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Force / Power (1997)

Force / Power (1997)

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Published by Jordan Greenhall

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Published by: Jordan Greenhall on May 18, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The primary purpose of this document is to construct a set of concepts that are usefulfor thinking about things. In particular, in thinking about things in the context of post-modern, antifoundational, anti-essentialist critique. In the first section, I will develop anontology and a set of concepts. In the second section, I will launch upon an example ofhow these concepts can be used in practice.I. Force/Power1. Force and Powera. Force. A force is a concept defined as “a set of actions”. Take, for example, a horse.What is a horse? A horse is what it can do: to run, to bite, to shit, to neigh, to beridden, to pull a plow, to fall, to die, etc. This set of actions, this list of “affects” thatdefines what a horse can do, taken as a whole is a horse. As such, as a “set ofactions,” a horse is a force.b. Power. Imagine now a horse and a rider. Each is a set of affects -- a force. A horseand a rider enter into a relation. This relation gives rise to our second concept:“power”. Power is a relation between forces.The relation between horse and rider is a power. An apparently simple scenario, but itbecomes more complex and interesting as we add more forces to the relation. Thehorse has a saddle, a stirrup - themselves powers, sets of affects. The rider has bootsand is standing in the mud. There is a strong wind, and a scent of wolves in the air.The rider is late. Each of these forces contribute to the encounter between horse andrider -- that is, each of these forces compose the “local field of power”. Indeed, allforces that relate to the relation compose the local field of power (let us not forget theforce of gravity and the affects of which it is capable).So, our horse encounters a rider. How did this encounter happen? Was it chance thatthe horse happened upon the rider? Was the rider ordered to go to the horse (i.e., didanother force -- a boss -- effect this encounter)? How will this encounter resolve? It willbe the consequence of all of the relations between relevant forces in combination withchance. Perhaps the stirrup will break under the rider’s weight (gravity again) and therider will fall in the mud. Power determines force, or, rather, power, in combination withchance, determines force. That is, the actual affects of the force -- what it actually cando -- are the consequence of local and partial integrations of power in combination withchance. To say it in another way, power (in combination with chance) determineswhen, where, and how forces relate --- and what results from their relation.c. Force/Power. Every force is composed of sub-forces in relation. That is, every forceis a power --- which is a relation between forces. What we have is an infinite regress:power is a relation of relations determined by power; force is a relation determined by
relations by forces. Its all a matter of perspective: force/power. Force, taken from thedirection of relating, power taken from the direction of relation. Force/power isontological and exhaustive. There is nothing outside of force/power. It encompasseswords and things, ideas and objects. Ideas, emotions and sensations are composed ofcertain sets of affects and enter into complex relationships determined by local fields ofpower. The relations into which love or money can enter are certainly different than therelations into which a horse can enter, but love and money are, just the same,constructed imbued with certain affects and imbedded in certain local fields of power.This point can not be overemphasized: gravity, heat, carbohydrates, algebra, theRoman alphabet, neurotransmitters, apples, sunlight, time, MTV -- all of these areforces and all relate according to the same rules in the space of force/power.2. How forces relatea. Genealogy. The relation between forces is determined by the local field of power, butthe field of power is composed by the integration of forces in relation. In any given fieldof power, the affects of some forces can play a more significant role in shaping thecontours of that field of power -- and therefore in determining the relation betweenforces. We can call this role the “potency” of the force: the degree to which its affectsdetermine the character of the local field of power. Note that as circumstances change,the role a particular force plays in a field of power might vary radically, it is thereforecritical to recognize that potency inheres not in the force, but in the relation.The composition of a force is its “genealogy”. A genealogy is the infinite regress offorce-power that composes the particular set of actions of which a thing is capable andthe power with which that force manifests itself in the local field of power.For example, a particular chair is a force constructed by a woodworker from wood. Bothwoodworker and wood are forces, composed of particular affects imbedded in a localfield of power and constructed by a myriad of forces in relation: the bio-socio-culturalforces involved in the conception and physical development of the woodworker, the bio-techno-economic forces involved in the growing, harvesting and delivering of the woodto the woodworker’s shop, the socio-economic forces involved in the training of thewoodworker, the historical and cultural forces involved in the selection of this piece ofwood to make into this style of chair, etc. This litany of relations is the genealogy of aforce.b. Alliance. In any given encounter, a force becomes more potent than another througha complex interplay of strategy, tactics, diplomacy, alliance, treachery and luck. Therelation between forces is complicated. To understand this complication we mustrecognize two important points.First, power is in no way monolithic. To the contrary, it is an infinitesimally fissured
collective determined by the integrated affects of local forces brought together bypower-chance. As a consequence, force/power is a fractal collective -- every force hasa genealogy of infinite sub-forces determined in relation by infinite sub-powersdetermined in turn by the integrated affects of forces brought together by power-chance.As a consequence, power can change -- and it can change in unexpected ways.Second, every force consist of particular affects that express a unique affinity for otherforces. This affinity is a consequence of the genealogy of the related forces and itsexpression is determined within particular fields of power.So, for example, imagine a piece of sodium in an airtight bottle. We know that amongthe potential affects of sodium is a particular affective relation to water. Now, within thebottle, that is, within this particular field of power, the sodium is capable of expressingonly a limited number of affects -- explosion is not among these. Within the local field ofpower, the sodium cannot break the bottle.However, a field of power can be changed. If water is introduced into the local field ofpower, that is, if water is introduced into relation with the sodium (by chance, or by theimposition of another force whose affects alter the local field of power -- the seal on thebottle is broken), the current local set of relations will be displaced by an entirely newset (and, accordingly, a new field of power). Within that set, the potency of sodium haschanged. It can (and likely will) explode -- it can now break the bottle.We can say that with relation to the bottle, water functions as an “ally” of sodium. Thatis, with relation to a particular field of power, the introduction of water enhances (oractivates) an affect of sodium. This alliance is a consequence of the affinity betweensodium and water constructed by their unique genealogies. Such an alliance could not,for example, be formed between water and silicon.Alliance is any relation between forces that enhances the potency of one or more of therelated forces in a given field of power. In the context of a field of battle, the stirrup is anally of the horse-rider assemblage. In the context of building a bridge, calculus is an allyof the engineer. In a sense, alliance is a composition. Alliance is an encounterbetween forces that results in the composition of a new force with a greater potency in aparticular field of power. It is important to note that there is nothing linear or simpleabout alliance. Alliance does not simply make a force more potent. Alliance makes aforce more potent within a particular field of power. Water allies with sodium in thecontext of the relationship to the bottle. The same relationship between water andsodium results also in a complete decomposition of the sodium.We can now see how complicated the relations between forces can be. Everyencounter is an encounter between encounters, ad infinitum. Every force is a dynamic,multifarious unity held together by constructed affinities, but ready to decompose at the

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