Over the fold, my notes on chapter 3 of Foucault’s Society Must be Defended for the biopolitics reading group.
Society Must Be Defended, Foucault
Part one: Operators of Domination
â€œ[T]he theory of sovereignty presupposes the subject; its goal is to establish the essential unity of power, and it is always deployed within the preexisting element of the law.â€ (44)
(This reminds me Deleuze and Guattariâ€™s discussion of the despotic signifier in ATP, ie through the faciality of the sovereign.)
First: Foucault is arguing against a conception of power relations that collapse into the (dialectical?) unity of sovereignty. Within such an arrangement the subject is already given. Instead, he suggests â€œwe should be extracting operators of domination from relations of power, both historically and empiricallyâ€ and â€œhow act relations of subjugation manufacture subjectsâ€ (45).
Second point: There is a multiplicity of power relations and they can be analyzed â€œonly if we try to see how they interact, how they support one another, and how this apparatus defines a certain number of global strategies on the basis of multiple subjugationsâ€ (45). A synergy is not a unity. The power relations are like sound waves (vectors, ie Virilio) that can amplify each other or cancel each other out. â€œThey are global strategies that traverse and use local tactics of dominationâ€ (46).
Third point: Power relations are the building blocks of synergies of domination. Foucault wants to explore the machinery or operators of this domination. (I understand â€˜operatorâ€™ here less in the crane-driving sense and more in the mathematical sense.) It is their functionality that must be engaged (46).
Summary: 1) techniques, 2) the heterogeneity of techniques, and 3) the subjugation-effects that make technologies of domination the real fabric of both power relations and the great apparatuses of power (46)
Introduces his guiding questions (46):
1) Relationship of domination a relationship of force? (Nietzschean force?)
2) Relationship of force a relationship of war?
3) Can war act as a matrix for techniques of domination?
Part two: War, Force, Truth
Is war primary with regard to other relations? (47)
Clausewitzâ€™s principle 47-48. Politics is the continuation of war by other means (48).
Throughout the middle-ages the state acquired a monopoly on war (48). War was pushed to the edges of the social body, which was â€œcleansed of bellicose relationsâ€ (48). This allowed for the emergence of a military apparatus: the army as an institution (49).
There is a discourse of war that has been picked up and used by a number of different social groups (50). Political-power does not begin when the war ends. War is the motor behind institutions and order (50). There is a slippage here in Foucaultâ€™s rhetoric between asking the question of relationships of domination, if they can be considered in terms of relationships of war, and simply stating that war exists. Is he saying that the relative positioning of various parties is best represented by this discourse of war? Or that the discourse of war has a performative effect in the consolidation of various forces into different (warring) parties? This is crucial because the caution in the earlier section where he demanded that one show how â€œrelations of subjugation manufacture subjectsâ€ seems to disappear when we get to him simply stating that a â€œbinary structure runs through societyâ€ (51). Surely, going by his more cautious rhetoric, we should instead approach it (with a slight play on words) in terms of a binary structure that is produced as the running of â€˜societyâ€™ (as a synergistic collective, not Durkheimian unity)? Maybe he is just describing the â€œdiscourse on warâ€ rather than critically engaging with it, as the comments towards the end of the main paragraph page 51 are very ambiguous.
He answers this by staking out a relation between this war discourse as a discourse of perspective and the truth uttered in the discourse as always pertaining to a certain outcome (52). â€œ[I]f the relationship of force sets truth free, the truth in its turn will come into play â€“ and will, ultimately, be sought â€“ only insofar as it can indeed become a weapon within the relationship of forceâ€ (53).
Part three: Explaining things from below
Principle that explains history:
1) Brute facts (54), a series of accidents or at least contingencies (multiplicity)
2) a â€˜growing rationalityâ€™ (54), condensations, the operators of domination
3) a history that has no boundaries, no end, and no limits (55)
History is not about passing judgement by deploying an ideal schema: the â€œrelativity to the absolute of law, but in discovering beneath the stability of the law or the truth, the indefiniteness of historyâ€ (56) So there are at least two levels or layers of struggle, the superficial given or condensed multiplicity and the naked accidents of bodies and passions.
Be weary of â€˜great mythical impulses, and with the ardor of the revenge of the peopleâ€™ (57). The knowledge of this historical discourse â€œis a weapon that is used to win an exclusively partisan victoryâ€ (57). It is a partisan discourse.
Forget the dialectic (58), it condenses multiplicity and explains nothing, it itself needs to be explained.
Part four: Race War
Machiavelli, Hobbes (59) paternities of the partisan discourse, war and peace
â€œThe war that is going on beneath order and peace, the war that undermines our society and divides it in a binary mode is basically a race warâ€ 59-60 provides some very brief examples and conditions of its emergence.
It is a â€œbinary rift within society [â€¦] not a clash between two distinct racesâ€ (61). â€œ[O]ne true race, the race that holds the power and is entitled to define the norm, and against those who deviate from that norm, against those who pose a threat to the biological heritageâ€ (61) Current neo-conservative positions are obvious examples of this.
So there is a movement whereby multiplicity is transformed by â€˜operators of dominationâ€™ into a binary relation; this is ongoing; State racism.
History as such becomes a resource within these â€˜operators of dominationâ€™; or serves as a counter-history, a history â€˜from belowâ€™ (of multiplicity or of the binary to the State history’s discourse (eg multiculturalism)?? this is unclear). However, Foucaultâ€™s historical discourse is not a partisan history of one party within the binary relation, but a history of the tactical reduction of multiplicity that strategically reproduces the â€˜binary riftâ€™.
Does this mean that ‘counter-histories’ are actually equivalent in an asymmetrical way to the State histories?