difference.

Always already is done to short circuit the hope that we’ll come up with a formulation to find a solution. Postmodernists want to tell you not to hope that it can be better and fixable.

1. I live in ideology because prof thinking he’s doing good, which masks that he’s actually less valuable because doesn’t make money. So self-deluded. Happily fool myself. I get other rewards. After all money is evil. I’m a lefty, it’s okay this way.
2. But actually not masking imaginary. I’m happy to not be a factory worker, and not a . only have a handle on my perspective of what I think is real. This is where I situate my working. Only have reality as I perceive it. My view of the world is already ideological. Imaginary relationship to real existence. So actually there is only relativity, your relative vantage point to the moving, changing stuff.
1. Althusser says it’s bad to blame ideology on a clique. Easy to blame people (aliens, a power, the top of the power relation)

subject makes an entrance. The crucial aspect is that, we are them.

No propaganda machine pulling wool over our eyes. We are the source and we are the object.

Belief in god is the practices in which beliefs are physically instatiated. At the moment you kneel the practices the habits you have you are ideological about it. We do it, regardless of what we believe, we instantiate it in our writing papers, coming to class. As this, we are already ideological. Not neutral. The entire social relationship is this.

You are subject of and subject to your act. Subject subjects themselves freely. Ideology works best in capitalism, where we understand that our acts are free already.

No guns to point at heads, capitalism will be achieved with ideology, with ideological state apparatuses. Education, media, culture.

One does not just believe, he practices ideology. Does not exist in the belief, but in the action. Freely becoming the subject of ideology. Handshake: seemingly just an action. Has an ideological component: act gives rise to function. What is the ideological component? Act of individuation: you are you and I am me, and this act creates us. This is ideology, the layer that is action that makes it so; doesn’t exist without it. Imposes obviousness as obviousness. Ideology works when you don’t think about it. When we say we are free to act, we are creating ourselves as subjects of that ideology that maintains that we are subjects that do.

We are subjects of ideology even before we are born: racism, gender, class don’t force us to things. They exist prior to our arrival, but we active them in the practice of them.

When someone or something calls to you, your turning around is the act of interpellation as a subject. Checking the F on a form is the act of checking that makes us female, in which we engage with all the stuff that is involved in being F.

Therefore Enlightenment is ideological not counter-ideological. Ideology only works when the actor believes that he is the owner of himself. So, the enlightenment idea of one being the locus of action and reason is very very ideological.

How we move from ideology to the ways in which the ideological function is instantiated in other things.

All roads in our theoretical training go through foucault

les mots les choses
what is the history how did we become the objects of our own investigation.
Analyzed discursive practices. Discussed how people were discussed. Discourse is the things/ideas around a thing. This is the method of discourse analysis.

Discourses are things that exists in and of themselves; they are social constucts. Existence works similar to how ideology works. Politics of ideology no but the function yes.

Foucault’s description of the painting. Spanish. velasquez
Doubly invisible, not in the painting, and not. He is only looking at us but also not, we are only there because we are where he is looking. So we don’t know what is being painted. Are we being painted? Or are we seeing? A mirror where we see what it’s about – what everyone else is looking at, but not the painter. The picture is a scene of which it is a scene. The subjects of the painting are looking at what is presented in the painting. This is about subjects and discourse.

Foucault has six things to say.
1. representation is not about making true reflection of reality. Painting is saying more than what exists. Painting could have happened or not, but also about more than just a photograph.
2. Everything is visible in the painting. Meaning of the painting depending on how you look at it. Everything is there but the meaning of the painting needs the painting plus me. Guess what’s on the canvas? Your assumptions are adding to the material. Absence of king and queen represented by reflection in mirror. Meaning of anything is both presence and absence: what you say as important as what is not said. A tension btwn was is there and not.
3. Two subjects of the painting. 1. the absent king and queen. 2. what we’re looking at, the girl in the dead center. The discourse of the painting oscillates between them. Were is it pointing us to look? It doesn’t settle. No absolute truth. The emergence of meaning but no final meaning. Only the act of making but without the product. Parable for all of representation. Paralogy for foucault.
4. If painting is ideology, how does it orchestrate our looking? The infanta and painter and looking at the k+q. We identify with the looking done by the characters in the painting. The cues are in the painting. This painting is controlling how we matierally act (looking). We take up positions dictated by the painting. These are subject positions, this is what ideology creates. The act of looking makes us subject.
5. Painting does not determine its meaning. The painting not complete without the spectator, regardless of who it is. But we are painted into the picture because it is a picture that will be perceived. Mutual process. Discourse constructs spectator as subject. Interpellating us when we engage with us.
6. Why this one so much? The position made us take by paintain, we are in the position of the sovereign. The modern subject which over . Curious modern subjectivity makes us think we are the soverigns of our own actions, so we are outside of discourse and outside of power. Waking up call to modernists: the subject you want us to do/be is part of a discourse. You’ve misunderstood. Give up on the possibility of being free, the idea of trying to get outside and see truth. Give it up because the thing you want to embody is part of what you’re critiquing.
Look at what is going on with the subject in the two chapters of discipline and punish


In my theory course I’m learning about modernism and postmodernism. I seem to like postmodernism better. I often wonder, however, how to reconcile this with my own personal reality, like that of converting to Judaism. How does adoption of a premodern institution fit into postmodern discourse? Can it be simply one more story? Or does it have a different character than other theoretical moves? Is it any different than the values I choose to embrace of that I learned from my Latin American family, or even the fact of how I wed them with the liberal, feminist and intellectual values I took from living in a privileged part of the United States? Maybe postmodernity has more space for this than did modernity. It might be more able to accept the roots and occurrence of things (be they entirely “rational” or not) by seeing them as embedded but not needing to discredit one as invalid other than on its own grounds, and not a universalist claim.

I’m not sure I’m expressing this well. I’m sure I’ll come back to the subject.

Notes on theory

I’m pressed for time so really can’t get into this now, but briefly want to that say:

Mirchandani blew my mind. I want more of this empirical postmodernism, and the theoretical framework that allows for us to return to the Enlightenment project of modernity with new tools. It’s like Habermas but without sticking your head in the sand.

Althusser is taking forever to say something, but fortunately he’s clear and not difficult to follow. I think that his elaborations on Marx are warranted, but part of me thinks he should have had the nerve to admit that it was an extension and not just what Marx had in his head but said obliquely. Althusser is the Kabbala of Marxism.

Contemporary Sociological Theory

My theory course is the most interesting think I’m doing these days. In fact, I’m so drawn by it that it makes me wonder if I should pursue master’s work in an original reading of Arendt’s Human Condition as suggested by my professor instead of in Canadian/Quebec/Montreal public health. It feels like I’m being seduced to lead an unscrupulous life of philosophizing and in lieu of serving humanity como Dios manda.

Anyway, here’s my summary of Giddens’ “Living in a Post-Traditional Society”.

In his article “Living in a Post-Tradition Society”, Anthony Giddens posits that society is undergoing a transition to being post-traditional. He maintains that, in fact, modern society has been rife with traditional underpinnings, which were used, for instance, in the legitimation new power structures. Today, even these instances are soon to be rendered little more than vestiges.   Read on

More Arendt

I find that I’m fascinated by Arendt’s thought so far. She deals with what happens to people in atrocities like the Holocaust and Stalin’s Soviet Russia. There’s something about wars and genocides that I’ve always found captivating: the point where life is perverted in extraordinary ways; what happens when humanity meets its limits.