CONFRONTING CROWDS AND POWER: 8. The Command (The Expectation of Commands)

24 June 2013


They say “knowledge is power”—and in one sense, yes. But from another, not so much, since “power is acknowledgment”.

Introduction & Disclaimer

This is the forty-fifth entry (if I’ve not lost track) in a series that ambitiously addresses, section by section over the course of a year+ Canetti’s  Crowds and Power [1] and the second to address Part 8 (The Command), which Canetti breaks up into several sections.  Here I address section 5, “The Expectation of Commands.” [2]

The Expectation of Commands

“A sentry standing motionless on guard for hours is the best expression of a soldier’s psychic state. He must not … make any movement except such exactly defined ones as may be prescribed to him” (311). That Canetti knows nothing of actual soldiers’ lives (or phenomenology) matters little, since the image he provides comes, rather, from the fantasy of control that the military (ideally) envisages. Of course, probably few if any generals have ever seriously held this ideal—Napoleon may provide one exception, and he fancied himself an emperor—so we once again find ourselves a witness to Canetti’s resort to myth rather than actuality to make his point.

This point provides his basis for insisting on armies as the opposite of crowds. The expectation of command provides, in Canetti’s description, the preeminent state of tension for the soldier, i.e., suppress all activity and do only what someone commands you to do. In this idealized form, the commander aims to impart his or her will directly to another, &c. And while crowds certainly can’t get equated with armies, it remains unclear why Canetti insists so stridently that armies must not constitute any type of crowd; “anyone who has to give commands in an army must be able to keep himself free of all crowds, whether actual or remembered” (313). That a military command remains constant no matter how many it get addressed to “is of the greatest importance. It is what renders a command immune to crowd influence” (313).

What Canetti means by such ‘crowd influences’ remains unclear, but his emphasis falls on the effectiveness of the military type of command. This points to a desire to control, to the (necessary) feature of commanding an army, as a kind of machine, to affect the desired ends. Again, we have to note the idealized fantasy of this. In War and Peace, Tolstoy took great pains, with what historical material he had at his disposal, to demonstrate the disconnect that occurred frequently during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia between the commands Napoleon issued and what actually occurred on the battlefield.[3] Again, no military commander has ever wholeheartedly embraced a fantasy of perfect control, and a good deal of bluff gets called into play so that when one’s commands lead to defeat this may nevertheless lead to defeats becoming commands, &c. Nonetheless, the premise of command rests at least on an approach to the ideal of control, which includes that the ideal soldier consists of one with such a fine-tuned expectation of command that he serves as an ideal conduit for those commands (as exercises of control). &c.

That an army reflects an exceptionally regimented articulation of control structures and a crowd does not does not yet persuade me that we must understand them as so radically different in kind that a discussion of one does not overlap with the other. We may understand humans and machines as very different kinds of automata yet may still attempt to locate an understanding of such automata on a common ground.

Cybernetics attempted (and continues to attempt) this. Two points. Maturana and Varela (1987)[4] expressed strong reservations about extending the findings of their description of biology (living systems) to nonliving systems (organizations), and so any cybernetic comparison of crowds and armies should not lose sight of these reservations.[5] Second, through the distinction of trivial and nontrivial machines, von Foerster (2003)[6] demonstrates that any description of living systems as automata, despite being every bit as deterministic as a nonliving automata, represents a transcomputational (i.e., unsolvable) problem.

A difference of approach offered by cybernetics concerns the desire to describe (the range of) what a system does rather than what it is. Ashby (1956),[7] in an innocuously revolutionary remark, states that “cybernetics might, in fact, be defined as the study of systems that are open to energy but closed to information and control” (4, emphasis in original). While one might tease this apart a lot, for this post the salient part arises from control. If one imagines a system (an entity) experiencing a range of perturbations—as changes of state—then control in this context means some sufficient process for counter-acting that change of state so that the system (the machine, the entity) goes on functioning as designed (and desired).[8]

In biological (living) systems one may already discern an erosion of power as Canetti tends to present it. If I command my dog to sit, I may describe this as me issuing a command that (somehow) causes the dog to sit. But since biological systems remain “open to energy, but closed to information and control” (Ashby, 4), by another description, I may say the energy of my command “triggers” (rather than causes) a perturbation—a change of state—in my dog, and his biology then compensates for that perturbation in whatever fashion it does, including that he sits. We might debate whether I have “caused” the dog to sit or not in both cases but the nature of cause in the first case (the command fantasy) compared to the second clearly materially differs. In the first case, the dog reacts mechanically (literally) just as in the case of the ideal soldier. We can make a description of such a command without ever needing to take account of the dog (or soldier) the command issues to; hence Canetti emphasis the constancy of the military command. In the second case, however, some account needs taking of the nature of the dog; I directed energy at it that triggered a perturbation—a change of state—but the cognitive or biological characteristics of the dog (or the soldier) played a part. How do I know? The same command issued to a cat would have no effect, for instance; also, were we to examine the exact physiological response of the dog’s biology, we would find no difference (biophysiologically) between “sit” and “fetch”. In both cases, reference to my command alone cannot account for the behavior of the dog. An even further articulation of this point would interrogate the “openness” to energy as well, further complicating the sense of “cause” or “trigger”.

If we imagine a crowd or an army as a kind of machine, then control entails some sufficient process for counter-acting changes of state in those machines—however those changes of state originate—so that the machine (the crowd, the army) goes on functioning as designed (and desired). Stating it this way brings out the questions not only what design or desire do crowds continue to evince but also whether commands “trigger” or “cause” effects in crowds and armies. Or, perhaps differently—given that it seems intuitively more apt (though not necessarily more accurate) to speak of commands “causing” effects in armies and “triggering” effects in crowds—then what does “control” of a crowd look like and what sort of events “trigger” changes of states in armies? Similarly, can one “command a crowd” or does that amount simply to a bluff? What do we make of circumstances where a loss of command means a loss of control or vice versa?

The Indirections of Power

As a sort of summary illustration of this for now, Errington and Gewertz (1987),[9] describing the characteristics of politicking for public reputation in Chambri (Papua New Guinea), throw light on Canetti’s earlier remarks about the nervousness of (ruling) fathers that their sons eventually must replace them; or, as Errington and Gewertz (1987) put it:

Fathers do allocate some of their powers to their sons in order to indebt and empower them sufficiently so that they become effective supporters. However, since sons replace fathers within patriclans, to the extent a senior male gives important names and powers to his junior agnates, he also fosters his own political eclipse.

Amongst the Chambri, particular male relatives provide a patrimony to certain female relatives at marriage intended ultimately as a gift to the newlywed’s (eventual) son. This marriage involves a different clan, so that “the powers a mother’s brother gives to his sister’s son in the form of names are legitimately alienated from the mother’s brother’s clan, but only during the life of the sister’s son” (95). This patrimony, in fact, provides at least part of the initial repayment of affinal debts, Thus, “a man can, without fundamentally weakening his clan [by destructively gifting clan resources], ensure that his [own, actual] sons—and junior agnates more generally—are delayed in their access to ritual secrets [because they will return to the clan only when the newlywed’s son takes possession of them] which would make them more fully able to compete with him” (95). This potentially reduces claims for resources and thus rivalry between actual sons as well. This political and affinal maneuver functions like  savings account; “these valuables provided to a daughter by her senior patrilateral kin in trust for her son will, in fact, eventually be used by him to compensate her brother” (96).

The delay of the gift will probably retard, or at least, inhibit the postglacial ascent of the son: Fathers are likely to remain more important than their sons since much of the clan wealth they control is initially diverted from their own sons to their daughters’ sons. Men receive portions of their patrimonies from their sisters’ sons, when their fathers are likely to be already dead (96).

Hence, “in this sense, a father’s gift to his daughter is really a delayed bequest to his son” (96). We should not, however—or perhaps only need not—think of this only or strictly in economic terms. In their chapter on the monetization of social relationships, Errington and Gewertz (1987) draw a sharp distinction between the meaning of affinal exchange when the objects of those transations comprise symbolic objects compared to money itself as inherently a medium of exchange. Summarized, the patrimony represents a future surety of relationship between the patrimony-giver and patrimony receiver, rather than a gift of and acquisition of property per se.[10]

These passages from Errington and Gewertz (1987) read confusingly for me because the terms “father” “daughter” and “son” &c do not have the exact sense in Chambri culture as for us, and the authors seem to shift them about (perhaps for readability). In any case, the Chambri situation seems similar to the Warramunga and other peoples of Australia, where corporate not merely genetic kinship prevails, such that those who count as a brother or a sister includes people that we, in the US, would not designate with that term. However this breaks down, the salient point involves how males work around the dilemma of fostering their own political eclipse (by sons), by delaying access to forms of power by those sons who will have a legitimate claim to such goods in the future (i.e., those sons who will inherit anything from the father).

In theory, Canetti could have read Mead’s work on the Chambri and thus red bout this variety of power feint, but I don’t fault Canetti for having failed to read everything. Nonetheless, to the extent that Canetti (as well as the historical or quasi-historical documents he accesses) present the “problem of succession” as a head-to-head confrontation between father and son (or between son and son after the death of the father), these present picture of an only limited and certain kind of power structure. More precisely, even in the documented evidence Canetti draws on we may remember that the authors themselves may not have (almost certainly did not have) an intimate knowledge of the actual political or power structures involved. The father’s confronted in these anecdotes might well have had available similar affinal feints, or different ones besides, which don’t get into the historical record because (1) they tend to remain invisible and (2) historical anecdotalists don’t deem significant such details, if known.

The Chambri political dilemma, so to speak, involves the social requirement of giving away power without (1) utterly depleting the clan power ultimately or (2) having some means to replace it. Just as the bluff “I made a great ritual object but someone stole it” may function as a win-win, bequeathing power in trust to a member of a future generation who will, in turn, pay you back with it marks a similar kind of win-win. Canetti’s view of the leader as an autocratic thug who can do whatever he wants cannot take account of this kind of necessity-motivated maneuvering.

In addition, power in the Chambri setting explicitly involves knowledge. The objects given in the patrimony have meaning only as symbols (in the first place) and grant access to and identification with secret names (as information). By materializing the male’s knowledge of secret names in a patrilateral trust, this excuses the male from any claim—by an actual son, for instance—to divulge what he in fact still knows. By convention, he has imparted (in a literal way) his knowledge into ritual objects no longer in his care and thus (conventionally) no longer accessible to him, until the patrimony’s beneficiary comes into possession of it, if even then. Like the bluff, his ability to give the names (in a patrimony) attests to his ownership of them while avoiding any demand to prove that fact, because currently he does not have access to that power. He does have, however, the testimony and thus implicitly the support from those holding the patrimony in trust, who affirm, “Yes, he gave this to us.” Thus, again, rather than a direct support for a claim to power (“I have the power of these ritual objects and names”) we see an indirect support for such a claim (“Yes, he gave us these ritual objects and sacred names … which we can’t touch until I produce a son.”)

So, perhaps rather than “knowledge is power” we should say “power is knowledge” and even more than that, “power is what claims of support for your power you can accumulate from others.” Understood this way, Canetti’s narrative about the autocratic use of power as a force—in that sense of force and power understood metaphorically from physics (see Krippendorff, 1995,[11] here)—proposes a kind of bluff, in that it misrepresents the actual practice of power; it presents the bluff “I can do this” in place of “See? They say I have done or can do this.”[12] Thus—it seems gratuitous and obvious to say but given the way the discourse of power plays out in culture it becomes not gratuitous or obvious at all—power does not operate in a linear way. That Odin zaps someone with a lightning bolt must hide, somewhere in its mythological framework, the “they” who really does the work of the zapping. And that they, of course, comprise ‘the gods themselves” (or, in this case, the gods of the gods). Thus, when the commander commands, this similarly masks the massive power structure that permits him to do so.

Behind the myth of the commander, of Odin, of power as Canetti spins it out stands whatever field of acknowledgment that make the practice of command possible. And one of the key tropes in that myth arises, precisely, in controlling knowledge in the sense of “who knows that I command, actually, only upon the generosity or sufferance of they.” By they I do not necessarily mean “the people”. And by power, I do not mean the capacity of the autocrat to take up a gun and shoot in the face whoever annoys him. Contra Canetti, violence represents a kind of power, not vice versa—it remains forever as a possible threat, but this does not make it prior to power. A passage from Margaret Mead, reproduced in Errington and Gewertz (1987), makes this point. Mead (1935)[13] wrote:

The elaborate ceremonies, the beating of water-drums, the blowing of flutes, are no secrets from the women. As they stood, an appreciative audience, listening solemnly to the voice of the crocodile, I asked them: “Do you know what makes that noise?” “Of course, it is a water-drum, but we don’t say we know for fear the men would be ashamed.” And the young men answer, when asked if the women know their secrets: “Yes, they know them, but they are good and pretend not to, for fear we become ashamed. Also—we might become so ashamed that we would beat them (263).

We see in this the open secret: women know men’s secrets and men know they know, so the political transactions of power amongst men rely on the maintenance of this social fiction, but that fiction if violated may break down into open violence. We could pretend that the constraint of culture serves merely as a civilized accretion over an otherwise first-resort to physical violence, but neither the human nor the animal world support such a claim.[14] Chambri women and men, as also male and female wolves, and our daily selves as well, do not bely behavior as if violence gets assumed as the norm of every interaction. The fact that violence may typically surprise or astonish us similarly points to this, so the habit of dwelling on the potentiality of violence in all, most, or even any human interaction becomes neurotic. The norm (between humans and wolves, for example) appears as an expectation of acknowledgment, which one might call the antithesis of an expectation of command, especially when a command per Canetti can only leave a sting, a wound, a scar.

For the Chambri, in the present example, we see that an expectation of acknowledgment may also involve a form of non-acknowledgment—women will not acknowledge their knowledge of male secrets, &c.  In the absence of this, male shame may become so great that physical violence will occur. Errington and Gewertz (1987) state categorically:

This is not to say that men never do violence to women: Francis Yaboli, after all, did beat his wife. However, when men behave this way, it is not as part of a strategy to establish power but, rather, indicates a loss of power. Nor is the occasional violence toward women part of a general male effort to control women (152)

It must remain unclear how, on the scant evidence Errington and Gewertz provide, why occasional violence toward women does not evidence any “general male effort to control women” (152), but we at least see that violence does not constitute a first resort.

So, in contrast to the expectation of command that Canetti ascribes as fundamental to the wholly artificial circumstance of an army, we may oppose an expectation of acknowledgment as a fundamental aspect of the wholly mundane circumstance of everyday life (even among other mammalian species). To this expectation of recognition, humans (at least) add also an expectation of fairness, empathy, and cooperation, and perhaps on those grounds one might “rationalize” the obvious disparity in the Chambri social fiction, that demands women pretend not to know men’s secrets.  To make such a claim, however, would require seeing some reciprocal acknowledgment by males, but even in the passage Errington and Gewertz cite to support their case, the men and women alike describe the women as fearful lest men become ashamed. That fear, one assumes rests on the threat of being beaten, as the male attests. This veers away from a “polite social fiction”[15] toward something more generally oppressive, which women (smartly) avoid by at least seeming to willingly maintain the social fiction.

All of this potentially complicated back and forth involved in power contrasts starkly with Canetti’s myth of power, as something wielded like Odin’s lightning bolt—even more so to the extent that the (willing) silence of women in that arena further skews what we see in that arena.[16] The sense one gets from the sketches of power politicking that Errington and Gewertz (1987) provide seems far more fluctuating and protean; males seem constantly involved in finding ways to compensate for various perturbations to their sense of public prestige or reputation. It would seem an idle or unambitious male who did not (rather nervously) keep constantly alert for signs of his power eroding. Something like a castle, as a concrete manifestation of impregnability, might provide a welcome relief as a way to reduce vulnerability and dependency (upon women, upon other people) for one’s existential persistence.—and in this we may see the beginnings of the breakdown of the social, the substitution of the materiality of goods in place of their symbolic value, and the like characteristic of the current social milieu. The materiality of the castle, then, represents a literal concretization of the myth of power, which still rests on the acknowledgment of they—just as women might (smartly) maintain the social fiction for fear of reprisals, we might (smartly) maintain the social fiction that money has value (or that the bluff of property remains legitimate) on similar grounds. That the threat of violence lingers in the background of this still changes nothing as much for us as for the Chambri—violence remains a form of power where, at its maximal collapse, the they gets identified with an I.

The fluid situations of power we see in Errington and Gewertz’s (1987) description warrants taking a cybernetic view of them (as explored previously)—one may speak of a key variable or variables that either must remain within an acceptable range (of values) or, that some process (of negative feedback) exists to return those variables to the acceptable or necessary range whenever they rise or fall outside of it. This amorphous, shifting view of power differs sharply from the militaristic image of the commander on his throne throwing lightning bolts. And if the Chambri politician finds himself all out in the open, exposed on all sides and fundamentally dependent on other males and females to keep the key variable of his power in an acceptable state, then our modern politicians have the advantage of being less out in the open. The myth of (modern) power bluffs a non-dependency on other human beings but what security has been bought by the impermeability of boundaries (separating those in power from other people, i.e., the castle walls) creates difficulties in terms of knowledge. At the risk of putting it too fancifully, the chitinous shells of crustaceal life, which proved advantageous for reducing the exterior vulnerability of various life forms, also closed off for many species whatever evolutionary pathway that eventually led to once again shucking off such enclosures.[17]

If, to continue the metaphor, power took the resort of evolving a shell (a castle) to reduce the sort of vulnerability one readily discerns in Errington and Gewertz’s (1987) description of Chambri political life, then this “simply” reconfigures how power structures itself (e.g., specific points of egress and exit), with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but this does not negate the dependence of power on others any more than a clam’s shell negates its dependence on the environment. An further, if on some kind of dubious anthropic principle, we get impressed by the fact that mammalian life found a way to get rid of the shell (and thus become once again more “open” to “environmental information”), then power might similarly benefit from trading in “shell” for “skin”—if, in fact, that has not already started to happen. But even if power has traded in shell for skin, that still does not negate the dependence of power on others. If power, in its most vulgar bourgie sense, saw a man’s home as his castle and his entire worth no longer in his reputation but simply in what he owns—like a dragon with its horde of treasure that no one else ever needs to see, that requires no social acknowledgment to have worth (at least for the dragon)—then the outer extent of that myth requires pushing back as far as possible, to infinity ideally (if impossibly), any sense of connection with other people.

Dehumanization Types

Four major ways to do this include ignoring them, objectifying them,[18] oppressing them,[19] or depersonalizing them, and while offered as distinct emphases or gestures, I also readily see how they might run together. By “ignoring them,” I mean not recognizing or acknowledging that a person exists at all. That part of shunning someone that refuses recognition to them at all represents a form of this.[20] This form of non-recognition does not require any form of judgment about the person; in fact, technically it cannot since it proceeds from a premise of not recognizing a person at all.[21] By contrast, then, to depersonalize someone involves  a judgment as an unfair ascription of traits or qualities to a person; thus, shunning someone as an adulterer might represent a form of depersonalization.

To keep this exposition on track, the above starts from the premise that the individualistic myth of power attempts to deny as much as possible the actual and still prevailing social interconnectedness of people. So far, I have described two ways this myth operates when it denies interconnectedness by ignoring other people and depersonalizing them. In the first case, power passes no judgment on them, “They do not concern me” or (in a more positive spin), “They’re free to determine their own destiny just as I am.”[22]—more notoriously, “The peasants have no bread? Then let them eat cake.” In the second case, power denies interconnected by passing a judgment, “Those people are lazy” (and so don’t deserve any help) or “Arabs [or Africans] are incapable of democratic forms of government” (and so we may excuse ourselves from involvement in their affairs).

Both ignoring and depersonalizing in these senses serve to remove the other; they deny the speaking capacity or ability of the Other to offer a self-definition. Thus, depersonalization serves to dismiss, while objectification similarly denies any capacity at self-definition, but impose a definition in order to make use of the thing objectified. Hence, since “all women are sluts,” this licenses rapists—whether acting singly or as part of a strategy in war—to assault women.  The difference between depersonalization and objectification may seem very slight, but the distinction carries wide ramifications. Depersonalization indicates the de-personalizing of someone; to de-personalize someone does not yet make them into an object, or even into anything else yet. It proposes a denial of something, rather than a positive assertion, like objectification does. Thus, while depersonalization unfairly calls a poor working woman “lazy” (as a way to deny interconnected with her), objectification calls her a “welfare queen”.[23] A fundamental difference I intend in this distinction concerns that depersonalization asserts an absence of personal interconnectedness so as to have nothing to do with the actual person whereas objectification asserts an impersonal connectedness that neutralizes the actual person through the objectifying lens. Objectification allows plantation owners and prison wardens to deny interconnected while keeping “slaves” and allows males to deny interconnected while keeping wives and mistresses.

In a statement like “Blacks are lazy” when it occurs in a leukocentric[24] culture, we see that the statement takes cognizance of an Other, so it proposes no case of ignoring. But what seems almost immediately to leap to mind involves the objection that such a judgment seems unfair—not just unfair in an abstract sense, but unfair in the mere sense that it ascribes everything (about a large group of people) to one quality only.[25] Depersonalization consists of this kind of unfairness; thus, against the judgment, “You are an adulterer,” the person (whether she committed the adultery or not) may rightly say, “I’m not only an adulterer.” One might imagine depersonalization as an attempt to rip off all the label that might apply to a person only to leave one—whether “lazy” or “adulterer” or “stupid”. Whatever qualities characterize the whole person, this gesture of power that denies interconnectedness proceeds by denying that whole personhood.

Objectification, by contrast, provides a wholly new, overarching label, but with an aim of justifying dehumanizing treatment of them, as a means to an end. Of course, the word “dehumanizing” here becomes treacherous, because all of these forms of denying interconnectedness with other people hinge crucially on different forms of dehumanization. In our human discourse about power, however, the word dehumanization arises frequently where objectification occurs; thus, they seem more extricably linked. Again, the key difference between depersonalization and objectification involves that the latter fundamentally disregards any empathy with the new “object” set for use, whether slave, woman, child, etc.  wherever one finds objectification, the question, “would you want to be treated that way” usually has relevance—and this, again, explains why “dehumanize” so readily comes up in this context.[26]  Here, it seems less that a judgment gets drawn so much as a label applied—i.e., what “woman” means in a patriarchal society—remembering that such a  label does not necessarily become identical with identity. An inmate (or a woman) will get treated as an inmate (or a woman) by the carceral society, but the “inner life” of that individual (and even the outer life) need not only consist of suffering, agony, and disaster.  Precisely this indifference to the inner life of those objectified denotes the sense of power lacking empathy for those it objectifies.[27]

From the foregoing, one may imagine that power might have an ‘enthusiastic” objectification for something. Canetti describes how the Jivaro people obtain shrunken heads (by slaughtering their neighbors, and then going to great ritual lengths to domesticate the wild power such a head possesses).  The Jivaro people recognize and acknowledge that one may obtain power from Others (provided you kill them and domesticate some of the remains). Or in some sun-down towns—those towns where African-Americans (to this day) my get warned to leave by sun-down or else—one occasionally finds a Black person who, in some way, has earned a “pass”—but that pass, like all passes, only permits certain kinds of delimited access. Let him stray outside of the carefully circumscribed magical circle—as a Jivaro shrunken head might threaten to—and all hell stands to get loosed.  To oppress people, by contrast, also requires enclosure but almost never any enthusiasm—the very verb “oppress” (to “press against”) shows the continuous vigilance and exercise of pressure and force ostensibly required to keep those oppressed “in their place”.

If objectification acknowledges—as the Jivaro acknowledge others as a source of power—some utility in the other, oppression tends to operate according to necessity, the necessity of keeping the Other enclosed. I don’t feel much needs saying about oppression due to its familiarity. It does seem to distinguish itself from the other forms of dehumanization above (ignoring, depersonalizing, objectifying) in that it may have the closest thing to a clearest view of the Other, insofar as the non-Other must (almost literally) “press” against those it oppresses. Israeli soldiers at checkpoints may have the clearest view of the actual Palestinian people oppressed, &c. This does not mean the “view” lends objectivity—German National Socialist camp guards regularly saw those they imprisoned, even those starving to death, and this does not guarantee any helpful response.

And this refusal to help denotes a key feature of what I mean by oppression. I see the Other, but I refuse cooperation with them—and the Other typically knows this, can see me. A poignant moment in Burnat and Davidi’s (2011) Five Broken Cameras shows Palestinian men asserting to Israeli soldiers, “We’re your brothers.” In this sense, watching someone drown denotes a moment of oppression; the 1% standing by while the 99% sink deeper into poverty denotes a case of systematic oppression, &c. If ignoring someone does not even acknowledge their existence, oppression notes the existence of an Other and refuses to help, to cooperate with them in their (our) living in the world.[28]

Again, one may easily overlap these various dehumanizations: one might say, of the one who refuses to help (one who oppresses an Other), that he refuses because he lacks empathy for the Other (has objectified them). I feel no compunction to get anal about the application of these categories, but an attempted precision of categories requires a precision of use as well. If we imagine a camp guard in Stalin’s gulag, for instance, whatever feelings or affective orientation he has toward the inmates itself does not matter. An attempt to deny interconnectedness implies an actual interconnectedness, so we should expect that these attempts at dehumanization—besides the obvious fact that if a person allows themselves to act in such a way toward others it affects them—should also have systematic effects as well. The awfulness of patriarchy to males denotes one variety of this. And so in the case of the camp guard, if he experiences any oppression at all as a result of his job, it may arise precisely in the fact that his feelings about the Other do not matter; someone has tied his hands (too); he can do nothing (but watch). And so this in particular, then, characterizes oppression: a lack of empathy, characteristic of objectification, may or may not co-occur with it, but either way, it functions secondarily to the primary “value” of refusing cooperation or help. One may say much the same for depersonalization as well—whether the camp guard thinks of his wards as “vermin” or “humans” plays a secondary role. Certainly, amongst the torture manuals of the world—or at least in the pragmatic instructions by master torturers to novices—they no doubt recommend erring on the side of caution: better to negatively depersonalize the wards (to see them as “scum”), better to negatively objectify the wards (to see them as a means to an end, a “paycheck”), than to humanize them.

This subordination of other varieties of dehumanization to  primary gesture occur in circumstances other than oppression per se. For people who do not operate from a standpoint of committed or vicious racism per se, the depersonalization they offer of Others can break down once face-to-face with that Other—thus, the apt observation that historically “in the South, they hate the race and love the individual; in the North, they hate the individual and love the race”. The North offers an instance of oppression that follows from objectification (as accompanied by no empathy for the individual per se)—thus all of the obnoxious platitudes about welfare queens, laziness, refusal to find work, and so forth., and the plentitude of ghettos to contain the Other. By contrast, a much more intimate proximity with the Other made objectification (of people into slaves) a prerequisite for maintaining the oppressive of slavery in the first place.

The purpose of this example serves only to show that these four kinds of dehumanization do not occur in strict isolation, but that once a primary stance or orientation gets selected, the remainder constellate around it or in light of it.

Constellations of Dehumanization

The perspicacious reader will note that oppression and ignoring more or less operate antithetically. Although the citizens of a town who live where a prison operates do not themselves see the inmates in their midst, powers have assigned bodies with eyes to keep very close watch on those inmates. Surveillance, obviously, stands opposite of ignoring (non-surveillance). So, if one takes a primary orientation of oppression, then ignoring becomes the route for introducing what Foucault (1977) [29] calls in Discipline and Punish “illegalities”—things that properly speaking should be punished but get overlooked. Driving five miles over the speed limit exemplifies this for many people but the disparate rate of arrest and conviction for drugs between black and white people points to another. At the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (and doubtless most colleges in the United States), incoming freshmen receive quasi-formal information about how to get out of alcohol possession charges and other drug offenses that, a few blocks north of the college, regularly result in arrests (and convictions) for people in that (predominantly Black) part of town. &c. These illegalities seem exceptions to the rule but we should understand them as aspects of the rule, rather—the racial privileging that occurs with what drug offenses get overlooked underscores this.

Similarly, depersonalization and objectification propose something like opposites as well. Where depersonalization strips away all but a few qualities of a person (“women are loose”), objectification offers a totalizing metaphorical substitution for that person (“women are sluts”). In a trivial way, this reflects a difference in how we think about something compared to how we feel about it, but both actually rest on forms of knowledge (our idea of something and our sense of a thing’s meaning).  And whether, for instance, objectification “ultimately” involves our “idea of something” or and depersonalization involves “what something means” or vice versa likely must seem hopelessly confused and overlapping.  For now, I only want to (unfairly) insist that objectification and depersonalization represent contrary gestures as well.

In terms of dehumanization, and thus the way that the myth of power currently denies human interconnectedness, I will finish this off with a cursory sketch suggesting how these four dehumanizations tend to constellate. One my imagine the oppressing/ignoring axis as “crossed” by an depersonalizing/objectifying axis. For the purpose of this illustration, I assume that the first axis provides the primary orientation though in principle one could work out what it would mean, say, to constellate the other dehumanizations around a primary emphasis on objectification (or depersonalization).

If oppression gets pride of place (as the primary orientation), then ignoring takes on the appearance of “exceptions” (illegalities) as described above. To maintain this system of oppressive power, objectification and depersonalization mediate the “inner life” of those who carry out the oppression. This manifests principally in shaping how the wardens view their wards—as noted above, the system “works” easier for those who enforce it if they think of their wards as vermin (depersonalization) or a paycheck (objectification).

So far, all of this follows rather obviously, and in one sense nearly participates in Canetti’s fantasy of the efficacy of power. Here, power oppresses, with perfect effectiveness. It operates smoothly and all but effortless—people get marched into the gulag, worked to death, and thrown over the fence for the wolves and bears once dead. But not only did things not work this way, this ignores completely the “games” that went on, right under the nose of power. Canetti says one either suffers the sting or evades it; he takes no cognizance of the person who pretends to obey a command.[30] Foucault’s (1977) Discipline and Punish sometimes gives the impression of placing too much faith in the power of the panopticon to see everything,[31] yet even that mythological panopticon (the biblical deity) gets tricks pulled on him right under his nose by Satan, as Jung (1952)[32] makes clear in his Answer to [the book of] Job.

In this, the supposed exceptions illustrate the rule (of power). We may merely anticipate that someone involved in the oppression of others may simply cease to dehumanize her wards, but I do not wish only to point to cases that (obviously) question the premise of the oppression in the first place. I want to point also to those exceptions that reinforce the rule. Since racists have argued that “under-races” threaten hegemonic power both through miscegenation and their very fecundity, so long as the problem of reproduction or pregnancy remains “solved,” then the sexuality of the “under-races” remains accessible. In the South, this manifested as most plantation owners (who could afford it) having a kept “octaroon” mistress. The low-brow edition of this involved merely going out to the slave shacks. Either way, objectification has entered as a key element.

I want to say that the easy (and justified) disgust one conventionally finds in response to this kind of exploitation by white males of Black women should not forestall noticing a remarkable thing about these tacit or literal rapes, especially in the low-brow cases. In  context where Black means “animal” or “non-human,” we can ask how a male would have thought to direct his sexuality that way. Saying this does not confuse rape with sexuality or ignore its claimed-primary emphasis on power. However, I don’t think we can treat it so simply. In any case, these acts specifically cross a threshold, either in the fact that a (human) male has directed his power and sexuality at an “animal” or a “non-human” or has (conceptually) bypassed that designation of the Other as “non-human” or “animal” in order to express his power and sexuality.

Bourgie assholes like to imagine farmers s sheep-fuckers, and some farmers (and other people) do fuck sheep. Let’s not get too precious about being appalled by this, but in as much as it goes on, that a (human) male can cross the threshold to direct his power or sexuality toward a literal animal, then that the same occurs with an objectified human (as an “animal”) shows one way to “get around” a barrier normally inviolable. Insofar as this arises from objectification, a key element involves the lack of empathy on the part of the male. In this kind of setting, it likely seems grotesque to speak of ‘relationship,” but with the octaroon mistress kept in more high-brow settings, a whole complex of “relationship” explicitly gets implicated. The hierarchical arrangement of power assures that a relationship of equality cannot occur and—like the Jivaro shrunken head—the mistress must remain inside her constraining magic circle or all hell will break loose.

What I want to emphasize with this example: because systemic oppression (in the institution of slavery) already stood in place, the typical prohibition on contact between oppressor and oppressed breaks down at places—through the principle of ignoring that prohibition, through an illegality—mediated of necessity by a form of objectification. Phenomenologically, those involved on both sides experienced this as something like a “relationship,” but the hierarchical arrangements preclude this just as completely as in an exchange with a prostitute. Thus, the classic objection by mistresses (“if you really love me, then leave your wife and marry me”) unabashedly and perhaps unwisely underlines the irreality of the “relationship” going on. One may wonder if the octaroon mistress doesn’t represent a more ideal form of mistress-having because one can only with difficulty imagine such  mistress saying in all seriousness “if you really love me, you’ll leave your wife and marry me.”

In this way, we may understand Israel as the octaroon mistress of the United States. I use “octaroon” (technically, this means “one-eighth Black”) to point to the dis-ease on the part of Power to cross the threshold of prohibition. If Faulkner’s fiction gives any indication, the most serious conflagrations result less often from Black and White per se, and more from the mingling of it—either in a person (of mixed heritage) or in the threat of producing such. And one may point to ways that power in the United States had to construe people of Jewish ancestry as at least a little White (i.e., octaroon) before “getting involved with them” &c. In the skewed liens of power that result from hierarchicalized relations, the Master may often feel beset, or put upon, &c., by the mistress, but these conniptions point to the luxuries permitted to a master. &c.

The foregoing shows how objectification and ignoring contribute to the operation of oppression when given a primary orientation—this all as illustrative of the myth of power that denies interconnectedness. What about a circumstance where ignoring gets given precedence? In this case, oppression becomes the apparent exception to the rule, while depersonalization and objectification mediate how that oppression plays out.

As an interpersonal example, many heterosexual males will claim to “have no problem” with homosexuals so long as “fags” don’t “push it in their faces”. Rather than graciously accepting the compliment of a come-on—I describe this all in exaggerated terms for clarity—they take such grave offense that they resort to violence. In parts of the world, this constitutes a positive defense. Insofar as these kinds of “loud” and violent responses erupt out of deeply held idiosyncrasies, generalizing about them remains perilous. Some theorize that the one hit on feels his masculinity so challenged (“you thought I might be open to that kind of gay fucking!?”) that he has to lash out at the one who made the suggestion. Sure. Possibly—and insofar as this opens the possibility of dealing with an actual closet se, then he may no longer provide the best example of “ignoring” in the first place, since that kind of denial very much “knows” what it denies. However, whatever emphasis we put on the one who resorts to violence, it seems he must also have at least objectified the one hitting on him, “You’re a fag?” (or something like that).

The point here:  to attempt to provide an explanatory framework to understand why this person getting hit on results in a violent response as opposed to other non-violent and non-negative responses. In a world that denies the interconnected of Others—in this case even the mere existence of gay males—when abruptly confronted with that fact “oppression” may jump up (in “archaic” violent form) through objectification. Again, the violence of the reaction may muddle analysis. In less volatile reactions, the come-on may get rejected with, “Dude, that’s disgusting” &c, and that one may reply to this with, “Well, it’s not only disgusting” points in the direction of depersonalization (rather than objectification).

In this way, we may understand as a case of this point the exploitation of resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance. The myth of power says, “Because I can, I should,” while ignoring that human beings live in the Congo (and other place where Power aims to extract resources). Whether power finds it masculinity challenged by the sudden appearance of the “native” who claims access to the resources in his or her home country or whether de-personalizing (literally) the Congo as “merely a source of resources” calls forth a reply from the Congolese “it’s not only full of resources,” the (archaic) violence of oppression emerges to contain (in order to negate) that abrupt presence. Depending upon the aims of power, this archaic oppression—usually some variety of war or economic violence—may evolve into full-scale colonization, in which case ignoring and oppressing switch places as the primary emphasis.

[1] All quotations are from Canetti, E. (1981). Crowds and Power (trans. Carol Stewart), 6th printing. New York: NY: Noonday Press. (paperback).

[2] The ongoing attempt of this heap is to get something out of Canetti’s book, and that of necessity means resorting to the classic sense of the essay, as an exploration, using Canetti’s book as a starting point. I can imagine that the essayistic aspect of this project can be demanding—of patience, time, &c. The point of showing an essay, entertainment value (if any) aside, is first and foremost not to be shy about showing the intellectual scaffolding of one’s exposition as much as possible. This showing, however cantankerous the exposition, affords the non-vanity of allowing others to witness all of the missteps, mistakes, false starts, and the like—not in the interest of merely providing a full record (though some essayists may do so out of vanity or mere thoroughness, scholarly drudgery, or self-involvement) but most so that readers may be exasperated enough by the essayist’s stupidities to correct his or her errors and thus contribute to our collective better human understanding of ourselves.

[3] Tolstoy’s larger point in War and Peace stood to debunk the Great Man theory of history, by showing that if Napoleon gets called a genius, then what do we make of the fact that some of the battles where his subordinates followed his commands resulted in defeats while other battles where his commands weren’t followed resulted in victories, &c.

[4] Maturana HR, & Varela FJ (1987). The tree of knowledge: the biological roots of human understanding. Boston: New Science Library.

[5] The fundamental objection involves the misprision of taking artificial social constructions (like crowds or armies) as autopoietic (“self-organizing”) in Maturana and Varela’s (1987) very precise sense. Short of offering a full exposition of the point, I may simply observe that crowds and armies do not constitute “closed systems”. The ways that a crowd or an army or a corporation stand like closed systems impose too much of a metaphorical break with biological (living) systems to allow the use of the analogy. One might say we can exchange “autopoietic system” and “living system” as exact synonyms, so that any sense of a crowd or an army or a corporation as a living system offers a simile that precisely destroys the distinction offered by “living system” (“autopoietic system”) in the first place.

[6] von Foerster, H. (2003). For Niklas Luhmann: ‘How recursive is communication?’ In Understanding understanding: Essays on cybernetics and cognition, pp. 305–23. New York : Springer-Verlag.

[7] Ashby, WR (1956). An Introduction to cybernetics. London: Chapman & Hall.

[8] In biological (living) systems one may already discern an erosion of power as Canetti tends to present it. If I command my dog to sit, I may describe this as me (somehow) issuing a command that causes the dog to sit. But biological systems remain “open to energy, but closed to information and control”. By another description, then, the energy of my command “triggers” (rather than causes) a perturbation—a change of stet—in my dog, and his biology then compensates for that perturbation in whatever fashion it does, including that he sits. We might debate whether I have “caused” the dog to sit or not in both cases but the nature of cause in the first case (the command fantasy) compared to the second clearly materially differs. In the first case, the dog reacts mechanically (literally) just as in the case of the ideal soldier. We can make a description of such a command without ever needing to take account of the dog (or soldier) the command issues to; hence Canetti emphasis the constancy of the military command. In the second case, however, some account needs taking of the nature of the dog; I directed energy at it that triggered a perturbation—a change of state—but the cognitive or biological characteristics of the dog (or the soldier) played a part. How do I know? The same command issued to a cat would have no effect, for instance; also, were we to examine the exact physiological response of the dog’s biology, we would find no difference (biophysiologically) between “sit” and “fetch”. In both cases, reference to my command alone cannot account for the behavior of the dog.

[9] Errington, F, and Gewertz, D. (1987). Cultural alternatives and a feminist anthropology : an analysis of culturally constructed gender interests in Papua New Guinea. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire], New York: Cambridge University Press.

[10] This does not denote the only form of such future “trust” (in the economic and affective senses of the word both) given in Chambri culture.

[11] Krippendorff, K. (1995). Undoing power. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 12(2): 101–132 [online]. Retrieved 9 May 2013, available here.

[12] Once again, the particular power of this second appeal rests in the fact that it proposes a “they” to which the listener may feel compelled to join. The issue no longer involves whether I might really do such a thing, and whether or not I might do such a  thing to you, but rather that “they believe” I can and will act accordingly. Whether as a threat or as a boast of significance, the shift involves a change from a claim by one to a claim about many or several.

[13] Mead, M. (1935). Sex and temperament in three primitive societies. New York: William Morrow and Company.

[14] We could also say that the Chambri male claim that if women shame them enough they will beat them to denote a bluff as well. Errington and Gewertz do not document male-female violence to any significant degree. They write:

This is not to say that men never do violence to women: Francis Yaboli, after all, did beat his wife. However, when men behave this way, it is not as part of a strategy to establish power but, rather, indicates a loss of power. Nor is the occasional violence toward women part of a general male effort to control women (152).

[15] I do not mean to suggest we should regard polite social fictions with scornful sideways glances. The issue here involves the potential reprisals for women only that come from ignoring the polite fiction.

[16] Another example of this “sideways power” (of the type seen with the giving of the patrimony to a future male relative, at a wedding Errington and Gewertz (1987) provide observations of, a number of rather gruff remarks get made across clan lines by different males. Errington and Gewertz deny that these remarks have any sense of a head-to-head or direct confrontation, insisting that the inequality of relationship between wife-givers n wife-takers ensures that the hierarchical positioning during a marriage remains essentially inviolable. Whether or not this accurately reflects matters, Errington and Gewertz observe instead that such gruff remarks aim more at the audience, at those who do not stand directly implicated in the marriage (as the givers or takers of wives) and thus those who both sides of the marriage might stand to gain or lose prestige before. I find this reminder useful and not entirely convincing. Because Errington and Gewertz specifically deny any attempt by either principal side to dominate the other, it seems as if their concern to deny dominance in Chambri society makes them attempt to deflect attention elsewhere. But if the gesture does not aim to dominate either of the principal parties involved, does that mean that such bluffs do not aim to dominate non-principal parties? The passage of remarks runs as follows:

Bibi’s [the wife] clan brother suddenly interrupted to remind Pekur’s [the father of the groom] group of its responsibilities. ¶ As [the clan brother] enumerated the obligations of his affines to the new bride, he ticked off each of his points by taking a coconut frond with his right hand from the bunch he held in his left. His affines, he stated, must provide Bibi with a canoe, show her the betel nut trees she could harvest, show her the fishing grounds owned by her husband’s clan and never chastise her for using property belonging to those whose children she will bear. In response, Pekur cheerfully accepted these obligations. And then, still in a joyful mood, Pekur berated those young girls who would marry non-Chambri men and deprive their parents of the pleasure of seeing them correctly wed. ¶ But immediately he was informed by Bibi’s clan brother that there was more to correct procedure than the exchange of valuables. Correctness means, he warned, that she must never be beaten after she visits her brothers. She must be asked first why she visited them: it must never be assumed that she did so in order to have an affair with one of her clan brothers, or was using the visit to her brothers to conceal an affair with someone else. The groom’s younger brother then promptly countered by reminding Bibi’s clan brother that the girl had been acquired at considerable cost. Because her family had accepted such a large bride-price, they had abdicated their right to interfere when she and her husband fought. Indeed, he continued, so high was the bride-price that her father and brothers had, in large measure, already been compensated if she were to be killed by her husband during a fight. ¶ A friend of the bride’s family intervened by agreeing that the bride-price was, in fact, quite high. However, he added, the money that Bibi had brought with her—the $K100.00 placed in the bilum carried for her by her clan brother as she was introduced to the ancestral crocodiles—was to remain hers. It was her “pass book”—her bank account—it and it must never be spent by anyone other than Bibi, certainly not by her new husband to buy beer. ¶ Sensing that the oratory was escalating passions to such an extent that schism was threatened, a friend of the groom began to beat  drum to suggest the resumption of dancing (105).

One might make a lot of this—most of all that these remarks get made in the earshot not only of the bride but other women as past or future brides—but to claim these remarks can have an emphasis only in an indirect way seems contradicted by the friend of the groom, who sensed “that the oratory was escalating passions to such an extent that schism was threatened.” I think a reader of the passage may equally and easily sense such  thing as well, as the exchange runs to the implications that (1) her new relatives will beat her for visiting her old relatives; (2) that the new relatives have paid enough for the bride that she’s longer any concern of the old relatives; and that (3) the new relatives shouldn’t steal the patrimony to get drunk—the theft of that patrimony being, as Errington and Gewertz indicate, an investment in future trust between her son and one of the men who gave her as a bride; “a father’s gift to his daughter is really a delayed bequest to his son” (96).

In general, the cake gets had and eaten here—such remarks seem both “personal” and “impersonal” because the whole event occurs on a social stage. Insofar as male (and clan) reputation hinges on public perception, whatever meaningful divide one might find between “direct” allies (the principals involved) and indirect allies or enemies (everyone else watching), the whole nevertheless occurs in the public square, so to speak.

It seems at times when Errington and Gewertz spec of inequality they lose sight of the fact that we may speak of inequality on one hand as “strength” and “weakness” or on another as differential strengths, where one stands greater than the other. Thus, they note, “Since all Chambri recognize that they owe their lives to those who have provided their women, a wife-giving group is assumed to have an unshakable superiority over any of its wife-taking groups” (106, emphasis added). This ignores “differentials strengths” in favor of “strength and weakness.” For instance, what weakness does it exhibit for a clan to accept or seek to “marry down”? And what strength does it exhibit for a weaker clan to get selected for “marrying up”. Like the bluff of the stolen object,  male making this claim simultaneously admits he can craft mighty objects but remains vulnerable to theft. So also the clan marrying up—they simultaneously get acknowledged as worthy of attention by the great though the very act of calling them “great” requires taking a subordinate stance to that greatness.

As soon as hierarchical relations get established, one may then only either marry up or down—and the consensus (I suspect) has it that one should prefer “up”. It seems no surprise to me, then, that the bluff of marrying up (“I am lesser than you, yes, but you recognize my worth by marrying me”) seems easier to recognize—perhaps even seems more “convincing” or “true”—than whatever elaboration one gives for “marrying down”. In this respect, one would except more “sideways politics,” and the powerful lord “marrying down” out of an obligation or great love to his brother (or other relative)—“because my brother has married so-and-so, so our family too shall join with yours and-so-on and-so-on”.* So, while “the most general objective of … public speeches is to appear as consummate wife-givers or wife-takers to those unrelated groups with whom competition for actual superiority or control does exist” (106) has some degree of validity, not only do the two parties involved form a “superior dyad”—insofar as they engage in the public spectacle of a marriage in the first place, compared to those who do not—we also needn’t pretend that pointed remarks by the “weaker” side—like “don’t spend all of Bibi’s patrimony for her son [which will eventually repay us] on beer”—weren’t seriously made and intended for Bibi’s new relatives, not the bystanders.

* Errington and Gewertz (1987) allude to this in a more contemporary setting when they note of (Western) husbands and wives, “He, after all, is credited with having selected her as his wife n as mother to his children” (137).

[17] “Limited access” to “environmental information” obviously does not doom a species to extinction as the success of arthropods in general indicates—like any strategy, we may describe this as having relative advantages and disadvantages.

[18] One might say “commodify them” here if one remembers that the term “commodity” in the first place refers to a social good, not a material good. Perhaps this was the sense Marx intended with commodification but the term has since gone on to have primarily economic rather than social overtones and so creates the wrong impression (at least in me) when used. The grotesqueness involved in commodification stands starkly and still perfectly apparent when one reflects on what process commoditized human beings as slaves, i.e., turned the social good of human beings into something assigned an economic value for the purposes of a sale. A society requires the exchange of commodities (as social goods); it does not require the exchange of commodities (as material goods). This materialist reductionism marks one of the important steps in (undesirable) modernism; no surprise it occurred in part with the rise of industrialization, &c. In any case, to make a (symbolic) social good (as a commodity) into a (material) social good (as a commodity) first requires objectifying that symbolic social good of its (culturally determined and symbolic) value. Hence, objectification stands prior to commodification. Errington and Gewertz (1987), while discussing the monetization of social relationships, notes an instance where one clan drew up a bride-price sufficiently large that it licensed them (they felt) to forego the usual counter-displays by the bride-giving family. In this way, the “fact” of money superseded the conventional social obligations involved in presenting a bride-price, and so forth. The selfish of this comes out poignantly in the authors’ description: the father sits to one side, hopelessly dejected; the bride gets allowed no opportunity to ceremoniously (in both senses of the word) dress up; and instead gets simply removed, crying real tears rather than the crocodile ones usually involved in such removals. One could hardly seem more clearly the gross license permitted by money and the destructive effect when its material value substitutes for its symbolic establishment of (implied) social arrangements.

[19] The usual sense of oppress now means “to keep down by force” but it also has the now-obsolete sense of to “physically to press down on (someone) with harmful effects” (see here).

[20] I have (to my astonishment) actually witnessed someone doing this to another—at meetings or social gatherings where both individuals attended, the one would literally and fully not respond to questions from or to the other person, even when directly addressed; he would look past the person he shunned, and make every effort to make clear that the activity of the one shunned registered no trace in his consciousness. The childishness and barbarousness of this struck me at the time, and the fat that I read this behavior in “non-adult” (immature) and “non-civilized” (barbarous) terms hardly seems accidental or immaterial. One might equally note the “inhumanity” of the shunner’s behavior, but this then simply links the inhuman to the (problematic) metaphors of child and barbarian (as non-human).

[21] I mention this, because shunning frequently occurs as a punishment for a (perceived) moral failing, e.g., because someone or some people judge another person as having behaved adulterously, shunning then occurs in light of that judgment. Rather by definition, to judge someone (as such-and-such a person) cannot take no cognizance of the other, cannot arise as a form of non-recognition; instead, the one judged might protest it amounts to a misrecognition (of who they really represent). This sense of misrecognition, rather than nonrecognition, denotes what I intend to characterize (above in the essay) as depersonalization. The distinction between nonrecognition and misrecognition informs the difference between ignoring someone and depersonalizing someone.

[22] It exemplifies this form of power that the “they” here seems maximally abstract and impersonal, thus belying its links to the racialized problematics of so-called race-blind policies,

[23] One might insist that to objectify one must first depersonalize. Perhaps so, or perhaps it does not matter.

[24] Leukocentric = white-centric; by definition, I include patriarchy in this as well, though in principal one might find a leukocentric culture without patriarchy.

[25] The fact that some people might and have insisted that such a statement actually seems fair only confirms my emphasis on fairness here.

[26] Linguistically, one may often deal here with nouns (states of being) rather than adjectives (qualities), with “welfare queens” rather than someone who “is poor”.

[27] One may argue, not entirely facilely, that this indifference to phenomenology applies to males in patriarchal culture as well, to the extent that males will (or more powerful males up the ladder will) dismiss “feelings” (or psychic states) as mere nothings. However, as Errington and Gewertz underscore, in a context of male and female differences in US culture:

Although men and women may deprecate each other in the same terms, the battle is unequal because to the extent that women are financially dependent non-workers they are in actuality much more likely than men to find their autonomy curtailed and the expression of their subjectivity subsumed [to their husband’s]. In so far as women are, in fact, contingent, they therefore have greater difficulty in establishing worth in a  culture that measures worth in terms of the capacity to demonstrate a distinctive and competent subjectivity: to demonstrate a valued individuality (138).

[28] Of course, some oppression occurs deliberately, as a willful non-cooperation and desire for the Other to cease to exist, but whether deliberately or indeliberately, because the Other can see they are seen, the sense of indifference either way contributes to the experience of oppression.

[29] Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison (trans. A. Sheridan). 2d. Second Vintage Books Edition (May 1995). New York: Vintage.

[30] Perhaps he would call that evading, but he doesn’t say so. The sense of evading he seems to indicate involves simply not getting commanded in the first place.

[31] The illegalities show counter-evidence as does Foucault insistence elsewhere (not so much in the book) that resistance to the panopticon remains possible.

[32] Jung, CG (2010). Answer to Job. (Intr. Sonu Shamdasani, paperback Fiftieth Anniversary Edition). Reprinted from Jung, C.G. (1968). Psychology and religion: West and East. (Vol. 11, Collected Works., 2nd ed., Trans. R.F.C. Hull). Princeton: Princeton University Press, i–xvii, 1–121. The essay was first composed in 1952.


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