Posts tagged power

Posted 3 years ago
I have what I have always held to be a mildly discreditable day job, that of teaching philosophy at a university. I take it to be discreditable because about 85 percent of my time and energy is devoted to training aspiring young members of the commercial, administrative or governmental elite in the glib manipulation of words, theories and arguments. I thereby help to turn out the pliable, efficient, self-satisfied cadres that our economic and political system uses to produce the ideological carapace which protects it against criticism and change. I take my job to be only mildly discreditable, partly because I don’t think, finally, that this realm of words is in most cases much more than an epiphenomenon secreted by power relations which would otherwise express themselves with even greater and more dramatic directness. Partly, too, because 10 percent of the job is an open area within which it is possible that some of these young people might become minimally reflective about the world they live in and their place in it; in the best of cases they might come to be able and willing to work for some minimal mitigation of the cruder excesses of the pervading system of oppression under which we live. The remaining 5 percent of my job, by the way, what I would call the actual “philosophical” part, is almost invisible from the outside, totally unclassifiable in any schema known to me—and quantitatively, in any case, so insignificant that it can more or less be ignored.
Raymond Geuss, "A World Without Why?"
Posted 3 years ago

People, Power, and Public Spaces

The state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, where thousands of workers now protest the governor’s fierce attacks on collective bargaining rights, represents another case of a public commons becoming a staging ground for political resistance. The capitol, which sits right in the heart of downtown Madison, was named by Project for Public Spaces as one of the great public spaces of the world. “This is truly the town square that early Americans imagined as the crux of democracy,” the PPS website explains.

The people rallying behind public sector union workers at the Capitol are actually protected by the Wisconsin state constitution, which forbids the legislature from denying public access to the building when it is in session. (State law does permit capitol groundskeepers to clear the building in an emergency, presumably on orders of the governor—but those groundskeepers are also presumably members of the same union the governor wants to crush.)

This all shows that the exercise of democracy depends upon having a literal commons where people can gather as citizens—a square, Main Street, park, or other public space that is open to all. An alarming trend in American life is the privatization of our public realm. As corporate-run shopping malls replaced downtowns and main streets as the center of action, we lost some of our public voice. You can’t organize a rally, hand out flyers, or circulate a petition in a shopping mall without the permission of the management, which will almost certainly say no because they don’t want to distract shoppers’ attention from the merchandise. That’s why you see few benches or other gathering spots inside malls. The result is that our ability to even discuss the issues of the day (or any other subject) with our fellow citizens is limited.

Of course, public spaces enrich our lives in many ways beyond protests. Local commons become the sites of celebrations, festivals, art events, memorial services, and other expressions of community.

Posted 3 years ago


Army wants rapid-fire rubber bullets for crowd control (NewScientist):

The US Army is planning to field “rubber bullets” for machine guns. Military officials claim the ammunition will allow them to more effectively quell violent protests without loss of life, but human rights campaigners are alarmed by the new weapon.

The final design for the XM1044 round has not been selected, according to an order placed on the Federal Business Opportunities website last month, but the army’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate has been working on a ring aerofoil projectile for some years. The round is a hollow plastic cylinder 40 millimetres across, looking something like a short toilet-paper roll. In flight its shape generates lift, giving it a longer range.

The army’s existing crowd-control rounds are single shots fired from handheld grenade launchers with a range of about 50 metres – the XM1044 would double this range. It would be supplied in belts for the Mk19 grenade launcher, a truck-mounted weapon that can fire almost six rounds per second. The Mk19 has been exported to some 30 countries, including Egypt.


The scary thing about “less lethal” weapons is that they allow for force and militarization to be deployed in more and more situations.

Posted 3 years ago

The Lords of Rikers

The juvenile unit of the New York City jail is a survival-of-the-fittest finishing school for the roughest kids in New York. And an upcoming case alleges the guards run the show.

Posted 3 years ago
You just can’t pull labor and full employment apart. It’s not a matter of emphasis. A country without a strong labor movement is almost inevitably one in which economic and political power is overwhelmingly on the side of business interests and rich people, and that means you’re not going to have sustained full employment because that’s not what business interests and rich people want. It’s all about power, baby, power.
Posted 3 years ago

In epistemology it can too often seem as if a concern with truth and rationality were wholly disconnected from any concern with power and the social identities of the participants in epistemic practices. For the most part the tradition provides us with a clinically asocial conception of the knowing subject, with the result that epistemology tends to proceed as if socio-political considerations were utterly irrelevant to it. At the other extreme, there are many ‘end-of-epistemology’ and postmodernist theories (treated as either occult tendency or as the new orthodoxy, depending on the company one keeps) who tell us to abandon reason and truth as universal norms on the grounds that they are mere functions of power as it is played out in the drama of epistemic practice. Whereas on the the traditionalist view social power is seen as irrelevant to the rational, on the postmodernist view reason tends to be reduced to social power. One might venture a diagnosis: that both the traditionalist and reductivist camps make the same mistake of thinking it is an all or nothing situation, so that if social power is involved in rational proceedings in any but the must superficial of ways, then it is all up with rationality.

…These characterizations of traditionalist and reductivist extremes are somewhat artificial, of course, although I think they are not quite caricatures. They serve to delineate two contrasting and equally mistaken conceptions of how rational authority and social power are related. I shall present a different conception of the relation, which explains, firstly, why socio-political matters are a proper concern in epistemology; and, secondly, why the very possibility of bringing a politicized critical perspective to bear requires that rational authority and social power be firmly distinguished.

Miranda Fricker, “Rational Authority and Social Power: Towards a Truly Social Epistemology”

(reprinted in Social Epistemology: Essential Readings, p. 55)

Posted 3 years ago
What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
Martin Luther King Jr, “Where Do We Go from Here?”
Posted 3 years ago

Nancy Fraser, “Foucault on Modern Power: Empirical Insights and Normative Confusions,” Unruly Practices, p. 18-19

Posted 3 years ago
A patriarchal bargain is a decision to accept gender rules that disadvantage women in exchange for whatever power one can wrest from the system. It is an individual strategy designed to manipulate the system to one’s best advantage, but one that leaves the system itself intact.

Why is Kim Kardashian Famous? (via plsj)

Indeed, this is what Kardashian has done, and very successfully. So, for what is she famous? For making this bargain and getting such a good deal for herself.

(via unburyingthelead)

Posted 3 years ago
Michel Foucault, “Panopticism,” Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison, p. 202

Michel Foucault, “Panopticism,” Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison, p. 202