Read om Marx och Foucault

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[Från The micro-politics of capital av Jason Read.]

In the previous chapter we saw that primitive accumulation was not just a violent transformation—the violent birth throes of the rise of the capitalist mode of production—but was itself a transformation of the form of violence—from the sporadic and bloody violence of the feudal mode of production to the more or less quotidian acts of exploitation and domination. Marx indicates the trans-formation through a series of figures, or allegories, in which aspects of sovereign power, or even ancient power, are displaced from the political sphere and placed within the capitalist mode of production. For example, Marx writes in the same paragraph of "the law giving talent of the factory Lycurgus" and that "[i]n the factory code, the capitalist formulates his autocratic power over his workers like private legislator, and purely as an emanation of his own will, unaccompanied by either that division of responsibility otherwise so much approved by the bourgeoisie, or the still more approved representative system" (CI 550/447). Marx employs all the characters and figures of world history from ancient Greece to Asiatic despotism to present the power of capital. Beyond and within these rhetorical figures of power, Marx entertains a sustained comparison between the supervision of workers within the capitalist mode of production and military discipline.

The technical subordination of the worker to the uniform motion of the instruments of labor, and the peculiar composition of the working group consisting as it does of individuals of both sexes, and all ages, gives rise to a barrack-like discipline [kasernenmäßige Disziplin], which is elaborated into a complete system in the factory, and brings the previously mentioned labor of superintendence to its fullest development, thereby dividing the workers into manual laborers and overseers, into the private soldiers and the N.C.O.s of an industrial army. (CI 550/447)

These figures and formulations could be understood in the manner of an Althusserian symptomatic reading, as figures standing in the place of a concept that is absent: the concept of the form of power produced by and productive of the capitalist mode of production.
This absent concept has perhaps been produced by Foucault. Even though Foucault did not intend to complete, or stitch together, Marx's remarks on the formation of power in the capitalist mode of production, by providing an investigation of power in capitalism, his analysis of disciplinary power converges with Marx on several points: First, as I have already noted, there is the transition from power organized according to the "law" and its "transgression" to power organized ac-cording to a norm. Power organized according to the law, what Foucault calls "sovereign power," can only respond or punish with respect to a transgression. It is thus by nature binary: There are only two terms: legal and illegal. A "norm," however, allows for an infinite gradation of distinctions—one can always fall short of a norm—thus there is the possibility for an infinite intervention, continual surveillance, and improvement. This is perhaps the distinction that Marx presented in the figure of the penal code operative on the factory floor: It is not simply a matter of the movement of political power to a different space but a transformation of that power in such a way that its manner of functioning, objectives, and techniques have fundamentally changed.
The history of the formation of capital is also a history of different techniques and technologies of power. As Foucault summarizes, "[O]ne can find between the lines of Capital an analysis, or at least the sketch of an analysis, which would be the history of the technology of power, such as it was exercised in the workshops and factories." At the center of this "sketch" is a specific problem: the modification of the structure and terrain of violence that is part of the formation of the capitalist mode of production. In the passages on primitive accumulation Marx illustrates this passage by setting the sporadic, excessive, and bloody feudal violence—a violence that passes through the state—against the quotidian, standardized, coercion of the capitalist factory. On this point as well, Foucault's analysis of disciplinary power can be read as an elaboration of a nascent theory of the transformation of power and violence in Marx. Foucault argues that disciplinary power is both an ef-fect of and condition of the emergence of capitalism."
Prior to the formation of capitalism, in feudalism wealth rested in land and in the accumulated hoards of lords and sovereigns, relatively and secure. With the development of capitalism, wealth or the production of value became dependent on the intersection between the bodies of workers and an increasingly expensive productive apparatus (machinery, tools, transportation networks). This transformation exposes the wealth and power of the newly emergent bourgeois class to new types of illegality: An entire level of quotidian "illegalities"—thefts, sabotage, and occupation—that the old system could tolerate now become intolerable. "The way in which wealth tended to be invested, on a much larger scale than ever before, in commodities and machines presupposed a systematic, armed intolerance of illegality." At the same time as the new grid of power inserts itself into the networks of property, defending it and guarding, it also acts on subjects—making them not only obedient but productive. "The problem is then to attach workers firmly to the production apparatus, to settle them or move them where it needs to subject them to its rhythm, to impose the constancy or regularity on them that it requires—in short, to constitute them as a labor force. Thus with capitalism there emerges an "ensemble of techniques through which the bodies and time of men become labor-time and labor-power." Disciplinary power produces a population, or a laboring subject, which is both productive, according to the norms and demands of abstract labor, and docile.
Although Foucault's analysis of disciplinary power offers something of an elaboration and clarification of the form of power that coincides with the development of the capitalist mode of production, there remains a profound difference between Foucault and Marx on the historical progression and formation of this type of power. Foucault's analysis of "disciplinary power" has its place in a genealogy of the contemporary structures of modern power, while Marx's comments or figures of the formation of power in capitalism are situated against the backdrop of a larger examination, or series of examinations, most notably the history of the formation and transformation of the capitalist mode of production and the increasing intensive and extensive extraction of surplus value. This difference is not just a distinction of the respective backdrop of a concept, it is ultimately a distinction in what I referred to earlier as a logic of presentation. Which is to suggest that what is at stake between these two different presentations is not simply a matter of competing philosophies of history—a history of the different power formations and their investment of the body as opposed to a history of the capitalist mode of production—but rather an understanding of the materiality of power. By materiality here I mean the multiple and complex effects that power has, not only on other powers, or strategies, but also the inscription of the effects of power in different practices and institutions.
Framed in these terms we can see the most striking similarities and differences between Marx and Foucault's conceptions of power. In terms of similarities we can locate in each a "transversal" conception of power: Power is not located in one level or instance of the social field, as in the state, but traverses different institutions and practices. Power is heterogeneous; one can only speak of powers and their di-verse interactions. A consequence of this conception of power is that despite Foucault's and Marx's attentiveness to the concrete history of institutions (prisons, hospitals, and factories, etc.) these institutions are not themselves explanatory of social relations and conflict, but must be explained by the relations of power. Thus Marx and Foucault are perhaps linked in the simple fact that they both must produce a concept of a higher order of "abstraction" to account for the power re-lations that traverse the social field. For Marx this concept is the mode of produc-tion, which is not simply the economy but the complex and mutually determinate relations between economic, political, and social relations. In Marx's words:

It is in each case the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the immediate producers—a relationship whose particular form naturally corresponds always to a certain level of development of the type and manner of labor, and hence to its social productive power—in which we find the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social edifice, and hence also the political form of the relationship of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the specific form of state in each case.

The concept of the mode of production short-circuits any a priori division between the political sphere and the economic sphere, a division constitutive of not only bourgeois political economy but also political theory in general. It replaces this division with a history of the complex relation between a particular relation of labor—the technological conditions—and the state. A similar violation of the divisions between the economic and the political runs through Foucault's understanding of disciplinary power. Disciplinary power intersects with new technologies and demands of production as much as it intersects with new developments in the penal code. As Balibar argues:

"Discipline" and "micro-power" therefore represent at the same time the other side of economic exploitation and the other side of juridico-political class domination, which they make it possible to see as a unity; that is to say, they come into play exactly at the point of the "short-circuit" which Marx sets up between economics and politics, society, and state.

Moreover, Foucault's thought of an apparatus (Dispositif) is written against any presupposed division or causal structure of divergent practices. An apparatus is constituted by a heterogeneous set of practices—for example, in the case of the "disciplinary apparatus" this would include a particular legal relation, an economic relation, architectural forms (the prison and the factory), as well as an entire set of discourses and forms of knowledge. Thus Foucault's apparatus comes close to certain dimensions of Marx's concept of the mode of production: In each case it is the articulation of the relations between disparate elements. For Foucault, the connection between these diverse elements is only generated by a specific relation of power, or strategic situation.

[T]he apparatus as such is constituted and enabled to continue in existence insofar as it is the site of a double process. On the one hand, there is a process of functional overdetermination, because each effect—positive or negative, intentional or unintentional—enters into resonance or contradiction with the others and thereby calls for a readjustment or a re-working of the heterogeneous elements that surface at various points. On the other hand, there is a perpetual process of strategic elaboration. Take the example of imprisonment, that apparatus which had the effect of making measures of detention appear to be the most efficient and rational method that could be applied to the phenomenon of criminality. What did this apparatus produce? An entirely unforeseen effect which had nothing to do with any kind of strategic ruse on the part of some meta- or trans-historic subject conceiving it or willing it.

In each case the apparently static and stable forms and institutions of the political and social field must be connected to the power relations and conflicts of power that provoke and determine them.
Negri suggests that Marx's use of the term mode of production encompasses both a world historical sense—the passage from the Asiatic to the capitalist mode of production, developed most strongly in the notebook on precapitalist economic formations—and, on a smaller scale, the transformation of the technological and social conditions of labor from handicrafts to large-scale industry, analyzed in Capital. Bracketing for a moment Negri's decision to identify the second as the "appropriate" definition of the mode of production, it is possible to find another important parallel with Foucault. As Deleuze writes with respect to Foucault:

This thesis concerning dispositifs of power seemed to me to move in two directions, in no way contradictory, but distinct. In both cases, these dispositifs were irreducible to a State apparatus. But according to one direction, they consisted of a diffuse and heterogeneous multiplicity, "micro-dispositifs." According to another direction, they referred to a diagram, a kind of abstract machine immanent to the entire social field (hence panopticism, defined by the general function of seeing without being seen and applicable to any multiplicity). These were, so to speak, the two directions of microanalysis, both equally important, since the second showed that Michel was not satisfied with a "dissemination."

For both Foucault and Marx the "structure," apparatus or mode of production, is stretched to include, on the one hand, the entire social field, while it is also reduced, on the other hand, to include the multiplicity of specific spatial instantiations of this structure. As Marx writes in the Grundrisse: "Production is always a particular branch of production—e.g. agriculture, cattle raising, manufactures etc.—or it is a totality" (G 86/21). It is with respect to this first direction, the specific apparatus or particular branch of production, that the structure is more thoroughly identified and implicated within a concrete and even technological instance, such as the factory or the prison. If these directions are, as Deleuze argues with respect to Foucault, noncontradictory, they are also nonidentical. The relation between the two directions is one of tension: between the immanent cause and its specific instances. Capitalism, the capitalist mode of production, cannot be identified with the factory, just as "disciplinary" power cannot be identified with the prison. The immanent social field is constituted by a multiplicity of apparatuses or relations, in the case of capitalism, the mode of production is also constituted by relations of distribution and consumption, which, although constitutive of the social field, have differing and divergent logics from those found in production proper. The nonidentity of the two directions of analysis—the immanent relations of the social field and the concrete structures—is also the nonidentity of the antagonistic strategies across these vectors. Resistances on the smaller scale, in the factory or prison, have different effects on the larger scale.
It is also on the issue of the logic and relations of antagonism that Marx and Foucault diverge. For Marx the multiplicity of instances of struggle are always reducible, at least virtually, to the conflict over exploitation, with the reduction of labor time and the materiality of need, on one side, and the demand for exploitation—the reduction of necessary labor and the increase of surplus value—on the other side. Whereas in Marx there is a primacy of antagonism, with its implicit bifurcation of the social, in Foucault one finds agonism, the multiplicity of conflict-ual relations. Marx gave different versions of this reduction: At times, as in The German Ideology, it is based on the historic tendency of "proletarianization," the reduction of all social functions to labor and the reduction of all labor to its simplest and most precarious forms; while at other times, most notably in the Grundrisse, the simplification of antagonisms is based on the development of the forces of production to the point at which labor exhausts itself as the basis of value. On the other hand, Foucault maintains a fundamental plurality or multiplicity of relations of power. Any division or duality of power into two camps must itself be produced by an interlinking of the various and singular sites of power.
Marx and Foucault can also be distinguished, or even opposed, with respect to the manner in which they situate the problem of subjectivity. For the most part, Marx subordinates the analysis of the production of subjectivity to an analysis of material production: Transformations of subjectivity are addressed only insofar as they intersect with the transformations and conflicts of material production. However, this marginalization of the problem of the production subjectivity is profoundly complicated by Marx's recognition of the co-implication of capitalism and an abstract subjective power of living labor. In Marx there is the recognition of an abstract subjective activity that is constitutive of the capitalist mode of production combined with incomplete fragments toward an analysis of how this potential is formed into concrete and determinate subjects. It is possible to find not so much an opposing emphasis in Foucault's work but at least an emphasis that can be productively opposed to Marx. Foucault focuses almost exclusively on the manner in which different regimes of power constitute different subjects, and at times this focus seems to virtually exclude anything like a thought of abstract subjective activity that exceeds this process of subjection. However, in Foucault's later works, the immanence of the production of subjectivity to power and knowledge relations is paired with an increasing insistence on the irreducibility of subjectivity to the conditions of its production. It is an effect of power, but it is never merely an effect of power. As Deleuze writes, "Foucault's fundamental idea is that of a dimension of subjectivity derived from power and knowledge without being dependent on them." Subjectivity is not exterior to the relations of power, but it constitutes an added dimension, which is the possibility for resistance, for an invention irreducible to its conditions. Thus, what appears at first as a difference of emphasis, or even a different understanding of the term subjectivity—Marx focuses on an abstract subjective potential prior to subjection, while Foucault focuses on the particular modes of subjection—can also be understood as a different way of framing the immanence of subjectivity to the "structure." In Marx the immanence of subjectivity to the capitalist mode of production is posited through the immanence of living labor to capital—for Foucault it is the immanence of subjectivity to the relations of power and knowledge that produce it. The relation between the two ideas borders on an inversion: With Marx, subjectivity—living labor power—is immanent to the structure—capital—which it produces; while for Foucault, subjectivity—the specific historically constituted subjectivity—is immanent to the structures—the relations of knowledge and power—that produce it.
The point here is not to develop an exhaustive account of the relation between Foucault and Marx but to develop specific problems in the logic of the relation between living and abstract labor. Thus what is framed above as a series of sharp divergences between Marx and Foucault will be rephrased as a series of questions or problems for the examination of this relation. First, What is the relation between the plurality of conflictual instances and the duality of antagonism? In other words, What is the relation between the complexity of the mode of production—the intersection of political, economic, social, and technical practices—and the dualistic antagonism between labor turned toward the needs, desires, and creative power of the laboring subjects and labor as the activity subordinated to the demand for surplus value? Second, how is it possible to think of living labor, and the subjectivity it entails, as fully immanent to capital (as both productive of and produced by) without reducing it to a mute effect of capital? Inversely, How is it possible to think invention or resistance without recourse to a dimension of transcendence? If one has a taste for generality, or intellectual history, these two problems could be rephrased as a question of the relation between subjectivity and structure.