Updated: Oct 7
Then from out the cave the mighty Polyphemus answered them: ‘My friends, it is Noman that is slaying me by guile and not by force’. And they made answer and addressed him with winged words: ‘If, then, no man does violence to thee in thy loneliness, sickness which comes from great Zeus thou mayest in no wise escape’. - Homer, The Odyssey, Book IX
[…] for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle […] let us cultivate our garden. - Voltaire, Candide
The emergence of global digital surveillance and control heralds the advent of digital technologies as the nexus of social cohesion and political decision-making. The ominous image of representatives from Google, Apple, Facebook (Meta), and Amazon engaging in political discourse with representatives from the seven most economically advanced nations in the world at the G7 meeting in 2017 epitomises how this emergence has upset the balance of power. This new form of surveillance and control marks a paradigm shift within surveillance theory. Whereas Foucauldian panopticism had informed our understanding of the dynamic between surveillance and control, many recent publications are more likely to be informed by Deleuze’s concept of the society of control, which reconceives the dynamic as existing between access and control. We are, then, beckoned to shift the locus of our analyses from subjectification to access control as the primary power mechanism to be analysed.
In this paper, I examine the contemporary discussion surrounding Foucauldian and Deleuzean methods of power analysis. While I will defend the Foucauldian focus on subjectification as a privileged power mechanism, I recognise that Foucault’s analysis of subjectification as such is untenable. This paper seeks to uncover how a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification can contribute to the discourse on power in the emerging societal landscape of global digital surveillance and control. In order to arrive at a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification, I first elucidate what exactly Foucault means by subject. Then, informed by Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein, I exposit how a subject arrives at their operating framework, ie, their framework of possible thought and action. Employing Deleuze’s concept of territory, I then arrive at a conception of how the operating framework of subjects can be produced and reproduced. This exploration ultimately culminates in ten theses regarding a post-Foucauldian concept of power and subjectification. Finally, I conclude that a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification can restore the focus on subjectification within power analysis, thereby providing us with an explanatory model that can account for the voluntary display of intentional socially desirable behaviour by subjects en masse.
1. Foucault and Deleuze
Before delving into the discussion surrounding Foucauldian and Deleuzean power analyses, I will first devote a few elucidatory remarks to the concept of power and the concealments that the English language entails in respect to it (§1.1). Afterwards, I articulate the difference in focus between Foucault’s and Deleuze’s analyses. In §1.2, I defend Foucault’s position, namely, the importance of a focus on subjectification in power analysis. In §1.3, I problematise Foucault’s account of subjectification and articulate the necessity of a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification.
1.1. Power, Potestas, and Potentia
English blurs and conceals the important distinction both Foucault and Deleuze make between puissance and pouvoir. One way in which Deleuze describes puissance is as ‘the capacity to effectuate’ and with such a description, it discloses itself as potentia. Pouvoir, ie political power, can be rendered as potestas (Spinoza). Foucault’s analysis of power, in his own words, focuses specifically on potestas (pouvoir). Appropriately, in this paper I use the word power in the sense of potestas.
Foucault writes that power ‘operates on the field of possibilities in which the behaviour of active subjects is able to inscribe itself’. This can be interpreted as a conception of power as a complex network of relations between possible actions/actors, ie, a network of potentia. On this conception, power cannot be explicitly reduced to the exercise of coercion (the actualisation of potentia), nor can it be described as an attribute that can be ascribed to a particular actor, but rather describes relations between possible actors, who, when taken together as a given constellation, produce specific behaviour. Potestas is inextricably linked to potentia in this analysis; potestas is exercised by playing off the potentia of each actor against another, i.e, potestas operates as a network of potentia.
Foucault further notes of his own work that the aim of his research ‘has not been to analyse the phenomena of power […] [but] has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects […] [he has] sought to study […] the way a human being turns him- or herself into a subject’. I interpret this statement as Foucault’s acknowledgement that research into power focuses primarily on the way in which potentia can be channelled by means of power internalisation, ie, how specific subjects arise who operate ‘voluntarily’ within a specific framework of possible actions. It is on this point, the centralisation of subjectification in the analysis of power, that Deleuze differs from Foucault.
Deleuze states in an interview that ‘puissance [potentia] is always an obstacle in the effectuation of potentia’. A concretisation of this statement can be found in Deleuze’s analysis of the society of control. Deleuze writes in response to Foucault’s analysis of power that ‘in the societies of control, on the other hand, what matters is […] a code: the code is a password […], which marks access to information or rejects it’. Here, Deleuze presents a conception of power as the framing of potentia through the raising of obstacles in the form of access control. The difference between Foucault and Deleuze in their power analysis is a difference in focus in which ways potentia is framed. Foucault emphasises a framing of potentia by means of subjectification in which power relations are internalised. In Deleuze, the emphasis shifts to a framing of potentia through access control, leaving the subject free to act as they please within a given delimited space.
1.2. A qualified defence of Foucault’s insistence on subjectification against Deleuze
Before discussing Deleuze’s critique of Foucault in his analysis of the societies of control, I want to emphasise that I explicitly do not interpret this critique as a critique of the correctness of subjectification as an exercise of potestas. I take the Deleuzean critique as aimed at the central position that subjectification occupies in Foucault’s analysis of power.
One of the most resonant arguments in this critique in the landscape of global digital surveillance and control is articulated by Galič et al, who maintain that it is ‘no longer actual persons and their bodies that matter or are subject to discipline, it is about the representations of the individuals’. Contemporary digital surveillance and control focuses on what Deleuze calls the dividual, where the individual is split into digital representations. Since it is no longer the individual who is central to methods of surveillance and control, it seems logical that the subjectification of this individual should no longer play a central role in our analyses. As such, Matzner notes a certain distrust of the thematicization of subjectification in Deleuzean theory. A general picture that emerges from many contemporary Deleuzean theories of power—where in addition to the society of control, we also have, eg algorithmic governmentality, invigilator assemblies, and data derivatives— is a shift of focus from subjectification to access control: the automated management of spaces and potentialities. Rouvroy is particularly adamant about this when she states that ‘algorithmic governmentality does not allow for subjectivation processes’.
In response to this shift in focus, I would first of all like to note that denying subjects (in the sense of the subjected) access to specific spaces also concerns a regulation and framing of their capacity to act (potentia) and, therefore, also concerns a power structure (potestas). I will, appropriately, grant the Deleuzeans that an analysis of power which exclusively focuses on subjectification without notice to other obstacles in potentia is, then, underdetermined as such. This same critique of underdetermination, however, can be further extended to analyses of power that operate solely in terms of access control. Although digital surveillance focuses on the individual, access control (and in particular the refusal of access) is, indeed, exercised on the individual. In addition to the direct impediment it causes, it also has a subjectivising effect, as described by Matzner in the sense that it ensures that subjects anticipate the control and adjust their behaviour themselves in order to gain access. Even if access is not refused, in such cases, potentia is still framed by means of subjectification. Thus, a power structure forms that escapes our notice when the analysis of power renounces its attention to subjectification.
The main defect with the Deleuzean position, however, is that it cannot explain how subjects continue to exhibit desirable socially intended behaviour en masse. Without a focus on subjectification, it remains unclear how the social consensus about acceptable behaviour is produced and reproduced, a process that ensures that denial of access remains the exception and not the rule, and that subjects normally already exhibit intended behaviour on their own. Deleuze speaks with amazement of young people who ‘strangely boast of their “motivation”’. By maintaining a Foucauldian focus on subjectification, it becomes clear how this ‘motivation’ is a produced subjectivity. It is the effect of a power structure that shapes subjects and thus ensures the maintenance of a stable society, in which refusal of access remains the exception.
1.3. Problematising the Panopticon: against Foucault’s account of subjectification
Although the Foucauldian focus on subjectification can thus be defended, it remains problematic to directly apply Foucault’s concrete analyses to analyses of contemporary society. The genealogical and archaeological methods of Foucault, who was primarily an historian, focused mainly on the exercise of power in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the conceptualisation of disciplining power which emerges from his analysis tells us little about the rhythmic flows of power we experience in an increasingly digital age, even if it does inform the historical conditions of their possibility. Panopticism is emblematic of disciplinary society, of which Foucault writes that ‘the major effect of the Panopticon [is] to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power’. Central to disciplining power is, then, the subjectivising effect that emanates from the panoptic view.
Attempting to employ the model of this power mechanism to contemporary society shows itself to be less than adequate, partly because contemporary digital surveillance thrives by pretending that it is not there at all. Contemporary methods such as tracking cookies, Wi-Fi, IP- and photo-tracking, hidden cameras and microphones, discreet laptop- and mobile camera activation, etc., function inconspicuously in the background, hidden from the subject. It is, therefore, completely unclear how traditional panopticist methods make the subject aware of its permanent visibility, or how a subjectifying effect should follow from this in another way. Didier Bigo attempts to salvage the panopticist model for contemporary ends in the form of ban-opticism, but here Bigo writes precisely that the Ban-opticon no longer depends on immobilising bodies under the analytic gaze of the beholder. The explanation of subjectification so intuitive to understand by means of a compelling gaze, which induces a framing of potentia in the subject is here no longer compelling or useful for our ends. This brings us to a more fundamental problem in the Foucauldian conception of subjectification. What remains in terms of explanations that Foucault gives for the mechanisms of subjectification are ‘modes of objectification that transform human beings into subjects’. How objectification as such is to lead to transformation in subjects remains unclear, and Mohanty does not unjustly describe this aspect of Foucault’s work as a ‘muddle’. If we now want a power analysis of post-panopticist society, while acknowledging the central focus on subjectification and recognising the limitations of Foucault’s conception of subjectification through objectification, then the need arises for a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification.
2. The Subject
In order to arrive at a productive post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification, we must first establish what a Foucauldian conception of subject actually entails. Consequently, in §2.1, I will articulate the ambiguities in the meaning of the word ‘subject’ and then analyse a number of statements by and about Foucault in order to elucidate what Foucault means, but more importantly, what Foucault does not mean, by ‘subject’.
2.1. The Foucauldian Subject
Subject, in the grammarian sense, relates directly to power exercised in the verb ‘to subject’, ie, to place someone under oneself. Within philosophy, at least since Descartes, subject does not refer only to the grammarian subject, but predominantly to (self) consciousness, an ‘I’, which—at least with Descartes—is in a subject-object relationship vis-à-vis its extension in the external world. This last meaning of ‘subject’, nevertheless, still possesses an odious degree of ambiguity. For example, in the context of consciousness, subject does not necessarily refer to an individual, as evidenced by, for example, the ‘transindividual subject’. Nor is the subject-object relationship generally seen as a relationship of opposites. For Lukács, among others, it is not a matter of denying the object or subject, but of denying their contradiction.
In the context of making individuals subjects, Foucault writes that ‘[t]here are two meanings of the word “subject”: subject to someone else by control and dependence, and tied to his own identity by a conscience or self-knowledge. Both meanings suggest a form of power that subjugates and makes subject to’. Foucault, then, includes an aspect of submission and the exercise of power into the sense of the word ‘subject’. Of particular interest is the second meaning that Foucault gives to subject. In this second sense, a link between subject as subjected and subject as consciousness with self-knowledge is identified. It is also this meaning, the framing of potentia by an attachment to an identity, that can explain how subjects en masse continue to display desired behaviour, even in the absence of direct control or dependencies.
Dreyfus notes a commonality between Heidegger and Foucault in their criticism of the Cartesian idea of a self-transparent subject and the related Kantian ideal of autonomous actorship. If a subject is not self-transparent, then the question is to what extent the awareness or self-knowledge that creates an attachment to one’s own identity can be completely immanent. Moreover, rejecting the Kantian ideal of autonomous actorship implies that conditions of the possibility of action cannot, or at least, cannot only arise from an autonomous immanent sphere. Thus, it seems unlikely that on a strong reading, a Foucauldian conception of subject refers to some immanent sphere, or on a weaker one, that subject is determined by such immanence and thus can possibly correspond to just such a sphere.
Foucault further states that ‘power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are “free”. By this we mean individual or collective subjects who are faced with a field of possibilities in which several modes of conduct, reaction, and behaviour are available’. Attributing a certain degree of freedom to subjects presupposes they can exhibit intentional behaviour. After all, without the possibility of an intentional choice in the manner of directed behaviour with regard to a field of possibilities, one cannot reasonably speak of freedom. I interpret the quotation marks that Foucault places around ‘free’ as the framing/regulation of the field of possibilities to which the subject, subject to potestas, has access to—the regulation of the subject’s potentia. Although the subject can make an intentional choice in its field of possibilities, my sense is that the options are limited by either control and dependence, or by an attachment to one’s own (imposed) identity.
Furthermore, it is remarkable that Foucault here speaks of ‘collective subjects’. Although individuals can be made subject, subject does not—at least not necessarily—refer back to an individual or an ‘I’. I interpret this as the recognition that the attachment of an individual to an identity can be a matter of an attachment to a collective identity, to which several individuals are collectively bound.
We have now arrived at a Foucauldian conception of subject which maintains the following premises:
The subject is attached to its own identity
The subject can exhibit intentional behaviour
The subject does not correspond to an immanent sphere
The subject does not (necessarily) refer to an individual ‘I’
2.2. Excursus: moving beyond Foucault through Being and Time
Dreyfus articulates a range of parallels between Foucault’s thinking and Heidegger’s. Foucault himself states in an interview that his ‘entire philosophical development was determined by [his] reading of Heidegger’. In this same interview, however, Foucault also admits to knowing nothing about Being and Time. From this, I contend that it is not trivial for a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification to draw inspiration from precisely this blind spot in the determination of Foucault’s philosophical development: Being and Time and Dasein’s analysis.
It can be argued against any application of Heidegger to subjectification that Heidegger precisely rejects the concept of subject as such. Therefore, Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein can never be taken as formative of a subject. In making such an untimely repudiation, however, it is important to take into account the ambiguity of the meaning of subject and to examine which conception of subject Heidegger is rejecting. Heidegger states that ‘[b]ecause the usual separation between a subject with its immanent sphere and an object with its transcendent sphere—because, in general, the distinction between inner and an outer is constructive and continually gives occasion for further constructions, we shall in the future no longer speak of a subject, of a subjective sphere, but shall understand the being to whom intentional comportments belong as Dasein’. This shows that by rejecting subject, Heidegger opposes the idea of an immanent subjective sphere as well as the opposition between subject and object. We have, however, just come to the conclusion that the Foucauldian conception of subject does not correspond at all to some immanent sphere. This seems to remove the sting from the objection. Although Heidegger rejects the Cartesian and Kantian conceptions of subject, this rejection is grounded in conceptions of subject that do not correspond to Foucault. This does not, however, in any way entail that Dasein and a Foucauldian subject can or should be readily equated with each other. The possibility, nevertheless, remains, as Goldmann does in his comparison between Lukács and Heidegger, ‘to translate the developments of each thinker into the terminology of the other’.
Another possible obstacle to the applicability of Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein to the conceptualisation of subjectification is that Heidegger writes of Dasein that ‘[t]hat Being which is an issue for this entity in its very Being, is in each case mine […] [b]ecause Dasein has in each case mineness [Jemeinigkeit], one must always use a personal pronoun when one addresses it: ‘I am’, ‘you are’. When Foucault speaks of collective subjects, however, it seems appropriate to address them as ‘we are’, ‘you are’. Although also personal pronouns, it is doubtful to what extent Dasein can be interpreted as plural (at least with respect to Heidegger’s formulation of it in Being and Time). What this illustrates, however, is only that Dasein cannot simply be equated with a Foucauldian subject. It does not prevent us from using Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein to explore how an individual (who is indeed addressed in the singular) can be made a subject. The task now before us is to examine critically how Dasein’s constitution can serve as inspiration for a conceptualisation of subjectification.
2.3. Hybridisation: Cross-pollinating Subject with Dasein
If we compare Dasein with the four premises elaborated above about the Foucauldian subject, two similarities can be noted. Firstly, we can say that Dasein also possesses intentionality, which is explicitly affirmed in Dasein’s description as ‘the being to whom intentional comportments belong’. Secondly, it also applies to Dasein that it does not correspond to some immanent sphere, the presence of which led Heidegger to repudiate the concept of subject. What remains, and this is exactly where Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein promises to be particularly fruitful, are: 1) the question of an attachment to identity that frames the possibilities for action, and 2) the explanation of a possible plurality of subject.
Heidegger writes: ‘as thrown, Dasein is thrown into the kind of Being which we call “projecting”’. In more Foucauldian terminology, I take this statement as the acknowledgment that an individual is situated at every moment in a field of possibility from which his ‘world understanding’ comes into being. It should be noted that in On Humanism Heidegger returns to attributing projection to Dasein. Here he says that ‘what throws in projection is not man but Being itself, which sends man into the ek-sistence of Da-sein that is his essence’. Philipse interprets this turn as a denial of man’s fundamental contingency and calls this later position of Heidegger ‘flatly contradictory to Sein und Zeit’. For the sake of coherence, I am committing myself here to the position of early Heidegger of Being and Time. In my post-Foucauldian interpretation this means that the individual’s ‘world understanding’ is determined by both the individual and his a priori field of possibilities. In so doing, I explicitly do not want to reduce the creation of a ‘world understanding’ to an intentional act or thought, nor to an expression of will. Suffice it for now to say that I take Dasein’s projection as the recognition that, formally speaking, from any situation the individual finds themselves in, there are several possible ‘world understandings’ accessible to the individual.
But what do these possible ‘world understandings’ imply? And what is the relation of ‘world understanding’ to our question concerning the attachment to identity and the plurality of subject? Heidegger states that ‘projection is constitutive for Being-in-the-world with regard to the disclosedness of its existentially constitutive state-of Being by which the factical potentiality-for-Being gets its leeway [Spielraum]’. I read this as a conception of ‘world understanding’ as the scope of thought and action possibilities of the individual from his given a priori field of possibilities. While this does not elucidate anything about a plurality of subject, it does reveal a first insight into the process by which subjects are attached to identities. What brings about the attachment to identity, and why it is relevant for the maintenance of power structures, is the framing, ie, the regulation of possible actions. Further, with ‘world understanding’ interpreted as such, we describe the framework from which all thought and action possibilities arise. Could it be that an attachment to identity goes hand in hand with a certain ‘world understanding’?
Before I continue to explore the question at hand, I would first like to address the possible repudiation that an identification of the notion of ‘projection’ with a framework for thought and action may elicit. Indeed, such an identification does neither justice to the depth and complexity of Heidegger’s conception of projection, nor to that of his conception of possibility. Heidegger himself states that ‘[t]he Being-possible which Dasein is existentially in every case, is to be sharply distinguished both from empty logical possibility and from the contingency of something present-at-hand, so far as with the present-at-hand this or that can ‘come to pass’. Here, I understand Heidegger to be referring with the notion of ‘projection’ to possible modes of being and not to concrete capacities for thought and action. Does this not contradict my earlier reading? To this I first say that I am not interested in providing a one-to-one equivocation of Heidegger with Foucault, but only to draw inspiration from Heidegger’s work to arrive at a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification. On these grounds, I maintain that some degree of flexibility in interpretation is permitted. Moreover, here, my liberal use of Heidegger does not really encounter any contradictions. Concrete behaviours, thoughts and possibilities for action arise from the kind of being Dasein is. As such, projection is perhaps a more fundamental and complex concept than a framework of possible thought and action, but every concrete framework of possible thought and action is fully determined by projection. While I grant that my interpretation is, then, a movement from a fundament to its derivative, it is here not problematic to do so.
We have, now, arrived at the individual who is situated at every moment in an a priori field of possibility from which his ‘world understanding’ comes into being and in which this realisation has a direct power-law distribution because it frames the individual’s options for action. In order to find out to what extent this power-law distribution corresponds or can be compared to the attachment to one’s own identity by the consciousness or self-knowledge that Foucault describes, we have to examine how a ‘world understanding’ emerges. Heidegger writes the following about this:
The Self of everyday Dasein is the they-self, which we distinguish from the authentic Self-that is, from the Self which has been taken hold of in its own way [eigens ergriffenen]. As they-self, the particular Dasein has been dispersed into the ‘they’, and must first find itself. This dispersal characterizes the ‘subject’ of that kind of Being which we know as concernful absorption in the world we encounter as closest to us. If Dasein is familiar with itself as they-self, this means at the same time that the ‘they’ itself prescribes that way of interpreting the world and Being-in the-world which lies closest.
Would it be meritorious to read a correspondence between this ‘they-self’ and the ‘own identity’ that Foucault spoke of? Such a correspondence would mean that the last sentence of the above quotation translates to something very similar to Foucault’s definition of subject, ie, if the individual is familiar with himself as his own identity, then his ‘world understanding’ is dictated by the ‘they’ and the they would determine his operating framework. It would also provide a starting point for an explanation of the possible plurality of subject in the plural of ‘they’. If this is so, if ‘they-self’ is translated into ‘own identity’, then the difference between Dasein and indifferent everyday Dasein seems to correspond to the difference between individual and subject.
Before we get to that point, however, it pays to elucidate how something like ‘own identity’, with all its connotations of personality and singularity, can correspond to the plurality of the ‘they-self’. Is there not a contradiction in identifying the private with something that belongs to the common ‘they’? Who or what is this ‘they’ even supposed to be? Heidegger writes that ‘Dasein’s facticity is such that as long as it is what it is, Dasein remains in the throw, and is sucked into the turbulence of the “they’s” inauthenticity’. Heidegger is talking about ‘the turbulence of the inauthenticity of the they’ arising directly from the condition of being thrown. When self-knowledge as ‘they-self’ flows directly from this ‘turbulence’, it means that the ‘they-self’ also flows from the condition of being thrown. Dreyfus describes the condition of thrownness as ‘culture bound’. When an identity arises from being bound by culture, we speak of a cultural identity. Can the ‘they-self’ then be characterised as cultural identity? I will not deny that the reduction of thrownness to culture-boundness on which this equivocation rests is problematic.
Philipse offers us a less problematic insight when he writes that: ‘[t]he cultural matrix into which we have been ‘thrown’ […] is partly constitutive of our personal identity, of our ‘self’’. This can be taken to denote the own identity that is partly constituted by the a priori field of the culturally situated individual. This gives one’s own identity a constitution in plurality in the non-trivial sense that there is no such thing as the culture of the individual. The question remains as to what extent this constitution is determinative. Philipse here further provides that ‘[t]he dictatorship of Everyman [the They] might be seen as a conservative, unimaginative, narrow-minded, and conformist way of endorsing a common cultural background, in which one identifies oneself entirely with traditional stereotyped roles’. We can extrapolate from this exegesis that the ‘they-self’ corresponds to one’s own identity, if and only if the common cultural background is endorsed in a specific uninspired way. This specifically uninspired way of endorsing follows from everyday inauthenticity and will be revisited in §4.
We have, now, arrived at the individual who becomes subject when his ‘world understanding’, and thus his operating framework, is dictated by identifying his own identity with stereotyped roles. This transformation from individual to subject occurs in the everyday inauthenticity. Everyday inauthenticity, thus, shows itself to be a reproduction mechanism for subjectification. The everyday inauthenticity, taken only in itself, does not yet give a concrete interpretation to the ‘world understanding’, but dictates an a priori given ‘world understanding’, holds the individual, so to speak, in the grip of a specific subjectivity. For our question concerning subjectification, there remains, on the one hand, the elaboration of exactly what this everyday inauthenticity entails and, on the other hand, the question of how the framework of possible action is given shape or can be controlled, ie, how a ‘world understanding’ comes to its concrete form.
2.4. After Heidegger: from thrownness to territory
We are now faced with two questions: on the one hand, a question concerning the production of subjects, and on the other, a question concerning the reproduction of subjects, ie, subjectivities. We have seen how an individual becomes a subject by understanding himself as ‘they-self’, but we have not yet given a clear answer to the question of who or what this ‘they’ is. Heidegger is reluctant to offer a positive exposition of the ‘they’ and says: ‘The “who” is not this one, not that one, not oneself [man selbst], not some people [einige], and not the sum of them all. The ‘who’ is the neuter, the “they” [das Man]’. Yet a more positive determination can be extrapolated from a statement by Heidegger about Being-with-Others: ‘But if fateful Dasein, as Being-in-the-world, exists essentially in Being-with-Others, its historicizing is a co-historizing and is determinative for it as destiny [Geschick]. This is how we designate the historizing of the community, of a people’. If we assume that the ‘who’ of the ‘they’ corresponds to the ‘who’ of ‘Being-with-Others’, then the ‘they’ is defined here as the community.
At this point it becomes a strenuous undertaking to extend Heidegger to our current affairs. Quite apart from the dubious political connotations of ‘people’, if we want to maintain that the ‘they’ dictates a ‘world understanding’, we must presuppose a coherent ‘world understanding’ maintained by the ‘they’. Such a coherence is a presupposition that is left wholly undetermined by Heidegger. Let us consider the following two stereotyped roles, the programmer and the gamer, and their pre-ontological understanding of a computer. Both roles can co-exist in one nation, and, indeed, one individual (the nexus of the stereotype’s inherent contradiction). For the stereotyped programmer, however, the primary purpose of a computer is programming, while for the stereotyped gamer, this is gaming. Even in everyday inauthenticity, when both remain completely in the turbulence of the throw, both have been dictated by a different primary explanation of the world—or at least of the computer as part of the world.
In Heidegger’s defence, this does not mean that the programmer and the gamer have a fundamentally different understanding of the world. They speak the same language, understand a hammer as something to hammer, ‘take pleasure; [they] read, see, and judge about literature and art as they [das Man] see and judge, etc. Yet there are role-specific areas of their ‘world understanding’ that do differ fundamentally from each other. It should be noted that the different roles correspond to different communities; there is a community of programmers, a community of gamers, etc. A possible solution is, then, not to speak of one ‘they’ dictating one ‘world understanding’, but a plurality of ‘theys’, each dictating a strata or sub-strata of a ‘world understanding’.
Such a division of the ‘they’, however, contradicts Heidegger’s unambiguous statement that the ‘they’ are ‘not some people [einige]’. If we are talking about the community of programmers, then these are indeed ‘some people [einige]’ and not the entire population or a neuter thereof. From this point on we can really only take Being and Time as a point of departure, and I will try to reconceptualise the proposed salvaging of the plurality of the ‘they’ through another avenue. We had already arrived at the individual who becomes a subject when his ‘world understanding’, and with it his operating framework, was dictated by identifying his own identity with stereotyped roles. We have also come to the conclusion that the concrete interpretation of a ‘world understanding’ consists of a plurality of sub-stratas.
A path to reconceptualise these ‘strata and sub-stratas’ from which a ‘world understanding’ is constructed, in such a way that this reconceptualisation is sufficiently compatible with the Heideggerian ideas on which it rests, but without lapsing into Heideggerian terminology or a commitment to notions of ‘people’ or to imply an unambiguous ‘they’, avails itself in the Deleuzean concept of the territory. On this question, Petr Kouba states that ‘[h]owever incompatible with Heidegger’s inquiry into being the notions of territory and deterritorialization may seem, their adequacy becomes apparent if we realise that territory is, in Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?, tied together with home, with what is familiar, whereas deterritorialization belongs to what is unheimlich’.
Deleuze and Guattari write about territories and deterritorialization in various contexts. In line with the argument I have put forward, a territory may be understood as a specific structure and interpretation of thoughts and possible actions, a delimited scope of thought and extension. I interpret deterritorialization as the process through which an individual thinks or acts on a specific territory in ways that exceed the boundaries of that territory. As such, deterritorialization follows a line of flight. I interpret reterritorialization as the process in which thinking or acting along a line of flight is placed back into a territory. On such a reading, the concept of territory shows some parallels to Heidegger’s notions of thrownness and ‘the turbulence of the throw’, while de- and reterritorialization are analogous to authenticity and fallenness, respectively.
3. Subjectification: Reproduction
We have arrived at the individual who is situated at all times in designated a priori territories, on which every thought and action is grounded. The individual becomes subject when he understands himself within the framework of these territories. For the reproduction of subjectification, it is then important to keep the individual within these frameworks, ie, to prevent de- and reterritorialization. In order to examine how de- and reterritorialization can be prevented, ie, what power structures can be employed to reproduce subjectification, it is first necessary to examine what the conditions and possibilities are for de- and reterritorialization, respectively. We will then gain insight as to how any given power structure can be employed such that it can deprive the conditions and possibilities of deterritorialization of their genetic potencies. In §3.1, I will elaborate on the conditions for the actualisation of deterritorialization as well as indicate where methods to prevent this can be developed. In §3.2, I will retrace the above process for reterritorialization in order to reconstruct the process of the reproduction of subjectification.
3.1. Death and Time
3.1.A. Anticipating Death
If we are going to consider a possible correspondence between deterritorialization and authenticity, it is worth examining what Heidegger has to say about this case in his discussion of death:
We may now summarize our characterization of authentic Being-towards-death as we have projected it existentially: anticipation reveals to Dasein its lostness in the they-self, and brings it face to face with the possibility of being itself.
This coming face to face with the possibility of being oneself is a coming face to face with a line of flight, allowing a deterritorialization from the ‘they-self’. Foucault, too, notices an element of authenticity in anticipating death when he discusses the meletē thanatou, the meditation on, ie, training for death, where he says that to partake in it is to ‘judge the proper value of every action one is performing’. I also interpret this assessment of the actual value of an action as following a line of flight; one’s own action is no longer assessed within the framework of an a priori designated territory. This can open up new possibilities for action that would normally have been internally judged as impossible, inappropriate or performatively wrong. Without wishing to delve deeper into analyses of anticipating death, it suffices to conclude, here, that anticipating death opens up possibilities for deterritorialization.
However, the fact that ‘anticipating death’ opens up possibilities for deterritorialization can come across as bewildering and under-determined. Peone speaks of a ‘Heideggerian fixation on death’ and defends Cassirer’s criticism of the Heideggerian position of ‘anticipating death’ as ‘the sine qua non of actual life’. However, Cassirer’s critique is not relevant in this case. It is not important whether or not anticipating death is the only way to achieve deterritorialization. It only matters that it is a way. How can this ‘anticipation of death’ be prevented? What is the necessary condition for this possibility of deterritorialization? One aspect of death meditation that can bridge the gap between Foucault’s meletē thanatou and Heidegger’s ‘Being-towards-death’ is that death meditation ‘changes our temporal experience’. Of such a temporal experience, Dahlstrom says in his reading of Heidegger that ‘“[a]uthentic temporality” stands for the ecstases-and-horizons without which there is no authentic existence or, equivalently, no authentic care’. Thus, in view of the relationship between authenticity and deterritorialization, a necessary condition for deterritorialization seems to have been found in something like ‘authentic temporality’, a temporality that—if we maintain the bridge between Heidegger and Foucault—corresponds to the altered temporal experience that meditation produces.
3.1.B. Authenticating Time
In order to better grasp the necessary condition found in this way of ‘authentic temporality’, a short exploration of Heidegger’s account of time is warranted. In Being and Time, Heidegger describes three kinds of time: primordial time, world-time, and ordinary time, where both world-time and ordinary time can be traced back to primordial time. Primordial time, or temporality as such, is a threefold transcendental condition of Dasein that discloses the world. Primordial time is the horizon in which Dasein understands the world and in which the thrownness of the past, the contemplation of the present, and the projection of the future converge. This is in stark contrast to the ordinary understanding of time as an infinite linear series of successive now-times. How this ordinary understanding of time came to be can be explained on the basis of world-time, which arises from Dasein’s everyday being-in-the world. World-time is an ordering of temporality on ground of the practical operation of the world: the setting of the sun is the time to stop working (or switch on the light), an early arrival at the station allows just the time for a sandwich before the lecture starts, the beeping of the mobile phone marks lunchtime, etc. ‘The everyday concern which gives itself time, finds “the time” in those entities within-the-world which are encountered “in time”’. In the everyday use of the clock, ‘time shows itself as a sequence of “nows” which are constantly “present-at-hand”, simultaneously passing away and coming along’.
Heidegger further describes the mode of being that aligns with the temporal experience of time as the succession of now-moments as ‘the Being which falls as it makes present’. I take this as the nexus conjoining temporal experience and inauthenticity. A necessary condition for deterritorialization, which is analogous to Heidegger’s ‘authentic temporality’, is, then, the escape from this temporal experience—escaping the everyday grind of now-moments. Now we have moved from a somewhat ambiguous ‘anticipation of death’ to a more concrete necessary condition for deterritorialization. If we want to step outside the box of everyday thinking and deterritorialize ourselves, we must break with everyday temporal experience and not let ourselves be carried away in the rut of now-moments. Conversely, if we want to reproduce subjectification, we must, then, be diligent in our perpetuation of the grind of infinite now-moments and prevent any other temporal experiences than the ones encountered in our average everydayness.
3.2. Concerning the genesis of new territories and their destabilising effects on power structures
So far, I have discussed the reproduction of subjectification in terms of preventing deterritorialization. Now suppose that deterritorialization cannot be prevented, is all hope lost for the reproduction of subjectification? Or, even when deterritorialization has occurred, are there still avenues through which power structures can arise such that the subject can be replanted? To answer this question, it is necessary to examine where deterritorialization is heading and what this means for existing power relations.
The ‘whither’ of deterritorialization is the direction of a line of flight, an ‘away from’. But away from what exactly? Goodchild states that completely deterritorialised concepts ‘have no meaning, and only express a kind of nonsense’. A deterritorialization is, therefore, an abandonment of a common framework for thought and action, and with it also an abandonment of a common conceptual framework. ‘Having crossed a threshold of absolute deterritorialization, concepts no longer refer back to their primordial significations’, when a line of flight leaves any territory, then any thought and action that follows this line of flight is doomed or fortunate to be relegated to nonsense, to common misunderstanding. The individual, in following a line of flight, thus, moves from subject to madman (irrespective of what it does, as madman the individual can still be subsumed under a power structure through coercive institutionalisation).
In the context of power relations, however, it is hardly plausible that a move towards nonsense poses a threat. The real danger deterritorialization poses towards power structures and the reproduction of subjectification lies, therefore, not only in deterritorialization, but more so in deterritorialization followed by reterritorialization. Earlier I have referred to reterritorialization as related to Heidegger’s concept of fallenness. Where Heidegger’s ‘Fall’ describes a movement towards the ‘they’, a falling into communality, reterritorialization can also be grasped as a movement towards communality, ie, a movement towards a territory. What distinguishes reterritorialization from fallenness is that the territory to which reterritorialization is moving does not consist of the thought and action framework of a singular ‘they’. I take reterritorialization as a movement of a line of flight back to a community, back to a territory that is part of a large plurality of communities or territories. The reterritorializing movement of the individual can thereby 1) return to the territory from which the deterritorialization originated and adapt this territory in its movement, 2) return to another already existing territory, or 3) form the basso continuo of an entirely new territory. The claim to communality that is found in reterritorialization from a line of flight is the constitutive movement for an adjustment or new emergence of a thought and action framework.
What we see arising in this way in reterritorialization is the adaptation or the new emergence of potentia of subjects. And precisely therein lies the tedious threat de- and reterritorialization pose to the stability of power structures, to potestas: the cycle of de- and reterritorialization creates new kinds of subjects, with new operating frameworks, which may be incompatible with the old. It is, then, in the interest of the reproduction of subjectification to take due care to prevent not only deterritorialization, but also—in case deterritorialization does occur—of reterritorialization.
The necessary conditions for reterritorialization are, on the one hand, deterritorialization. The conditions of this and an impetus for methods to prevent deterritorialization have already been discussed above. On the other hand, reterritorialization also presupposes a claim to communality from the line of flight. Methods for the reproduction of subjectification must, then, be diligent in preventing a claim to new communality, rendering the old communality insensitive to the movement from a line of flight.
4. Subjectification: Production
In the above section, I have exposited the various loci power structures one must be wary of if they are to retain subjects within certain thought, and action frameworks that operate within a specific territory. What remains is the question as to what kind of methods should be used to give a positive interpretation to this territory. In other words, how can an individual’s designated a priori territory on which it thinks, and acts be constructed in such a way that as subject, it exhibits specific desired behaviour?
When we talk about constructing an individual’s given territory, we are talking about either modifying an individual’s current designated territory or establishing a new territory. In the previous section I have already explained how these two options arise from a movement of reterritorialization. I have also already described how reterritorialization coincides with a movement towards communality. What is important for the maintenance of power structures is how to construct a specific behavioural framework for this community. In order to discover how individuals behave within a community, it is worth asking how individuals behave in general as they do within a community. And how do individuals behave within a community? Generally, they behave normally. The question, then, becomes how to interpret what is normal within a community. This point can be disputed on two levels: on the one hand it must be recognised that individuals sometimes behave abnormally, on the other hand it also happens that the communal framework, ie, the ‘they’ behaves abnormally. Is giving substance to what is normal sufficient? Where an individual does not behave normally within a certain community, when his behaviour is misunderstood from the point of view of the community, this behaviour follows a line of flight, and we can identify a deterritorialization. In the previous discussion of the reproduction of subjectification, it has already been indicated what power structures must focus on to prevent this. This occurrence is sufficient to avoid having to take into account individuals who do not behave normally in order to nevertheless direct the behaviour of the community through the construction of a normality. When one speaks of the ‘they’ as behaving abnormally, this ‘they’ always describes a different community than the one from which the behaviour is considered abnormal. The abnormality of the other ‘they’ is only abnormal because it contrasts with the normality of one’s own ‘they’. This does not diminish the possibility of influencing behaviour by directing the normality of one’s own ‘they’.
With regard to the question of how normality can be managed within a community, we can refer to the work of Foucault, who elaborates on processes of normalisation. Foucault writes that ‘a whole range of degrees of normality [indicates] membership of a homogeneous social body […] In a sense, the power of normalisation imposes homogeneity’. I take this ‘membership of a homogeneous social body’ to equate to an attachment to a common territory. A subject who is completely bound to such a territory will, therefore, exhibit the highest degree of normality, that is, from the point of view of the community and according to the common framework of thought and action, it will behave perfectly normal: normality manifests itself as an ‘imperative measure’. Foucault describes the processes of normalisation maintained in disciplinary power as a normalising sanction, ie, ‘a micro-penal’ system, or a ‘micro-economy of privileges and impositions’. These methods consist of ‘a double system: gratification-punishment. And it is this system that operates in the process of training and correction’. A meticulous system of subtle punishments and encouragements is installed in ‘the web of everyday existence’, with the result that the subjects not only start to display socially intended desired behaviour, but also that they all start to resemble one another.
Should we now understand normalisation as a collective internalisation of imposed rules? Is the goal of normalisation for subjects to follow the rules in their behaviour? Does the conscious following of rules not all too easily open up the line of flight which unveils the possibility to consciously and deliberately not follow the same rules, legal or conventional? In order to explain how the systematic imposition of an extensive constellation of rules leads to a framework for thought and action in which deterritorialization cannot simply be reduced to a conscious choice, I want to make a comparison with the phenomenon of the acquisition of skills. Dreyfus notes in a discussion about rule-following in response to Searle with respect to the act of teaching left-handed driving in Britain that ‘the rule one originally followed expresses a social norm, is irrelevant so far as the causal explanation of the behaviour is concerned’. But if a social norm does not provide a causal explanation for behaviour, how can we explain ‘the power of the norm’? Dreyfus may once again aid us here when he writes that ‘[i]f the driver in Britain, for example, just does in each situation what experience has shown works in that type of situation, and all the situations have in common that they require that to avoid accidents he must drive on the left, then he would be acting according to that rule but not following it’. The functioning of the normalising sanction can, then, be explained not as the imposition of rules that are followed and internalised, but as the construction of experiences that show that specific behaviour works in certain situations. Processes of normalisation, the production of subjectification, should, then, focus on the construction of an everydayness of a community, in which specific desired behaviour operates.
5. Ten Theses on Power and Subjectification
In summary, we have arrived at the following theses regarding a post-Foucauldian conception of power and subjectification:
Power, in the sense of potestas, consists of the orchestrated framing and regulation of potentia.
Potestas’ object, the individual’s potentia, is framed and regulated by raising obstacles (access control) as well as by the individual’s own operating framework.
In order to explain the automatic operation of potestas, power analysis must primarily concern itself with the subject’s own operating framework.
In every situation in which it finds himself, the individual possesses a designated a priori territory on which it thinks and acts.
The individual becomes a subject when it is bound by the operating framework of its territory and when it is deprived the possibility of deterritorialization.
Subjectification includes, on the one hand, a binding to territory (reproduction), and on the other hand, the interpretation of territory (production).
If we want to reproduce subjectification, we must prevent the de- and reterritorialization of subjects.
If we want to prevent deterritorialization, we must maintain the grind of infinite now-moments and prevent the experience of temporal experiences other than the ordinary time of average everydayness.
If we want to prevent reterritorialization, we must curtail the subject’s potential of latching itself to a new communality.
If we want to produce subjectification, we must cultivate the everydayness of a communality, in which specific desired behaviour flourishes.
I see men like trees, walking. - A blind Bethsaidan, Mark 8:24
This paper has uncovered that the suspicion towards subjectification in Deleuzean theory is grounded in a Foucauldian conception of subjectification, which it rightly finds to be untenable. A restoration in the form of a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification, where the locus is not on a coercive gaze or the internalisation of norms, but where subjectification is produced by the construction of an everydayness in which specific desired behaviour operates, undermines the ground of this suspicion. Indeed, the shift in focus to access control, the automated management of spaces and possibilities, implies a shift in focus to precisely that subjectifying construction of an everydayness in which specific desired behaviour operates.
If we endorse the subjectifying effect of access control, it also becomes clear why subjects continue to exhibit desired behaviour en masse, even in the absence of control, even when they are not controlled and do not experience any access barriers. With access control, the everyday experience has already been created in which this behaviour operates. The subject is, thus, already in a territory on which an operating framework is planted that encourages its behaviour. The subject is, then, already in a situation in which this behaviour is normal, even if this normality has never been articulated as such as a norm.
What this paper has left underdetermined, and merits further thought, is the way in which intentional behaviour arises from a given territory, this is to say, to what extent and in what way our conceptual framework is grounded in everyday experiences and what the implications are for the possibilities of intentional action. The overlap and stratification of territories also merit further engagement. It is clear that in our emerging climate, one can no longer speak of an homogeneous ‘person’, but how being part of different communities, with different territories, leads to a territory from which an individual can think and act has not yet been sufficiently determined.
This paper, nevertheless, offers a first insight into a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification that can, on the one hand, further be expanded, and which can, on the other hand, serve as an instrument for further power and concrete case analyses. With this instrument, research focused on access control can be deepened and it is possible to investigate what experiences access control brings about in subjects. This makes it possible to reveal what kinds of territories and normalities are being constructed, even when there is no explicit norm. This may explain why subjects continue to display desired behaviour even in the absence of interventions and, thus, inform what constitutes the substrate of a stable society.
The contribution that a post-Foucauldian conception of subjectification offers to the discourse surrounding power in the current and emerging social landscape of global digital surveillance and control is, then, that it provides an explanatory model for the way in which access control ensures the maintenance of a stable society, where the denial of access remains the exception and not the rule.
Jojo Amoah completed his undergraduate degree in Politics, International Relations, and Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2021 and his MA Law (conversion) at The University of Law in 2022 with a dissertation on the remedy liabilities of mortgagees in possession. He is interested in the intersection between 17th-20th century German and French critical and political philosophy, anthropology, and jurisprudence, particularly surrounding the questions of hermeneutics, systematicity, sense, and judgement.
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