Who Is Salome Bentham (part two)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on April 5, 2018 @ 8:27 pm

The question for Bentham’s panopticon, with every individual kept under surveillance in his or her cell, is to maintain individuality breaking up the group-mind and its free association, or a means to process deindividuation? One can argue that this image of the division of labour, not so much between specialties, as into piecemeal bit-work, whether the factory, or the call centre or admin office, or even, as they are called, ‘units, in receipt of social security benefit. This relation is an authoritarian direction of a group and requires each ‘unit’ to have a personal relationship with the watcher (a watcher who need not always be the same personage) but who is always the same unitary personality. The censure is of any free association without the pre-defined utilitarian purpose, progress, from the tower.

Bateson notes that “the schizophrenic avoids or distorts anything which might seem to identify either himself or the person he is addressing. He may eliminate anything which implies that this message refers to, and is a part of, a relationship between two identifiable people, with certain styles and premises governing their behaviour in that relationship. He may obscure the fact that he is speaking in metaphor or some special code, and he is likely to distort or omit all reference to time and place… What remains is likely to be a metaphoric statement unlabelled as to context. Or, in extreme cases, there may be nothing left but a solid acting out of the message, ‘There is no relationship’”.


Deleuze writes “we are led to believe that problems are given ready-made, and that they disappear in the responses or the solution. Already under this double aspect, they can be no more than phantoms. We are led to believe that the activity of thinking, along with truth and falsehood in relation to that activity, begins only with the search for solutions, that both of these concern only solutions. This belief probably has the same origin as the other postulates of the dogmatic image: puerile examples taken out of context and arbitrarily erected into models. According to this infantile prejudice the master sets a problem, our task is to solve it, and the result is accredited true or false by a powerful authority. It is also a social prejudice with the visible interest of maintaining us in an infantile state, which calls upon us to solve problems that come from elsewhere, consoling or distracting us by telling us we have won simply by being able to respond: the problem as obstacle and the respondent as Hercules.”

So this returns us to our comparison between Salome and Antigone. Antigone defied her Uncle, and was locked in a cave for her efforts; Salome danced for him, and received a gift. The issue is not who is more or who is less noble, but that the Uncle here is Utility. There is a sense where Salome is as Tantalus was killing his son and serving him up to Zeus and the Gods, a crime for which he was left up to his neck in mud craning his neck for Dionysius’ (my) grapes. Except Salome found an unrelated substitute, one she desired, a partial object of her Uncle’s hatred and lust focused into the head of John the Baptist who was prophesising the new Gawain who would behead the Green Knight and end the sovereign’s tyranny and the need to scapegoat.
Earlier in the German Ideology (before the criticism of Bentham cited above) Marx argued “The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and material intercourse of men, the language of real life”, he later refers also to another double: “The production of life, both one’s own in labour and of fresh life in procreation, now appears as a double relationship: on the one hand as natural, on the other as a social, relationship.” However returning to Bentham, Marx notes “The theory of exploitation owes its further development in England to Godwin, and especially to Bentham, who gradually re-incorporated the economic content which the French had neglected…”
Someone else who talks of doubling up is Henry Louis Gates Jr. he cites Gary Saul Morson’s elaboration on Bakhtin’s concept of double-voiced discourse: “The audience of a double-voiced word is therefore meant to hear both a version of the original utterance as the embodiment of its speaker’s point of view (or ‘semantic position’) and the second speaker’s evaluation of that utterance from a different point of view. I find it helpful to picture a double-voiced word as a special palimpsest in which the upper-most inscription is a commentary on the one beneath it, which the reader (or audience) can know only reading through the commentary that obscures in the very process of evaluating”. Gates jr. then notes “Signifyin(g) is black double-voicedness”. There are many definitions of Signifyin(g) amongst them are that it is “a technique of indirect argument or persuasion”, “a language of implication”, “to imply, goad, beg, boast, by indirect verbal or gestural means.” “The name ‘signifying’ shows the monkey to be a trickster, that set of words or gestures achieving Hamlet’s ‘direction through indirection.’ “The Monkey, in short, is not only a master of technique… he is technique, or style, or the literariness of language: he is the great Signifier. In this sense, one does not signify something; rather, one signifies in some way”.
How does one operate caught in a panopticon? Or a labyrinth for that matter? One Signifies. But what of the Panopticon today? Foucault saw it as an aspect of the disciplinarian society, but Deleuze saw a burgeoning control society, building on the old disciplinarian society, itself having emerged from the previous sovereign (feudal) society. Like the evolution of the brain each society building on the previous never losing those basal urges, stemming back to fight or flight, pleasure and disgust. “The various placements or sites of confinement through which individuals pass are independent variables: we’re supposed to start all over each time, and although all these sites have a common language, it’s analogical. The various forms of control, on the other hand, are inseparable variations, forming a system of varying geometry whose language is digital (though not necessarily binary). Confinements are molds, different moldings, while controls are a modulation, like a self-transmuting molding continually changing from one moment to the next, or like a sieve whose mesh varies from one point to the another. This comes out well in the matter of wages: the factory was a body of men whose internal forces reached an equilibrium between the highest possible production and the lowest possible wages; but in a control society businesses take over from factories, and a business is a soul, a gas. There were of course bonus systems in factories, but businesses strive to introduce a deeper level of modulation into all wages, bringing them into a state of constant metastability punctuated by ludicrous challenges, competitions and seminars. If the stupidest TV game shows are so successful, it’s because they are a perfect reflection of the way businesses are run. Factories formed individuals into a body of men for the joint convenience of a management that could monitor each component in this mass, and trade unions that could mobilise mass resistance; but businesses are constantly introducing an inexorable rivalry presented as healthy competition, a wonderful motivation that sets individuals against one another and sets itself up in each of them, dividing each within himself. Even the state education system has been looking at the principle of ‘getting paid for results’: in fact just as businesses are replacing factories, school is being replaced by continuing education and exams by continuous assessment. It’s the surest way of turning education into a business.
In disciplinary societies you were always starting all over again (as you went from school to barracks, from barracks to factory), while in control societies you never finish anything. – business, training, and military service being coexisting metastable states of single modulation, a sort of universal transmutation. Kafka, already standing at the point of transition between two kinds of society, described in The Trial their most ominous judicial expressions: apparent acquittal (between two confinements) in disciplinary societies, and endless postponement in (constantly changing) control societies.”

Guattari gives a possible direction for Signifyin’(g) in the control society with his concept of transversality, Gary Genosko describes the practical and political implications thus: “The superego is, after all, a tough nut to crack since, according to Freud, it is primarily coloured by one’s parents (especially one’s father) but is also open to later influences such as the media, as well as a variety of archaic influences (some phylogenetic influences), not to mention long abandoned objects, which places it in the topography farther from consciousness than the ego”. Transversality is related to transference from here, Gosko later points out with relation to the group: “Subjectivity is a group phenomenon. It is completely deindividuated and depersonalised and ecologised, a consequence of foregrounding the social environment of the institution.” The coefficient of collective paranoia was for Guattari to be complimentary and inverse to the coefficient of transversality, where the former is restrictive and reticent, the latter is connective and communicative.
However, if Signifyin(g) is style, then there is a style to nonsense, if we remember the refusal of the psychotic in Bateson to speak clearly, or at all, to the tyrant in the tower, the ‘entitled’ one, so nonsense is the result, but what we want is nonsense with style. Once can signify transversally all day, in order to elude control, but to own the means of articulation when surfing the signifiers, then knowing them to be multiple-voiced, one must make sure it is the signified that stays connected.
As Marx said of Proudhon “Economists explain how production takes place in the above-mentioned relations, but what they do not explain is how these relations themselves are produced, that is, the historical movement which gave them birth. M. Proudhon, taking these relations for principles, categories, abstract thoughts, has merely put into order these thoughts, which are to be found alphabetically arranged at the end of every treatise on political economy. The economists’ material is the active, energetic life of man; M. Proudhon’s material is the dogma of the economists. But the moment we cease to pursue the historical movement of production relations, of which the categories are but the theoretical expression, the moment we want to see in these categories no more than ideas, spontaneous thoughts, independent of real relations, we are forced to attribute the origin of these thoughts to the movement of pure reason. How does pure, eternal, impersonal reason give rise to these thoughts? How does it proceed in order to produce them?
If we had M. Proudhon’s intrepidity in the matter of Hegelianism we should say: it is distinguished in itself from itself. What does this mean? Impersonal reason, having outside itself neither a base on which it can pose itself, nor an object to which it can pose itself, nor a subject with which it can compose itself, is forced to turn head over heels, in posing itself, opposing itself, and composing itself – position, opposition, composition. Or, to use Greek – we have thesis, antithesis and synthesis. For those who do not know Hegelian language, we shall give the consecrating formula – affirmation, negation, and negation of the negation. That is what language means. It is certainly not Hebrew; but it is the language of this pure reason, separate from the individual. Instead of the ordinary individual with his ordinary manner of speaking and thinking we have nothing but this ordinary manner in itself – without the individual.”

With regards making sense Deleuze asks “how are we to avoid the consequence that an impossible object, one which is self-contradictory, has a sense even though it has no ‘signification’ (the being-square of a circle)? Or again how are we to reconcile the transience of an object with the eternity of its sense? Finally, how are we to avoid the following play of mirrors: a proposition must be true because its expressible is true, while the expressible is true only when the proposition itself is true? All these difficulties stem from a common source: in extracting a double from the proposition we have evoked a simple phantom. Sense so defined is only a vapour which plays at the limit of things and words. Sense appears here as the outcome of the most powerful logical effort, but as Ineffectual, a sterile incorporeal deprived of its generative power. Lewis Carroll gave a marvellous account of all these paradoxes: that of the neutralising doubling appears in the form of the knight who always gives a new name to the name of the song – and between these two extremes lie all the secondary paradoxes which form Alice’s adventures.”

We need to own not just the means of production but the means of articulation too, but Salome Bentham’s Uncle is averse to noise, to the clatter of improvisation, he can’t stand all these codes. We must be governed. We must be units for production, not the very creators of the world ourselves. So Salome Bentham demands we offer up our knowledge, our creative processes on a plate, a silver one, offer up our own heads, like Jesus-Gawain, as a substitute for her own head, perhaps in the hope of some wine from that trickle-down effect. She wants our efforts decoded into plain English so we can be co-opted more efficiently. In this sense she is very much hegemonic. But she is no singular personality. She is what Deleuze calls an assemblage: “an assemblage, in its multiplicity, necessarily acts on semiotic flows, material flows, and social flows simultaneously.” But she is an assemblage that under austerity works in the social superego as tyrant nomos trying to make sure someone else gets it. She is an externality in the Milton Friedman sense. She is alienation as Entäusserung rather than Entfremdung.


Who Is Salome Bentham (part one)

Filed under:Uncategorized — posted by Schizostroller on April 2, 2018 @ 7:44 pm


Berry shit, bury shit. Forbidden fruit. With wisdom there was understanding. Repression is supposed to be at the root of neurosis but what of psychosis? Who is Salome Bentham, the spirit of co-optation? Max Weber saw Verstehen as a way of interpreting the world but how do we change it? Wodin earned his reputation for wisdom because when challenged on that wisdom he knew something no-one else knew. This is often said to be something of one’s own, but not always. What is in my pocket? What issues does that hold for recognition? What for governance? Is part of the basis for empathy the ability to recognise another without having to truly know them – respecting their situation, an act that is the opposite of the cognitive bias known as a fundamental attribution error?

The point of Bentham’s Panopticon for Foucault was to designate a mechanism through which the functioning of disciplinary power was made more subtle and economic by means of presenting people an idea of excessive surveillance. When people internalize the presence of this surveillance there is no need for actual human gaze anymore: people act as if there is somebody watching. The question is not only who watches the watchers, that is Hermes Trismegistus in those of us who recognise the existence of a demiurge, but also how do we evade such surveillance. How do we hide in the harem, the joy division, the libidinal economy when we are all prostitutes? Do we just make noise? How do we bring it?
Marx wrote of Bentham’s utilitarianism that “the apparent stupidity of merging all the manifold relationships of people in the one relation of usefulness, this apparently metaphysical abstraction arises from the fact that, in modern bourgeois society, all relations are subordinated in practice to the one abstract monetary-commercial relation.” He continues later “When the sentimental and moral paraphrases, which for the French were the entire content of the utility theory, had been exhausted, all that remained for its further development was the question how individuals and relations were to be used, to be exploited… Hence no other field of speculative thought remained for the utility theory than the attitude of individuals to these important relations, the private exploitation of an already existing world by individuals.” The question remains what field of speculative thought is for those who have internalised Thatcher’s “there is no alternative” to the idea that there is a society or phenomenological world beyond individuals and family. Individuals and family governed by the market economy. There is an anonymous quote that goes “the best minds discuss ideas; the second ranking talks about things; while the third and lowest mentality — starved for ideas — gossips about people.” Gilles Deleuze discussed the control society, but before he wrote about that he stated “Stupidity is not animality. The animal is protected by specific forms which prevent it from being “stupid”. Formal correspondences between the human face and the heads of animals have often been composed… Such correspondences, however, take no account of stupidity as a specifically human form of bestiality” Giorgio Agamben talks of outlaws, of those exiled, whether criminals of fools, as being ‘wolf-heads’. Agamben writes “Rodolphe Jhering was… the first to approximate the figure of Homo Sacer to that of the wargus, the wolf-man, and of the Friedlos, the ‘man without peace’ of ancient Germanic law”. One can think of the imagery of Viking berserkers, úlfheðnar, who were Odin’s warriors, he ruled both the aristocracy and outsiders.

“Germanic and Anglo-Saxon sources underline the bandit’s liminal status by defining him as a wolf-man (wargus, werewolf, the Latin garulphus, from which the French loup garou, “werewolf”, is derived): thus Salic law and Ripuarian law use the formula wargus sit, hoc est expulsus in a sense that recalls the sacer esto that sanctioned the sacred man’s capacity to be killed, and the laws of Edward the Confessor (1030-35) define the bandit as a wulfesheud (a wolf’s head) and assimilate him to the werewolf (lupinum enim gerit caput a die utlagationis suae, quod ab anglis wulfesheud vocature, “He bears a wolf’s head from the day of his expulsion, and the English call this wulfesheud”). What had to remain in the collective unconscious as a monstrous hybrid of human and animal, divided between the forest and the city – the werewolf – is, therefore, in its origin the figure of the man who has been banned from the city”
But returning to Deleuze again and a society of individuals before we reach a society of control he states “a tyrant institutionalises stupidity, but he is the first servant of his own system and the first to be installed within it. Slaves are always commanded by another slave. Here too, how could the concept of error account for this unity of stupidity and cruelty, of the grotesque and the terrifying, which doubles the way of the world?” However he then states that “Cowardice, cruelty, baseness and stupidity are not simply corporeal capacities or traits of character or society; they are the structures of thought as such.”

Wilfrid Bion argues that “the activity we know as ‘thinking’ was in origin a procedure for unburdening the psyche of accretions of stimuli… there [then] exists an omnipotent phantasy that it is possible to split off temporarily undesired, though sometimes valued, parts of the personality and put them into an object” having noted earlier that “the link between intolerance of frustration and the development of thought is central to an understanding of thought and its disturbances”.

But what of the Salome Bentham, the spirit of co-optation? Is she a spirit or a chorus? Laing talks of the paranoid nexus, “in the typical paranoid ideas of reference, the person feels that the murmurings and mutterings he hears as he walks past a cinema queue are about him; as he is alone in a pub, a burst of laughter behind his back is at some joke that has been cracked at his appearance;

everyone in the coffee bar where he is sitting is being careful not to look at him, etc. However, what is discovered when one gets to know such a person more than superficially is that what tortures him is not so much his delusions of reference, but his harrowing suspicion that he is of no importance in fact to anyone.
Thus what constantly preoccupies and torments the paranoid person is basically the precise opposite of what may at first be most apparent. He appears to be persecuted by being so much the centre of everyone else’s world, but he is preoccupied with the thought that he never occupies first place in anyone’s affections.” This is the situated position, the directly lived experience, from whence an activist stance can come. Whilst acknowledging the individual there is the issue of collusion, as Laing argues “the one person does not merely wish to have the other as a hook, or to induce the other to become, the very embodiment of that other whose co-operation is required as ‘complement’ of the particular identity he (p) feels impelled to sustain. The other, in such circumstances, can experience a peculiar feeling of guilt for not being the embodiment of the complement demanded by p’s self-adopted identity. However, if he does succumb, if he is seduced, he may become estranged from his own true possibilities, and is guilty thereby of betraying himself.

So we have met Bentham, utilitarian designer of the Panopticon, but who is Salome?

Salome is the daughter of Herod, she of the seven veils, she who asked for John the Baptist’s head on a plate. Is she an Anti-Gone or an Anti-Antigone? Where in relation to the cave is she? Where in relation to the back-lit cell? But to avert going down the path of condemnation of sexuality, an easy path to follow, we must first look at the relation between Bentham and repression and the denial of it. What is Salome’s relation to the coming insurrection?
With regards Salome’s treatment of John the Baptist, Freud observes “It can also be observed that the unpleasurable nature of an experience does not always unsuit it for play…” One should not assume Salome’s dance for Herod is entirely pleasurable for Salome “…we may be quite sure that these frightening experiences will be the subject of the next game; but we must not in that connection overlook the fact that there is a yield of pleasure from another source. As the child passes over from the passivity of the experience to the activity of the game, he hands on the disagreeable experience to one of his playmates and in this way revenges himself on a substitute.”

Recalling our wolf-heads we are reminded of Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf and grandma, and of course the castrating wood-cutter who comes to chop off his head, or other parts. At least in Red Riding Hood she gets to speak, it is a story of the deep, dark forest. It is in Echo and Narcissus that the once great interlocutor, she whose intercourse could best the greatest debaters amongst the Gods. Who would we rather deal with here, Narcissus or the Werewolf, the loup gorou, Loop Guru, one of the subliminal kids. But remember Narcissus does not get past the mirror phase, something that at least Snow White’s wicked step-mother succeeds in doing. No, the wolf-head is an outsider, a bandit, a man of the wilderness, who can be killed at any time. Much like John the Baptist.

So where does this wilderness man or woman come from? We must turn to Leviticus 16:8-10, “He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the LORD and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel. Aaron will then present as a sin offering the goat chosen by lot for the LORD. The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD.”

This is a slightly different turn of history to the criminal wolf-head, this is a scapegoat for a communal sin. And so we return to group theory, Freud makes a few comments on Le Bon’s theory of the group: “A group is impulsive, changeable irritable. It is led almost exclusively by the unconscious… nothing about it is premeditated. Though it may desire things passionately, yet this is never so for long, for it is incapable of perseverance. It cannot tolerate any delay between its desire and the fulfilment of what it desires. It has a sense of omnipotence; the notion of impossibility disappears for the individual in a group.
A group is extraordinarily credulous and open to influence, it has no critical faculty, and the improbable does not exist for it. It thinks in images, which call one another up by association (just as they arise with individuals in states of free imagination), and whose agreement with reality is never checked by any reasonable agency. The feelings of a group are always very simple and very exaggerated. So that the group knows neither doubt nor uncertainty… Since a group is in no doubt as to what constitutes truth or error, and is conscious, moreover, of its own strength, it is as intolerant as it is obedient to authority… It wants to be ruled and oppressed and to fear its masters. Fundamentally it is entirely conservative.”


image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace