Writing about Writing

and some other things

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I spent last weekend at my grandmother’s, in the country. There was no one around. It was quiet, slow, lazy, meditative. I didn’t watch TV, I didn’t use the internet. I read, and played piano, and went for long walks. I cooked a lot and I ate a lot. I talked with my sister.

I did a lot of thinking and reading for my thesis, and for once it didn’t give me anxiety or make me feel like I want to die.

It was a very nice weekend, but now I’m back, and I’m finding that I’ve lost my patience for a lot of things. Everything is irritating. I don’t want to see or be around people. I don’t want to do anything. I’m having trouble sleeping, and have been feeling anxious about the work I should be doing. I don’t know how to reconcile things in my head anymore. Everything’s jumbled, and every interaction, every thought, every impulse is a battle.

And I’m getting pretty sick of it.

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Systematic — Every individual and situation is unique, but it can be useful to look for common threads. Consistently refusing to do so may indicate that one is avoiding coming to terms with an inconvenient state of affairs, such as oppression at the hands of bloodthirsty tyrants. Without an analysis of the dynamics that give rise to such situations, it can be hard to keep oneself out of them (see The Forest for the Trees — or don’t, as the case may be).
Some, upon hearing a critique of the social role of police officers and politicians, protest that it may apply to most of them, but they know some who are really good people: ‘Sure, we have to abolish government and all that, but here in [liberal oasis] there are such nice folks on the town council! I feel we should treat them with respect, even if that means calling everything off.’
This brings to mind the story of the man who, tormented by fleas, managed to catch one between his fingers. He scrutinized it for a long time before placing it back at the spot on his neck where he had caught it, to the shock of his companions. His friends, confounded, inquired why on earth he would do such a thing. ‘That wasn’t the one that was biting me,’ he explained.
CrimethInc., Contradictionary pg. 281-282

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[Giscard] appeals to a principle I have already spoken about which is common to German ordoliberalism and American neo-liberalism, and which is found in French neo-liberalism. This is the idea that the economy is basically a game, that it develops as a game between partners, that the whole of society must be permeated by this economic game, and that the essential role of the state is to define the economic rules of the game and to make sure that they are in fact applied. What are these rules? They must be such that the economic game is as active as possible and consequently to the advantage of the greatest possible number of people, with simply a rule – and this is the surface of contact, without real penetration, of the economic and the social – a supplementary and unconditional rule of the game, as it were, which is that it must be impossible for one of the partners of the economic game to lose everything and thus be unable to continue playing. It is, if you like, a safety clause for the player, a limiting rule that changes nothing in the course of the game itself, but which prevents someone from ever dropping totally and definitively out of the game. It is a sort of inverted social contract. That is to say, in the social contract, all those who will the social contract and virtually or actually subscribe to it form part of society until such a time as they cut themselves off from it. In the idea of an economic game we find that no one originally insisted on being part of the economic game and consequently it is up to society and to the rules of the game imposed by the state to ensure that no one is excluded from this game in which he is caught up without ever having explicitly wished to take part.
Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979 pg. 201-202

Filed under foucault the birth of biopolitics neo-liberalism neo-liberal neoliberalism economic game social contract economics economy capitalism governmentality state intervention the social

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what is presently at issue in our reality, what we see emerging in our twentieth century societies, is not so much the growth of the state and of raison d’Etat, but much more its reduction, and in two forms. One of these is precisely the reduction of state governmentality through the growth of party governmentality, and the other form of reduction is the kind we can observe in regimes like our own in which there is an attempt to find a liberal governmentality. I add straightaway that in saying this I am not trying to make a value judgment. In speaking of liberal governmentailty, in using this word ‘liberal,’ I do not want to make sacred or immediately attach value to this type of governmentality. Nor do I mean that it is not legitimate, if one wishes, to hate the state. But what I think we should not do is imagine we are describing a real, actual process concerning ourselves when we denounce the growth of state control, or the state becoming fascist, or the establishment of a state violence, and so on. All those who share in the great state phobia should know that they are following the direction of the wind and that in fact, for years and years, an effective reduction of the state has been on the way, a reduction of both the growth of state control and of a ‘statifying’ and ‘statified’…governmentality. I am not saying at all that we delude ourselves on the faults or merits of the state when we say ‘this is very bad’ or ‘this is very good’; that is not my problem. I am saying that we should not delude ourselves by attributing to the state itself a process of becoming fascist which is actually exogenous and due much more to the state’s reduction and dislocation. I also mean that we should not delude ourselves about the nature of the historical process which currently renders the state both so intolerable and so problematic. It is for this reason that I would like to study more closely the organization and diffusion of what could be called this German model. It is understood, of course, that the model as I have described it and in some of the forms of its diffusion which I would now like to show you, is not the model – so often discredited, dismissed, held in contempt and loathed – of the Bismarckian state becoming the Hitler state. The German model which is being diffused, debated, and forms part of our actuality, structuring it and carving out its real shape, is the model of a possible neo-liberal governmentality.
Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979 pg. 191-192

Filed under foucault the birth of biopolitics neo-liberalism neo-liberal neoliberalism anarchy anarchism post-anarchism the State fascism governmentality reduction of the state Hitler state state control

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going by the recurrence of certain themes, we could say that what is currently challenged, and from a great many perspectives, is almost always the state: the unlimited growth of the state, its omnipotence, its bureaucratic development, the state with the seeds of fascism it contains, the state’s inherent violence beneath its social welfare paternalism…I think there are two important elements which are fairly constant in this theme of the critique of the state. First, there is the idea that the state possesses in itself and through its own dynamism a sort of power of expansion, an intrinsic tendency to expand, an endogenous imperialism constantly pushing it to spread its surface and increase in extent, depth, and subtlety to the point that it will come to take over entirely that which is at the same time its other, its outside, its target, and its object, namely: civil society. The first element which seems to me to run through all this general theme of state phobia is therefore this intrinsic power of the state in relation to its object-target, civil society. The second element which it seems to me is constantly found in these general themes of state phobia is that there is a kinship, a sort of genetic continuity or evolutionary implication between different forms of the state, with the administrative state, the welfare state, the bureaucratic state, the fascist state, and the totalitarian state all being, in no matter which of the various analyses, the successive branches of one and the same great tree of state control in its continuous and unified expansion. These two ideas, which are close to each other and support each other…seem to me to form a kind of critical commonplace frequently found today. Now it seems to me that these themes put in circulation what could be called an inflationary critical value, an inflationary critical currency. Why inflationary? In the first place, it is inflationary because I think the theme encourages the growth, at a constantly accelerating speed, of the interchangeability of analyses. As soon as we accept the existence of this continuity or genetic kinship between different forms of the state, and as soon as we attribute a constant evolutionary dynamism to the state, it then becomes possible not only to use different analyses to support each other, but also to refer them back to each other and so deprive them of their specificity. For example, an analysis of social security and the administrative apparatus on which it rests ends up, via some slippages and thanks to some plays on words, referring us to the analysis of concentration camps. And, in the move from social security to concentration camps the requisite specificity of analysis is diluted. So, there is inflation in the sense of an increasing interchangeability of analyses and a loss of specificity. This critique seems to me to be equally inflationary for a second reason, which is that it allows one to practice what could be called a general disqualification by the worst. Whatever the object of analysis, however tenuous or meager it is, and whatever its real functioning, to the extent that it can always be referred to something which will be worse by virtue of the state’s intrinsic dynamic and the final forms it may take, the less can always be disqualified by the more, the better by the worst. I am not taking an example of the better, obviously, but think, for example, of some unfortunate who smashes a cinema display case and, in a system like ours, is taken to court and sentenced rather severely; you will always find people to say that this sentence is the sign that the state is becoming fascist, as if, well before any fascist state, there were no sentences of this kind – or much worse. The third factor, the third inflationary mechanism which seems to me to be characteristic of this type of analysis, is that it enables one to avoid paying the price of reality and actuality inasmuch as, in the name of this dynamism of the state, something like a kinship or danger, something like the great fantasy of the paranoiac and devouring state can always be found. To that extent, ultimately it hardly matters what one’s grasp of reality is or what profile of actuality reality presents. It is enough, through suspicion and, as Francois Ewald would say, ‘denunciation,’ to find something like the fantastical profile of the state and there is no longer any need to analyze actuality. The elision of actuality seems to me [to be] the third inflationary mechanism we find in this critique. Finally, I would say that this critique in terms of the mechanism and dynamism of the state is inflationary inasmuch as it does not carry out a criticism or analysis of itself. That is to say, it does not seek to know the real source of this kind of anti-state suspicion, this state-phobia that currently circulates in such varied forms of our thought. Now it seems to me – and this is why I have laid such stress on the neo-liberalism of 1930-1950 – that this kind of analysis, this critique of the state, of its intrinsic and irrepressible dynamism, and of its interlinking forms that call on each other, mutually support each other, and reciprocally engender each other is effectively, completely, and already very clearly formulated in the years 1930-1945. At this time it was quite precisely localized and did not have the force of circulation it has now. We find I precisely localized within the neo-liberal choices being developed at this time.
Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979 pg. 186-189

Filed under foucault the birth of biopolitics neo-liberalism neoliberalism state phobia anarchy anarchism critical theory anti-state polemic anti-state analysis analyses critique critique of state the State inflation inflationary fascism civil society nazi nazism accusations of fascism forms of state specificity specific critique specificity of analysis lack of specificity interchangeable interchangeability disqualification by the worst

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[According to neo-liberals,] both for the state and for individuals, the economy must be a game: a set of regulated activities…but in which the rules are not decisions which someone takes for others. It is a set of rules which determine the way in which each must play a game whose outcome is not known by anyone. The economy is a game and the legal institution which frames the economy should be thought of as the rules of the game. The rule of law and l’Etat de droit formalize the action of government as a provider of rules for an economic game in which the only players, the only real agents, must be individuals, or let’s say, if you like, enterprises. The general form taken by the institutional framework in a renewed capitalism should be the game of enterprises regulated internally by a juridical-institutional framework guaranteed by the state.
Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979 pg. 173

Filed under foucault the birth of biopolitics neoliberalism neo-liberalism economics economic game the State law rules rules of the game capitalism individuals enterprise