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Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
The future of
The gigantic financial crisis sending tremors all over the world is the disastrous result of the hegemony of the short term of which the destruction of attention is at once effect and cause. The loss of attention is a loss of capacities of projection into the long term (that is, of investment in objects of desire) which systemically effects the psychic apparatuses of consumers manipulated by psychopower as well as the manipulators themselves: the speculator is typically the person who pay no attention to the objects of his speculation, and who takes no care of them either.
With the social networks the question of attentional technologies becomes manifestly and explicitly the question of the technologies of transindividuation. The latter is henceforth formalised by the technologies of psychical individuation originally conceived in view of ending up with a collective individuation, where Simondon’s analysis posing that psychical individuation is also and in the same stroke collective individuation receives spectacular and organalogical confirmation. It is a matter of technologies of indexation, annotation, tags and modelised traces (M-traces), wiki technologies and collaborative technologies in general.
Here a reading of Foucault is especially necessary and promising: Foucault also showed that the techniques of the self, as techniques of psychical organisation, are always already techniques of collective organisation – which he demonstrates in his analysis of the correspondence of Seneca with Lucilius. On the other hand, Foucault did not see coming the question of psychopower, whereby marketing, from the emergence of the programme industries, transforms the psychotechniques of the self and of psychic individuation into industrial psychotechnologies of transindividuation, that is, into psychotechnologies threaded by networks, and as the organisation of an industrial reticulation of transindividuation that short-circuits traditional and institutional social networks.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--><!--[endif]--> After having destroyed the traditional social networks, the psychotechnologies become socialtechnologies, and they tend to become a new milieui and a new reticular condition of transindividuation grammatising new forms of social relations.
In order to analyse these facts, which constitute the specific context on the basis of which it is necessary and possible to think a future for
We must speak of tertiary retentions if we are to complete the analysis in which Husserl distinguishes between primary and secondary retentions. Primary retention is, for example, what happens when you listen to me speaking and, applying the verb I use to the subject preceding it, a subject you no longer perceive, you maintain this subject in the verb, which constitutes the maintenance/presence of my discourse which is also what maintains your attention: you conjugate the subject to the verb, with a view to projecting this action designated by the verb toward its complement, projection which is a protention, that is, an expectation.
What Husserl calls primary retention is this operation consisting of retaining a word in another (operation that Husserl analyses by studying the way in a melody a note maintains in itself the preceding one, and projects forward the expectation of another note – Leonard Meyer describes this as an expectation: it is the operation consisting in retaining a word which however is no longer present, the beginning of the sentence having been pronounced and in this respect already past, and yet still present in the sense that is thus elaborated as discourse.
We must distinguish the operation we are calling primary retention from secondary retention. The latter is a memory: something that belongs to a past having passed by (it is thus a former primary retention), whereas the primary retention still belongs to the present, to a passing present: it is the passage itself, per se, and in this respect the direction of the present – its sense in the sense of direction as well. Now, the secondary memory is also what permits us to select possibilities from the stock of primary retentions: primary retention is a primary selection whose criteria are furnished by the secondary retentions.
You are listening to me, but each one of you hears something different in what I say, and this is owing to the fact that your secondary retentions are singular ones: your pasts are singular ones. In the same stroke, your apprehension of what I say is each time singular: the meaning that you assign to my discourse, whereby you individualise yourself with my discourse, is each time singular – and this is the case because you select each time singularly primary retentions in the discourse I am giving for you, and through which I am trying to retain and to maintain your attention.
However, if you could, now, repeat the whole discourse that you have just heard, for example because you had recorded it on a USB key in a MP3 format, you could effect, obviously new primary retentions, depending on previous primary retentions, become in the meantime secondary retentions. You would thus call into question the meaning of this discourse already constituted by yourself: your would produce a difference in meaning on the basis of this repetition, through which this meaning would moreover reveal itself as a process much more than a state, et more precisely, the process of your own individuation hooking up with the individuation that this discourse exemplifies, which is, in this case, my own individuation. You would thus form retentional circuits – which I do not have the time to explain why they are at the heart of what must be conceptualised as circuits of transindividuation.
Be that as it may, that which allows such a discourse to be repeated, for example in the form of a recording in the MP3 format, is a tertiary retention with the same status as the text I am now reading for you, which allows me to repeat a discourse that I conceived elsewhere, and at another previous time: this is what Plato called a hypomnesic pharmakoni. Such a pharmakon allows the production of attentional effects, that is, retentional and protentional hook-ups, whose existence entirely justifies the definition of this pharmakon as a psychotechnical device. Such a device allows, to be more precise, the control of rentional and protentional hook-ups in view of producing attentional effects.
Such effects are also those that Husserl analysed as the condition of the origin of geometry – where writing is what allows the formation of types of rational primary and secondary retentions, through which the long circuits of transindividuation are formed, as well as those that Plato denounces in the Phaedo (?) or in Gorgias as that which allows the short-circuiting of the anamnesic work of thought through the intermediary of terniary and hypomnesic retentions.
Tertiary retentions are therefore mnemotechnical forms of the exteriorisation of psychical life constituting organised traces into retentional devices (of which the devices described in The Order of things, The Archaeology of knowledge or Discipline and punish are cases) that characterise the systems of care, as therapeutic systems whose retentional devices are the pharmacological basis.<!--[if !supportFootnotes]--><!--[endif]-->
Now, retentional devices constitute themselves in a new distributed organisation which in fact represents a major break with the former organisation of industrial society – and which is the subject of a recent book by Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thatcher, Exploit. I would now like to show that this break is a meeting of the ways faced with which a new industrial politics must make choices, drawing the consequences of these mutations, on the basis of which a new issue out of the hyperindustrial world could present itself. But I must first of all specify why this break, which is both an opportunity and a new danger (it is induced by a new pharmakon), emerges at a moment when capitalism runs up against three limits.
It was at the end of the 19th century and at the end of the 20th century that capitalism met with its first two limits:
3) A third limit henceforth imposes itself on our attention. It consists in the fact that the development of the industrial way of life, inherited from the 19th and 20th centuries, has become not only toxic on the level of minds and of libido, but also on the geophysical and biological level. This third limit will not be able to be raised or effaced before the invention of a mode of life constitutive of a new way of taking care and of paying attention to/of the world by the invention of therapeutics: techniques, technologies and socio-pharmacological apparatuses of the formation of attention corresponding to the organological specificities of our time: to the specificities of the technologies of transindividuation forming the infrastructure of an industrial system itself functioning in an endogenous way as a system of care: making care its “chain of value” that is, its economy, and thereby renewing with the original sense of the word economy, for to economise is to take care.
Western societies, in the sway of the exportation of technologies issuing from their mode of production, have engendered industrial competitors (on whom Paul Valéry was already meditating as to their consequences to come) by a movement of financiarisation that could do nothing but cause a global economic war. In this new form of war, the stakes are a defense of society no longer as an enemy, exterior or interior, but against a process that ruins time, that is, the horizon of the long term, and the possibility of projecting this horizon in giving oneself objects of desire. This process spins out of control at this precise moment when the effects of the three limits of capitalism combine.
Global competition fired up by financiarisation has ended up in the destruction of the complex equilibrium that allowed that capitalism’s development also be the social development of industrial democraties by the Keynesian organisation of the redistribution of wealth under the authority of a welfare State, and it is in the context of the economic war which resulted that marketing has become, as Gilles Deleuze put it, “the instrument of social control” in the societies of control, and that the drop in libidinal energy suddenly got worse.
Thus, on the side of consumption, the capitalist mode of life has become at the end of the 20th century an addictive process less and less capable of finding sustainable satisfactions – this has induced great discontent in the civilisation of consumption, which has replaced culture, that is, care, if we accept that culture precedes cults of all types, that is, attachments to objects whose ensemble constitutes a system of care. It is in this context that Jenny Uechi could write in Abdusters that
According to surveys conducted recently by the sociologist Juliet Schor, 81% of Americans estimate that their country is too centered on consumption and almost 90% of them consider that it is too materialistic.
We all know that in no case will this new global capitalism be able to develop in reproducing the modes of production and consumption that have been characteristic of Western, Japanese and Korean industrial democracies. For the exportation of this mode of life is also that of the growth in the rate of production of toxins of all sorts toward the greatest part of the planetary population, and which can result in nothing else but the disappearance of the human race – to say nothing of the phenomena of the destruction of psychical apparatuses that also create their effects as quickly as “growth” spreads over the world, which is indeed, by this very fact, a stunted growth. [une mécroissance] The new global capitalism will not be able to renew its energies without inventing a new logic and new objects of investment – and here the word investment must be taken literally and in all its senses: both the sense it has in industrial economy and its sense within libidinal economy.
At this stage of my exposé, it is interesting to check for heart murmurs in a text by Jeremy Rifkin which is circulating all over
While never taking up these questions (which were however the horizon of both his European dream and The Age of Access), Rifkin insists, apropos the age of oil and more generally of fossil fuels, its growing “external costs (which in economics is called negative externalities): he thus describes the third limit encountered by a capitalism become an actually globalised technological system of production and of consumption. In this context, he writes, there is a residual stock of fossil energy that we will have to learn to exploit to the hilt, that is, the most economically possible, while at the same time putting into place other processes for the production and consumption of energy:
So as to prepare the future, each government will have to exploit new energy sources and establish new economic models.
I am myself convinced that the stakes are a change in the economic model. But I do not believe that the heart of the question is the energy of subsistence: the real question is that of an energy of existence which is libidinal energy.
Now, by only asking the question of a new production of renewable, sustainable energie of subsistence, founded on the intermediary storage by the technology of the production of hydrogen, Rifkin would have us believe that the energy crisis is a passing one and that it will be able to be surmounted, and along with it the third limit of capitalism, without having to ask the question of libidinal energy, without taking into account this second limit which is the truth of the third one: where the libido has been destroyed, and where the drives it contained, as Pandora’s box enclosing every evil, henceforth are at the helm of beings devoid of attention, and incapable of taking care of their world.
Libidinal energy is essentially sustainable, except when it decomposes into drive-driven energy, which is on the contrary destructive of its objects. The drive is an energy, but an essentially destructive one, for the drive consumes its object, which is to say it consummates it. This consumption and consummation implemented by consumers, is a destruction. Consummare, the etymology of the word to consume, and which initially meant to accomplish, to reach the goal, becomes with Christianity a synonym of to lose, perdere, and to destroy, destruere. Starting in 1580, the French word consommer means to do away through use goods and energies. Starting in 1745 we begin to hear about consumers, and consumption designates then the usage one has of an object for the satisfaction of needs. Consumption becomes an economic term at the beginning of the 20th century. And it was only in 1972 that the word consumerism made its appearance in the
If consummation is that which destroys its object, libido is to the contrary that which, as desire and not as drive, that, as the sublimation intrinsic to desire, takes care of its object. This is why the question of the third limit of capitalism is not that of the relinquishment of fossil fuels but rather the relinquishment of a drive-driven economy and the reconstitution of a libidinal economy, that is a sustainable one, given that this energy increases with the frequentation of its objects. The third limit of capitalism is not only the destruction of the reserves of fossil fuel, but the limit constituted by the drive to destruction of all objects in general by consumption, in so far as they have become objects of drives, and not objects of desire and attention – the psychotechnological organisation of consumption provoking the destruction of attention in all its forms, on the psychical level as well as the collective level.
Because he seems to ignore everything involved in the second limit of capitalism and its meaning once the third limit has been reached, Rifkin’s discourse seems to me fraught with dangers: he would have us believe that a drive-driven growth could be sustained owing to the technology of hydrogen. An yet, this discourse is interesting and of import for at least three reasons:
1) it proposes a real alternative to the question of the energy of subsistence with this system founded on hydrogen which would allow a harmful limit to be pushed back;
2) it poses the questions about energy that are never distinct from questions on networks of communication and information, that is, hypomnesic systems and retentional devices of tertiary retentions;
3) finally, and above all, it posits that the network founded on hydrogen must be based on the model of social networks made possible by the world wide web and, thus, must get beyond the opposition between production and consumption.
An organisation based on consumption, and constituted by its opposition to production, is dangerous not only because it produces excess quantities of carbon dioxide, but because it destroys minds. The opposition of production and consumption has as its consequence that both producers and consumers are proletarianised by the loss of their knowledge: they are reduced to and economy of subsistence, and deprived of economy of their existence – they are deprived of libidinal economy, that is, of desire. This is why the fundamental question opened by the combination of the three limits of capitalism is the overcoming of this opposition and of the proletarinarisation it engenders structurally.
Now what is extremely interesting in Rifkin’s proposition consists in positing, based on the position set forth in the first lines of the study, the energy systems and information or mnemotechnical systems co-develop, that the most recent system of communication, Internet, breaks, precisely, with the opposition of consumption and production and thus constitutes the possibility of implementing a new distributed and decentralised network of sustainable energies where everyone would be producer as well as consumer, by combining the technology of stockage by hydrogen and that of networking along the lines of the Internet model.
Confronted with this unprecedented challenge to planetary (planetarianised) humanity – a challenge of practically sublime dimensions, which demands an extraordinary mobilisation of the forces of the spirit to meet it: a challenge convoking what Kant called the supresensible, that is, also the infinite (infinitely renewable) – the temptation of the industrial and capitalist world is to come up with a technological and scientific response in denial of the three limits of capitalism. This temptation borne of denial cannot appreahand
1) that these three limits, when they combine, produce a systemic evolution at a superior level, that is, a phenomenon of emergence,
2) that we must change industrial models not only to produce a new technical and scientific rationality, but to constitute a new social rationality, productive of motivation, of reasons for living together, that is, of taking care of the world and of those living there,
3) that the fundamental question is here to reorient the financial fluxes toward long-term investments by waging war against speculation, but also against modes of life founded on the short term, of which the most every-day example is the organisation of society by a marketing systematically exploiting drives by destroying libido as that which evinces the capable of sustainable investment.
Consumption become drive-based is profoundly dangerous for society. If there were no limit to this consumption, and if fossil fuel were inexhaustible, the catastrophe would perhaps be even greater that the one resulting from the deplenishment of fossil fuels. Perhaps this deplenishment is finally a kind of stroke of luck: the opportunity to understand that the true question of energy is not that one, that the energy of subsistence is of interest only insofar as its contributes to an energy of existence – and is such in its capacity to project what I call the plane of consistencies. Now this is the true stake of what is today called, in an ambiguous expression, ascendant innovation.
Over the past ten years, society as a whole (in industrialized countries and in developing countries), because of a spectacular drop in costs in the field of the electronic technologies of the fabrication of materials as well as transactions and duplications of data, acquires new practical, but also analytical and reflexive competencies, through the spread of digital apparatuses giving access to functionalities hitherto reserved to professional actors – these functionalities were hitherto organised by the industrial division of labor (and by everything coming with it, thus for example the law of intellectual property). These functionalities are those of the social networks.
This socialisation of innovation calls more and more often on social forms of apprenticeship that would appear to be self-organising and to elude the usual processes of the socialisation of innovation described as “descending” (piloted by the research/development/marketing complex: it constitutes what is more and more often called “ascendant” innovation. Ascendant innovation is a structural break with the organisation of social relations in the industrial world based on the oppositional couple production/consumption. It is founded on motivations oriented toward consistencies, that is, toward objects of what the Greeks and the Romans called skholè and otiumi, which are very specific objects of attention: the objects of knowledge (know-how, art of living, the disposition to theory, that is, to contemplation).
Digital technologies, where the technologies of information, communication and telecommunications converge and tend to amalgamate, and on the basis of which a sector of communicating objects called “internet objects” is developing, form a new technological milieu, reticulatory and relational in nature, belonging to what Simondon called an “associated technico-geographical milieu,” reconfiguring what he also called the process of psychical and collective individuation, and transforming into technologies of the spirit what hitherto has functioned essentially as technologies of control.
In this technological milieu, electronic apparatuses form a systemic ensemble with the network owing its existence to the IP protocol. Now, the resulting dynamic system, in constant evolution, grounded in a relational economy of miniaturized and personalised equipment and relational services – what is indeed called, and in particular by Jeremy Rifkin, relational technologies (“R technologies”) – install new social dynamics, absolutely unheard-of with what hitherto was characteristic of industrial society, and which are propelled by a psycho-social state of the population no longer content with the classical organisational model, and which stores up, therefore, a dynamic potential in the form of expectations, et by the combination of the effects of the Moore “law” and the specificities of the IP networks.
The characteristics proper to the new technological milieu being formed with the IP protocol, which must be apprehended as a technological protocol of reticulation with structural consequences in the field of social reticulation, can be put down to its both bidirectional and intrinsically productive and collective character of a metalanguage of a new type, whereby metadata are collected and organised: it is the combination of these characteristics that founds the constitution of what are called “social networks.”
This metalanguage consititues a new epoch in the process of grammatisation which globally transforms the conditions of transindividuation. A psychic process is translated at the level of a collective individuation where the psychic individuation is marked, inscribed so to speak in the real, and is recognized by other psychic individuals: this work of collective individuation by psychic individuation, and conversely, is the process of transindividuation. Now it is precisely this circuit formed by the process of individuation that can be observed in the “social networks” – however tawdry they may appear at first sight.
This is why the dynamics induced by the technological protocol of reticulation IP must be described as the effects of a process of psychical, collective and technical individuation the likes of which have never existed before. As poor and disappointing as the social-digital networks appear to us, most of the time, they bring together, henceforth, hundreds of millions of psychical individuals in a processes of collective individuation that can sometimes be evaluated as rich and inventive – if we recall on line video games, the network Second Life, Facebook, MSN, Skyblogs, etc. But we must also include collaborative platforms like Wikipedia, the open source communities in the field of software development with the Linux system, and so many other variegated initiatives that have taken off in the world – collaborative spaces of teaching, cooperatives of knowledge, and so on.
The Simondonian theory of psychosocial individuation is a theory of relations in which this individuation is produced via a process of transindividuation (which engenders what Simondon calls significations). The process of transindivuation consists in the formation of circuits “knitted” by these relations and whereby the process of co-individuation can be meta-stabilized. However, the conditions of formation of such circuits are quite variable. In particular, these circuits can either imply psychical individuals formed by them, this implication then being the very process of their formation, or, on the contrary they can short-circuit them and impose formations of signification in which they have not participated – the psychical individuals having been proletarianized, that is, disindivualized. The significations in which transindividuation consists then tend to loose their sense and their direction: this is what occurs in dissociated milieus.
Such milieux are created in the production/consumption dichotomy, and this causes a generalised loss of individuation, and a protean discontent and unease. The IP technology is on the contrary what allows the proliferation of new circuits of transindividuation, and that’s why is is massively invested by social practices they were neither anticipated nor programmed by any industrial or commercial strategy. It is thus that this technico-relational milieu tends to reconstitute associated and dialogical milieus (that is, where all those who participate in this milieu contribute to its individuation) by the unfolding of technologies of transindividuation.
This is not to say that these technologies cannot serve the cause of the short-circuiting of transindividuation. All attentional technologies (and this digital technologies of transindividuation belong to the group of attentional technologies) are pharmacological to the strict extent that, as technologies of the formation of attention, they can be reversed and upturned into technologies of the deformation of this attention, and short-circuit this attention, that is, exclude it form the process of transindividuation and signification: they can always produce dissociation.
This is the context that ought to spur the European Union to elaborate a new industrial model, based on what I call with my friends in the association Ars Industrialis, an industrial politics of the technologies of spirit – that is, of sublimation – as the only sustainable libidinal economy. It is only on this condition that Rifkin’s proposition can supply a basis of subsistence (and a basis for a bio-politics conceives at the level of the biosphere) for a new politics of existence: a noopolitics susceptible of reversing and overcoming the deadly logic of psychopower. The actual question, for Europe as for the rest of the world, is whether it can invent with America and the other major industrialised countries, a European way of life where economizing means taking care.
1. At first sight and after a preliminary analysis, the formalisation of transindividuation here appears to constitute the ultimate and perfect concretisation of what I have elsewhere described as the destruction of the associated milieux, which are the symbolic milieux, by the formation of dissociated milieux that short-circuit the transitional instances of transindividuation, which form circuits of transindividuation which are too long for the rhythms of evolution of industrial society. And yet, I also believe that the formalisation of transindividuation constitutes an altogether unheard-of possibility for the reconstitution of the long circuits of transindivuation. Here is where the stakes show up in concentrated form as a crossroads for a planet having become globally hyperindustrial.
 Attention, call it A, is a function of tertiary retentions, that is, of mnemotechniques and mnemotechnologies, call them R3, to the extent that the latter overdetermine the relation between retentions and protentions, R and P, and given that the teriary retentions form systems that must be called retentional devices, RD. Here is a formula:
A = fR3 = R/P where RE = RD.
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Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Within the limits of capitalism, economizing means taking care - Bernard Stiegler