Saturday, Jul 04th, 2020 - 06:04:30


Deleuze & Guattari - "The Societies of Control"

"Historically, if the energetic machine expressed the disciplinary bourgeois society of the 18th and 19th centuries, computers, electronic and cybernetic machines express what Deleuze calls the 'society of control.' The latter cannot be separated from a shift in capitalism from speculation and accumulation towards circulation. The abstract and often dizzying process of buying and selling products in which the importance of marketing exceeds that of commodities themselves. Digital technologies that enable and accelerate circulation are part of a global networked society that has no outer border or limit... In their very last works, published in 1989 and 1992, Deleuze and Guattari address more openly new media, especially in connection with their cultural and social impact. Deleuze disinters and effectively popularizes the term 'societies of control' in his 1990 postscript. Deleuze says that these societies are made possible through new media. They are one with globalization insofar as the latter is defined as a worldwide circulation of electronic information. Institutions defined by structures of inclusion and exclusion, what use to be called the establishment, are being progressively replaced with a ubiquitous mechanism of control by way of incessant cybernetic feedback, polling and marketing. As such, human social relations and social space, both private and public, have been reduced to a kind of market where the expression of meaning and communicating between people most often takes the shallow form of advertisement, and where normal human activities of connecting are reduced to their social or market value... With the onset of new media and networking, Deleuze notes both an extension and an intensification of capitalism. The spread of technologically manufactured culture, what Adorno called the culture industry, or mass culture, permeates every aspect of the public psyche and infects the social fabric of global communities. When people are homogenized, when social, economic, and cultural homogenization becomes the moral standard and their desires controlled, possibilities of resistance are, they claim, if not rendered impossible, at least strongly diminished. It is of importance, then, to invent ways of thinking that would enable people to break free with the onslaught of cultural relativism and the vortex of homogenous information. In order to do so, they would need to escape the narcissistic necrosis into which techno-capitalist economies have put them. Deleuze seems to pay more attention to processes of subjectivation in an era of false smooth spaces and generalized homogenization under the impact of marketing. To counteract the weakening of creative resistance Deleuze insists on the process of subjectification: finding ones self. In addition to channeling people's desires, societies of control base their strategies on the accelerated circulation of information and the selling of manufactured products that now lay claim to the arts... Deleuze seems rather pessimistic about the emergence of new singular and collective assemblages. The emergence of new voices -- like those of the proletariat or those of the Third World in 1968 and its aftermath -- is no longer possible in a global world of advertising where all values are calibrated under the sign of money. Because of money, speech, for Deleuze, is rotten to the core: 'Maybe speech and communication have been corrupted to such an extent today that they're thoroughly permeated by the profit maxim -- and not by accident but by their very nature... For Deleuze, in global societies of control that function by virtue of new media, it is impossible to capture human meaning through speech. In an information based society, cognitive skills of calculation replace a more psychoanalytic concept of fraying, mechanical reflexes replace conscious self-reflection and acquisition replaces creativity. The making of creative connections between people in society and the opening of passages that lead to significant interpersonal relations, becomes much more difficult and not something that can be accomplished in a relaxed state. . Unlike simple revolution, persuading the people of today to become aware of the invisible walls of control that imprison them requires excessive amounts of power and intelligence. After all, you cannot escape a prison if you don't know you are in one... Real revolution can only occur when there is an opposing force that can be practically criticized and revolted against; people cannot protest against societies that are immune to effective criticism especially when they are controlled to such an extent that the society itself advertises itself as an open and free society... It is not so much the digital technologies themselves but how they are implemented in the new society that leads to oppression and arborescent thinking. How then, faced with the new mechanism of control, can creative resistance be marshaled in a society of control that optimizes a seamless, smooth circulation of information. While Deleuze recognizes both the increasing difficulty if resistance and a weakening of a generalized becoming-minitorian, the restates the necessity not only of making rhizomes and lines, but also of having continued recourse to the war machine in a nascent digital era, primarily to dispel dominant values that, for him, are associated with technocratic neo-capitalism and marketing... The media have reduced everything to sameness: consumers worldwide have the same imaginary; their sensorial reality is composed of the same pabulum of images and photographs. To bring about transformation, homogenous people produced by mass media have to be replaced by processes of self-discovery. Guattari takes great pains to distinguish between the vitamin fed fake creation that is part of the capitalist system and another creativity that leads to the opening of new spaces. Of importance in a world of increasing homogeneity is to make possible the emergence of new forms -- even of mutations -- that is, of new singular and collective assemblages. To resist dominant arborescent thinking imposed by the media in the guise of a faulty smooth space of information... With the onset of a digital world there is an obsession with communication that enables the spread of advertising and marketing. Resistance, as it was known in the 1960s and 70s, has definitely been weakened. It is the intensification of capitalism and the appropriation of the mass media by a global elite that produce zombie-like subjects and prevent people from thinking creatively. Marketing, and an unprecedented fetishizing of money, aim at controlling the imaginary and doing away with the desire for resistance and emancipation. The digital world includes new forms of psychological oppression -- infantalization and control of the masses and the re-creation or complicating of new inequalities -- but also forms of liberation; the freedom to connect and open up new spaces... The capitalism that Deleuze and Guattari designated as the main culprit to be resisted has been displaced by the ubiquitous catchwords of democracy and human rights. The question today is less one of opposing the old enemy of capitalism than of creating feasible democracy. As Jacques Derrida wrote in 2003 before his death, the term ``democracy`` is bandied around as a clichè. When people create or invent new ideas, they do not know if they play the social game in their niche or if they actually work to destroy these niches, and produce and put in circulation differences that cannot be assimilated by the dominant state of the world."

"For Deleuze any machine or technology is social before it is technical. As Deleuze states in his essay on societies of control, any technology or machine is an expression of a given social form, and is neither its cause nor its effect. For this reason machines can and do exist on any scale and can be both material and immaterial, visible or invisible, human or cybernetic. Contemporary machines express something about a given society of today... Computers are the latest technological evolution and, significantly, a further mutation of capitalism that excretes from every pore of the control society. The digital societal assemblage has a complexity that goes well beyond the simplicity of increased control offered by Boolean logic and binary digit, and the very term 'control', like the term 'digital', needs unpacking... We know from Norbert Weiners text on cybernetics `control in the animal and the machine` that the word `cybernetic` is derived from the Greek word for `governor`. Thus it is often said that if human beings are cybernetic, if they have been ``mechanized``, it is because the government itself is not really human but is ultimately ruled by social technology. Weiner`s notion of cybernetics and society states that linguistic feedback in humans was the most primary evolvement towards the more advanced technologies that we would say control us in the present... A theory of cybernetics is not complete without a mathematical model of entropy and its expression in specific kinds of information which Weiner has developed from Shannon and Gibbs, a principle of energy, information, entropy and the statistical mechanics of the gaseous state of matter. If disciplinary man was a discontinuous producer of energy, the man of control is undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network of fluidic and gaseous states. This is what allows the element of control to permeate, manipulate, aggravate and form public opinion the same way as does the media... Deleuze and Guattari`s problematizations of machines lead them to a concept of a multiplicity without an essence, or better, a `nomadic`essence. Machines are, in a word, multiplicities. Guattari advocates viewing machines in their `complex totality`, in all their `technological, social, semiological and axiological avatars... Everywhere, Control is replacing discipline as an abstract machine that invests the entire social field today. Although it is also a function of disciplinary assemblages, control as an abstract machine differs from discipline in many ways. In control societies, the form of content, the machinic form, is the distributed network, whose model supplants the Panopticon as a diagram of control. Distributed networks deterritorialize the disciplinary assemblage. There is a shift from mastery over visible space to the integrated management of information, and control operates less through confinement than through the use of tracking systems that follow you, so to speak, out the door and into the open. The abstract machine of control no longer `normalizes`its object, as discipline does. Normative information rather is integrated into numerous codes of society. The numerical language of control, say`s Deleuze, is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it, for example your passwords or DNA. Codes are the form of expression or enunciation in control societies; unlike norms, which demand prolonged educational, political, social, religious or ethical training to instill, codes only require programming and activation... Society is basically an encoding machine. This is the social machine`s supreme task. To code women and children, flows of herds of sheep, of seed, sperm flows, flows of shit, menstrual flows: nothing must escape coding... Immanent within society are `decoding`machines that carry it away and open it to the outside. Capital is such a machine. . Deleuze and Guattari note that the general business of the pre-capitalist social machine is to overcode flows of desire. Capital decodes these codes and places them in flux. Decoded desire and the desire for decoding exist in all societies, even pre-capitalist ones, but capitalism turns them into axioms and ends of production. This does not mean codes do not exist in capitalist societies. In fact they proliferate even more -- in the way, for example, fashion codes proliferate through their continuous decoding, or decoded DNA can be recoded. . Capital does not aim to make codes extinct but to produce fluid codes that adapt to its changing technical means of control. In disciplinary societies, capital takes a code of enclosure originally designed for prisons and adapts it to factories, schools, homes and other sites of production... The code of enclosure in disciplinary societies is the panoptic formula of `seeing without being seen`. In control societies, capital decodes the panoptic code of enclosure, which is no longer sufficient to model flows of information across networks. In this same way control societies experiment with the limits of panoptic enclosure and the serial connection of spaces. These are organized by a model not of visibility, but of communication over distributed networks. Distributed networks are relatively deterritorialized in the sense that they are not bound by location, but are not totally free either. Instead, they have logins and passwords that allow or restrict access to them. Instead of enclosing you, your body, they enclose your information... Postmodern capital continuously decodes these codes, since networks are always in flux and information threatens to leak in and out... In one sense, control societies are just disciplinary societies in a radically decoded form. . The project of technological neo-capitalism today is to engineer the disciplines directly into our DNA, which after all is just coded information. The final frontier in this project is to transform human society into a distributed bio-network of memetic machines, whose relations nano-technologies can adjust in real time, all in the name of power and money. Decode and deterritorialize enclosure, make it flow... Deleuze remarks at the end of his essay that, in control societies, the corporation, not the prison or the government, becomes the model of every organization. Corporate capital breaks down walls in order to deconstruct every human desire, every social relation, percept, affect and concept, indeed the entirety of natural life on the planet that is capable of co-modification by being commercialized, photographed on a massive scale and either stored or shared over the internet... Deleuze is not referring to the centralized, stratified, hierarchical corporation of the past. The postmodern corporation of consumer democracies is a distributed global network. . Global business, global labour, global exploitation, all operate under the new imperatives of fluidity and `flexibility`. But what has changed with control societies is not just the institutional model that organizes it, but its machinic form. Deleuze says that disciplinary societies `modeled individuals`while control societies `modulate them`... There is nothing mysterious about what Deleuze calls `dividuals`in control societies. They are the opposite of individuals. They are the producers of the new `dividing practices`in politics and society, the practices that distribute information rather than bodies, and that use networks rather than physical enclosures to separate and distribute functions. Can the dividuals of today be considered `subjects` in the traditional and modern sense. Not in Foucault`s sense of disciplined, normalized people. They are not self-controlled but `controlled in advance`, through simulation and modeling, more designed than docile. Dividuals are database constructions, derived from rich, highly textured information on ranges of individuals that can be recombined in endless ways for whatever purposes. They are the abstract digital producers of data-mining technologies and search engines and computer profiling, and they are profiled digital targets of advertising, insurance schemes and opinion polls. A dividual is a data distribution open to precise modulation, stripped down to whatever information construct is required for a specific intervention, task or transaction. . . Increasingly postmodern subjectivity is defined by interaction with information meshes and the fractal dividuals they produce. Although discipline is an abstract machine taken over by capital and its socio-technical mechanisms of control in the 19th century, there is no necessary historical alignment between them. Discipline in a society organized along non-capitalist, non-technical lines would take very different and, perhaps, far more positive forms. It is not discipline per se that is the issue, but how as an abstract machine it conjoins a socio-technical assemblage (for example, capitalist means of production) and a deterritorialized, decoded environment (for example non-capitalist modes of consumption.) There is still much to understand about how discipline creates the potential for positive social encounters, rather than the exploitative relations and destroyed communities and traditions of capitalist societies... In an interesting argument that draws on Deleuze and Guattari, Hardt and Paul Negri suggest that networks produce a new `common`, and that this common takes the form of the public `multitude`. It is the common and the multitude that today constitute the outside of the distributed network, what the abstract machine of control simultaneously produces and excludes, what it encloses yet what escapes it at every turn. The new `common`, as Hardt and Negri describe it, refers to the hegemony of 'immaterial production' in the postmodern global organization of labour. Ultimately immaterial production is geared not just to the manufacture of goods and services... Hardt and Negri recognize that the problem of the information common involves not only class and labour issues but the control of life itself in all its complexity. It is not just technical production, however. . Hardt and Negri describe the global context of bio-power as a permanent state of civil war, governed by exceptionalism and unilateralism in global politics and economics, high-intensity police actions, preemptive strikes, and of course network control. The dominant climate of the new common is fear and greed, accompanied by the need for security (or the absence of risk.)... In post-modernity, the need for security replaces defense as the moral justification for global police intervention of all kinds, in military matters to be sure, but also in economic, political and cultural affairs, in matters of health, sexuality, education, entertainment, and so on... In arguments reminiscent of Marx, that the development of the means of global communication create the potential for revolutionary organization of labour, Hardt and Negri show how global information systems have not only destabilized traditional forms of private property and cut across class divisions, but have also cut across the natural differences of race, gender and other hierarchies, producing a common poverty... Contemporary non-issues such as racism, feminism and gay rights have been fundamentally re-thought and over-complicated their premise that they have resurfaced problems in society aggravated by the very progressive forces that demand greater equality... Deleuze does not have a politics of control societies, if that implies a unitary concept or critique of them. A politics cannot be separated from an ethics, an aesthetics, a technics and so on. The problem is rather the multiplicity of assemblages and the abstractness of control. Nothing privileges political over aesthetic, technical or other forms of resistance to network control. The use of networks in art, network practices like file-sharing, hacking, encryption, the use of proxies for anonymity, pod-casting, denial of service attacks, open-source application development, along with more traditional methods like refusal to use networks, unplugging, and so on -- there is many ways to resist information control... Just as there is no universal form of control, there is no universal mode of resistance to control... Because control societies are just beginning, our knowledge of them is only categorical. No one can predict the direction that control society will take in the future. Certainly the corporate-state war machine will attempt to create and use the organization of community and community based networks to its own advantage... In his essay, Deleuze notes a shift from the factory form of organization, to which discipline belongs, to that of the corporation, to which the new form of control belongs. He describes the corporation as being `gaseous`, that is, as a fluid. This is significant, because if one can conceive of the corporation as fluid in character, then its actions must take on the character of a fluid as well. Since the postmodern corporation is not built on a conceptual hierarchy with an owner, a president or boss, managers and so forth, the corporation is essentially autonomous and autocratic, its mode of organization is no different from that of a gas... Weiner`s cybernetics also proposes to look at mechanical behavior in systems and says that cybernetics must be founded on the great revolution of Gibbs and Boltzmann`s statistical mechanics. The statistical mechanics of gases and fluid, of free floating molecules, Brownian motion etc. best describe the structural limits of the corporation -- a cybernetic society of control... According to Ashby's cybernetic model of feedback and information, all life is potentially mechanical, depending on the kind of information that it communicates. In the control society, just as much as the disciplinary one, humans are not only `potential`machines but, the decline in the essence of life, has converted most of the masses into organic (cybernetic) robots who now float in a gaseous, artificial, ecosystem. Humans become reduced to cultural cyborgs, and culture becomes reduced to active memes..."

"The third instrument Deleuze views as significant is the test. The test replaces the examination. Crucially, tests require no awareness of them ever being conducted, and, to the extent that one may be aware of being tested, there is, again, never a clear model in place to adhere to. Tests are important for determining the pattern of behaviour one exemplifies, which is why, Deleuze says, marketing may well be a key form of social control today as it relies strongly on testing to determine patterns of consumption that aid in economic domination. . The freedom imagined by the Enlightenment dream of reason -- the multiple liberations from ignorance, disease, tyranny, the pathological -- is continually territorialized by strategies of economic domination... The carceral network of power-knowledge installed by a proliferating economy of expert judges of normality, (psychiatrists, teachers, diploma holders,) creates subjects who practice self-control, who are continually self-diagnosing, made docile by a fear of being and becoming pathological, Oedipalized by a fear of lack... Because of digital technology in the world at the present time, it is becoming clear, that we are entering a post-disciplinary, or hyper-oedipal, era of control and paranoia. The shift from discipline to control, from the cane to the psychiatric drug, describes the neo-liberal corporate exploitation of disorder. The economic inefficiency of the cane is replaced by the lucrative multiplicity of continually updated pharmaceutical drugs. In this context the disordered body is opened up to a direct economic harvest that is also a continual remolding of the bio-politics of disorder... This new political anatomy of chemical control transmits a new normative language that animates the detailed machinery of pathologization, which speaks of shifting chemical imbalances in the brain, intensifying the micro-politics of diagnosis, ensnaring the body in ever tightening chemical coils of control. . For example, recent developments in pharmaco-genomics have created third-generation anti-depressants that claim to be fabricated at a molecular level to target the precise neuronal mechanisms that underlie depressive symptoms... As a post-human disciplinary tool, the psychiatric pill, passes through the surface of the body in order to modify it at the molecular level. . . After the second world war there is an intensification of psyche-complex regimes of normative control that marketed as the democratic reform of previous systems of authoritarian discipline. This is known as the therapeutic turn. A crisis in the disciplinary authority of the institution becomes a crisis of reason that produces an affective psyche-politics and installs systems of therapeutic governmentality... Preventative psychiatry over-codes social problems as mental health issues, the individuals inability to integrate into the control society must be a problem with the health of the individual. A rapid increase in the economic power of the medical-industrial complex results in the corporatization of health and well-being. The diagnosis of new forms of mental illness requires the application of ever new pharmaceutical drugs... The emergence of "mass psychiatry" shifts the focus from mental illness to mental health, over-coding a range of social problems as mental health issues and offering proliferating methods of treatment... Increasing in economic and social status after the second world war, psychiatry announces a project of complete physical, mental and social well-being within the home, the church, the school, the prison and industrial firms. It calls for the world-wide mobilization of psychiatry. . Anxieties about social disorder become crises in mental health and opportunities for psychiatry-styled social reforms that medicalize the political agenda and expand the political boundaries of the psyche-complex... For a growing body of sociological and cultural theorists the emergence of affective politics has brought about a tightening of normative regimens: in the name of mental health, happiness and well-being, contemporary forms of therapeutic governmentality have intensified the micro-politics of control. For example, state sponsored happiness programs that aim to enhance well-being represent a new politics of behaviour that infantilizes people as discontented children... Just as society is imagined as a patient, or as diseased, citizens are treated as dysfunctional, wounded children who require re-parenting by the psyche-complex... The crises of the rational human subject are predominantly read in the psychoanalytic or therapeutic terms as a breakdown of systems of patriarchical discipline and liberating breakthrough of affective, empathic, other-sensitive, fluidic feminine thought. While such positions rest often on crypto-normative psychoanalytic claims about healthy forms of embodiment, the psyche as political paradigm continues to dominate the high end of feminist and cultural theory... Deleuze and his close relations with his teacher, the French rock star of psychoanalysis, Jacques Law-can, influenced much of his reinterpretation and break with traditional Freudian theories -- particularly the theory of the Oedipus complex. After the events of May 1968, Deleuze and Guattari became involved at various levels in political, social and psychoanalytic activities in France that saw the intensification by 1974 of socio-cultural movements in academic and cosmopolitan social circles from Paris to Nantes... In 1975 to 1977, 175,000 people formed the anti-nuclear coalition movement protesting against the use of nuclear power. The same year, the French government would legalize the rights to abortion. . The French cosmopolitan underground movements that flourished during the 1970s were an elite social movement of educated publics who were inspired by the work of Deleuze, Guattari and Foucault as well as the anti-psychiatry movement represented by the Scottish psychiatrist, R D, Lang. At the time, Guattari worked with patients under Jean Oury at the La Borde private clinic just south of Paris. La Borde was considered a landmark to French anti-psychiatry. But listening to its director, Jean Oury, is enough to convince the most reticent that a wide gulf separated the institutional psychotherapy enforced at La Borde, inspired by the teachings of Francois Tosquelles, from the theses of anti-psychiatry. La Borde unashamedly practiced psychiatry... Guattari's groundbreaking theories of "schizo-analysis": a process meant to replace Freudian interpretation with a more pragmatic, experimental, and collective approach to psychoanalysis. Unlike secular Freudianism, which utilizes neuroses as the working model, Guattari adopted the model of schizophrenia which he believed to be an extreme mental state induced by the capitalist system itself, and one that enforces neurosis as a way of maintaining normality... Unlike psychiatry and psychology, psychoanalysis in Deleuzian-Lacanian method, is not relayed from one subject to another, still less from knowledgeable analyst to naive analysand; rather, the analysis provides a space in which the analysand's relation to psychoanalysis can be changed. The idea of collective therapy was a very popular practice amongst the educated cliques and party-goers of Paris during the mid to late 70s., what is often called dual analysis involved a non-serial relationship between the analyst and the analysand. The analysand was treated, not as a patient, but as an psychoanalyst herself... In this situation people with marginal knowledge or training could participate in analyzing each other in subject-groups or parties and, the experience, was often enhanced through the responsible use of drugs like cocaine, in the 1970s, or ecstasy by the 1980s... In the domains of general practice and state sponsored psychiatric clinics, the general attitudes towards mental health in countries outside France are still several decades behind the times, and, are only now beginning to modernize their approach... Societies of control mark a certain transformation in politics, coinciding with, as Jacques Ranciere would say, the age of post-politics, where a dull, media-managed and technocratic consensus seems to have replaced the ideological conflicts of the past, and where the line between public and private domains becomes indiscernible... There can be little doubt that we are living today in a control society. The signs are all around us: ubiquitous CCTV cameras filming public spaces; the introduction of bio-metric scanning and face recognition technology in major airports; the planned implementation of ID cards in the UK and elsewhere -- cards which would contain bio-metric information, widespread DNA testing for even minor offenses, and the setting up of national DNA databases; the use of electronic monitoring bracelets for offenders or terrorist suspects placed under home detention; the use of smart cards on public transport systems and for accessing health services, and so on. We are seeing the development -- bit by bit -- of an all-encompassing system of surveillance and regulation, the weaving of an intricate web of overlapping circuits of control, information gathering and identification. We live in a society that is more closely and minutely monitored, regulated and policed than ever before, where personal privacy is more or less non-existent, and where information about our whereabouts, personal details and spending habits is ceaselessly collected by both governments and corporations (the two entities are now all but indistinguishable). De Tocqueville, in his exploration of American democracy in the 19th century spoke of a new despotism there, an immense and protective power that stands above the race of men and keeps them in perpetual childhood. Today we can find this protective power operating in societies of control -- where surveillance technologies and government paternalism combine to hold us in a state of perpetual thraldom and dependency."

+ The Societies of Control
+ Deleuze-Guattari: Societies of Control and Antipsychiatry


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