‘Sin your way to heaven and get slaughtered: A byzantine general problem of the self’ (part seven)

Filed under:Sin your Way to Heaven and get Slaughtered — posted by Schizostroller on May 1, 2018 @ 8:27 pm

Whilst Miller and Rose’s concept of ‘technologies of government’ was introduced by Michel Foucault in his seminars on biopolitics and neoliberalism in the 1970s, one of the most well-known portraits of this society was Foucault’s friend Gilles Deleuze’s discussion of the Control Society, whilst much of the work published by Foucault in his lifetime focused on disciplinary societies of early Capitalism in the early 19th century, these followed on from the sovereign societies, that took tithes and a portion of production, the feudal system, but did not organise labour as the disciplinary society did. The disciplinary society had two main precepts, the individual and the mass, but, (Foucault argues in Birth of Biopolitics) from the 1950’s (Miller and Rose examine the Tavistock clinic as an example, mentioned earlier) and attempt was made to work on that organisation one that moulded differently. One of these methods was in changes in communication and work organisation. This relates in several ways to Bruno Latour’s ‘Action at a distance, But Deleuze lists them thus:
“In the prison system: the attempt to find “alternatives” to custody, at least for minor offences, and the use of electronic tagging to force offenders to stay at home between certain hours. In the school system: forms of continuous assessment, the impact of continuing education on schools, and the related move away from research in universities, “business” being brought into education at every level. In the hospital system: the new medicine “without doctors or patients” that identifies potential cases and subjects at risk and is nothing to do with any progress toward individualising treatment, which is how it’s presented, but is the substitution for individual or numbered bodies of coded ‘dividual’ matter to be controlled. In the business system: new ways of manipulating money, products, and men, no longer channelled through the old factory system.” (p.182).
The history of mental health care can be translated partially here, with the decarceration from the asylums, triggered by the Water Tower Speech of Enoch Powell in 1961, argued to be for cost cutting reasons by people like Andrew Scull. Pete Sedgwick saw this coming in his book PsychoPolitics, however he seemed to accuse anti-psychiatry of giving the language needed to the New Right, who then argued for the need for costs, whilst using both the language of anti-psychiatry, and the new forms of psychiatric medication such as Chlorpromazine as cover for the new market ideology that need not believe in paying for infrastructure, which the asylums maintenance was (one can only wonder whether this would have happened if modern forms of state financing such as Private Finance Initiatives were around, although the recent collapse of Carillion signifies the limits of that – one can wonder how where Lehman Brothers was an immediate result of the collapse, the Carillion collapse might be seen in a few years as a consequence of austerity). Bartlett and Wright’s Outside the Walls of the Asylum documents how poor the infrastructure required (according to the arguments of the anti-psychiatry movement and those aspects of the humanist (and sometimes religious – although often secular) social hygiene movement (that would burgeon into the Recovery movement) was due to the cost cutting after decarceration that led to the ‘crisis’ in Care in the Community, that happened very quickly, with CTOs for the ‘dangerous, single, mad male’ being the equivalent of ‘tagging’, and Philip Thomas and Pat Bracken’s Community Home Treatment teams being an equivalence of individualised and community treatment.
This is a historical change, it is caught up in the economic move after WWII of pseudo-Keynesianism (as catalogued by Rodney Lowe), and the organisation of the state, the power grab by neoliberals at the end of the seventies, followed by the collapse of the Soviet system in 1989-1991, that gave us first the Washington Consensus and then the Post-Washington consensus, the debate about structural adjustment that this debate on international development involved, and then post the 2008 economic crisis, in the UK, this structural adjustment was internalised in the form of austerity, until 2012 in most of the West, continued only in peripheral southern European states such as Greece and Spain (applied by external forces in the form of more powerful EU members), and the UK (applied internally with no compulsion from other nation states – followed in 2016 by Brexit).
It is in this milieu we get the combination of personalisation, ‘recovery models’, community treatment, CBT, DBT, Mindfulness, continued medication on the one hand and CTOs and benefit sanctions on the other, both applied to all service users who come in to contact with services.
But, what of this subject in receipt of services? This mental health patient or service user, this mad subject; the depressive, the psychotic? How do they carve themselves space? Although Deleuze was critical of Jacques Lacan I want to return to his work momentarily, to consider his (and Freud’s) understanding of the ego-ideal and the ideal ego. Freud argues that in a sense psychosis is related to a libidinous disinvestment, a withdrawal into his ego, only to ‘free it once more when he is cured’. Lacan argues that “Freud’s essential point is that it is almost of no importance whether a working over of the libido… is produced with real objects or with imaginary objects.” (p.130). Lacan mentions the German word Verarbeitung and the French word elaboration with reference to ‘working over’. We can think here of ‘talking with voices’ therapy, with regards the distinction between the working over of real objects (Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic springs to mind here – where in the battle between the two in the struggle ‘to the death’ that leads to the Master-slave distinction both realise at a certain level they will not get recognition if the other dies, so in the unequal compromise the ‘moral of the story’ is that the Master gets no recognition, but does get ownership, and the Slave must seek recognition in his alienated labour producing ‘real objects’ for the Master) and imaginary objects, the work towards recovery that the therapy attempts to kick start by ‘working over’ imaginary objects. However Lacan notes that the issue with illness appears when the ‘libido becomes oriented towards unreal objects’ (as opposed to imaginary ones) here he also refers to Stauung, or damming up, O. Mannoni likens it to a Dutch dike where the level of water behind raises due to the damming. One can refer back to the cybernetics of Bateson and Laing here where double binds or some other linguistic entrapment causes an impossibility of movement, a blockage and consequently a damming up. Of course this requires a ‘vital’ element, else the subject can just leave, or move out (e-motion) from the scenario. A question I shall keep returning to is whether the more punitive aspects of the austerity regime since 2010 can, if not ‘cause’, at least intensify situations where such vital questions, or anxieties, are already there. In healthy subjects perhaps such a disciplinary regime, and let us be reminded that there is latent sovereign society in disciplinary societies, and latent sovereign AND disciplinary societies in control societies, and an economic crisis does lead to an intensification of punitive control measures, shock doctrine, on the part of Capital as historical economic necessity, just as the exploited look to protect theirs. With regards this working over Lacan refers to Freud quoting Heine invoking the word of God, “Illness is no doubt the final cause of the whole of the whole urge to create. By creating, I could recover. By creating, I became healthy.” (131). It’s almost a call for a work-cure! Some cruel contraption created by Schreber’s father combined with the labour of a Tuke retreat to ‘kill or cure’ the sick and needy, in a tory workfare warehouse. But I think not. As mentioned above alienation is the major obstacle, the difference Hannah Arendt invokes between a ‘work’ that has a finished product, and the ‘labour’ that The Master Tuke asks of the Slave that is monotonous and unfinished. And that is before we meet Marx’s theory, but there is a glimmer of hope. In his acknowledgment of Immanuel Kant, ‘What is Enlightenment? (Was Ist Aufklarung?)’, Michel Foucault invokes the Art of Life. After looking at some of the positives and negatives of Kant’s Enlightenment, Foucault questions modernity, and in the figure of Baudelaire, he finds the ‘heroic’ modern man (in the introduction to Hegel’s Reason In History, Hartman notes that there are four figures of history in Hegel’s World Spirit, the Citizen (who is moral when the State nears its ideal, immoral the more corrupt the state is), the Person (the legal subject of the state, the private individual), the Hero (he who embraces world spirit, Hegel’s bourgeois hero) and the Victim of history (as much an banal Eichmann as anyone who is, say, given current prejudices, disabled, ‘rotting on benefits’). In fact with regards the refusal of work of the Italian autonomists and the work of Kathi Weeks mentioned earlier one can envisage a ‘mad’ or ‘benefit’ (or the eponymous ‘working class hero’) that has nothing to do with ‘getting a job’. But, no matter, Foucault’s bourgeois hero of modernity was Baudelaire.
“Modernity for Baudelaire is not simply a form of relationship to the present; it is also a mode of relationship that has to be established with oneself. The deliberate attitude of modernity is tied to an indispensable asceticism. To be modern is not to accept oneself as one is in the flux of the passing moments; it is to take oneself as object of a complex and difficult elaboration: what Baudelaire, in the vocabulary of the day, calls dandysme. Here I shall not recall in detail the well-known passages on ‘vulgar, earthy, vile nature’; on man’s indispensable revolt against himself; on the ‘doctrine of elegance’ which imposes ‘upon its ambitious and humble disciples’ a discipline more despotic than the most terrible religions; the pages, finally on the asceticism of the dandy who makes of his body, his behaviour, his feelings and passions, his very existence, a work of art. Modern man, for Baudelaire, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is a man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not ‘liberate man in his own being’; it compels him to face the task of producing himself.” (p.41-42).
This is a different subjectivity from that of the technologies of governmentality, a different type of biopolitics BUT as Deleuze points out with regards postmodern, neoliberal subjectivities, this is still a hangover of disciplinary societies, what would an art of life under contemporary conditions be?

Bartlett, Peter and Wright, David – Outside the Walls of the Asylum (1999) Continuum
Deleuze, Gilles – Negotiations (1995) Columbia
Foucault, Michel, and Rabinow, Paul – The Foucault Reader (1991) Penguin
Lacan, Jacques – Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954: The seminar of Jacques Lacan Book 1 (1991) Norton
Lowe, Rodney – The Welfare State in Britain since 1945 (1998) Palgrave
Miller, Peter and Rose, Nikolas – Governing The Present (2008) Polity
Sedgwick, Peter – Psychopolitics (1982) Routledge
Scull, Andrew – Decarceration (1984) Polity

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace