endless postponement
February 21, 2010, 1:05 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , ,

I have been thinking recently about how strongly people seem to bristle when they believe someone is lecturing them.  Some people, especially in today’s super charged political culture, have a strong aversion to people who give speeches that try to define how we have lived, are living, should live.  That’s not for me! they scream, leave me alone!  This crowd – mob may be more accurate – doesn’t want the stricture of sets of rules constraining their perceived freedoms.  In a way, I agree.  I’ve come to believe that too many rules often mean there’s a moralist lurking and it will serve you well to move on.

But it always depends on the content of what is being pitched.  That’s a maxim that’s ridiculously easy to illustrate: don’t drink that tenth litre of coke.  You don’t even need to say, it’s not good for you, or, you’ll die.

The following quotation describes two visions of society, one by Deleuze which he calls control; and the other by Foucault called disciplinary.   I see the disciplinary society as classically modern and the control society as postmodern.  The disciplinary society holds broad belief structures true:  management, labour, disputes are clearly defined constructs that relate to each other in clearly predictable ways.  In this society, the world is finite and definable and, presumably, you can sleep at night.

The control society, on the other hand is constantly shifting and operates, according to Deleuze, in orbits instead of linearly: I’m up, now you’re up, but now I’m certified, she’s credentialed, you’re laid off, he’s middle management, you’re middling, I’m studying for exams, that position is terminated, we’ve been merged and taken over, we’re team players, at each other’s throats, sink or swim.  When the only constant is change, your head spins, incredulously, looking for a place to get off, and stand, and assess and maybe live.

The mob I described in my first paragraph are screaming for more control culture.  They are being offered stasis, predictability, specifically the guarantees of personal and social freedoms as defined at the advent of the modern, egalitarian state.  But they’ll have none of it and, presumably, will go on spinning in their disorienting orbits, perpetually postponing the opportunity to take hold of a chance at sanity and meaning.

Here is the description of Deleuze’s control society and Foucault’s disciplinary society —

Deleuze quite clearly sees this control society as a threat as bad as, perhaps worse than, the disciplinary society Foucault described. In the disciplinary society, factories produced a body of workers that could be controlled en masse by management, as well as an avenue of mass resistance via unions. But in the control society, we’re not talking about factories producing goods, we’re talking about businesses producing services; in this society, individuals relate to each other, compete against each other, and their wages fluctuate continually, ‘bringing them into a state of constant metastability punctuated by ludicrous challenges, competitions, and seminars’ (p.179). This metastability is brought into education as well: ‘school is being replaced by continuing education and exams by continuous assessment. It’s the surest way of turning education into a business’ (p.179). So you have a sort of ‘endless postponement’ (cf. Body-without-Organs in A Thousand Plateaus) rather than a defined avenue of development; you travel in continuously changing ‘orbits,’ you ‘undulate,’ you find yourself switching jobs and careers and positionalities (p.180). The factory is gone, as are unions and lifetime employment; the best way to get a raise, as a friend once told me, is to switch jobs.”

Clay Spinuzzi, Reading Roundup: Deleuze on Control Societies

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[…] . A fellow blogger posts some interesting comments on this notion as well: Also, we see it in the very notion of “cloud computing”… […]

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