“Gallons of Tears” Galloway vs. “Keep em’ Kneelin” Nealon

As I read through the introduction to Protocol, I am reminded of one of the more significant arguments that Nealon makes in Foucault Beyond Foucault.  It seems that both Galloway and Nealon have quite a divergent understanding of the issue of resistance as it relates to biopower.  Here, I believe the contention between their understandings resides in the different interpretations of Foucault’s work that they voice (namely, in regard to Discipline and Punish).   Seemingly, whereas Nealon suggested that reading subjectivity as a means of resistance in Foucault’s later work evidences a misreading of what Foucault intended, Galloway is suggesting quite the opposite. 

Nealon outlines two of the dominant trends in academic work on Foucault.  First, the prevailing attitude is that we are, quite simply, incapable of resisting power and its manifestations.  Second, and more relevant to this particular post, Nealon provides that academics are also too quick to argue that Foucault abandoned his midcareer work on power in favor of the ethico-aesthetics of subjectivity.  In response, Nealon provides that his work will rethink the relationship between disciplinary power, biopower, and subjectivity.  His suggestive counter argument is that Foucault never really abandoned his mid-career work on power (Nealon 5).  According to Nealon, the shifts of Foucaultian emphasis are better, and more productively, understood as intensifications, an argument that he pursues in greater detail in the remainder of his text (see 36-39).  

Interestingly, it seems that Galloway is approaching the issue of resistance from the second understanding that Nealon criticizes.  This becomes apparent in Galloway’s introduction.  Here, he begins by providing that Deleuze recognized that the site of Foucault’s biopower was a site of resistance.  To emphasize the prevalence of this argument in Deleuze’s text, Galloway provides a direct citation of the three times that Deleuze repeats this realization.  To this argument, the third quote seems to be of particular relevance: “When power becomes bio-power resistance becomes the power of life, a vital power that cannot be confined within species, environment or the paths of a particular diagram” (Deleuze, Foucault, p. 92).  Now, I realize that by drawing Deleuze’s commentary on biopower into discussion, I am maneuvering my argument in one of two directions:  First, I might hold Deleuze’s argument in direct contention to that which Nealon provides.  Second, and more importantly, I might add, I could approach Galloway’s understanding as it is twice removed; Galloway’s understanding of Deleuze as the latter understands Foucault.  Here, I will pursue the second path.

As Galloway proceeds, he questions whether life resistance is a way of engaging with protocological management, which is reminiscent of biopower.  Then, Galloway provides what seems to be his interpretation of the means by which one might resist:

To refuse protocol, then, is not so much to reject today’s technologies as did Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber), but to direct these protological technologies, whose distributed structure is empowering indeed, toward what Hans Magnus Enzensberger calls an “emancipated media” created by active social actors rather than passive users (Galloway 16)

I think that this requires some unpacking, because as Galloway gets from Deleuze to this proposition, it seems as though a contention arises.  Returning to Deleuze’s discourse, as referenced by Galloway, Deleuze argues that resistance is the power of life.  Now, although Galloway seems to follow in this line of discourse, I think that he is forgetting the second part of Deleuze’s statement.  Here, Deleuze provides that a “vital power” cannot be confined within species, environment, etc.  Here, the vital power that he seems to be referring to is that of the power to resist; the power of life.  This power, seemingly, is as dispersed and ubiquitous as what Nealon suggests about power in Foucault Beyond Foucault.  Instead of following the argument, Galloway limits the power of resistance to the individual body; the “active social actors,” and in this, I believe he is reading something into the quote that Deleuze provides that isn’t there.  This, also, is where the contention between Galloway and Nealon’s arguments seems to arise.  Whereas Nealon denigrates subjectivity, Galloway seems to be insisting on the importance of a conscious subjectivity, as he differentiates between active social actors and passive users.

More on Galloway’s text in the near future…

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4 Responses to ““Gallons of Tears” Galloway vs. “Keep em’ Kneelin” Nealon”

  1. […] discussions have addressed Nealon’s Foucault Beyond Foucault and […]

  2. Pruchnic Says:

    Subjectivity: Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It

    Derek keys in here on a point that, I take it, will be central to our discussion tomorrow: if the “logic” of control is more of a “techne” or “techno-logic” than a bio-logic (Aristotle and now Agamben), economic logic (Marx), or cultural logic (Mandel and Jameson), then how can we figure subjectivity, and, more immediately, “action” or “resistance” in relation to this force field?

    As Derek points out, it might seem here that Galloway is hip to a new reading of “control” but has not gone as far in rethinking *subjectivity* (in general) and *agency* in particular. Resistance, in *Protocol,* despite Galloway’s attention to the fact that “it is *through* protocol that one must guide one’s efforts, not against it” (17), and the concomitant post-*Empire* revelation that strategies of difference and deconstruction are not viable weapons against “the new enemy,” “resistance” in this text still looks very much like our old-school notions of subjective and/or collective contrarianism: cyberfeminists and computer hackers “disrupting” the system (much like Virno’s reliance, in last week’s text, on exit value and civil disobedience: old tools that may have a new purpose?).

    In regards to Deleuze, we can phrase the same question a different way: if the “target” of control (or social power however we may take it) is now “life itself,” then through what are the new strategic forms “life” might take? Galloway shows fidelity to Deleuze’s brief work on control societies (including D’s interest in “hacking” and the disruption of communication as productive “resistant” strategies), but is perhaps not as attentive to the focus on “life itself” in D’s other late-works and the appendix to the *Foucault* book (“After the Death of Man and Superman*) which suggests a certain kind of “post-political” and transhuman response to the ethical and pragmatic questions of control society. All of which is not to say that one must follow Deleuze that far if they follow him as far as control society, but I take it that pursuing this line would give us something rather different than an examination of how protocol functions “for certain groups” (the “ruling class,” as Galloway names it) and against others, and perhaps might not rely as much on “the active” (vs. passive) user and the “real desires” of individuals enmeshed in these systems (which might lead to some troubling questions as to what “real desires” might be).

  3. untimelymediations Says:

    Is there a category we can think of other than “resistance?” Isn’t part of what we learned last week from Foucault and Nealon (reading Foucault) that power only exists in response to resistance? That is, if we only recognize power for the way it is challenged, or the way it is confronted (ala the Kafka story “Before the Law”), is “resistance” an empty category, or at least one that has been misnamed? That is, if our normal state, per Nealon, is resistance, it hardly seems appropriate to insist on “resistance” as signifying the sort of political action against power that we might otherwise associate it with. If power=resistance to power (and the reverse is true), then power is not so much oppression or repression as an equilibrium, a homeostasis, what (drawing on Marx’s nature imagery) we might describe as the metabolic maintenance of social order. Perhaps the error comes in associating a romanticized idea of resistance with the attributes of agency or effectivity, in that we assume agency is only a given when contesting power? If Foucault and Nealon are correct in saying that power is productive of subjects, rather than repressive or destructive, what might be gained by asking where power provides for those subjectivities that challenge existing social orders?

    MLM

  4. Pruchnic Says:

    Yes, certainly, as we’ve discussed several times this past semester, the category of “resistance” itself (hence the scare quotes) is one we’ll have to rename, perhaps, to rethink (if the text functions in WP allowed it, I’d drop a slash all Martin H.-style through it, to code the difference). And yes, the attribution of agency to only those subjects that show some vector that is “against” the dominant (and this has been the party line in ethical theorizing by Derrida, Badiou, Zizek, etc. in recent discourse) is both problematic and impractical. On the one hand, this situation might be remedied by abandoning the “marginal” or “resistant” status of leftist action – just focus on the concrete goals that are desired by whatever actors in specific situations and don’t worry about how this is “liberatory” or “resistant.” But I take it the larger questions, and this is something we can talk about in our next meeting, are the following:
    1. Can we give up on fetishizing what Galloway codes as “people’s real desires” as the vector that “should” be driving technology, social policy, etc. (176)? Aside from the chicken-egg conundrum here (did I want facebook before it was invented?), there’s an unresolved question about how we could go about claiming access to “real” desires. OK, maybe Netflix’s Cinematch and Amazon’s data-pool driven recommendation software are what Galloway calls “collaborative filtering,” perhaps there is something, as he says, “hegemonic” about their interpolative powers, and, perhaps, as Nealon alludes, they are in some ways the [comic] equivalent of Foucault’s conceptual confessional, but one cannot just critique the service as dangerous for crowding out a user’s “real desires?” What are these “real desires?” One must be careful here to not assume that one’s “real desires” are the ones that are (however one might determine this) what’s “best” for the subject. Maybe I do just want amateur pornography and a good deal on the 3rd season of *Veronica Mars*. And you know I’m keeping it real. In other words, though I buy the idea that “tactical media” (as Galloway frames it) *does* change technology to be responsive to the “desires” of its users, this is true (or at least only ostensibly true) for the individuals making the change themselves. I.e., I’m doing tactical media when I change my defaults on MS Word – it’s closer to acting the way I want. However, when one claims that more public versions of tactical media get closer to the “real desires” of users as a generic group (or that this has ethico-political implications), I’m not convinced. To gloss Galloway’s question on the final pages of *Protocol*, people DO want the “system” to function like a market economy.
    2. The second question, and this is one we talked a bit about next week, is perhaps a broader inquiry into “agency” and “subjectivity” as categories typically cathected to particular strategies or actions that result from changes (in agency or subjectivity). Can we give up on the idea that a “subjective change” leads to more progressive/ethical action? The easier “side” of this equation is largely the focus of Sloterdijk’s *Critique of Cynical Reason*: people *do* know what they’re are doing/what’s being done to them (“Look Mom, I’m Being Exploited by Capitalism!”), it’s just that they continue to act as they have previously (thus we may have to give up on “duping,” “ideological mystification,” and “critical consciousness” as concepts in their traditional senses). The harder part, and this is what I referred to as the Machiavellian question, is whether we can make piece with the use of rhetorical strategies that are manipulative and exploitive in order to further out “progressive” goals – or, at the very least, can we give up on the categories of “exploitive,” “resistant,” or “complicit,” etc., in regards to rhetorical strategies? (side note: this is my feel about Michael Hardt’s comment during his recent visit to WSU that his work is not necessarily meant to impact the “material” realm – what I wish he would have done was embrace his role as a produce of propaganda – just said, “look, maybe I point a rosy picture about the inevitability of overthrowing the system, but I do this because if I can convince enough people it’s about to happen, it will happen.”) To swerve through comp pedagogy, perhaps the real “critical consciousness” we should be fostering in students is not a hermeneutics of suspicion – a maintenance of the distinction between what is “real” and what has been “forced” on the subject (or the “real desires” vs. those that have been installed through interpolation), but between the goals they want to achieve and the rhetorical strategies they might have to use (specifically, if the right has stolen the discourses of marginalization and resistance, the left may have to steal some strategies from the right). One might also think about this in reference to Galloway’s rhetorical (x2) question about why computer viruses have a “bad name” whereas viral marketing, etc., have more positive connotations. The answer (AIDs narrative notwithstanding), I take it, is that we recognize viral media as a robust strategy for achieving particular goals (“buy this!”), but see computer viruses as overwhelmingly negative because they take disruption or reduction in efficiency as their primary goal: they are only to be valued if we value disruption as some kind of lockstep (positive) form or resistance or difference, and the clock has been ticking on that strategy for quite some time.

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