Who Is Salome Bentham (part two)

Filed under:"Who is" series — 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.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace