Project scope

The behaviour of the animal is never an apprehending of something as something — Martin Heidegger

Understanding power is impossible without understanding the primary distinction so-called advanced societies make between humans and animals. This is not simply a matter of the development of complex systems to channel and regularize animal man, but also the unquestioned leap beyond animal existence in the development of government at all. Alongside the history of systems of power, and the history of governmentalities, one must also chart — passing back into primary anthropology, and indeed into biology and archaeology — the emergence of human rationality itself, including the arrival of form from oblivion. How man schematizes the world, turning objects into tools, shaping the natural environment, is the critical substructure, and wellspring, of all power relations and systems of power.

There is a tension at the heart of man individually, and men collectively. This is more complex than the ephemeral ground on which is based morality. There is another animality: not savage, in the vision of Hobbes, but wholesome in the sense of “greater health” in Nietzsche. Have we lost track of not only what we are, but how much we are? Along the path of slow incremental momentum towards advanced systems of government, billions of life hours have been passed in close confrontation between “the world as it is” — the human world we construct — and a sense shared by many that there is a deeper grandeur and possibility that is blunted in our “human, all too human” march towards enlightenment.

This project is to explore notions of animality, set against the figures of the human, and the human animal.