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throughout the world are in the throes of a profound and rapid change. Increased dependence on computers, economic globalization, and the shaping of government policy by multinational corporations are only a few points on the landscape of change. The West is currently experiencing a profound shift from an industrial society to a post-industrial, Information society. These changes contrast with the commonly understood ways of seeing the world and with our taken-for-granted ways of understanding such familiar terms as "information" and "knowledge."
There is a rise and fall of epistemology through the history of the bourgeoisie. We are truly in the period in which bourgeoisie epistemology is a "lost civilization": just at the time when the actual limits and validity of knowledge appear to have been stretched to infinity. During the early period of its development - the trade in handicrafts in Italy, Dutch trading in commodities, or the slave trade - the embryonic bourgeoisie was constrained and repressed by the rigidity of the feudal system , its rights and obligations, its taxes and bondage and the Church. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries huge battles had already been fought under the banner of religion, to weaken the stranglehold and terror of the Church, and to grant the citizen their own "godliness.” The bourgeoisie citizen perceived the opportunity for social wealth and power in the world around him, irrespective of his admission to the nobility and the Church: it was this secular, common estate that beckoned him. In the earlier period, the struggle was fought out in religious terms. Since Sixteenth century it had been fought out in terms of secular religion, philosophy, and 1
particularly in terms of knowledge. The bourgeoisie regarded the knowledge of feudalism as worthless superstition, at least its relation to "practical affairs.” The bourgeoisie required a knowledge of nature as a vital necessity for the expansion of the productivity of labour. Since mid-eighteenth century that knowledge of Nature had been used for making of profits. But, the dispute over knowledge was not “conscious.” The thinkers of this time glorified the name of Nature, the common people, the name of experience, human labour, the name of sensation, human needs, the name of Reason and production. The bourgeois gentlemen did not know Nature as such, but only as given to them by the level of development of society at the time. The labouring masses were to them synonymous with Nature. The conception of knowledge during this period went through an essential development corresponding to the earliest problems the bourgeoisie faced in the accumulation of value: it began with right itself and culminated in the vision of a civil society which is self-created. The bourgeoisie really did develop an objectively true knowledge of nature and demonstrated it in the expansion of industry and technique. But, when the bourgeoisie took over the political power in a given country, a counter-tendency began to arise. On the one hand, there was the need for the techniques of social control, and on the other, an agency was required to maintain control over knowledge. Political economy, for instance, began as a genuine enquiry into the origin of the wealth of nations: but from the midnineteenth century it was required as one of the means of maintaining and justifying the status quo. It is a fact, that while the bourgeoisie was a class excluded political power, the promotion of natural science had a definite political value, and it was a part of its
formation; subsequently, the bourgeoisie stands in a contradictory, ambivalent relation to science. The first period in the development of epistemology is the "Classical" period from the Copernican Revolution up to Hegel and, with important qualifications, to Karl Marx. This is the period in which the bourgeoisie is historically progressive class involved in breaking down the dogma of feudalism and the great religions. During this period, the advocates of bourgeois epistemology were conducting a struggle, initially against the terror of the Inquisition, later against the theological reasoning. This first period particularly witnessed the emergence of specific national lines of development. A considerable extent of the opposite tendencies fought out at each stage in the development of epistemology are marked out along national lines. Further development of bourgeois philosophy after Kant in Germany is disowned by the bourgeoisie. On the one hand, epistemology turns inwards towards psychology, taking on the character of irrationalism, and rejecting the validity of knowledge. On the other hand, it continues to develop "despite itself" in connection with the development of natural science, especially physics. Nietzsche remains squarely within in the camp of Irrationalism. In pointing out that Truth is only useful for survival, Nietzsche also observes: "In spite of all the value which may belong to the true, it might be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for life generally should be assigned to pretence, to the will to delusion” (Beyond Good and Evil, 7). Schopenhauer, Nietzsche's teacher, who harboured a pathological hatred for Hegel, expounded a system of classical German school of philosophy, built
around Will rather than Rationality. Likewise, Kierkegaard wrote not only in revulsion at the hypocrisy and corruption of the church and the establishment of his day but also against what he regarded as the "rationalism" of Hegel. Michel Foucault spent most of his career tracing the threads of truth and power as they intertwine with the history of human experience. He especially loved to study asylums and prisons because they are close to an encapsulated power structure. Using techniques from psychology, politics, anthropology, sociology, and archaeology, Foucault presented a highly politicized analysis of the functions of power and power relations. Throughout his work Foucault seeks to make sense of how the contemporary society is structured differently from the society that preceded it. He has been particularly influential precisely because he tends to overturn accepted wisdom, illustrating the dangers inherent in the Enlightenment reforms that were designed to correct the barbarity of previous periods. As Foucault illustrates, each process of modernization entails disturbing effects with regard to the power of the individual and the control of government.
Foucault’s understanding of power changes between his early work on institutions (Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, Discipline and Punish, The History of Sexuality) and his later work on sexuality and governmentality. In the early works, Foucault gives a sense that power somehow inheres in institutions themselves rather than in the individuals that make those institutions function. What Foucault explores in these books is how the creation of modern disciplines, with their principles of order and
control, tends to "disindividualize" power, making appear that power inheres in the prison, the school, the factory, and so on. The Panopticon becomes Foucault's model for the way other institutions function: the Panopticon is an important mechanism, for it automatizes and disindividualizes power. Power has its principle not so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; in an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in which individuals are caught up. (Discipline and Punish, 202) He explores the ways the governments claim greater control over and enforcement of even more private aspects of our lives. In particular, Foucault explores the transition from what he terms a "culture of spectacle" to a "carceral culture." Whereas in the former punishment was effected on the body in public displays of torture, dismemberment, and obliteration, in the latter punishment and discipline become internalized and directed to the constitution and, if necessary, rehabilitation of social subjects. The former was a characteristic of pre-modern societies where punishment was a spectacle. The later is a characteristic of contemporary societies where the subjects; especially those who dissent the hegemony of the rulers, are internally tortured to annihilate their identities. Jeremy Bentham's Nineteenth century prison reforms provide Foucault with a representative model for what happened to the society in the Nineteenth century. Bentham argued in The Panopticon that the perfect prison would be structured in such a way that cells would be open to a central tower. In the model, individuals in the cells do not interact with each other and are constantly confronted by the panoptic tower (pan=all; optic=seeing). They cannot, see when there is a person in the tower; they must believe 5
that they could be watched at any moment: "the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so" (Discipline and Punish, 201). He is expected to get disciplined under the centralized surveillance. Bentham saw this prison reform as a model for how society should function. With a view to maintaining order in a democratic and capitalist society, the populace needs to believe that any person could be surveilled at any time. In time, such a structure would ensure that the people would soon internalize the panoptic tower and discipline themselves: He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection. (Discipline and Punish, 202) Indeed, Bentham's goal was to create an architectural idea that could ultimately, function on its own. It does not matter who exactly operate the machine but how it functions: "Any individual, taken almost at random, can operate the machine: in the absence of the director, his family, his friends, his visitors, even his servants" (Discipline and Punish, 202). The idea of discipline itself functions similarly as an abstraction of the idea of power from any individual: "'Discipline' may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a physics' or 6
an 'anatomy' of power, a technology" (Discipline and Punish, 215). Bureaucracies, like disciplines, contribute to the processes of disindividualisation as they promote the facelessness of the bureaucrat. The effect of this tendency to disindividualize power is the perception that power resides in the machine itself (in the "panoptic machine"; the "technology" of power) rather than in its operator. Foucault makes clear in his later work, that power ultimately does inhere in individuals, including those who are surveilled or punished. It is true that contemporary forms of disciplinary organization allow larger numbers of people being controlled by smaller numbers of "specialists." However, as Foucault explains in "The Subject and Power," "something called Power, with or without a capital letter, which is assumed to exist universally in a concentrated or diffused form, does not exist. Power exists only when it is put into action" (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 219). Foucault, therefore, makes it clear that, power in itself "is not a renunciation of freedom, transference of rights, and the power of each and all delegated to a few" (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 220). Indeed, power is not the same as violence because the opposite pole of violence "can only be passivity" (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 220). By contrast, a power relationship can only be articulated on the basis of two elements which are each indispensable if it is really to be a power relationship: that 'the other' (the one over whom power is exercised) be thoroughly recognized and maintained to the very end as a person who acts; and that, faced with a relationship of power, a whole field of responses, reactions,
results, and possible inventions may open up. (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 220) Power always entails a set of actions performed on another person’s actions and reactions. Although violence may be a part of some power relationships, "On itself the exercise of power is not violence" (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 220); it is "always a way of acting upon an acting subject or acting subjects by virtue of their acting or being capable of action" (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 220). Therefore, the greater the capability of action of the subjects, the greater is the power directed against them. Foucault, therefore, turns in his later work to the concept of "government" in order to explain how power functions: Basically power is less a confrontation between two adversaries or the linking of one to the other than a question of government. This word must be allowed the very broad meaning which it had in the sixteenth century. "Government" did not refer only to political structures or to the management of states; rather it designated the way in which the conduct of individuals or of groups might be directed: the government of children, of souls, of communities, of families, of the sick. It did not only cover the legitimately constituted forms of political or economic subjection, but also modes of action, more or less considered and calculated, which were destined to act upon the possibilities of action of other people. To govern, in this sense, is to structure the possible field of action of others. The relationship proper to power would not therefore be sought on the side of
violence or of struggle, nor on that of voluntary linking (all of which can, at best, only be the instruments of power), but rather in the area of the singular mode of action, neither warlike nor juridical, which is government. (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 221) The turn to this concept of "government" allows Foucault to include a new element to his understanding of power: freedom. He remarks: "Power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free" (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 221), Foucault explains: conversely, "slavery is not a power relationship when man is in chains. (In this case it is a question of a physical relationship of constraint.)" (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 221). Indeed, recalcitrance thus becomes an integral part of the power relationship: "At the very heart of the power relationship, and constantly provoking it, are the recalcitrance of the will and the intransigence of freedom" (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 221-22). Foucault, thus, provides us with a powerful model for thinking about how to fight oppression when one sees it: "the analysis, elaboration, and bringing into question of power relations and the 'agonism' between power relations and the intransitivity of freedom is a permanent political task inherent in all social existence" (Michel Foucault: Beyond structuralism and hermeneutics, 223). So, individuals ought to keep vigil on power relations in order to combat oppression and maintain individual freedom.
One of the most important features of Foucault's view is that mechanisms of power produce different types of knowledge which correlate information on people's activities and existence. The knowledge gathered in this way further reinforces exercises of power. Foucault refutes the idea that he makes the claim “knowledge is power” and says that he is interested in studying the complex relations between power and knowledge without saying they are the same thing. In The Order of Things Foucault makes an investigation into the conditions of possibility under which human beings become the objects of knowledge in certain disciplines (what we call the "human sciences" or the "social sciences"). He explains the rules and laws of formation of systems of thought in the human sciences which emerged in the nineteenth century. His main method for looking at these disciplines, and how they constitute the objects of their study, is through examining "discourses," or "discursive practices." For Foucault, a "discourse" is a body of thought and writing which are united by a common object of study, a common methodology, or a set of common terms and ideas. The idea of discourse allows Foucault to discuss a wide variety of texts, from different countries, different historical periods and different disciplines, and different genres. Discourse joins power and knowledge; power follows from our casual acceptance of the reality which we are presented with. If our identity is created by the media, as it is increasingly, our world view is limited to the world view of those isolated, rich, individuals. Discourse is created and perpetuated by those who have 10
the power and means of communication. Those who are in control decide who we are by deciding what we discuss. All discourse acts this way. According to Foucault, truth, morality, and meaning are created through discourse. Every age has a dominant group of discursive elements that people live in unconsciously. Change may happen only when a new counter-discursive element begins to receive wide attention through the means of communication. A discourse is never totally "pure;" it will always contain some measure of counter-discursive elements. In The Order of Things, Foucault discusses several naturalists, including Buffon, the eighteenth century French writer, and Charles Darwin, the nineteenth century British writer, as belonging to the same "discourse," or discursive family. Critics questioned this association, asking Foucault how he could put two authors who were so different, in time and place, together in one grouping. Foucault responds to this query, in his essay “What is an Author?” He replies that we need not be concerned with the idea of authors at all; rather we should see "discourse" as the groupings of texts and ideas. Foucault asks why it is necessary to trace ideas back to specific authors and why do we insist that ideas or concepts, or even literary works, are the creation of a single individual. In this essay Foucault makes a list of some questions about authorship which he does not address directly. Rather, he wants to discuss the relationship between an author and a text, and the manner in which the text points to the author as a figure who is outside the text, and who precedes the text. Eventually, Foucault regards the author as a Derridean "center" of the text, the place where the text originates, yet remains outside it. Then he deconstructs that center/author.
Before deconstructing center/author, Foucault refers to Samuel Beckett, the modernist novelist and playwright, and particularly cites a line from Beckett: "what matter who's speaking?" Foucault sees this sentence as an expression of some of the major principles of contemporary writing, or what Foucault calls ecriture. This ecriture is related to the French feminist idea of "l'ecriture feminine," but Foucault does not choose to give it a gender dimension. One of the hallmarks of ecriture is the interplay of signifiers; language in this kind of writing is not about the reference to a signified, but rather it is about the play among signifiers. The ecriture that Foucault discusses tends toward, in Bakhtin's terms, the monologic, rather than the dialogic; it is a kind of writing that is self-referential, writing about writing, or about language itself, rather than writing for or about social communication. As such, this writing is always working against the grammatical rules and structures, the elements of surface structure, within which meaning is constructed. On account of this, Foucault concludes, that such ecriture is not about "the exalted emotions related to the act of composition”. He observes: Writing is not the vehicle for the author's expression of his/her emotions or ideas, since writing isn't meant to communicate from author to reader, but rather writing is the circulation of language itself, regardless of the individual existence of author or reader: it is primarily concerned with creating an opening where the writing subject endlessly disappears. (The Order of Things, 139)
Foucault means that writing is neither an expression nor a communication; it is a circulation of language that creates an exit for the writing subject regardless of the existence of the author or reader as persons: they are functions rather than personages. Another major theme or principle of ecriture that Foucault finds expressed in the Beckett quote is the idea of a possible connection between writing and death. Throughout most of Western cultural history, writing has been a means of staving off death, of becoming "immortal." Foucault points to the Greek epic, where the hero can die young because his epic feats have guaranteed his immortality, and also to a non-Western text, The Arabian Nights, where Scheherazade's storytelling, night after night keeps her from being killed. In modern times, writing (ecriture) reverses the situation; rather than guaranteeing immortality, or keeping death away, writing "kills" the author. Foucault states that a writer's particular individuality is erased or cancelled by the text, by writing, because we see "writer," or "author," as a function of language itself. In the humanist model, the categories of author, text, and reader seem self-evident and separate: an author is someone who produces a text, which is then read by a reader; the author is the source and origin of some creative power, which is unique to him or her, and out of which s/he creates something entirely new. In the poststructuralist view, relations between author, text, and reader are replaced by an understanding of the relations between language and subjects. Althusser shows us how we are interpellated as subjects into ideological structures. As readers, each of us becomes an interpellated subject within one or more textual ideologies. Foucault uses the same premises to conclude that
"author," like "reader," is the name of a subject position within language, or, more specifically, within a text. Foucault makes some major statements about the structure of history. He claims that historical structures, formed by the rulers of society, have led to the devaluation of the "event" in their rage to order the general tide of history. Foucault states that the study of history has been based on a model of language that focuses on meaning. He recommends a different way of evaluating eccentric historical events, rather than writing them off as simply trivial as structuralist historians have attempted: Here I believe one's point of reference should not be to the great model of language (langue) and signs, but to that of war and battle. The history which bears and determines us has the form of a war rather than that of a language: relations of power, not relations of meaning. (Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972–1977, 114) He means that history should not be structured in terms of the language and event corresponding to the Saussurrean concepts of langue and parole, which may create two sets of relations, of power and meaning. He asserts that history is determined by form of events and relations of power: the language which narrates the event and the meaning it constructs are irrelevant. Foucault believes that the seemingly chaotic occurrences of history are conflicts of power. He states that there is an "intrinsic intelligibility of conflicts" which can
enlighten us to the reasons behind actions. Every action and every historical event is seen by Foucault as an exercise in the exchange of power. Structure organizes and broadens the web of power. The overall volume of power rises with each individual involved in the play. The society is a huge web, and most of the power tends to be concentrated toward the higher echelons. Foucault sees the exchange of power in very active terms: "isn't power simply a form of warlike domination?"(Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972–1977, 119). It is difficult to sort out just who is fighting the war, since Foucault seems to lean toward the "war of all against all" notion. Power moves simultaneously in different directions and different volumes according to the various forms of "power relations" in the "network" of power exchange. Generally, it seems that an intellectual can not be effective without the support of some structure. But Foucault makes this argument for individual efficacy. The structure is successful because it creates truth. It is in this recognition that individuals can succeed. He remarks: The important thing here, I believe, is that truth isn't outside power, or lacking in power … truth isn't the reward of free spirits, the child of protracted solitude, nor the privilege of those who have succeeded in liberating themselves. Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint. And it includes regular effects of power. (Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 125) Foucault means that truth remains inside the realm of power: truth is produced not out of freedom, but out of restrictions and truth reflects power. 15
Each society creates a "regime of truth" according to its beliefs, values, and mores. Foucault identifies the creation of truth in contemporary western society with five traits: centering of truth on scientific discourse, accountability of truth to economic and political forces, the "diffusion and consumption" of truth through the apparatuses of society, control of the distribution of truth by "political and economic apparatuses," and truth as the issue of a whole political debate and social confrontation. Individuals would do well to recognize that ultimate truth, Truth, is the construct of the political and economic forces that command the majority of the power within the societal web. There is no truly universal truth at all; the intellectual cannot therefore, convey universal truth. The intellectual must specialize or specify so that s/he can be connected to one of the truth-generating apparatuses of the society. In this context Foucault explains: Truth is to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and operation of statements. Truth is linked in a circular relation with systems of powers which produces and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it. A ‘regime’ of truth. (Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972–1977, 130) Thus, Foucault sees the political problems of intellectuals not in terms of “science” and “ideology,” but in terms of “truth” and “power.”" The question of how to deal with and determine truth is at the base of political and social strife. It is during this period that Pragmatism appeared; the American logician Charles Sanders Peirce and the mystic William James were instrumental for it. Pragmatism 16
appeared on the scene as a tendency towards Irrationalism: "What difference would it practically make to any one if this notion rather than that notion were true? If no practical difference whatever can be traced, then the alternatives mean practically the same thing, and all dispute is idle" (What Pragmatism Means, 6). In this rejection of the concept of theoretical truth, there is the insistence on the practice as the criterion of truth, which is progressive and rational. But this emerged only later, in the Operationalism of Percy Bridgman. In a sense pragmatism shares the conception of practice as the criterion of truth with Hegel. The task posed by the development of knowledge during this period is the extension of the methods established in the natural sciences to the human sciences like psychology and sociology. These sciences become an arena in which the various solutions to the problem of knowledge are tested out. The dominant expression of bourgeois culture is positivism, in which sociology has first place and emphasis is given to logical analysis of the data of perception. Bourgeois epistemology, thus, evolves along three lines of development. A struggle unfolded between naturalistic materialism and idealistic positivism within the natural sciences, which already fought against clerical reaction. This struggle took place under the pressure of the requirement to develop a critical approach to the handling of concepts where sciences were required to deal more and more with entities beyond sensation and beyond everyday consciousness. No progress could be made in this direction without revolutionizing concepts and categories themselves. Hegel's legacy was unknown to this line of development which was largely moving within the domain of
Kant. Despite the progress of materialism, the influence of idealistic positivism steadily increased. At the beginning of this period Positivism ruled supreme in sociology. However, in course of time, the beginnings of a new development appeared in Emile Durkheim's critique of pragmatism and in the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure. Otherwise, the individualistic, positivist sociology is remained reflective of the gradual spread of the domination of bourgeois society and it relative stability. The beginning and end of this period is not a question of dates and is marked differently from country to country; it is related to the manifestation and influence of epistemology in the various branches of enquiry. Friedrich Schelling's Philosophy of Revelation was consigned to the archives of the history of religion, but Soren Kierkegaard with his concept of Christian Existentialism and Arthur Schopenhauer with the idea of Voluntarism or Intentional Psychology led the assault against Hegelianism. Their advocacy of irrationalism called for further development of philosophy informed by the study of the human condition: in psychological terms: for Existentialism, "the answer lies in psychology" it is called Existential Psychology. At the same time Franz Brentano’s Empirical Psychology and Wilhelm Wundt’s Experimental Psychology attempted to lay the foundation of the science of psychology; Wilhelm Dilthey's broader approach called social psychology saw human condition as essentially social and retained to some extent, the legacy of Hegel. Nietzsche continued the line of Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard but placed his view on an
explicitly atheistic foundation while William James initiated the American version of irrationalist psychologism called Spiritualistic Psychology. Sigmund Freud and Pavlov revolutionised psychology from opposite directions; both radically departed from the suggestions of positivist, empiricist and pragmatic epistemology. Psychological epistemology entered a prolonged crisis during which a multiplicity of trends emerged. Side by side with the various schools of psychology, as the world slid into Fascism in Europe and as the world economy was is smashed up by the Great Depression, new trends of philosophical irrationalism moved forward. Bourgeois sociology was going fine till the world was shattered by the World War and the great Depression, and by the successful socialist revolution in Russia. Discoveries of Pavlov and Freud are products of nineteenth century science; but they provided the basis for an upsurge in efforts to bury materialism. Edmund Husserl wanted to be remembered for drawing a boundary between philosophy and psychology but his introspective Phenomenology massively imported bad psychology into philosophy; Karl Jung declared a century of idealism, Alfred Adler focused on the bourgeois individual. Kurt Koffka mixed Freud with Marx for the first time. Wittgenstein led the way to utilize the controversy in the foundations of mathematics to find a formal solution to the problem of language and the human condition. The early twentieth century was a period of crisis when capitalism was shattered by the World War and the success of Russian Revolution, which was followed by the Great Depression and the rise of Fascism in Europe. These crises forced fundamental revisions in the world-view of capitalism and in the economic structure of capitalist world market. 19
The Second World War wiped out enough capital to create the basis for a boom. But it led to the rise of the US, to a hegemonic position of world domination. It also led to onethird of the world's population and resources being lost to capitalism in the deformed and degenerated workers' states. The Bretton Woods arrangements brought qualitatively new value relations into dominance on world scene: massive paper-currency backed by unparalleled military, technical and economic power. The historic crisis initiated with the end of the Bretton Woods arrangements in late 1960s forced a breach on the world scale between paper money and bank credit on the one side and any form of commodity embodying exploited labour. This new situation emerged out of the wake of the 1970’s slump. The development of science reached a critical period at the turn of the century just as finance capital toppled the domination of industrial capital. Capitalism found that it had exhausted the possibility for the further expansion of colonies and moved into the epoch of imperialism. Capitalism moved into a period of violent crisis just as the sciences also moved into a series of sharp crises. Freud and Pavlov revolutionised psychology, and the World War and Russian Revolution shook nineteenth century social theory to its foundations. Einstein and others turned fundamental conceptions of space and time, inside-out, Naive, atomistic, empiricist prejudices are eclipsed by structuralist conceptions which mirror the emergence of imperialism. British empiricism, the philosophy of the first industrial power, continued to compete with the more rationalist epistemologies of Europe. American pragmatism emerged from the New World where only those ideas were valid which found useful application in expanding American
capitalism. Undoubtedly, there was a play of "pessimism and optimism" throughout this period. The epoch-making discoveries in physics mainly associated with Einstein’s general theory of relativity and other phenomena like the wave particle-duality and quantum mechanics, threw natural scientific epistemology into crisis. Even the great materialist Einstein had been influenced by positivism. In the discussions and struggles which followed in the course of trying to comprehend the changes, enormous developments in epistemology took place. Meanwhile, revolutionary developments in physics focused attention on the foundations of mathematics; this made epistemology an area for struggle and development. In escaping the crisis arising from the end of the boom, the bourgeoisie instituted fundamental changes in the world economy; the centralized character of economic planning and the world dominance of the US gave way to economic rationalism and a world market in which the US had to fight against a number of emerging threats. At the same time, the crisis was overcome by the creation of a whole range of sources of fictitious capital which successively paper over emergent collapses with accelerated generation of credit. A new tendency in bourgeois epistemology emerged and predominated in the postwar period. It had its beginnings in the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the political economy of John Maynard Keynes. It later came to be known as "Structuralism" which displaced positivism as the dominant bourgeois trend. Still the socio-historical character of human cognition was unknown to these tendencies. Structuralist conceptions 21
predominated as the world market became an integral over-pervasive reality, with the role of interventionist governments guaranteeing profitability and increasingly dominated by a single world power. Side by side with this, the developments of modern physics led to the emergence of a sophisticated natural scientific epistemology which overcame the idealism of early positivism to some extent. The total absence of any alternative to formal logic continued to hamper this line of development. The fall of the USSR brought about a world in which opposition is invisible, individuality is totally dispersed and value is apparently unrelated to work. The eclectic lines of development of bourgeois philosophy confront a situation in which creative intellectual labour is no longer possible. As industrial labour is part of the "rust industries," left to the masses of the newly industrialising countries, elite in the metropolitan countries grow rich on the production of symbols. Between 1970s and late 1990s, the concept of the “postmodern” was associated with a wide range of different meanings. It could designate a chronological period, a particular style found in some contemporary art works and literary texts, a characteristic of social structures at the end of the twentieth century, a change in the values of certain societies, or a specific way of thinking theoretically about such issues as language, knowledge, or identity. Different interpretations of these basic meanings further add to the complexity. On the one hand, one can designate as “postmodern” some of the least scientific and technological achievements, particularly those which are culturally perceived as ushering in a different historical era and type of society. On the other hand, scientific knowledge and technological rationality have been seriously challenged by
postmodern modes of thought which generally question fundamental Enlightenment assumptions about human subjectivity, knowledge and progress.
The idea that history evolves according to an underlying logic that brings about the gradual betterment of human societies emerged from Enlightenment thought and nineteenth-century philosophies of history. It is one of the defining marks of modernist thought, a widespread background assumption that is not questioned most of the time. It turns into a strong legitimating ground for those groups, institutions, and currents of thought which claim progress as their goal. Science and technology two of the areas in which the idea of continuous advance and improvement clearly manifest, in provide greater knowledge of the world and increased material well-being. The gradually increasing skepticism about the idea that history would bring about progress questions the justification for many modern institutions; it makes historians and philosophers to postulate a crisis in the legitimation of science as one of the pillars of western thought and society. This idea attracts particularly widespread attention in the English speaking world after the translation of French philosopher Jean Francois Lyotard’s work The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Lyotard examines knowledge, science, and technology in advanced capitalist societies. Here, the very notion of society as a form of “unicity” (as in national identity) loses its credibility. Society as unicity, whether conceived as an organic whole (as conceived by Durkheim), or as a functional system (as postulated by Parsons) as a fundamentally divided whole composed of two opposing classes (as enumerated by Marx) no longer stands in light of a growing “incredulity towards grand narratives” and a preference for “legitimating 23
metanarratives.” Metanarratives provide a teleology legitimating both the social bond and the role of science and knowledge in relation to it. A metanarrative provides a “credible” purpose for action, science, or society at large. At a technical level, a science is modern, if it tries to legitimate its own rules through reference to a metanarrative, a narrative outside its own sphere of competence. Two influential metanarratives are the idea that knowledge is produced for its own sake (this is typical of German idealism), and the idea that knowledge is produced for a people-subject in quest of emancipation. The proof is deemed to be universally valid because reality is deemed to be a universe or a totality that can be represented, or expressed in symbolic form. Even in physics no such universe exists which can be put fully into symbolic form. Rather, any statement that claims to universality is only part of the universe it claims to describe. Postmodernity implies that these goals of knowledge are now contested and that no ultimate proof is available for settling disputes over these goals. Lyotard offers a working hypothesis: “…the status of knowledge is altered as societies enter what is known as the postindustrial age and cultures enter what is known as the postmodern age” (3). He observes that this trend has been under way since the end of the 1950s. Lyotard goes on to predict that knowledge, which has become the major force of production in recent decades, will increasingly be translated into quantities of information, with a corresponding reorientation in the process of research. He notes that “the miniaturisation and commercialisation of machines is already changing the way in which learning is acquired, classified, made available, and exploited” (4). Knowledge in
computerised societies is becoming “exteriorized” from knowers. The old notion that knowledge and pedagogy are inextricably linked has been replaced by a new view of knowledge as a commodity. “Knowledge is and will be produced in order to be sold, it is and will be consumed in order to be valorized in a new production: in both cases, the goal is exchange. Knowledge ceases to be an end in itself; it loses its use- value” (5). According to Lyotard, Knowledge in the form of an informational commodity indispensable to productive power, is already, and will continue to be, a major stake in the worldwide competition for power. It is conceivable that the nation-states will one day fight for control of information, just as they battled in the past for control over territory, and afterwards for control of access to and exploitation of raw materials and cheap labour (5). The system of production has changed; commodified knowledge in the form of saleable information and competitive power replace material and capital in the contemporary system of production. Indeed, with the rise of multinational corporations, the very idea of autonomous nation states begins to break down. The new technologies will hasten and reinforce this development. The State, Lyotard postulates, will come to be perceived as “a factor of opacity and noise in the commercialisation of knowledge” (5). The idea that “learning falls within the purview of the State, as the mind or brain of society” will give way to the view that “society exists and progresses only if the messages circulating within it are rich in information and easy to decode” (5). Lyotard envisages a shift in the whole system of organised learning, which has become a process of organized marketing and consumption.
It is not hard to visualize learning circulating along the same lines as money; it has assumed an economic value instead of its “educational” value or political administrative, diplomatic, military importance. The distinction is no longer between knowledge and ignorance, but rather, as is the case with money, between “payment knowledge” and “investment knowledge”, in other words, between units of knowledge exchanged in a daily maintenance framework the reconstitution of the work force, “survival” and funds of knowledge dedicated to optimizing the performance of a project (6). The labour, in the transformed process is reconstituted to meet the survival of the workforce. The educated and skilled youth have opted to become technocoolies and cybercoolies in the transition. Lyotard argues that knowledge and power are “two sides of the same question” (9). In the West, narrative knowledge has been subjugated by scientific knowledge. The latter is “governed by the demand for legitimation” (27). As the long history of imperialism from the dawn of Western civilisation demonstrates, it cannot accept anything that fails to conform to the rules of its own language game. Narratives, by contrast, are legitimated by the simple fact that they “do what they do” (23). Procedures, distributors and consumers of knowledge have realized that scientific knowledge is more powerful and more profitable. In the computer age, “the question of knowledge is now more than ever a question of government” (Lyotard, 9). The function of the state will change: machines will come to play an important role in regulatory and reproductive processes. The power to make decisions will increasingly be determined by questions of access to information (Lyotard,
14). Eventually, Lyotard cautions, “professors” (academics) will no longer be needed. Most of the work they currently undertake can and will be taken over by computerised data network systems (53). Academics are subordinated to the position of facilitators of knowledge; they no longer enjoy the status of producers of knowledge. Computerization “could become the "dream" instrument for controlling and regulating the market system, extended to include knowledge itself and governed exclusively by the performativity principle” (Lyotard, 56). This would involve the use of terror, or at least pressure tactics like loan strategies widely known as Euro diplomacy, Dollar diplomacy and so on. Alternatively, computerisation could “aid groups discussing metaprescriptives by supplying them with the information they usually lack for making knowledgeable decisions.” Lyotard believes we should take the second of these two paths and provide free public access to data banks. This would respect both “the desire for justice and the desire for the unknown” (67). It is an attempt to reconcile the opposites and to offer man maximum satisfaction. Fredric Jameson, views postmodernism in terms of periodization. He sees a casual relationship between new developments in western capitalism and the rise of the postmodern. Consequently, his postmodernism is
a periodizing concept whose function is to correlate the emergence of new formal features in culture with the emergence of a new type of social life and economic order – what is often euphemistically called modernization, post industrial or consumer society, the society of the media or the spectacle, or multinational capitalism. This new moment of capitalism can 27
be dated from the postwar boom in the United States in the late 1940s and early ’50s or, in France, from the establishment of the fifth republic in 1958. (Postmodern Culture, 111) He underlines that postmodernism is related to the periodisation of the structures of culture, economy and society, which are analogous in their structural pattern.
The multinational consumer or late capitalism is characterized by the new consumption patterns. They include a faster turnover in the areas of fashion and styling, a planned obsolescence, an ubiquitous presence of advertising ad media, especially television, an explosion of suburbia at the expense of both city and country, by the demands of standardization, arrival of automobile culture, and so on. It is this moment in the postwar development of capitalism that has spawned postmodern culture. The formal features of the postmodern culture “in many ways express the deeper logic of that particular social system” (Postmodern Culture, 125). The apparent irrationality at the surface structure of the textual system gives way to the rationality at its deep structure.
This deeper logic, with its key element of perpetual change, has led to “the disappearance of a sense of history” in the culture, to a pervasive deathlessness, to a “perpetual present” from which all memory of tradition has disappeared (Postmodern Culture, 125). In postmodern art, that deeper logic surfaces into two basic features: that of pastiche and this of schizophrenic discontinuity. Pastiche, in Jameson’s view, arrives at the scene when we, as a result of radical fragmentation, have “nothing but stylistic diversity and heterogeneity” (Postmodern Culture, 114). Pastiche is “blank parody,” that
is, parody without parody’s “ulterior motive, without the satirical impulse, without laughter, without that still latent feeling that there exists something normal compared to which what is being imitated is rather comic” (Postmodern Culture, 114). In the age of total eclectism pastiche is all that remains of parody that has lost its former function. Moreover, this is a late and rather curious echo of John Barth’s “The Literature of Exhaustion” (1967) that Jameson will later drop:
there is another sense in which the writers and artists of the present day will no longer be able to invent new styles and worlds – they’ve already been invented; only a limited number of combinations are possible; the most unique ones have been thought of already.( Postmodern Culture, 115)
For all practical purposes, the artist is condemned to lifeless imitations and permutations; that is, to produce art that is essentially about art itself and, more specifically about its own failure. The artistic dilemma is not limited to high art; it also pervades mass culture, and is instantiated, for example, in what Jameson calls the “nostalgic film” (Postmodern Culture, 116), historical films that paradoxically are utterly ahistorical. Jameson observes:
The very style of nostalgia films invading and colonizing even those movies today which have contemporary settings : as though, for some reason, we were unable today to focus on our own present, as though we
have become incapable of achieving aesthetic representations of our own current experience.( Postmodern Culture, 117)
Such movies present the real in terms of simulations. The present day experiences are represented in terms of modified experiences of the past.
The second basic feature of postmodernism is what Jameson calls “its peculiar way with time,” which he discusses in terms of Lacan’s view of schizophrenia as a language disorder resulting from the subject’s failure “to accede fully into the realm of speech and language”( Postmodern Culture, 118). It is language which gives us our “experience of temporality, human time, past, present, memory, the persistence of personal identity” (Postmodern Culture, 119). Such a failure, therefore, leads to an absence of the experience of temporal continuity in the patient who is condemned to live a perpetual, always discontinuous, and present. So schizophrenic experience can be defined as an experience of isolated, disconnected, discontinuous material signifiers fail to link up into a coherent sequence”( Postmodern Culture, 119). In, Jameson’s view postmodernism constitutes “the transformation of reality into images, the fragmentation of time into a series of perpetual presence” (Postmodern Culture, 125). In spite of material signifiers, the experience of time and reality remains incoherent.
Ernst Mandel’s definition of late capitalism occupies a privileged position in postmodern thinking. Mandel’s Late Capitalism distinguishes three periods within the history of capitalism, a tripartite division which, according to Jameson, has its
corresponding phrases in the culture: there is a first period dominated by market capitalism and by its aesthetic corollary, realism; the second period characterized by capitalism in conception with society and material by the modernist aesthetic; and a third period, the current one, of late capitalism, which then corresponds to the postmodernist aesthetic. The third period is characterized by an unprecedented “expansion of capital into hitherto uncommodified areas” which
eliminates the enclaves of precapitalist organization it had hitherto tolerated and exploited in a tributary way: one is tempted to speak in this connection of a new and historically original penetration and colonization of nature and the unconscious: that is, the destruction of precapitalist third world agriculture by the Green Revolution and the rise of the media and the advertising industry. (Late Capitalism, 78)
Particularly in the west, late capitalism has succeeded in penetrating and commodifying representation itself. Late Capitalism has commodified culture and its representative space, media: both visual and verbal, and their inter spaces.
According to Mandel, the capitalist triad has produced three separate and fundamental technological revolutions; the third phrase has led to “machine production of…electronic and nuclear powered apparatus since the 40’s of the twentieth century” (Late Capitalism, 78). This suggests to Jameson another area from which representation has disappeared and simultaneously another twist of the Kantian sublime, the so called
“hysterical sublime” (Late Capitalism, 76). According to Jameson, the technology of our own moment – the computer, the television set, and other machines of reproduction rather than of production – no longer processes the “capacity for representation” (79) that characterizes the technologies of earlier stages of capitalism. Whereas the “older machinery of the futurist moment,” the “older speed – and – energy sculpture” still represents its historical moment, television “articulates nothing” (Late Capitalism, 79). Our reproductive technologies cannot represent the real, even though it fascinates us precisely because it would allow representational access to “some immense communicational and computer network” that in its turn would lead us to the “whole new decentered global network of the third stage of capital itself” (Late Capitalism, 80). It is our awareness of that “enormous and threatening, yet only dimly perceivable, other reality of economic and social institutions” that gives rise to the postmodern sublime (Late Capitalism, 80). Though the representational network appears decentered, it is controlled by the power structures of global capital.
The postmodern hysterical sublime is a vague intimation of the real world of late capitalism, a world in which “our bodies are bereft of spatial coordinates” (Late Capitalism, 87) and they remain beyond representation. In the sublime this unrepresentable “new global space” becomes “most explicit, has moved closest to the surface of our consciousness, as a coherent new type of space in its own right” (Late Capitalism, 88). It is this sublime that gives rise to intensities that are both exhilarating and fearful. Whereas for Lyotard the experience of the sublime, which is equally
ambivalent, is politically enabling, for Jameson it is nothing of the sort; it is more so since the experience remains unarticulated and is, therefore, ultimately unsettling.
In this radical perspective, even a term like “fact” comes under scrutiny. While scientists readily admit that facts are theory –laden: that is, that they cannot be established without some theoretical framework that determines which dimensions of a given situation are relevant –. Postmodern critics of scientific rationality develop this non-controversial point by arguing that facts are actually not “discovered,” but created by scientific procedures. This point finds acceptance by the Edinburg School of sociology of knowledge, and by the French sociologist Bruno Latour. They argue that truth or falsehood of scientific claims is not established by the “real world,” but by complex mechanisms that pertain to the social and cultural world.
In this perspective, “truth,” “fact,” and “objective knowledge” are the terms commonly attributed to those knowledge claims that command a large degree of consensus among researchers or a social community. American philosopher Richard Rorty, argues this view point in his seminal book, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, which is one of the cornerstones of postmodern philosophy. According to Rorty, Speaking about facts and external realities make sense, only within the framework established by a particular social community; one cannot claim any foundations for factuality beyond the social consensus. The way how this consensus gets established depends on the relations of power in the social community. Many critics, and of Rorty in particular, have pointed out that such fully fledged relativism, often, leads to conceptual
difficulties and self-contradictions and of postmodern approaches to science in general. It is difficult to ascertain whether facts are valid within a social consensus framework. The Marxist literary critic, Terry Eagleton challenges the relative nature of cultural truth. He asks: “Is the belief that everything is culturally relative itself relative to a cultural framework? If it is, then there is no need to accept it as gospel truth; if it is, it undercuts its own claim,” (The Idea of Culture, 92). Marxist theorists agree that the mass media has ideological power, but they disagree as to its nature. In Marxist media analysis, media institutions are regarded as being “locked into the power structure, and consequently as acting largely in tandem with the dominant institutions in society. The media thus reproduced the viewpoints of dominant institutions not as one among a number of alternative perspectives, but as the central and "obvious" or "natural" perspective” (Culture, Society and the Media, 21). The media exclusively represents the cultural identities and cultural preferences of the dominant groups that control the media. According to concepts of Marxist political economy, in mass media there is a tendency to avoid the unpopular and unconventional and to draw on “values and assumptions which are most valuable and most widely legitimated” (Mass Communication and Society, 26). Most theorists in the Marxist tradition in Britain like Stuart Hall have approached the issue of media portrayals of violence in terms of their objectives whether such portrayals have served “to legitimize the forces of law and order, build consent for the extension of coercive state regulation and de-legitimate outsiders and dissidents.” (Culture, Society and the Media, 14). “They have thus examined the impact of the mass media in situations where mediated communications are powerfully
supported by other institutions such as the police, judiciary and schools. The power of the media is thus “portrayed as that of renewing, amplifying and extending the existing predispositions that constitute the dominant culture, not in creating them” (Culture, Society and the Media, 27). The power of the media consists in perpetuating and reinforcing the dominant culture in the multicultural society. Similarly, “some Marxist commentators have contended that media portrayals of elections constitute dramatized rituals that legitimate the power structure in liberal democracies. Voting is presented as an ideological practice that helps to sustain the myths of representative democracy, political equality and collective self-determination. The impact of election coverage is conceived in terms of reinforcing political values that are widely shared in Western democracies and actively endorsed by the education system, the principal political organizations and the apparatus of the state. The mass media are, in classical Marxist terms, a “means of production” which in capitalist society, are in the ownership of the ruling class. According to the classical Marxist position, the mass media simply disseminate the ideas and worldviews of the ruling class, and deny or defuse alternative ideas. This is very much in accord once with Marx’s argument: The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. (The German Ideology, 64).
According to this stance, the mass media functions to produce “false consciousness” in the working-classes. This leads to an extreme stance whereby media products are seen as monolithic expressions of ruling class values which ignore any diversity of values within the ruling class and within the media, and the possibility of oppositional readings by media audiences. According to theorists of Marxist political economy the mass media conceal the economic basis of class struggle: ideology becomes the route through which struggle is obliterated, rather than the site of struggle. Whereas early Marxists mostly found themselves berating the representatives of bourgeois philosophy with ignorance of dialectical logic, postmodern philosophy is most sharply characterized by a flagrant disregard for the most basic tenets of Epistemology. It is the conviction of the author, yet to be substantiated, that this epistemological blindness has its ground in the severing of money from its connection with labour-time. This can be explained in terms oh how the fictious value of money predominates not only industrial capital but also finance capital. It is further to be investigated whether these conditions lead to the possibility for the negation and transcendence of the domination of the value relation over the life of society. Consequently, we may find a line of attack on this epistemological blindness which differs from the reflex action of Marxists. The bourgeoisie epistemology is as barren as its ethics. But the actual validity and limits of knowledge have been pushed to infinity. Value is still the means of domination of a few over the vast majority of whom are reduced to barbarism. The existence of value has become less a materialistic and more voluntaristic.
Louis Althusser , the French Marxist philosopher, saw Marxism as a science. One feature of Althusserian Marxism is a rejection of Marx's Hegelian essentialism. Essentialism is a reduction of things to a single principle or essence. Althusser rejected two kinds of Marxist essentialism: economism or economic determinism and humanism in which social developments are seen as expressive of a pre-given human nature. So Althusserian Marxism is anti-economist and anti-humanist. In rejecting economism he saw ideology as a determining force shaping consciousness, embodied in the material signifying practices of “ideological state apparatuses,” and enjoying “relative autonomy” (Lenin and Philosophy, 10). Althusser's work represents the move away from a preoccupation with economic determination. Ideology, for Althusser “represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (Understanding Media Cultures: Social Theory and Mass Communication 37). Ideology transforms human beings into subjects, leading them to see themselves as selfdetermining agents when they are in fact shaped by ideological processes. Tony Bennett points out the pitfalls in Althusserean philosophy. Althusser contends that all ideological forms contribute to the reproduction of the existing system, Althusser comes “dangerously close to functionalism,” representing capitalist society as monolithic, and failing to allow for internal conflict (Culture, Society and the Media, 53). Althusser, therefore, contradicts the classical Marxist view that a capitalist society disintegrates due to its internal conflict. Stuart Hall observes that in Althusser's theory it is difficult “to discern how anything but the "dominant ideology" could ever be reproduced in discourse” (Media Culture and Society: A Critical Reader, 78). It seems to rule out the discursive production of marginalized/subaltern ideologies, which is not found to be true.
In Althusserian theory mass media texts “interpellate the subject” whereas many current media theorists argue that the subject only projects meaning onto the media texts. For the notion of a “struggle over meaning” one must turn to Volosinov and Gramsci.
Valentin Volosinov has been influential in British cultural studies. Volosinov argues that a theory of ideology which grants a purely abstract concept of consciousness as an existence prior to the material forms, in which it is organized, can only be metaphysical. Ideological forms are not the products of consciousness, but rather they produce it. In this regard, Tony Bennett also observes: “Rather than being regarded as the product of forms of consciousness whose contours are determined elsewhere, in the economic sphere, the signifying systems which constitute the sphere of ideology are themselves viewed as the vehicles through which the consciousness of social agents is produced” (Culture, Society and the Media, 51). He means that ideology is not a product of consciousness, but a means through which the consciousness of social agents are produced. Each of the above lines of development contributes representatives to the domain of postmodern philosophy. Besides, the various liberation movements have contributed to this development in the post-war period: national liberation, the civil rights movement and women's liberation. The failure of the 1960’s rebellions leads many disappointed former Marxists to the general arena of bourgeois philosophy. The decline in modern political perspectives has forced a further development in the form of a "return to Marx.” The new currents in postmodern philosophy draw on post-structuralism, psychoanalysis and other forms of irrationalism, liberation epistemology, modern physics and the 38
foundations of mathematics and revisionist Marxism. In its questioning of rationality, postmodernism is compared to English Romanticism, the historical moment in which a strong technoscientific wave of industrialization was met with intense cultural skepticism and resistance. In this context, Patricia Waugh remarks: Postmodernism can be understood…as the culmination of an aesthetic tradition deriving from Romantic thought…. This tradition has consistently viewed Enlightenment reason as complicit in its instrumentalism with industrial modernity…. It has drawn on the aesthetic in order to offer both the critique of social rationization and the restrictions of definitions of knowledge to what can be consciously and conceptually formulated. (Postmodernism: A Reader, 4)
The conflict over the nature and social functions of scientific rationality has persisted into a period in which postmodernism has been replaced by “globalization” as a key concept.
In this context, it is significant that German sociologist Ulrich Beck has suggested the term “risk society” as a substitute for “postmodern society”. The debates over technoscientifically generated risks, which are primary sites of conflict between scientific expertise and public participation, are in his view fundamental to the understanding of the global society of the present and future. It is not clear whether the gradual shift from the concept of the postmodern toward that of globalization will mitigate the intensity of the conflict over scientific rationality. A more frequent and intimate contact between different cultures is expected to reinforce the demand for the consideration of different 39
sorts of research and knowledge. It may also reinforce the demand for the products of western science and technology and thereby relegate to the background any questioning of its dominance. The postmodern forms of science and technology, which have evolved over the course of the twentieth century, are already exerting a shaping influence on those societies that are still struggling to shape their own forms of the modern. Western debates over the fate of postmodernism are evaluated in this global context of emergent modernities, in which science and technology will unquestionably continue to play a central role.