And He was asking him, "What is your name?" And he said to Him, "My name is Multitude; for we are many."
What is a fact is that at the same time workers were entering the factories, becoming part of a machine that produced material goods, scientists were entering the laboratories and academies, transforming themselves in pieces of a machinery that produced scientific knowledge and its authority, immaterial goods. And neither ones nor the others could have done so if they hadn’t themselves been built so as to fit as pieces of the new machineries. The production of scientists gradully perfections its output: ever more disciplined, productive and efficient men of knowledge, organic automata for the natural inquiry.
[excerpts from an essay, under construction, on the origins of science in XIXth century europe]
Besides the birth of social sciences [whose object was not only the human body, but in fact Man Himself – as organism and as machine, but also as society, as education, as economy, as civil life], the transformations in the scientific realm were all-embracing and resulted in such profound transformations that some have ventured calling it a Revolution .
What is a fact is that at the same time workers were entering the factories, becoming part of a machine that produced material goods, scientists were entering the laboratories and academies, transforming themselves in pieces of a machinery that produced scientific knowledge and its authority, immaterial goods. And neither ones nor the others could have done so if they hadn’t themselves been built so as to fit as pieces of the new machineries. For that is the role of discipline: «it ‘makes’ individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise.»
the secondary sector of the economy of bodies
Men of knowledge of Nature were no longer simply embodied inquisitive souls, former apprentices of an elitist craft. Their validity was now more dependent on diffused forms of control than on nameable authorities, the validity of their results more dependent upon proof of their universality than on a recognizable seal of approval.
Scientists were now produced in factories; and the first stage of their fabrication – as of the fabrication of any citizen recognizable as such, it must be said – was called education. Schools, places dedicated to eductation, were concerned mainly with making possible «the meticulous control of the operations of the body, [assuring] the constant subjection of its forces and [imposing] upon them a relation of docility-utility.» Education also took place in the sector of activity which was concerned with the reproduction and collection of raw materials – new human bodies, having ramifications in the obstetrics-paediatrics-family complex. But it was in schools, above all, that bodies began being worked and manufactured so as to produce quality-qualified workers.
The aim of schools was that of the secondary sector of the economy of bodies: to create homogenized subjects, productive citizens, docile individuals, qualified workers. To guarantee their functionality and the quality of the goods produced a number of techniques had to be put in place.
First, the development of each body’s abilities had to be rendered visible and quantifiable. Thus the necessity of overcoming the old and ritualistic oral tradition by one of systematic written production, to substitute a system of ranking and emulation by one of competition against a transcendent and numerical grading system, and to make examination the core of education. Second, the importance of establishing the active agent of controlled as both omnipresent and multileveled. It is then exactly in the process of quality control that panoptical vigilance – ‘the eye of God’ – frictionlessly meets the minute leveling of classes and hierarchical surveillance.
To make the bodies comparable, to make them relatable and positionable with respect to each other, was to allow their uniformization, their regulation. Foucault called this process normalization, and of it said it «becomes one of the great instruments of power at the end of the classical age. … the power of normalization imposes homogeneity; but it individualizes by making it possible to measure gaps, to determine levels, to fix specialities and to render the differences useful by fitting them one to another.»
[Discipline] does not mean a reduction their active-being, in benefit of their passivity; rather, agency can be strengthen as long as it works within certain relations, as long as it is translatable into productivity. This process of normalization … was prone to create and fomentvery specific qualities: docility, utility and domesticability – as Foucault pointed out – but also repeatability, accountability, compatibility, interoperability.
Together with foucauldian normalization we can just as well recognize a technology that creates a standard and regulates bodies in function of it – it matters little if it is a standard of physical execution, of intellectual performance, if we are talking about moral standards our measuring ones. Between Henry Maudslay’s screw-cutting lathe and Johann Friedrich Herbart’s pedagogy there isn’t much of a difference.
As a last requisite for the maximized functionality of all the productive and producing bodies, these should be made to be automatic, requiring the least possible external intervention. They should be given autonomy: be /self/reparable, be /self/controlled, be /self/managed.
This was to be accomplished at several levels. First, at a macro-social one, guaranteeing political stability. But preferably this characteristic would be achieved at the smallest possible scale. In social and material factories this automaticity-autonomy was built and maintained by the multi-layered system of vigilance already mentioned.
At the singular level, discipline is born with ideological individualism and, ultimately, with the formation of self-governing techniques: the incorporation of mechanisms of in/validation of the sellf, the interiorization of repression and control regarding behaviour and morality, the internal creation of a police.
The production of scientists gradully perfections its output: ever more disciplined, productive and efficient men of knowledge, organic automata for the natural inquiry.
Are humans becoming pieces of mechanical system? Are we now gears of a bigger machinery? For centuries we had machines at our service; mechanisms that we used as means, that we manipulated as instruments. May it be the case that we are now the ones serving the machines, that we are now their instruments?
[to be continued… and submitted soon ]