Private Authorship

Private Authorship


Private Authorship

The emergence of the self-constituting subject is one of the deepest and least understood movements of the modern era — something ideologues of a rationality they do not understand always equate to a challenge to central authority.


Permission to speak!
— Friedrich Nietzsche


Not so many years ago it was impossible not to hear of the death of the author. Looking around now we find nothing but authors: kids chatting endlessly in Yahoo!® teen rooms; a hundred thousand TV channels beaming live all over the world; decentralized business systems where everyone gets to play boss. Endless noise pollution. Too many people speaking. The possibility of your life at any time being transmitted without you even knowing (the endless multiplication of surveillance cameras, web-cams, voyeur-cams). Ulrich Beck talks of the ‘individualization of biographical forms’; the passing of each person’s biography into their own hands. Life, it is said, is a blackboard, and everyone has a box of crayons. In the great open gallery of the twenty-first century, to be famous for fifteen minutes just isn’t going to cut it.

Not so long ago either it was clear who was sovereign — what power was and from where it emanated. The body of king was the seat of empire and state. ‘L’Etat, c’est moi’ blurts the infamous Bourbon, Le Roi Soleil, paragon of pomp. Now, we are told, ‘The individual himself or herself becomes the reproduction unit for the social in the lifeworld.’1 ‘In the end, Rome disappears’, adds Michel Foucault, with wry understatement. It seems everyone is sovereign — especially on Oprah. Bonfire of vanities, or a recoding of order?

What I would like to do is to trace the outline of these phenomena through history: to make something of a brief attempt to understand how it has become possible — and by what transformations in history did it become thinkable — that so many voices overwhelm us with words / that the imperial model of power disappears. Could the two be related? Can we assume that they’re not? How might the promotion of speaking relate to the history of governing? How might the proliferation of authors relate to the history of authority? Everywhere we hear of the fragmentation of centralized authority, but would it be possible to write a history of private authority, sovereign individuality, discourse, avowal, authorship and speech, independently of the liberal regimes of truth within which they’re grounded and find their justification? What if it were possible to stand outside those regimes? Would it be possible to reconstruct a history of the emergence of private authority through a political history of the creation of subjectivity? Could the political history of the creation of subjectivity account for the disappearance of imperial authority? Could the shadow of power be found lurking behind the light of knowledge, adding order to the playground of private freedom?

First voice

The space of private authorship we witness in the contemporary world cultural political economy is an empty one. Some might say a trap. It is a space opened up for us on the back of the disappearance — or culmination — of disciplinary society.2 It is a space we accept only insofar as we have not as yet come to terms with a singular and fundamental transformation that occurs in Western history, finding its faultline at the birth of the modern age, and informing the disciplinary order which emerges therefrom: this being the transformation in the overarching schema of political technology (tactics and strategies of political power) from techniques of domination grounded in suppression and limitation to techniques bent on production and facilitation. I argue here that the space within which private authors exist — and by extension private authority in general — cannot be understood until we come to terms with a series of rearticulations, transformations that take place between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, in what we might know as the ‘arts of governing’. Through these rearticulations the self-constituting subject — that work of magic who could author his own life — was “discovered.” Some might say created. Moreover, the entity that begged him to speak was the state.3 From the very first, the space of enunciation was to be an ordered one, pushing into oblivion the misshapen syntax of indolence and unreason.4 In my view, taking an historical and philosophical step sideways, the rise of private authority at a transnational level, or domains of private authorship at an individual level, in no way circumscribe the efficacy of the state. Indeed, correctly outlined, they might be seen to enhance it. Given a certain critical reading — one focussing less on law than on disciplines; less on saying “no” than on saying “yes” — the very existence of domains of private authority indicates how advanced is the project of totalizing disciplinary space.

Toward a knowledge of individuals

In a presentation to the Chicago meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 29th March, 1989, Ivan Illich delivered a startling statement: “Human Life”, he announced, ‘is a recent social construct, something which we now take so much for granted that we dare not seriously question it.’ The notion has a history, he continued, ‘it is a Western notion, ultimately the result of a perversion of the Christian message.’5 Ten years earlier, under the auspices of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Michel Foucault had made an equally striking suggestion, and what turned out to be a similar argument. ‘Everyone knows,’ he began,

that in European societies political power has evolved toward more and more centralized forms. Historians have been studying this organization of the state, with its administration and bureaucracy, for dozens of years. I’d like to suggest (…) the possibility of analyzing another kind of transformation in such power relationships. This transformation is, perhaps, less celebrated. But I think it is also important, mainly for modern societies. Apparently this evolution seems antagonistic to the evolution towards a centralized state. What I mean in fact is the development of power techniques orientated towards individuals and intended to rule them in a continuous and permanent way. If the state is the political form of a centralized and centralizing power, let us call pastorship the individualizing power.6

Beginning his analysis — and in order to explain this notion of “pastorship” — Foucault contrasted two worlds: the Greek and the Roman world on the one hand, and the Oriental world (Egypt, Assyria, Judaea) on the other. Pastorship begins with the idea of the shepherd. In the former world, we are told, this metaphor is absent. In the latter it is prolific. Several characteristics of the shepherd function were important to Foucault: 1) the power the shepherd wields is over a flock, rather than a land. By contrast, the Greek gods owned the land — it was not promised to the flock, nor were they to be led to it. 2) The shepherd gathers and guides the flock. In his absence no flock exists, as such. So unlike the gods of Greek thought, the shepherd does not merely resolve conflicts and withdraw, but is permanently present, and through this presence gives identity to previously dispersed elements. 3) The primary role of the shepherd is to ensure the salvation of the flock. Yet unlike the helmsman of the ship of state, the task of the shepherd is not one of saving all at once by avoiding shipwreck, but each all the time, in ‘constant, individualized and final kindness.’ 4) This kindness itself was not to be exercised for the glory of the leader, but as “devotedness” and duty to the well-being of the flock. This devotion takes the form of sacrifice: the shepherd who stays awake while the flock sleeps. His time is wholly taken up with the task of caring: finding the green pastures, the tranquil landscapes. And his attention to danger and comfort is permanent: individualized to the needs and character of each and all together.

It seems a very different economy of power was familiar to the Romans and Greeks, and the meeting of the two (as Christianity takes hold) precipitated a significant crisis in the structures of ancient society. Nowhere before had the metaphor of the shepherd appeared in political literature; and as we know, it wasn’t just pastors but Pharaohs and kings who played the role — and were afforded the title — in the Orient. Neither in Isocrates, nor in Demosthenes, nor in Aristotle does this theme of the shepherd appear. But it appears in Plato, and it is something of a crisis theme. In The Statesman, in particular, he thrashes it out. The accommodation he comes to is famous, indeed infamous: it is the myth of the earth spinning in opposite directions. In the first phase (the first direction of turning), each animal on earth belonged to a flock led by a “Genius-Shepherd.” The human flock was directed by the deity, and being led thus, ‘mankind needed no constitution.’ In a second phase, the world turned in the opposite direction. The gods no longer play the role of shepherd, and men, given fire, had to look after themselves. Neither can the politician play the role of the shepherd. His role becomes one of weaving the fabric of the social; binding together lives and temperaments. The role of the shepherd would be dispersed among the flock. Would the king provide mankind with food? Not at all. The baker or the farmer do that. Would the king or the politician tend to men when they are sick? The physician has the job of doing that. Many citizens, therefore, could claim this pastoral title of the shepherd of men, while the king or the politician play the role of the unifier.7

All this might seem remote, Foucault admitted. But his point in raising these texts, he told his audience, was to illustrate how deeply these themes run through the entirety of Western history. For the essence of the problem is the relations between two forms of power: a political power operating through a legal framework ensuring unity within the state, and a power which could be called ‘pastoral,’ aimed at sustaining and improving the lives of each and all (omnes et singulatim). As Foucault suggested,

The well known ‘welfare state problem’ does not bring to light only the needs or the new governmental techniques of today’s world. It must be recognized for what it is: one of the extremely numerous reappearances of the tricky adjustment between political power wielded over legal subjects and pastoral power wielded over live individuals.8

With the Greeks and the Romans — with the exception of Plato’s The Statesman — this aspect of the pastoral played a limited role. As Christianity became better established, it in turn transformed these Hebrew themes to its own ends. Four aspects were important: 1) with Christianity the responsibility of the shepherd is not only to direct the destiny of the flock, but to provide an account of each sheep and all of their actions; everything that happens, and everything they are likely to do. 2) In contrast to the rational underpinning of Greek obedience (i.e., necessary persuasion), with Christianity the basis of obedience is shifted into the realm of submission and virtue. Obedience is permanent, involving an overcoming (apatheia) of willpower (pathos).

3) Christian pastorship involves a highly individualized relation of shepherd and sheep. Not only must the flock as a whole be known, but this knowledge must be deepened: involving a knowledge of the soul of each sheep, ‘his secret sins’, and his progress on the path to salvation. Borrowing also from already well-established themes of the guidance of conscience and self-examination (among the Pythagoreans, the Stoics, the Epicureans), Foucault saw ‘a very strange phenomenon’ emerge in Graeco-Roman civilization: a melding of Greek and Roman themes with those of the Christian pastorship: a ‘link between total obedience, knowledge of oneself and confession to someone else.’ A governing of individuals by their own verity.9 4) A final aspect — to Foucault, perhaps the most important — was the emergence of the notion of ‘mortification’: the renunciation of the world and oneself. This would be the end of all these relations of truth, of obedience, or self-examination and confession. In all, Foucault argued, the Christian pastoral introduced a “game” to the Greeks that neither they nor the Hebrews could ever have imagined: ‘A strange game whose elements are life, death, truth, obedience, individuals, self-identity; a game which seems to have nothing to do with the game of the city surviving through the sacrifice of the citizens.’ Our societies, he continued, ‘proved to be really demonic since they happened to combine those two games — the city-citizen game and the shepherd-flock game — in what we call modern states.’10

The state that says “yes”

Perhaps Foucault’s outline of the Christian pastoral would not be one with which Illich could agree in whole. But in their reading of what happens next they barely differ. Foucault’s next problem was to explain how these themes became established at the heart of the modern state. Illich’s problem was to explain how the Christian message had been perverted by the emergence of the notion of ‘Human life.’ He saw developing from this notion (what he called a new fetish), and the scarcity and preciousness attached to it, a whole panoply of institutions, specialists, guardians and caretakers. In short, a whole grid of political management over the lives of individuals. Foucault’s concern, somewhat mirroring Illich, was how ‘life’ became an object of direction for the state. In particular, how life became an object passing through the government of individuals in relation to their own truth.

To pose the question in this way was not to suggest that in the intervening centuries — those between the emergence of Christian themes in the Graeco-Roman world, and the emergence and development of the modern state — pastoral themes disappeared. On the contrary, constant struggles — recounts Foucault — occurred around this idea of the pastoral. Internally, in the reform of monastic orders in particular, themes of self-examination and the direction of conscience — a knowledge of individuals — were vital. Meanwhile in society at large, though dominated by political relations of a quite different kind (feudalism), and a population dispersed in a rural as well as an urban economy, struggles took on numerous aspects; sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent; sometimes limited, sometimes extensive. A ‘yearning’ to arrange pastoral relations among men, Foucault tells us, was a deep aspiration, touching the ‘mystical tide’ and the millenarian dreams of the Middle Ages.11 That these struggles intersected with the kinds of rationalities employed in the exercise in state power, was what Foucault was interested in exploring. As he had said, everywhere we hear of the development of legal frameworks and the legal state form. But would it be possible to describe a different history; not so much one of centralization and legality, but pastorship and differentiation?

The key to the puzzle lay with two rationalities: reason of state and the theory of police. In the second of his lectures Foucault explained what was at stake in each, on his way to understanding how ‘life’ itself became a target of power. First, reason of state is contextualized. It has a number of characteristics. 1) It is regarded as an art employing knowledge — in particular, rational knowledge. It was, in the words of Palazzo (Discourse on Government and the True Reason of State, 1606): ‘A rule or art enabling us to discover how to establish peace and order within the Republic.’12 2) It draws its rationale not from God or law — from divine law, laws of nature or human law — but from what the state is; what its exigencies are.13 3) It is opposed — at least in part — to Machiavelli’s tradition. Here the problem is not one of forging the links between prince and state, but one of reinforcing and increasing the strength the state itself. 4) This presumes a certain type of knowledge: a knowledge of state forces and state capacities — ‘concrete, precise, measured knowledge.’ Henceforth populations become statistical phenomena; the subject of ‘politicall arithmetick.’14 Added to the great demographic upswing which culminates in the eighteenth century and ‘the necessity for co-ordinating and integrating it into the apparatus of production and (…) controlling it with finer and more adequate power mechanisms,’

“population,” with its numerical variables of space and chronology, longevity and health [emerges] not only as a problem but an object of surveillance, analysis, intervention, modification, etc. The project of a technology of population begins to be sketched …15

This project is epitomized nowhere better than in the utopia and programme of the theoreticians of ‘the police’ — the second doctrine Foucault identified in his history of modern political reason. Exemplified in the writings of Seckendorff (Der Teutsche Fürsten Staat, 1655), Dithmar (Einleitung in die oeconomische Policei- und Cameral-Wissenshaften, 1745), Darjes (Erste Gründe der Cameral-Wissenshaften, 1756), Justi (Staatwirthschaft, 1758), and Sonnenfels (Grundsätze der Policey, 1787), among others, the aim of this new technology of population — known to contemporaries as “cameralistics” — was to make individuals useful for the world in such a way that their development also fostered the strength of the state.16 This strength of the state was conceived in two ways: on the one hand, as the material result of the harnessing and channeling of energies (i.e., industry) into the productive economy, and on the other, as the securitization of governance through workfare, occupation and the incentive to profit (enrichment). Productivity, diligence and happiness emerged as the objectives of the mode of government that dominated the classical age; simultaneously differentiated (in the classification and organization of bodies) and aggregated (in the policing of rhythms and processes of populations).

Further characteristics can be listed: 1) the police embraced everything. In many of the texts finance and production together with the judiciary and the army are listed as the key objects of ‘policey.’ In practice, these categorizations slip. 2) Police includes everything. In other words, the existence of men — the full range of their lives — could be sustained from within the police (i.e., police gives a model and a home for man — the ‘live, active, productive man’).17 This means also the dangers (disease, accidents, etc.). Foucault later refers to Delamare’s Compendium, wherein, amidst hundreds of collected regulations, the police is given eleven domains of special responsibility: i) religion; ii) morals; iii) health; iv) supplies; v) roads, highways, town buildings; vi) public safety; vii) the liberal arts; viii) trade; ix) factories; x) manservants and laborers; xi) the poor. But perhaps the most remarkable formulation is that of von Berg, given at the beginning of the nineteenth century:

Policey is like a well-intentioned genius who carefully levels the way for those committed to his care; cleans the air that they breathe; secures the villages and holdings in which they dwell, and the streets along which they walk; protects the fields that they cultivate, secures their homes against fire and flood, and they themselves against illness, poverty, ignorance, superstition and immorality; who, even if he cannot prevent all accidents, seeks however to diminish and ease their consequences, and offers refuge in time of need to every pauper, casualty or person in need. Its watchful eye is ubiquitous; its helping hand is ever-ready, and we are invisibly surrounded by its unceasing care.18

3) The practice is ‘totalitarian’; denoting an attention to all detail (be that the beauty, the order, the trading, the working, the ‘communication’, of a city). Here Foucault identifies what he takes to be an important principle: ‘As a form of rational intervention wielding political power over men, the role of the police is to supply them with a little extra life; and by so doing, supply the state with a little extra strength.’19 Between these great poles — reason of state and the theory of police — developed, argues Foucault, the rationalities and practices whereby the melding of those two games — the city-citizen game of the Greeks and the shepherd-flock game of the Christian pastoral — occurred. Between these two poles, Foucault argued, there develops a very specific form of political power: one which stakes its conditions of possibility in the population, and its rationality and rationale in the state itself.

And so back to our original point, or Foucault’s original point: how is in this established a history whereby power as such becomes decentralized; or in other words, specific to the lives of individuals? The objection will be that the police — and reason of state — are highly centralizing, if not the very model of centralization. This may be true, but something new has emerged — something Illich had seen. It is “life” which is the true object of the police: and it is the management of individuals that both flows from that, and is its source of support. “Happiness” and regular functioning of “society” are what Delamare himself sees as the special purview of the police. But he also says “living.” Thus in respect to religion the concern is with the ‘moral quality of life.’ In relation to supplies and health, the question is the ‘preservation of life.’ In relation to leisure, entertainment, literature and the like, the question is ‘life’s pleasures.’ And in relation to order, to security, to communication and workers, the question is the ‘conveniences of life.’ Summarized by Foucault, ‘That people survive, live, and even do better than just that, is what the police has to ensure.’20

Leading men to this happiness — this fulfillment — is one aspect of the police. But to be truly effective, and to be efficient to the point of being automatic, means had to be found for men to become their own guides. And it is here that we find the beginnings — or perhaps the culmination of — a very different idea in the arts of governing men. And indeed, as we pass through the eighteenth century, especially in Germany and Austria, this different idea gathers support. Oeconomie is established. It is an idea founded upon the liberation of the individual; though ultimately, of course, it is an individual already constituted, in large part, by the diffuse and disparate, though surprizingly unified, organs of the police.21 The role of the police (polizei) is to foster those elements of individuality as a means to the improvement of life, while at the same time ensuring that those very same elements contribute to the well-being of the state. Die Politick, by contrast, entails fighting against internal and external enemies. Polizei and oeconomie have a positive role.

What Foucault was uncovering that evening at Stanford — and had been uncovering for some time in his investigations in general — was not only the outline of a history forged bottom-up through diverse practices (a relationship to the guidance of conscience that would become the model of relations of social communication, a relationship to the knowledge of state capacities that would gather under the guise of ‘statistics’ diverse forms of registration and inspection), but crucially a history which would be based not upon sovereign authorship, or law-based conceptions of power, but upon the formation of norms, within an overarching strategic field defined by the great question of organizing materials and men. These norms become the condition upon which, paradoxically, the police can retreat. In the words of Marc Raeff,

the ambiguity of the enterprise soon became apparent: the effort to create by the sovereign’s fiat and legislation an estate structure capable of autonomous life foundered on the state’s maintenance of direction and control. This in turn meant handicapping the development of individual initiative and autonomous action (…) And if this was indeed the case, the entire conception of both cameralism and enlightened absolutism — that is, the state’s fostering of progress and modernization — was put in question.22

Foucault had already, in several of his history books, discussed the generalized space — emerging between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries — out of which the original question — the question of governing of men and things — bursts forth. He had also outlined what he saw as the beginnings of the resolution to this paradox of policy and practice (the paradox of aiming at establishing autonomy as the most efficient path to happiness and productivity against the practice of assuring both, which involved state intervention). As this question, or ‘problem,’ began to exact a greater pressure on the state (particularly in the eighteenth century) a profound transformation at the heart of political governance takes place. ‘Since the classical age’, Foucault wrote,

“Deduction” has tended to be no longer the major form of power but merely one element among others, working to incite, reinforce, control, monitor, optimize, and organize the forces under it: a power bent on generating forces, making them grow, and ordering them, rather than one dedicated to impeding them, making them submit, or destroying them.23

Readers of Foucault would have known that he had already outlined a version of this argument in his famous analysis of the shift from “spectacular” to reforming forms of punishment (Surveiller et punir was published first in 1975).24o punish with an attenuated severity perhaps, but in order to punish with more universality and necessity; to insert the power to punish more deeply into the social body.’ Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 82.] In The History of Sexuality, Foucault went even further into nature of what for him had always been an emblematic concern: the positive formation of society through positive interventions of power. Analyzing the shift from sovereign societies (what he called ‘societies of blood’) to modern societies (what he called ‘societies of knowledge’), Foucault outlined the nature of what he called an ‘age of bio-power.’ Two aspects were of key importance — a ‘great bipolar technology’ of power over Life. The first centered on the ‘body as a machine’; an ‘anatomo-politics’ aimed to extort forces and optimize capabilities. The second centered on the ‘adjustment of the phenomena of population’; a ‘bio-politics’ attentive to mortality, longevity, habitation, hygiene, contagion, marriage, procreation, diet — whereby the health and well-being of the civitas became a ‘general objective of policy’ and target of intervention. With the demographic take off of the eighteenth century new techniques became necessary for the maintenance of order. Power responds. Foucault names as ‘governmentalization’ the process whereby the techniques and the tactics of pastoral power become ever more established at the heart of the state.25

This is no vague idea. Governmentalization, was, by contrast, an ‘absolutely conscious strategy’ appearing in both political texts and the ‘mass of unknown documents’ wherein real existences are played out.26 Governmentalization is precisely that which melds the great truth games of history: the truth game of the state epitomized in the notion of raison d’état, and the truth game of the shepherd, epitomized in the theory of police. What Foucault in his historical studies — and that evening at Stanford — aimed to describe, in essence, was the simultaneous spatialization and deterritorialization of political government throughout the course of modernity. In the first instance, government widens its reach (and gaze); intervening in an ever greater number of spaces (psychology, pathology, sexuality, education, etc.), and locations (the asylum, the clinic, the prison, the school, the factory, the boulevard, the playground, etc.). On the other hand, government becomes integral: assumed within an individual code or structure of command (disposition, humor, temperament), and diffused throughout the social body as a whole (in law, in morality, customs, habits and social knowledge).

What does this mean for our purposes — for the purpose of retracing the emergence of private authority? Let’s fill in the blanks by looking a little closer at these transformations in the arts of governing.

Security, tranquillity, occupation

As stated, the great transformation in the schema of Western political technology takes place in the eighteenth century with the emergence of state forms which take as their objective the facilitation rather than the suppression of life. A new question emerges — that of ‘government’ understood as ‘an activity that undertakes to conduct individuals throughout their lives by placing them under the authority of a guide responsible for what they do and for what happens to them.’27 What Foucault terms ‘pastoral power’ steadily gains hold in the state — epitomized in the writings of the theorists of police. Rather than a ‘secularization of the West’, we witness rather a theologicalization of the state. The aim becomes to facilitate, as far as possible, the productive capacities of individual and family while protecting each, to the greatest extent possible, from all kinds of misfortune and danger. It was no longer a question, therefore,

of leading people to their salvation in the next world, but rather ensuring it in this world. And in this context, the word salvation takes on different meanings: health, well-being (that is, sufficient wealth, standard of living), security, protection against accidents.28

To these new meanings we can add new ends; for salvation, in this context — as intimated earlier — is not in its essence concerned with the well-being, spiritual or otherwise, of each citizen. The true object of this new formulation of power — “pastoral power” as exercised, or in Illich’s terms, perverted, by the state — is not first and foremost the care of the citizenry. Care becomes the means to a different end. This end is the regularization, or securitization of the state itself. The true salvation being assured is that of the state from rebellion and disorder. A virtuous circle had been detected: pastoral power, in emulating the familial role of the father, would secure the best overall conditions of tranquility within the populace. “Relief from man’s Estate” — idiom for improved health and prosperity — would rightly secure allegiance and compliance. “Life” and its protection secures the conditions of legitimacy for the presence of the state.29 But this justification of absolutism — or on the other hand, this use of salvation to secure allegiance — was not without issue. One might ask, as the centralizing monarchs asked of those who suggested any need for justification: had not the state, by the middle of the eighteenth century, already established — by ‘burning into memory,’ so writes Nietzsche — its position as destiny and destination?30 Why the quiet scramble for permanent and subtle controls? The explanation Michel Foucault himself provides in Discipline and Punish is both simple and eternal: people rebel.31 In truth it took much more than the Machiavelli’s, the Colbert’s, and the Bentham’s of the world anticipated to force the human animal to give up on the dream of Liberty and go quietly into the workhouse or the prison.

Only by passing back through history, one hundred years or so from where pastoral power takes hold, can we engage a true impression of the nature of what was really at stake. As autumn dawns on the Middle Ages we encounter times, described succinctly by Burckhardt, of ‘extraordinary need and peril.’32 Beneath the language — between the words — it is indeed this urgency that above all defines, and in many ways engenders, the newly emerging language of power; in Machiavelli, in Palazzo, through Zuccolo, up to Seckendorf, Obrecht and the first cameral theoreticians. Take Giovanni Botero, and the astonishing The Reason of State, published first in 1589, wherein the task of maintaining the stability of any state is described as an ‘almost superhuman undertaking.’33 Everywhere — in near every word, on near every page — is the indelible mark of necessity: a new realism concerning an old problem — the task of coordinating men and things. Practically a new style of writing is born.34 It is the great era of advice for statesmen, albeit dressed up as advice for princes. But though the designs may be grand, and no one can deny the majesty of the Discourses, we oughtn’t to forget that amongst the allegory and the history moves are being made further down the chain, toward the world of the mundane.

Already for Machiavelli — not unaware of the uses of religion — the essence of government is not to be found as intermediary with the Great Beyond, but in establishing order in the Great Here and Now. Similarly in Botero, where: ‘The preservation of a State depends on the peace and tranquillity of its subjects.’ Where military enterprises are ‘the most effective means of keeping a people occupied.’ And populations diverted by wars or dangers retain ‘no place for thoughts of revolt in their minds.’ When war is not pursuable mechanical trades must be encouraged: they ‘bind a man to his workshop as the source of his income and sustenance, and since the well-being of craftsmen depends upon the sale of what they produce such men are necessarily lovers of peace, in which trade may flourish and commerce flow. Cities which are full of craftsmen and merchants love peace and tranquillity.’ In addition to keeping men occupied by commerce or war, the ruler must ‘secure many good teachers for the indoctrination of children, and many earnest preachers (…) to expound and render acceptable the mysteries of our holy Faith.’ The first mystery to be made material, of course, is the benefits of familial life: for ‘Without the union of man and woman there can be no multiplication of the human species, but the number of these unions alone is not the only prerequisite of this multiplication: it is necessary in addition to bring them up with care, and to have the means of supporting them, otherwise they will either die before the natural time or they will be useless and of little value to their country.’ As the ‘true strength of a ruler consists in his people’ and the resources thereby provided, it is not at all difficult to see how spatialization and deterritorialization — or in other words, the spreading out of power to all kinds of new spaces (streets, the body, the household, etc.), and its penetration into customs, norms, and social practices — became both necessary and urgent.

By the mid- to late-seventeenth century, finding inspiration and points of resonance across diverse elements — passing through the imaginary of Leonardo, the great daybreak of Versalius’ first public autopsy, the materiality of Hobbes and Descartes, the taxonomy of Burton, Estienne, or Valverde — we start to see a reconstituted body, and space of human existence.35 With new technical abilities came a greater degree of planning, and a very different economy of governing. It is not so much that this economy reflects the ‘spirit of the age’, but that the broader cosmological, scientific, philosophical and aesthetic currents also contain practical, contextual and technical elements. Again, we are passing lower down the chain, to the everyday mundane, and the shaping of the conduct of others. As Foucault describes,

One goes from an art of governing whose principles were borrowed from the traditional virtues (wisdom, justice, liberality, respect for the divine laws and human customs) or from the common abilities (prudence, thoughtful decisions, taking care to surround oneself with the best adviser) to an art of governing whose rationality has its principles and its specific domain of application in the state.36

A calculated ‘technology of state forces’ replaces the advice of the virtuous counsel. With it emerges a quite different perception of history. No longer is the political imagination domineered by visions of imperium. Rather, time is indefinite, and the new logic is one of states struggling against like states. Much different from dynastic rivalries.37 As Foucault describes, what becomes increasingly important is a knowledge of state forces, and the rational techniques whereby one intervenes in those forces. Two ensembles of political knowledge and technology form: a ‘diplomatico-military technology’, aimed at increasing state strength in military competition and through the emergent alliance system. The second is the emergence of the ‘policey sciences’ — polizeiwissenschaft, aimed at increasing state forces from within.38 It is in the intersection of these domains that we come to the rub, for our purposes here. In the words of Michel Foucault once more,

At the juncture point of these two great technologies, and as a shared instrument, one must place commerce and monetary circulation between states: enrichment through commerce offers the possibility of increasing the population, the manpower, production, and export, and of endowing oneself with large, powerful armies.39

In short, at the intersection lies the emergence of international private economic initiative (commerce), which in and of itself multiplies state forces both within and without. The destination was established: homo oeconomicus — author of order through occupation and workfare, supplier of surplus for the sinews of mercantile war.40

The birth of the self-generational subject — the private author of liberal political economy — was conditioned by the question of the government of men. It would not have been possible to solve the problem of state security — the organization, ordering and regularization of human existence — without the growth of a private domain of ‘occupation’ into which individuals were inserted by the million. Conversely, the emergence of the productive apparatus into which populations were inserted depended on the protection of private interest which could only be assured under conditions of police ordinance. The two processes — the emergence of “production” and the ordering of states — cannot be separated. Each is the condition of possibility of the other. The emergence of domains of private authority — such as they were at this time — cannot be separated from the incredible and complex history whereby private individuals (jurists, financiers, agricultural economists, physicians, pastors), brought order to their respective worlds. Neither can the growth of the state be separated from the history of techniques, tactics and strategies whereby the welfare of the citizenry, and each citizen alone, was taken to be, in very real terms, a primary concern of political government.

The “discovery of society”

Cameralistics and mercantilism merge. Each is essentially a coercive regulatory system for the management of the population-wealth problem.41 Toward the end of the eighteenth century, however, and for complex reasons, it is realized that state-directed regulation is inadequate. It had already come under political criticism.42 In part this is a function of the huge demographic take-off mentioned earlier; itself no doubt a consequence of both the concern to ensure the populousness of the populace and the separation of the techniques employed to achieve this (sanitation, nutrition, housing, workfare, etc.) into self-generational domains of knowledge and practice (medicine, urban planning, political economy, and so on).43 At the same time, the significant increase in pauperism confuses things; attesting to the failings of pastoral power?44 Debate ensues. Fletcher and Davenport in England, Vauban and Boulainvilliers in France: absolutist economic management comes under attack (albeit in the name of noble privilege). Through the eighteenth century the ground shifts substantially. The Physiocrats (who become a half-way house between the ‘economists’ who later follow Smith, and the state-planners of the mercantile era) challenge the very rationale of interventionist management. By introducing natural law into the analysis of wealth they open the way for laissez-faire; policies which emulate the principles and laws upon which natural orders exist. A more outwardly systematic analysis of the various factors which impact upon population growth and wealth (taxation, distribution of profit, etc.) is established. The category of the ‘human race’ appears for the first time, refocusing attention on individual conduct in the context of the order of the whole (laissez-faire was yet to mean laissez-passer). Meanwhile the critique of nobility sets the standard against which the virtues of bourgeois morality (hard work as opposed to privilege; thrift as opposed to opulence) are established.45 “Liberalism” enters.

Karl Polanyi, in The Great Transformation, describes the next move: that following Smith, with the ‘discovery’ of the natural laws of society. The detail is less important than the overall consequence, so I shall simply summarize the key points of this next threshold in the emergence of the private domain: 1) poor relief emerges as a urgent problem somewhere around 1780. 2) Townsend’s Dissertation on the Poor Laws appears, wherein an allegorical story of goats and dogs illustrates a wholly new concept in political economy: hunger was the natural law of man. Approaching man from the animal side46 — that men were indeed beasts (instead of being, as for example for Hobbes, only like beasts) — introduced the notion, surprizingly, that only a minimal amount of government was required. Magistrates were unnecessary. 3) Malthus and Ricardo follow, with population law and the theory of diminishing returns respectively.47 Bentham follows, arguing against subsistence and for the necessity of increasing want; so as to make the physical sanction of hunger more effective. People ought to be driven to private initiative.48 The basis of the theory of utility is established. Pleasure and pain were the new “sovereign masters.” Meanwhile the role of merchants is transformed (the way forward had already been suggested, earlier in the century, by the likes of Boisguilbert). Trade is no longer strictly a question of the production of surplus, but rather the multiplication of exchanges. Surplus, in the way of levy, is a non-productive use of resources. With the diversification that is encouraged by exchange, new goods will be brought in, creating new wants, and the encouragement to work. Breaking with police science, which took it upon itself to provide for the citizenry, the liberal concern is with ‘governing too much.’49 A concern for opening up the sphere of private activity is coupled with a concern to make the practice of ‘government’ both politically and economically efficient. Indeed a new question emerges: ‘Why, in fact must one govern?’50 Self-regulating “market society” emerges.

Yet in other ways the emergence of ‘liberal political economy’ is less of a break with the classical age than on the surface it seems. We will remember the ambiguity at the heart of the police project. Described by Raeff, the problem with encouraging individualism and autonomy as the surest way to state productivity and security was that one undermined, in their very emergence, the rationale supposedly at the very heart of cameralism and enlightened absolutism. But what if this individualism and autonomy were more important than the love of control? Or better still, what if this autonomy, this individual, was constituted in such a way to play automatically — in each life — the role of the police? In Raeff’s description, though he admits that one finds in the police ordinances major elements of what would become leitmotifs of Enlightenment, the interventionist policies of the cameral theorists backfired: creating a kind of individualism that turns back on the state, resulting in ‘a greater awareness on the part of the members of society of the desirability of maximizing their own creative energies’ and an ‘emerging class-consciousness determined by individual self-interest.’ This in turn, in Raeff’s account, stimulates a questioning of the legitimacy of absolutism and cameralism, ‘while at the same time pushing society and its active members onto the road of modernity and individualism.’51

But if we simply listen to the cameralists themselves, we find the basis of the disappearance they prepared for themselves. In the words of von Justi:

Policeywissenschaft is concerned chiefly with the conduct [Lebenswandel] and sustenance [Nahrung] of subjects, and its great purpose is to put both in such equilibrium and correlation that the subjects of the republic will be useful, and in a position easily to support themselves.52

Not only note the language (‘equilibrium’), but the aim: to perfect the administrative relations of government to the point where individuals can provide for themselves. Many other examples of like-formulations could be cited. But the essence of the point is this: Townsend provides new means to a similar end. Smith, afterall, was indebted to the cameral theorists. Having established the regular framework of the state, the liberal economists provide new means — preferable in being efficient means — of sustaining the order of economy and state. Not a change of strategy, but a change of tactics. The police — as far as could be possible — would disappear into heads, into dispositions, into social laws and into wants. It is little wonder that the cameral writers quietly leave the stage.

As another example, the notion of self-regulation has deep roots in the Renaissance. The fascination with all kinds of clockwork mechanisms defined — until the nineteenth century — the technical imagination of machines and societies. The singular machine that dominated that imaginary was the automaton. Those tiny marvels of the mechanical arts heralded immense consequences in the realm of governmentality. And for years they actively impeded the emergence of authorship. As Jonathan Sawday in The Body Emblazoned, describes:

the body as a machine, as a clock, as an automaton, was understood as having no intellect of its own. Instead, it silently operated according to the laws of mechanics. As a machine, the body became objectified: a focus of intense curiosity, but entirely divorced from the world of the speaking and thinking subject.53

By necessity this would change, though the disciplines would remain, as toward the end of the nineteenth century — at the beginnings of modernity proper (the Napoleonic threshold) — the second law of thermodynamics (steam power) supplants the automaton in the generalized imaginary, giving rise to notions of balance and equilibrium, flows and feeds, and ultimately the metaphorical stock of liberal economy.54 With the emergence of the ‘feedback’ principle we find a mobilization of — but not necessarily a change of real kind in the organization of — the relations between the political and technical imaginaries. New possibilities were being opened of course. But the society dreamt of by Napoleon (who inaugurates the shift from the classical to the modern eras), was — if not characterized by unthinking brute automatons — essentially machinic, despite his own adherence to the rhetoric of natural philosophy.55 by machines.’ cf., Napoleon Bonaparte, A System of Education for the Infant King of Rome (London: Thomas Davison, 1820), p. 93.] Though the organicism of Hegel was supplanting the mechanical rationalism of the Enlightenment, it was never entirely possible to separate the evolution of historical thought from the immediacies of political governance, of which the former was more often than not, a mirror.

The interesting puzzle is how out of this organicist view of history and society — not one so conducive to private initiative — did a space for a distinct domain of private activity emerge. And it is exactly at this point that we find this intersection of historical and political imaginaries. The transitional phase of real importance is between modalities of the arts of governing: from on the one hand a concern with governing too little (the desire on the part of the police to look into, and modify if necessary, every compartment of life), to a suspicion that one is governing too much (the era fronted by Smith and Malthus, and underpinned, remarkably, by disciplinarians like Bentham).56 It is a transitional phase which is mirrored in events by a melding of organicist and materialist metaphorics.57 This melding — this bringing together of the two great themes of modern governmentality (intervention and self-constitution; order and regularity and innovation and equilibrium) — is crucial, and much worthy of study, if we are to understand the ways in which the rise of the private domain continued to intersect with, and bolster the security arrangements of the state. It is on the basis of a reading of this transition that I would suggest that the rise of private authority — or private authorship — in no way compromises the state. On the contrary, it has been, and continues to be, essential to it.

The eye of conscience

The emblematic event, to Foucault’s mind, which crystallizes this negotiation, bringing all the various elements together — the state’s concern for discipline and order vis-à-vis the population-wealth problem, the emergence of private domains of experience and activity (market society), as well as discourse and authorship (the emergence of the modern self) — is the birth of the modern prison. Unsurprisingly, this suggestion, first made by Foucault in the mid-1970s, created quite a stir. Away from the controversy, his analysis of the technology and emergence of the prison, and in particular his discussion of Bentham’s scheme for the ideal penitentiary, is essential, in my view, to an understanding of the emergence of domains both of the modern self (the domain of the private author), and privatized authority (by which I mean diffusions and devolutions of power). Again, I shall leave the detail for further reading. The key salient points are as follows: 1) the Panopticon — Bentham’s ideal reformatory, and the lynchpin around which Foucault based his analysis of the emergence of modern social power — is essentially an automatism.58 Once built the very architecture of the construction itself takes over, ensuring the circulation — or “feedback”, in nineteenth century metaphorical terms — of power relations. For those unfamiliar with Bentham’s plans, it is worth quoting at length Foucault’s own description:

at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to the windows of the tower; the other, one the outside, allows the light to cross the cell from one end to the other. All that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy. By the effect of backlighting, one can observe from the tower, standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery. They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible. The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately. In short, it reverses the principle of the dungeon; or rather of its three functions — to enclose, to deprive of light and to hide — it preserves only the first and eliminates the other two. Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap.59

‘The major effect,’ Foucault continues,

(is) to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers.60

Its key technology being surveillance, the Panopticon was essentially that odd phenomenon of a centralized decentralization. In other words, its operation depended upon the constant feeling on behalf of the inmate of being observed. Thus the inmate is subjected not only to uncertainty, but a discourse with the self which brings forth the voice of conscience. All of this happens whether a guard is in the control tower or not. In other words, power operates in the head of each inmate, but its consequence is a reinforcement of a centralized economy of domination. 2) The individual has his or her own space. He or she is the author of their own actions, but is set within a broader, regular, permanent geometry of registration and inspection. The cell is intended to be, for all intents and purposes, a stage, whereupon, each single day, the inmate performs the dual role of convict and governor. In both instances through penitence.

3) Power is no longer exercised in a sovereign manner. Rather it is invested in a ‘certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; in an arrangement … ’61 It is deterritorialized. 4) In the end, what else does the modern prison really aim to achieve but the complete ordering of men? The point of the Panopticon was to release relations of power — ‘unlock’ the disciplines — to have them operate in diffuse, multiple and polyvalent ways throughout the social body as well as the prison (remember, Bentham’s scheme was intended as a model for ‘any sort of establishment’ wherein persons are to be kept under inspection). Thus would be ensured — through the stringing together of all kinds of institutions (schools, factories, prisons, charity houses, barracks, hospitals, asylums, etc.) — the emergence of a space of self-organization and autobiographical authorship, whereby the individual, penetrated by power, acting upon the self, would become automatic, calculable, regular.62 Surveillance in the prison replicates hunger in society, and henceforth would take over where hunger itself failed. At the threshold of modernity — via this great transformation in the arts of governing whereby the police state which discovered life becomes the liberal state which privatizes discipline — the effects of surveillance (the dispersal throughout society of individualizing forms of power) had become so apparent as to become transparent — in other words, open: the open landscape upon which the man of modern industrial civilization is found — remembering words, scratching around, picking up tools, directed now not by a king, but a path upon which he is drawn by the echo of his own voice.

The birth of the author

Now we can talk of the birth of the author! Over to Nietzsche:

That particular task of breeding an animal which has the right to make a promise includes (…) as precondition and preparation, the more immediate task of first making man to a certain degree undeviating, uniform, a peer among peers, orderly and consequently predictable. [Such an] immense amount of labor involved (…), the actual labor of man on himself (…) Let us place ourselves at the end of this immense process where the tree actually bears fruit, where society and its morality of custom finally reveal what they were simply the means to: we then find the sovereign individual as the ripest fruit on the tree, like only to itself, having freed itself from the morality of custom, an autonomous, supra-ethical individual (because ‘autonomous’ and ‘ethical’ are mutually exclusive), in short, we find man with his own, independent, durable will, who has the right to make a promise — and has a proud consciousness quivering in every muscle of what he has finally achieved and incorporated, an actual awareness of power and freedom, a feeling that man in general has reached completion.63

This autonomous, supra-ethical individual, of independent and durable will, proud consciousness and awareness of freedom, sounds remarkably similar, at least to my ears, to the laissez passer, homo oeconomicus of utilitarian liberalism. Both that and the inmate of the reformatory, whose,

proud realization of the extraordinary privilege of responsibility, the awareness of this rare freedom and power over himself and his destiny, has penetrated him to the depths and become an instinct, his dominant instinct: – what will he call his dominant instinct, assuming that he needs a word for it? No doubt about the answer: this sovereign man call it his conscience64

No doubt for Nietzsche either from what misfortunes such a man emerges. ‘An act of violence’, rather than a gradual or voluntary alteration occasioned the shaping of the raw material of people and “semi-animals.” Only, indeed, the ‘terrible tyranny’ and ‘repressive and ruthless machinery’ of the state could burn into memory such sovereign freedoms as ‘duty’, and ‘debt.’ Nietzsche isn’t fooled by the policeman posing as shepherd. And it is obvious, he tells us, who is meant by this term ‘the state’: the conquerors and “unconscious artists” whose hammer blows come like fate, without cause or reason, all too terrible and sudden, and convincing, just like lightning, to be hated. ‘Where they appear,’

soon something new arises, a structure of domination that lives, in which parts and functions are differentiated and co-related, in which there is absolutely no room for anything which does not acquire ‘meaning’ with regard to the whole.65

When exactly this happens is only intimated. The Great Inquisitions would make a suitable background. In The History of Sexuality, of course, Foucault pushed the boundaries further back before the modern age: at least if not of the despotic state, then the formation of a discourse on the self.66 But though he studied there — in antiquity I mean — several domains of this vast living structure — this emerging discourse on the self, and its intersections with the broader discursive constitution of society in general — setting forth to analyze what he saw as the emergence of various ‘technologies of the self’ (forms of cultivation, self-enhancement, and self-knowledge), Foucault’s constant concern, played out like so many reflections in the mirror of history, was the passage of a decidedly modern self.67 Amidst the detail he was aiming at a simple truth — one not lost on Nietzsche, despite the force with which he recounts his genealogy. ‘Governing people,’ Foucault suggested,

in the broad sense of the word, is not a way to force people to do what the governor wants; it is always a versatile equilibrium, with complementarity and conflicts between techniques which assure coercion and processes through which the self is constructed or modified by himself.68

In his view, this modification of the self (the very essence of surveillance) had become the principle means, in the societies in which we live, or sustaining social order. In my view, this intersection of “government” and “subjectivation” (or how relations of subjectivation manufacture subjects) describes much about the stakes involved in the emergence of, and the ideological justifications of, domains of private authority. If Foucault is right — that these types of intersections dominate the modern world — do we not get a very different political reading of the ‘individualization of biographical forms’ that Beck talks of? Does not this demand we take account of a far broader horizon of knowledge/power relations when thinking of the “private domain”?

Final voice

‘One must oblige people to speak,’ wrote Napoleon.69 To be sure, this is nothing new. In Book III of On the State, Cicero described the first act of government in the following way:

When Reason found people uttering formless, confused sounds with uncouth voices, it took these sounds and divided them out into separate classes, and fastened names upon things just as one must fasten labels. By this means, human beings, who had been isolated from each other before, were joined together, one with another, by the convenient means of communication provided by speech.70

Engendering speech is essential to any state. But in Cicero’s republic communication was simply functional, while oratory was left to the governors, consuls, rhetors and statesmen. It is panopticism which provides the first clear societal model of privatized oratory: a governed soul who is invited to speak with him or herself.71 The essence of surveillance is that the individual modifies his or her own behavior without the direct intervention of the guardian. All the less objectionable when the subjected is the author. A permanent and self-generational, circular operation of power relations ensure the optimal ‘economy of government’ — diffused and efficient. In a word, sub-contracted.

Rather like a flock of sheep scattered in the absence of their master, modern societies are decentralized against the illusion of the disappearance of the state. But just as the shepherd need only whistle for the flock to assemble, so also, in the contemporary world, need the state only appear for relations of authority to ascend again upward, and coalesce again within it. Rather as though the sheep are wise, wily, and mature, so modern societies are left to their own devices to the extent to which they have achieved the ability to self-organize (to become authors of their own biographies). In this sense the state does not so much disappear as appear everywhere — in events and the behavior of people — like the proverbial wood obscured by the trees. Only with the emergence of rebellion from within, or new and absolute dangers from without (which, because the flock of men is so vast, means dangers of huge proportions), does the shepherd, or the state, need again to reveal its presence. Minor illegalities, minor infringements of the master’s will are acceptable. Indeed they are generative, teaching self-reliance and a kind of ‘smartness’ which is in itself useful, productive, and to the common good.72

So is the self-organization of the flock — the emergence of domains of private authorship — in any way a challenge to his master’s voice? Not in my view. On the contrary, it is a reinforcement, an automatic functioning, of the shepherd’s discipline. Just as the old division of the mad and the reasonable does not disappear because the therapist’s couch replaces the padded cell, so the simple appearance of the actor on stage delivering lines in no way denotes that he wrote them himself. Like the analyst and the analysand, the state has realized it need only keep us talking; mirroring the ceaseless accumulation of capital with a ceaseless accumulation of discourse. ‘Let us speak without disguise or constraint’, begs d’Alembert, at the very moment society is “discovered.” Yet the freedom to speak by no means assures that in actuality one is authoring one’s life. To the monotonous flow of discourse — the droning on and on of authors — one can add the disciplines of that other perpetual theatre, the market, both of which together suggest that in depth one is no less free in a private organization than one is in the iron cage of state bureaucracy. An illusion of (market) sovereignty replaces the reality of (capitalist) subjection in equal measure to the illusion of (societal) authorship, which obscures the reality of voicelessness. In truth, each collapses into the other, as Kafka so profoundly recognized when he wrote,

The afterthoughts with which you justify your accommodation to the Evil One are not yours but those of the Evil One. The animal snatches the whip from its master and whips itself so as to become master, and does not know that all this is only a fantasy caused by a new knot in the master’s whiplash.73

Only if we believe power is repressive — exercised as a negative — can we maintain the illusion that self-assertion is transgressive and liberating. What leads us to say with such passion that sovereign individuality is the great overcoming of slavery? What led us to believe that the ‘laborious Slave’ was the source of all progress?74 What if power could be exercised in the positive — engendering and permitting, rather than prohibiting and censoring? We would pass from techniques which police the limits of the acceptable to techniques which suggest the limitlessness of the possible. Would not then the grasping of authorship — the grabbing of the microphone — or the struggle of the working slave, dreaming of becoming master, not transfigure self-assertion into “emulation”, liberality into self-discipline? Each slave is encouraged to become master, but in so doing accepts as destiny a subjectivity already decided by the original master — the true sovereign of individuality. All the more important, therefore, to continue defining what it is to speak the truth, and what it is to take risks — particularly with one’s “self.”75 ‘The “growing autonomy of the individual”,’ wrote Nietzsche:

these Parisian philosophers such as Fouillée speak of this; they ought to take a look at the race moutonnière [race of sheep] to which they belong! Open your eyes, you sociologists of the future! The individual has grown strong under opposite conditions; what you describe is the most extreme weakening and impoverishment of mankind; you even desire it (…), you actually regard your herd-animal needs as an ideal!76

So before we too easily talk of the “challenges of private authority” hadn’t we better pause — at least for a moment — to consider in detail the political nature of the space opened up, from the early modern era through the present, for the emergence and the operation of “private authorship”? The order of the law, suggested Blanchot, is never so sovereign than at the moment it envelops precisely that which had tried to overturn it. Perhaps we should subject to analysis the regime of truth within which the notion of ‘authorship as critique’ is located, and in particular that of the “sovereign individual.” Perhaps we should see in this phrase what it really means: the melding of two forms that have fought each other through history — the state-form based in discipline and training, and the nomad, or people-form enamoured of freedom.77 Perhaps by so doing we can uncover not only the history of the diffusion of authority, but the political history of the creation of authors — not only of the truth of the voice which can speak, but the political history of the knowledge which is spoken.

This paper was written for an author’s workshop on ‘Private Authority and International Order’, held at the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, February 11-12, 1999. It was the last paper presented at the workshop, taking a radically dissenting view. It was the only paper rejected from the final volume, edited by Rodney Bruce Hall and Thomas J. Biersteker, The Emergence of Private Authority in Global Governance (Cambridge University Press, 2002).


  1. Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Toward a New Modernity (London: Sage, 1992), p. 130.
  2. i.e., the dissolution of the ‘economy of confinement’ studied in numerous works by Michel Foucault. Gilles Deleuze was one of the first to correct the misperception that Foucault in his studies was describing the outlines of a disciplinary model still in command. As Deleuze writes, “Foucault also knew how short-lived this model was … ‘Control’ is the name proposed by Burroughs to characterize the new monster, and Foucault sees it fast approaching.” Gilles Deleuze, ‘Postscript on Control Societies’, in Negotiations, 1972-1990 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 177-82. cf., Michel Foucault, Remarks on Marx (New York: Semiotext(e), 1991), p.177, pp. 167-8. The phrase ‘disciplinary society’ is introduced in Michel Foucault’s pioneering study of the development of administrative systems through the modern period, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London: Allen Lane, 1977), p. 209.
  3. In political and philosophical discourse we too often delimit power relations to their juridical form. Yet relations of power operate within lives equally at times when the caretakers of institutional power (the police, the judges, the magistrates) are absent. Whereas juridical forms of power operate at the limit of the acceptable (containing delinquency, circumscribing madness, exposing the pathological …), very different, though related, forms work to establish the rule (norma). If laws and institutions characterize juridical forms in sovereign societies, knowledge and norms can be said to characterize normalizing societies. In actuality, though kingship has largely disappeared in the modern world, these forms of power are neither opposites nor in competition. In this essay when the term ‘the state’ is employed I have in mind the meeting point of these two schemas of power — the juridical one based in institutions and the normalizing one based in acquired (at times regimented) forms of behavior — rather than simply the juridical form alone.
  4. cf., Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (London: Tavistock, 1967), p. 38.
  5. Ivan Illich, ‘The Institutional Construction of a New Fetish: Human Life’, in Ivan Illich, In the Mirror of the Past: Lectures and Addresses, 1978-1990 (New York: Marion Boyars, 1992), p. 219.
  6. Michel Foucault, ‘Omnes et singulatim: toward a criticism of political reason’, two lectures delivered at Stanford University, California, on October 10 and 16, 1979, reprinted in Sterling M. McMurrin (ed.), The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Vol. 2 (Utah: University of Utah Press, 1981), p. 227.
  7. ibid, pp. 232-235.
  8. ibid, p. 235.
  9. ibid, pp. 238-9.
  10. ibid, pp. 239.
  11. ibid, p. 241.
  12. quoted in, ibid, p. 243.
  13. ibid, p. 244.
  14. The opening of political arithmetic as an empirical field is generally attributed to John Graunt whose Natural and Political Observations … On the Bills of Mortality, was published in 1662. William Petty presented his Politicall Arithmetick in manuscript to Charles II in 1676, it being published posthumously in 1690. cf., Frank Lorimer, ‘The Development of Demography’, in Philip Hauser and Otis Dudley Duncan (Eds.), The Study of Population: An Inventory and Appraisal (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), pp. 124-179.
  15. Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Writings (London: Wheatsheaf, 1980), p. 171.
  16. cf., Albion Small, The Cameralists: The Pioneers of German Social Polity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1909).
  17. Foucault, ‘Omnes et Singulatim’, p. 248.
  18. quoted in, Keith Tribe, Strategies of Economic Order: German Economic Discourse, 1750-1950 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 20-21.
  19. Foucault, ‘Omnes et Singulatim’, p. 248.
  20. ibid, p. 250.
  21. Tribe, Strategies of Economic Order, pp. 11-12.
  22. Marc Raeff, ‘The Well-Ordered Police State and the Development of Modernity in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Europe: An Attempt at a Comparative Approach’, The American Historical Review, 80 (2) (1975), p. 1238.
  23. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction (London: Allen Lane, 1979), p. 136.
  24. From the scaffold of the Middle Ages to the penitentiary of the modern era, Foucault detected a certain continuity. In essence each had the same object — the disciplining of populations — though they were radically different in their means of achieving it. Giving lie to the humanist/reformist narrative of history (that the prison, like the asylum, was an Enlightened answer to the barbarity of corporeal power), Foucault showed how the move from forms of power which mark the body (forms epitomized in the theatre of cruelty of the public execution; the “bloody code”, as it was called in England) to forms that target the soul in order to modify it (conscience, moral judgement, spiritual retribution — the ‘gentle way’ in punishment) was not to punish less, but to punish better. ‘[T
  25. Michel Foucault, ‘Governmentality’, in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon and Peter Miller (Eds.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), pp. 102-3.
  26. As Foucault describes: “The striking thing is that the rationality of state power was reflective and perfectly aware of its specificity. It was not tucked away in spontaneous, blind practices. It was not brought to light by some retrospective analysis.” Foucault, ‘Omnes et Singulatim’, p. 242. cf., Michel Foucault, ‘The Life of Infamous Men’, in Meaghan Morris and Paul Patton (Eds.), Michel Foucault: Power, Truth, Strategy (Sydney: Feral Publications, 1979), pp. 76-91.
  27. Michel Foucault, Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth (New York: The New Press, 1997), p. 67.
  28. Michel Foucault, ‘The Subject and Power’, in Paul Rabinow and Hubert Dreyfus, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics (London: Wheatsheaf, 1982), p. 215.
  29. An idea which forms the basis of many variations of social contract theory (cf., Hobbes, Locke, Pufendorf, Montesquieu).
  30. cf., Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 41-2.
  31. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, pp. 59-65.
  32. Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (New York: Mentor, 1960), p. 93.
  33. Giovanni Botero, The Reason of State, and The Greatness of Cities (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1956), p. 6.
  34. cf., Maurizio Viroli, From Politics to Reason of State: The Acquisition and Transformation of the Language of Politics, 1250-1600 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
  35. cf., Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (London: Routledge, 1995).
  36. Foucault, Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, p. 69.
  37. ibid., p. 69.
  38. ibid, pp. 67-71.
  39. ibid, p. 69. Controversy on this issue reached a high point in France in 1756 with the publication of Victor Marquis de Mirabeau’s L’ami des hommes ou traité de la population, wherein Mirabeau sets out to prove that the strength of the state depends on the well-being of peasants and workers, and that such strength is drained where an overall decline in population is tolerated. Mirabeau, like Botero, might be said to be on one side of a resources-population axis. The other side is peopled by the likes of Wallace and Cantillon, and most famously Malthus. For them the “population question” was not one of ensuring a multitudinous state of the same, but the potentiality of men, or other organisms, to exceed the resources for their support (i.e., overpopulation). This latter side outweighed the former as we pass from the age of ‘political arithmetic’, located between a waning sovereign power and an emerging social power of society, to the age of demography, associated with the dominance of social power, or the rearticulation of sovereign power as social, or normalizing power.
  40. cf., Carl J. Friedrich, The Age of the Baroque: 1610-1660 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1952), pp. 12-13.
  41. Their differences are primarily of domain of application: cameralism focuses on internal “economy” (denoting ‘wise government’), mercantilism on external commerce.
  42. cf., Reinhart Koselleck, Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988).
  43. The emergence, toward the end of the eighteenth century, of medizinische Politzei — social medicine, or public health — is in many ways the culmination, rather than the beginning, of a concern with the ‘general welfare’ of the populace.
  44. Clearly the cameral objective of providing each citizen with the means of sustaining him or herself was faltering. Even more so the proto-modern pastoral concern of the Wohlfarht (wealth-tranquility-happiness) state. But there was also a disciplinary-institutional aspect, or what we might think of as a wealth-tranquility-security aspect — described ably in Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization — which in some ways balanced out the discrepancy, and in the end justified it. This aspect had allied initially with the ‘great confinement’ — taking the poor, with other non-desirables, out of the city. By the late eighteenth century it became clear that general confinement was rash. The industrial revolution was pushing poverty into the countryside, the very seat of moral life. Pauperism was slowly freeing itself from the stigma of idleness, and passing into the realm of usefulness: “Because they labor and consume little, those who are in need permit a nation to enrich itself, to set a high value on its fields, its colonies, and its mines, to manufacture products which would be sold the world over (…) Indigence had become an indispensable element in the State.” Foucault, Madness and Civilization, pp. 229-230. Quoting Abbé de Récalde, Foucault provides a clue as to how, at the end of the eighteenth century, the problem of discipline, the problem of security and the problem of the poor aligns to a new realization of the uses of poverty in the support of sovereign power: “ … a sovereign cannot preserve and extend his realm without favoring the population, the cultivation of the Land, the Arts, and commerce; and the Poor are the necessary agents of these great powers which establish the true strength of a People.” Foucault, Madness and Civilization, p. 230.
  45. Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, Volume 2: The Wheels of Commerce (London: William Collins Sons & Co, 1982), p. 504.
  46. Unlike, for example, Hobbes who saw human force as the Newtonian law of society, or Hartley, for whom it was psychology, Quesney, for who it was self-interest, Helvetius, for whom it was the quest for utility. cf., Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Books, 1957), pp. 111-116.
  47. Malthus is particularly important in establishing what will become the very basis of liberal economy: the concept of scarce resources. This concept — an age old condition but a nineteenth century discovery — will work not only to bring legitimacy to the practice of “managing” state forces (in particular, policing the idle), but will become the primary certainty governing the imagination of millions, ensuring self-discipline and organization, and the assimilation of the workforce as a whole to industrialized definitions of efficiency and productivity.
  48. In the words of Malthus: “A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents on whom he has a just demand, and if the society does not want his labor, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to where he is. At nature’s mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him.” cf., Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 249. Malthus — indicative of the general prevailing attitudes of the time — is a long way here from the kinds of collective care exercised by the polizeistaat. Neither are we talking of the early-modern theological justification of work found, for example, in Bossuet (Élevations sur les mystères). With Malthus and Bentham we’re very firmly in the era of moral and social compulsion. Private initiative was a mortal responsibility: far closer to Colbert than the odyssey permitted in Voltaire’s Candide.
  49. It is of course my point that police science aimed at this break, and its own disappearance. I shall come to this presently.
  50. Foucault, Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth, p. 75.
  51. Raeff, ‘The Well-Ordered Police State’, pp. 1238-1239.
  52. quoted in, Small, The Cameralists, p. 328.
  53. Sawday, The Body Emblazoned, p. 29.
  54. cf., Otto Mayr, Authority, Liberty and Automatic Machinery in Early Modern Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1986), pp. 164-180.
  55. ‘Nothing not natural is perfect’ writes the man who explained to his son the “genius” of ‘directing [nature
  56. “It is, then, with government as it is with medicine; its only business is the choice of evils. Every law is an evil, because every law is a violation of liberty; so that government, I say again, can only choose between evils.” Jeremy Bentham, Theory of Legislation, Vol. 1 (Boston, 1830), p. 65. It is because Bentham had discovered, as had the cameral theoreticians of Austria and Germany, the political use of the principals of pleasure and pain (pleasure equating with happiness, pain equating with hunger), that, like cameral theory, could he make possible the dream of an automatic functioning of power. Boisguilbert, before Smith, attempted the same for commerce. The “greatest happiness” principle is linked to the absence of the father saying ‘No”. Positive discipline (enterprise) is to replace, to as great an extent possible, the negative discipline of magistrates and law.
  57. I refer to the blurring of the distinction between organism and machine suggested by materialist philosophy (Hobbes, La Mettrie, Holbach, etc.), which, though somewhat discredited throughout the eighteenth century, deeply influenced the strategic imaginary (especially in the realm of military application) as the modern (Napoleonic) state crystallizes.
  58. ‘Panopticon’ is the name chosen by Jeremy Bentham for a plan of the ideal inspection house, or reformatory. Though never realized to the letter, Bentham’s analysis of the ideal operation of relations of power was, and remains, deeply influential. cf., Jeremy Bentham, Panopticon; or The Inspection House: Containing the Idea of a New Principle of Construction applicable to any sort of Establishment … (London: T. Payne, 1791).
  59. Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 200
  60. ibid, p. 201.
  61. ibid, p. 202.
  62. In Madness and Civilization, Foucault had already hinted at how it came to be that the very buildings of the early modern state (almshouses, lazarettos, leprosariums and the early workhouse-prisons) became symbolic fortresses on the “landscape” of the imaginary of “Western man”. Quoting Abbé Desmonceaux: “these guarded asylums (…) are retreats as useful as they are necessary (…) The sight of these shadowy places and the guilty creatures they contain is well calculated to preserve from he same acts of retrobation the deviations of a too licentious youth; it is thus prudent of mothers and fathers to familiarize their children at an early age with these horrible and detestable places, where shame and turpitude fetter crime, where man, corrupted in his essence, often loses forever the rights he had acquired in society.” Thus the very building itself is not only inwardly oriented (as a place of training for the inmate), but outwardly looking; gazing over the populace as a whole, and effecting, in so doing, a similar conversation with the self in the “free man”, as in the confined. cf., Foucault, Madness and Civilization, pp. 206-209.
  63. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, pp. 39-40.
  64. ibid, p. 40.
  65. ibid, p. 63.
  66. Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 3: The Care of the Self (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986).
  67. cf., Michel Foucault, ‘The Political Technology of Individuals’, in Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman and Patrick H. Hutton (eds.), Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault (London: Tavistock, 1988), and ‘About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self’, in Jeremy R. Carrette (ed.), Religion and Culture / by Michel Foucault (New York: Routledge, 1999).
  68. Michel Foucault, ‘Is it really important to think?’, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Vol. 9 No. 1 (1982), p. 32.
  69. Yann Cloarec (ed.), Napoleon: How to Make War (New York: Ediciones La Calavera, 1998), p. 17.
  70. Marcus Tullius Cicero, On Government (London: Penguin Books, 1993), p. 173.
  71. As intimated earlier (cf., footnote 63), a more precise delineation of the shift represented by panopticism would be that from an order inwardly oriented, to one outwardly oriented. “Conversing with the self” is of course a practice of origin far earlier than the nineteenth century. Prior to the prison, the Benedictine order—particularly under its scheme of instruction for the liberal arts — had institutionalized what we can think of as “the voice of conscience.” But until the 19th century, this “dawning of conscience” remained an inwardly oriented spiritual practice. Foucault’s discovery (cf., Discipline and Punish) concerns how conscience is transcripted into architecture, and hence social space—as distinct from the individualized meditative space enclosed by the walls of the monastery.
  72. cf. Richard Sennett, The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life (New York: Faber and Faber, 1996).
  73. Franz Kafka, The Basic Kafka (New York: Washington Square Press, 1979), p. 238. I’m grateful to Travis Aaron Ripley for sharing his astonishment at this passage and the world.
  74. In the words of Kojève, “History is the history of the working Slave.” cf., Alexandre Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel (Paris: Gallimard, 1947), p. 27.
  75. cf., Michel Foucault, Discourse and Truth: The problematization of ΠΑΡΡΗΣΙΑ (notes to a seminar given at the University of California at Berkeley, 1983, published in limited format under the editorship of Joseph Pearson, Northwestern University).
  76. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power (New York: Vintage, 1968), § 782.
  77. cf., Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (London: The Althone Press, 1984), pp. 217-240.