Thursday, July 29, 2010
Third Thesis on the Conept of Form of Life
There is a direct correlation between the growing power of life and the growing power over life. The rise of forms of life does not necessarily lead to the decline of bare lives. The stakes today are simply higher: the more power a life obtains, the more ingenious are the apparatuses designed to control it; the more value a life has, the more intricate are the tactics devised to capitalize on it. While in medieval times the inquisition and the confession were enough to keep most people in line, the modern apparatuses of power employ much more complex techniques to achieve much less effective results. If it is true that today’s men and women are more servile than ever (“the most docile and cowardly social body that has ever existed in human history,” Agamben claims), then why is there a need for all those sophisticated and ruthless apparatuses out there to get them? It is generally believed that in a global culture the differences between forms of life gradually give way to a monochromatic existence. But as power grows over more lives in isolated or neglected places, the power of these previously untouched lives with their still not dead forms can eventually grow as well. This is not achieved, however, because the West flattens the image of these cultures in order to feign the semblance of diversity and satisfy its fascination with the Other, but only because those “others” seize the means of representation and impress their own image on the planetary spectacle in which we live. Forms of life cannot be preserved by isolation--they can only be challenged by interaction, which is what a globalized public sphere may facilitate. Trying today to speak or listen while a million different voices crave to be heard at the same time is quite enervating, but this cacophony is still overcome whenever a single person attends to another and understands what he or she has to say. Every such communication or conversation, as fleeting or insubstantial as it may be, is a generator of the power, and form, of life. So despite the fact that we are witnessing a massive proliferation and expansion of apparatuses that are meant to get hold of our lives--from the close-circuit television that monitors our every move to the regular television that manipulates our every desire, from the cell phone that traces our whereabouts to the credit card that keeps a tab on our conspicuous consumption, from the shrinks who dissect our souls to the doctors who regiment our bodies, from the schools that discipline us well into our thirties to the media outlets that monopolize our public domain--it is encouraging to note that these powers only appear mighty. In reality, they are just scrambling to recapture what is constantly slipping through their clumsy fingers.