User:Lucia Dossin/Reading Writing Research Methodologies/Assignment 2/Essay

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Created 13:40, 16 October 2013‎

We are now living in an socio-economic environment where our subjectivities are treated as commodities. That model has its origins in a society of control, which in its turn was built on top of a discipline society. The foundation of this model points to neoliberal capitalism, where man - or homo economicus - is seen as an informational body.

To investigate this question, we are going to refer to Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish, Gilles Deleuze's Postscript on the Societies of Control and Maurizio Lazzarato's Immaterial Labour.

Discipline and Punish

According to Foucault, discipline 'makes individuals' (1975, p.170) by the use of these methods: hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment and examination.

Telescopes, lenses, windows that allow vigilance, collaborate to hierarchical observation, as they allow surveillance to take place on different levels: health, qualification, politics, morality. Supervision is the keyword in order to achieve a functional, efficient, optimized result.

Observation allowed for a standard, normalization, definition of what is normal, the normalizing judgment. 'The non-conforming is punishable' (Foucault, 1975, p.179). The punishable is defined in terms of a 'double juridico-natural' (Foucault, 1975, p.179) reference. As the main goal is to train the body, the aim of training cannot be so difficult as to disinterest the one being trained. It has to be perceived as achievable.

Normalizing judgment is based on 'gratification-punishment' system (Foucault, 1975, p.180). A system of privileges/privation of privileges, of indulgences, is put to service in parallel to a rank system. The rank itself serves as 'a reward or punishment', as it 'exercises a constant pressure to conform to the same model' (Foucault, 1975, p.182).

The examination is a combination of hierarchical observation and normalizing judgment. It is a 'normalizing gaze, a surveillance that makes it possible to qualify, to classify and to punish' (Foucault, 1975, p.184)

Societies of Control

The transition between Discipline Societies and Societies of Control has been accomplished over time and its large-scale implementation has taken place under Napoleon, as Deleuze(1992) reminds us.

In Societies of Control, 'the corporation has replaced the factory, and the corporation is a spirit, a gas' [...] ' The factory constituted individuals as a single body to the double advantage of the boss who surveyed each element within the mass and the unions who mobilized a mass resistance; but the corporation constantly presents the brashest rivalry as a healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivational force that opposes individuals against one another and runs through each, dividing each within.' (Deleuze, 1992, p.4/5)

In this environment, 'perpetual training tends to replace the school, and continuous control to replace examination. ' (Deleuze, 1992, p.5) Single bodies in space and time have been replaced by a continuous flow of information(al bodies), which access is granted or denied.

The Discipline Societies have two poles: the individual and the mass. In Societies of Control, the individual x mass logic does not matter anymore, as access (or its privation) is granted on a code basis. The password is the access key.

In this context, capitalism undergoes a mutation, as it is no longer involved in production, but in assembly of components. 'What it wants to sell is services and what it wants to buy is stocks.' (Deleuze, 1992, p.6) Immaterial Labour

In this new, mutated form of capitalism, work is organized in new ways too. When our subjectivities are the traded merchandise, the commodities being bought and sold, 'the activity that produces the “cultural content”of the commodity', the immaterial labour, 'involves a series of activities that are not normally recognized as “work”: definition and fixation of cultural and artistic standards, consumer norms, public opinion.' (Lazzarato, 1996, p.1)

This mutation began in early 70's, when new technologies 'require subjectivities that are rich in knowledge'. (Lazzarato, 1996, p.1)

'The split between conception and execution, between labour and creativity, between author and audience, is simultaneously transcended within the “labour process” and reimposed as political command within the “process of valorization”.' (Lazzarato, 1996, p.2) In this context, the worker acquires some degree of responsibility in the decision making work flow and the division between work and private life tends to dissolve itself. 'Workers are expected to become “active subjects”, instead of being subjected to it as simple command'. (Lazzarato, 1996, p.3)

Each individual is an autonomous unit of the system. The system is a network of individuals. 'Immaterial workers satisfy a demand by the consumer and at the same time establish that demand' (Lazzarato, 1996, p.11) This represents an extrapolation of the internalization of discipline mechanism and the ranking system. The individual is captured in its subjectivity and in the relation between this subjectivity and society. The subjectivity is then determinant to the position (rank) of each individual in the society – as it represents the commodity, the trade value - and at the same time, the position of each individual in the society is determinant to shape, format or confirm its subjectivity as trade value.