Thursday, 11 December 2014

Deep opposition: a supplementary seminar on indirect violence in social reproduction (11/12-18/12/2014)

Sheena is a guillemot. She says it is paradoxical that Judy thinks friendship with any member of the police force would be entirely unthinkable, and yet also judges the prospect of befriending a teacher to be well within the realms of plausibility. Or rather, it becomes a paradox in a circumstance where Sheena has already decided that police and teachers are equally integrated into social reproduction. And if she has framed things so that police and teachers have become equivalent in her eyes, then it is reasonable to infer that she is gazing upon the world from a particularly remote and precipitous vantage point.


Then, without any hesitation, this must be a seminar on the paradoxical equivalence that Sheena has discerned between cops and profs, and which is to be commenced immediately from within her remote life-world as if it were also our world. Or, more accurately, this self-styled seminar turns out to be another collection of short expostulatory statements arrived at whilst contemplating the different moments belonging to direct and indirect forms of violence, and how these feed into social reproduction.

To conflate the function of education with policing requires the observer to withhold any residual moral sensibility form the consideration of the differences between the two. These suspended differences would tend to fall into either the category of enforcement or that of enablement. In other words, in order to engage what Sheena is calling Judy's Paradox, this seminar requires its scholars to step outside the conventions of Enlightenment thinking.

As a way in, if we begin with a non-attributed, if not entirely hypothetical statement, 'there is no greater violence than that of children sitting in a classroom' and we reset it into personalised terms, 'the most brutal cop does no worse than the most conscientious teacher', then we begin to make out the frame through which Sheena discerns the presence of a paradox in Judy's prejudices. The purpose of such outré remarks is to reverse the tendency to personalise, and attribute responsibility, in a context where automatic process is the issue at hand.

It is easy to hate a thuggish cop, but it is difficult to respond similarly to a Mr Chips or Miss Honey - in both cases, affective responses to embodied functions tend to affectively colour any political conclusions that might be drawn from them (e.g. the corrective ideal of a policed police/a meta-police; or that education might be expropriated and returned as a for-itself ideal severed from work).

Then, it is preferable to look beyond the part played by individuals employed as social functions and to observe the function itself. But before that, it is perhaps important to note the reliance on externalised hate figures as these appear in the entire spectrum (from right to left) of politicised reaction formations; such figures seem to act like a regulatory valve for the coherence of defence mechanisms. They draw the heat off, and provide an alibi for other convolved complicities. Whilst it is true that most hate figures are irrationally constructed ideologically, the police do objectively serve a political and economic purpose beyond the prejudices directed against them. However, this functionality is also true of teachers who are not conventional hate figures. Therefore, if the critique of police is not just another populist misdirection, then, logically it should be extended to all professions which undertake a police function.

At some point, we will drop this tired juxtaposition of cops and profs, but before that we should note where both appear within the apparatus of social reproduction, or more accurately, when they appear. The police function is triggered where the mechanism of reproduction has failed, it is an overt and directly violent corrective. However, the educative function is integrated into the process of reproduction in its routine state. That is, the police appear when some thing has gone wrong, and teachers appear where things are running smoothly.

This routinised state of running smoothly is precisely this seminar's object of study and which is elsewhere called 'indirect' or 'symbolic' violence. Teachers appear categorically separated from cops because the violence which they administer to children is not typically experienced, or framed, as either violence or punishment. Pedagogical violence is normalising and therefore functions below the threshold at which the exceptional and punctuating event which we associate with violence occurs.

We can identify a cop's violence because it conforms to the familiar categories of what violence is - nothing is more starkly revealed than a uniformed brute lashing out with a club. However, we cannot easily put our finger on what it is about the teacher's performance that indicates aggressive and invasive intent. Pedagogical violence is mostly invisible, it is inflicted subliminally and on other terms than violence itself - the context of learning is not immediately comprehensible as violence. Whilst the cop is intimidating and confrontational, the teacher is trained not only to not use these methods but is skilled in displacing the violence of the pedagogical encounter into other discursive registers.

As the present epoch stretches further out into its eternised phase, the confrontations associated with 'direct' violence decrease in proportion to the implementation of programatic 'indirect' violences. There is progressively less violent repression and progressively more facilitative exploitation.

Those areas of social reproduction which once came into conflict with lived existence, and which appeared in the register of 'politics' (where direct confrontation was expected) have now passed into the domains of social planning, education and medicine. The infliction of symbolic violence by social professions is not experienced as violence by either the professionals or their 'clients', and operates indistinguishably from the process of learning to live healthily in the world.

Certainly, overt violence continues to erupt across the world but such events have become incomprehensible and apparently separated from social process. It is straightforward to oppose this 'violence', and it is not illogical to extend such opposition to all wars, but it is not at all such plain-sailing to further extend the logic of critique and make arguments against peace. Even communism is presented by communists as this familiar world but released from its irrational fetters. It is much more difficult to argue against the expropriation, and for the relinquishment, of this familiarity. Normalisation, even amongst those who ostensibly oppose the present state of things, means there is an ever-dwindling field, a veritable guillemot's ledge, of reference from which the world may be brought into question.

'Behavioural' and 'mental health' problems were once understood as indicators of underlying social and political pathology, now politicised consciousness in individuals is psychologically interpreted within social institutions as evidence of problematic maladjustment. On the date of publishing this introduction, a report reveals that 50% of adults routinely take prescription medicines and that 10% of women take anti-depressants... there is no greater proof for the efficacy of indirect violence as a technique of managing dependent populations and integrating them into (pharmaceutical) corporations. Under such circumstances, social transformation becomes inconceivable. The 'chemical cosh' has become redundant - populations are no longer pacified but enabled to live their normal lives (albeit within an abstractly restricted field).

However, it is unlikely that any attempt to provoke the state to return to a stage of direct violence and thereby 'reveal' its true character would be successful. Direct confrontation with teachers and other social professionals only results in further pathologisation within the webs of control and recontextualisation deployed by societal institutions. Then, the purpose of linking teachers to police is not to downplay the role of direct violence in social reproduction and nor is it to invite escalation of the hatred felt for the police to include teachers. Contrariwise, it is to argue that going to war against the state only reproduces opposition as belonging to the terrain of the state and autonomously carrying forward its third-estatist project of rationalisation.

That which is resisted as if it were outside is already inside and conditions the character of the resistance. There is already too much cop in the hatred of the cops to make it an effective political position - and this licensed hatred is proved by the otherwise incomprehensible tolerance for other social professionals. Then, deep opposition necessitates a de-personalisation of the critique of the world and the sloughing off of hatred as a way into the problem of transformation.

Then, the seminar also raises for examination, the possibility of an indirect counter to violence. This would suppose the development of remote ledge based life-worlds beyond the reach of ordinary social reproduction. At this point it has to be accepted that no social relation may be defeated as if it were an enemy, that which resists the social relation is also too much belonging to it. There can be no such thing as a revolutionary war, there is no prospect of 'victory'. Social change cannot be adequately understood as that triumphant arrival in a future realm achieved upon the defeat of present obstacles. Revolution is not situated as a future event at all but faces backwards, it draws to itself all earlier forms of domination inherent to human history and which must be returned to the present, defanged.

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