BRETT REPLIES TO PETER:
Caveat lector: what follows is *way* off topic. Peter writes:
Although I agree with a number of the broader outlines of your post, I think that we are coming from rather different philosophical starting points.
Yes, the differences are striking and amusing, and definitely show how our heads have been hacked open by our respective chumps. Slicing into this material with Marx reveals one cross-section, slicing into it with Foucault reveals another. However, I think these views are complementary rather than antagonistic.
This analysis seems to me to be idealist -- essentially you mention the increase in predominance of a number of innovations in the field of ideology. These, you seem to argue, form the basis of further action -- the emergence of the nation state is the impetus for organisation against the countryside. Where, however, did these ideas -- the unitary nation, the political individual, arise?
You've got the structure of what I'm saying right, but you're holding it upside-down. The field of power is deployed by cultural practices, which refine their techniques through a process not entirely alien to natural selection. Ideology -- the theoretical apparatus for understanding these techniques -- arises in the *wake* of these practices. Ideology does not drive history; ideology floats on top of regularities in practice.
For me, then, the question of history isn't "where did the ideas of capitalism/nationalism/etc. come from?"
It's "how did the field of power become reorganized so that these ideas were made possible?"
Of course, history is complicated by the fact that once a theoretical apparatus is in place, it in turn exerts an "adaptation pressure" on the very practices it sought to understand.
Example: the idea that wealth is power not a modern one. The Italians certainly understood it -- they fought an endless series of wars amongst themselves with armies financed by their trade with the East. But it's not until 1844 that we get the first serious attempt to understand how wealth deploys power. So what I'm saying is actually very congruent to your paragraph:
>I'd argue that these ideas arose as an ideology in response to developments in the material reality of life -- as the material possibility of changes in organisation of labour emerged, so the antagonism (or contradiction) between new (capitalist) organisation of labour and old (feudal) organisation of labour provided the momentum for the ideological developments you describe.
So when I say "the rise of the nation-state," I'm not referring to the creation of new institutions by a group of powerful people who got really turned on by Hobbes and Machiavelli. I'm talking about regularities of practice.
Where I differ from the Marxist perspective is that instead of seeing practice driven by a struggle between exploiter/exploited, I see the subjects "exploiter" and "exploited" being deployed by a field of power and transformed through time.
The distinction is a subtle one, and I could probably explain it better if I understood it better myself. But I see the organization of labor not as authorized by a power elite, but by a set of lower-level practices that at one point deploy power along poles of landowner/ peasant, and then abruptly and radically re-organize around the poles of capitalist and laborer. I
believe that power is currently being re-deployed through the vector of media, but we're a long way from understanding how media works, or even what its poles (points of application and manipulation) might be. This is *definitely* a topic for another time, but I think our confusion over how the power of media works goes a long way toward explaining why people act like idiots when you point cameras at them.
Hm. Again, *why* did this happen?
The way I'm looking at history, I'm no longer certain that "why" is the right question. I see practice as being shaped by the same types of autonomous pressures as those that shape biology. The transformations of practice don't happen for *reasons,* they just happen. They are describable, but not *explainable.*
But as noted above, cultures are not species, and build a new layer of complexity when ideology arising from practice turns back around and starts altering practice. But these sorts of reiterative functions are not linear, which makes making sense of history a problem of *topology* as much as anything else.
[Brett had said]: So far, it's just bad luck. But here's my thesis: the witch trials started as a mere *object* of power, but as they progressed, they became a *technique* of power.
[Peter] Can you please explain this distinction -- I fear I am not 100% up to speed on this terminology. Do you mean that at first the witch trials were the expression of pre-existing power, and then they became the means to uphold power?
Yes, that's good. But not uphold so much as extend.
The first witch trials could be said to have happened by chance, a "natural variation" if you will. But very quickly it became the case that institutions that engaged in witch hunts became *more* powerful, by the mechanisms of disruption mentioned an article or so back. This in turn reinforced the *kind* of power that would conduct a witch hunt.
I doubt any adminstrator ever thought "hey, I need to consolidate some authority -- let's have a witch purge." Instead, the types of authority that tended to engage in witch purges tended to recur because they were so successful.
This is something I'd like to explore in a lot more detail. One interesting data point that I recall from my reading in this field is that the first witch trials started against men (this is for the first couple of decades of the witch craze) and then proceeded against women (and ended up killing far more women than men). Is this backed up by your reading? If so, why did this happen? Who were the men? Who were the women? Was there a "bridge" -- and if so, what was it?
I'm afraid I can't answer any of these questions. Since reading the Barstow, I've just been trying to fit it into things I already (sort of) understand. Answering these sorts of questions is going to require a lot more digging through the primary material. The idea that the witch trials began as one thing and turned into something else isn't even mentioned in _Witchcraze_. It's just something that occured to me because my mind has been so thoroughly warped by Foucault.
As for your comments on the expropriation of reproductive labor, all I can say is thanks. I've already thrown them at the Loyal Opposition in response to the assertion that "there's nothing in capitalism that could derive a benefit from oppressing women." This kind of "nothing bad can possibly happen in a free market" thinking is, I think, a failure to internalize the realization that wealth is power. It also fails to realize the role of inertia and the irrational in practice. As I tried to point out, economies are not conducted by theorists.
But alas, the response was "capitalism self-corrected for slavery with new technology that made slavery obsolete." The conclusion is that 400 years of African slave trading didn't *really* have anything to do with capitalism! Eyyyaaahhhhhh!!!!!!
OK, my brane really hurts now. I must go to bed.
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