Symposium In/form governments!
Opposing a logic of Economic Utilization in Gouvernmentality
Friday 30th/Saturday 31st January 2004
Building 7, Room 215
Concept: Dr. Antke Engel
"Join together and form gangs!" was the appeal some time ago. People used to rack their brains about whether or not they should ‘infiltrate the institutions’. Meanwhile, it has become clear that the question "is resistance formed inside or outside institutions?" has lost its relevance, to the same extent that the economic utilization of the social and cultural is determining social power relations.
"In/form governments!" has discarded the concept of something existing "outside" of power and does not hesitate to enter the field of hegemony. Yet it has no interest in becoming part of the existing institutions. Instead of reclaiming participation, the subtext suggests calling upon the power of agency. The hegemonic relations – characterized by the individualization of social inequalities and the absolutist approach to the logic of economic utilization - form the backdrop for action.
What is the promise based upon, and what lies behind the provocation of a scenario of proliferating governments? Or is this simply a harmless notion? How will the state react to this threat to its monopoly? Will it embrace this development as an expression of free market competition? Will it allow itself to be ‘formed’ by the newly formed governments?
Perhaps the appeal is already anachronistic because governments have long since proliferated and there is no longer a unifying power that co-ordinates social, subcultural, economic, national and transnational forces. Or must we assume that the creation of an economic logic for all social areas represents the current comprehensive form of governmentality? And would there not be a element of resistance in the proliferation of the governments – and governing rationales – and the consequent forms of action?
Foucault’s concept of governmentality could support both lines of argumentation – and a particularly interesting question is the way in which they intersect. The goal of the symposium is to consider to what extent the concept of governmentality provides potential for the analysis and criticism of current socio-political developments. This has been divided into three themes.
the CREATIVE WORK SUBJECT
the ECONOMIC LOGIC OF EDUCATION
and the NORMALISATION OF VIOLENCE
What does Foucault’s concept of governmentality provide to help us discuss these three socio-political areas from a critical angle?
CREATIVE WORK SUBJECT The task of the creative work subject is to introduce these abilities into the work process, which – while formerly a demand of the left-wing critics of society – served as refuges from the logic of economic utilization: creativity, intellectuality, criticism and communication as a central moment of artistic, intellectual and effective work. According to the "creative-imperative", people are nowadays developing mature personal technologies as freelancers, self-employed persons and "Ich-AG’s" (one-person enterprises), and also from the precarious position of employee, in order to combine market-oriented subjectivities with the enforcement of their own needs and interests. Yet is it possible to defend the promise of non-alienated, self-determined work against the price of exploitation and self-exploitation?
Cultural studies, such as those on offer at the University of Lüneburg, constitute a model answer to this kind of appeal by the educational institutions, in as much as they offer to train the appropriate work subjects.
ECONOMISATION OF EDUCATION Education is the central field, in which the new economic rationalities are learnt as practices and self-relations and then translated into subjectivities, which are made up of performance-, utilization- and personal responsibility norms. The promise of "autonomy" – directed at the educational subjects and institutions – becomes the catalyst for economic logic. Educational opportunities and educational goals are no longer considered to be subject to political regulations, but can (in the case of opportunities) be achieved by individual performance, or (in the case of goals) are enforced as individual interests. Following this logic, social hierarchies no longer materialize as the effects of structural processes but rather as individual practices.
NORMALISATION OF VIOLENCE The discrediting of social categories for the purpose of analyzing the relationships of oppression also resulted in enforced normalization, exclusion and violence being addressed as individualized experiences of discrimination and problems that have to be accounted for oneself. The products of social hierarchies, which result from the (hegemonic practice of) differential integration of particular individuals or groups, experience a process of normalization. In the context of immigrant-, migrant-, gender and sexual politics, this integration takes the form of a state-legitimized social hierarchy, whose form of rule and of violence is not named.
A common theme throughout the symposium is the question of how people in the three previously-mentioned groups are on the one hand called upon to neutralize differences ("gender, sexual preferences, origin, social status…play no role ‘here/today’!") while on the other hand – in the name of a multicultural tolerance model – are called upon to "stage" their differences ("‘here’ in our company, university, community, differences are not only livable but also desirable, they reflect on the attractiveness of our community, they generate added value!").
Both processes, the neutralization and fetishization of differences, require, for example, sexual or ethnic "extra work" in order to gain social recognition and participation. Foucault would define these as "technologies of the self" – practices that would help people form their subjectivity in order to fulfill or oppose the contradictory social requirements. They occur in the social field of governmentality where ruling power and subjectivity interact and structure individual forms of existence: individualization, neutralization or fetishization would be understood in this context to be regulatory actions and to serve as powers governing the regulation of other’s actions.
Thus "in/form governments!" – against a background of individualistic and personally responsible governance of oneself and others – should not simply be understood as an appeal to build communities of opposition, but also asks questions about the possibility and concrete creation of collective processes, affecting the will and negotiation within a certain area of action that is primarily structured by individual interests.
The aim of the symposium is to work out the potential for action and opposition that could be generated by this mutual crossover of self-technologies and ruling power-technologies. To what extent does the governmentality concept unleash the potential to oppose neo-liberal individualism and economic logic by means of its "action with regard to actions?"
Antke Engel, Inga Koehler, Sonja Parzefall, Sophia Prinz, Tim Schmalfeldt, Wanda Wieczorek
Translation by Gillian Morris