20 September 2011
The first country that Hitler conquered was Germany, the first people he oppressed was the German people. It Is wrong to say that all German literature went into exile. It would be better to say that the German people were exorcized [...]. There is hardly a literature that has been respected and honored by the state to such a degree- in the form of banishment- as the German literature of our time; when e fascists trample on it, this is their form of saluting it. -Bertolt Brecht, The Last Word, 1934
18 September 2011
Recordings in English
Howison Lectures, 1980
Discourse & Truth : Parrhesia
Rabinow Seminar & Recordings
Recordings in French
Sécurité, territoire, population, 1978
Naissance de la biopolitique, 1979
Gouvernement de soi et des autres, 1983
Courage de la vérité, 1984
Courtesy: Library, University of California, Berkeley
23 June 2011
11 June 2011
|Who built the seven gates of Thebes?|
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima's houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.
Young Alexander conquered India.
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Greek triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?
Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?
So many particulars.
So many questions.
-Bertolt Brecht, 1936
28 March 2011
Mara Loveman presents a very useful and thought provoking argument in her article the Modern State and the Primitive Accumulation of Symbolic Capital (American Journal of Sociology; May 2005;110,6). In the historical analysis of the development of the nation-state, it is easy to over emphasize the material aspects of its development in accentuating the use of force, the monopoly of which, Max Weber has uncovered to be a critical aspect of state formation. And yet, Mara shows here how the development of symbolic power is as important, if not more so in securing the legitimacy of the state in order to acquire this monopoly, a fact that was not lost on Max Weber when he stated the monopoly over the means of force must be perceived to be legitimate. Loveman, like Antonio Gramsci before her, notes that direct and brute force alone will not secure the legitimacy of state power and requires a form of “consent from below” as Gramsci articulated to allow for the state to “rule through and not over the populace” (p.1669).
In analyzing the ways in which successful states develop this legitimacy, Loveman employs Pierre Boudieu’s notion of symbolic power but notes that a lot has been written on the routine exercise of symbolic power but not on the primitive accumulation or how states acquire symbolic capital in the first place. This is important, the author notes, to uncover the inherent ahistorical nature of this form of power whose misrecognized culturally and socially embedded nature gives it its very force. Thus one of the strongest implications of Loveman’s work is that in the process of placing so much emphasis on the “routine” exercise of symbolic power and not its primitive accumulation, theorists of symbolic power reify its symbolic power. Thus if symbolic power is defined as the power to constitute the given, to make the authority of power appear natural, universal, and inevitable, it follows that in order to obviate this system of relations requires an understanding of its genealogy.
Loveman’s article bears the influence of many theorists in articulating the primitive accumulation of symbolic power, including Benedict Anderson and Michael Foucault (not to mention all the writers she states), when she outlines the states desire to extend its capacity to classify, codify and regulate the population over which it seeks authority (p.1655).
’s discussion of maps, museum, census in his seminal text, Imagined Communities clearly articulates the states bureaucratic extension in creating new categories of knowledge and power (Foucault) over which to extend its power and sovereignty. Where states do not innovate in this way, Loveman outlines how they will maneuver (co-opt, imitate, usurp) to bring other or non-state institutions into its sphere of authority (1662-3). Of particular intrigue in this struggle between state and non-state actors is that in the process, Loveman quoting Mann, states that both actors may increase their respective symbolic capital and thereby results “in a greater overall capacity to “order” social life” (p. 1663). Anderson
The overall argument made here is a strong and cogent one. Loveman’s work is important in undermining arguments as Charles Tilly’s in Coercion, Capital and European States, where his over emphasis on the state as a bureaucratic extension and thus product of a war machine, leaves its actual development unexamined by failing to critically investigate how states accrue the legitimacy to carry out its will (or necessity, in the case of encroachment) in the pursuit of conquest. As Weber, Gramsci, Loveman and many others have shown, a state cannot form without the consent “from below”. Where I feel less confident in her overall argument on the subject of symbolic power and primitive accumulation is with her proposed distinction between this form of symbolic power from ideology and the cultural milieu from which it emerges and that produces it (this discussion begins on page 1656). She states that symbolic power is not the equivalent “per-se” to cultural power, which she subsumes into ideology (within existing theories). And yet she states that state created nationalism has created to “foster the loyalty of its citizens” through the use of “specific symbols, promotion of specific cultural messages and inculcation of particular beliefs” (1656). Symbolic power on the other hand, is exercised through the “naturalization of the practices and cognitive schemes which make it possible for such messages to resonate with their intended audiences.” Further, “symbolic power operates through that which goes without saying”, she states, borrowing from Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992). But how else do messages “resonate” than through ones cultural understanding and how can any sort of meaning “operate” through that “which goes without saying” other than by going through the common sense ideology of a peoples cultural understanding? In the footnote on page 1656, she clarifies this dilemma somewhat by stating that her focus is not on any sort of “terminological causality” but merely to accentuate that “a cultural dimension of state power is not adequately captured by conventional understandings of state power”. While this later point may be the case, I do not see any clear dichotomy between the schema she presents between symbolic power and ideology and wonder if this obscuring of terminology is really useful. On the other hand, I see and appreciate the difficulty of articulating and conceptualizing such metaphysical concepts, so I am not at all completely against her heuristic devices.
Read her full article here: Modern State and the Primitive Accumulation of Symbolic Capital