Power and Resistance

Why contemplate and theorize and philosophize? As Foucault argued: “The role for theory today seems to me to be just this: not to formulate the global systematic theory which holds everything in place, but to analyze the specificity of mechanisms of power, to locate the connections and extensions, to build little by little a strategic knowledge.” And as mentioned before, the traditional mechanism of violence has largely been replaced with the “all-seeing gaze” or the “Panopticon” of surveillance in the way of exercising power, as Foucault argued. What is called for in the face of this novel power mechanism is radical truth and transparency, which then serves the dual function of perplexing power to a certain extent and spurring power to reorient itself to a certain extent. 

Because the “Panopticon” is a transformation in the exercise of power in order to address novel circumstances, and given that the answer to the “Panopticon” is radical truth and transparency, it follows that the “Panopticon” is an illusion of power which is then dispelled by radical truth and radical transparency. Nevertheless, not only is the effect of the “Panopticon” on all and sundry quite strong, but it is also a cost-effective mechanism in the way of exercising power for the exclusive and small group of people who wield economic and political clout. As Foucault said: “There is no need for arms, physical violence, material constraints. Just a gaze. An inspecting gaze, a gaze which each individual under its weight will end by interiorizing to the point that he is his own overseer, each individual thus exercising this surveillance over, and against himself. A superb formula: power exercised continuously and for what turns out to be a minimal cost.” 

And as Foucault argued, there is no “apex” to this novel “Panopticon.” The “Panopticon” is “a machine in which everyone is caught, those who exercise power just as much as those over whom it is exercised.” Foucault added: “In the Panopticon each person, depending on his place, is watched by all or certain of the others. You have an apparatus of total and circulating mistrust, because there is no absolute point. The perfected form of surveillance consists in a summation of malveillance.” Power is no longer concentrated into the hands of a singular monarch or sovereign as was done in the feudal age. Yet, through the “Panopticon,” the entrenched economic and political group “succeeded in establishing a social hegemony which it has never relinquished.” 

The aim of the “Panopticon” is discipline more than anything else. And this kind of discipline aims at absorbing and diverting individual and collective energies towards the productive, symbolic, and optical aims of the economic and political class more than anything else. But as mentioned before, it is an authoritarian, mechanical, and repressive form of discipline which imposes barriers on the productive energies of the overwhelming majority of people, and there are now “revolts” against the “Panopticon” in many places. As mentioned before, power and resistance are two sides of the same coin.

However, the attack, resistance, and struggle against the “Panopticon” has no clear aim or objective. In fact, every attack against the “Panopticon” enables authorities to regroup, recollect, and reorient themselves. Is it possible that the ultimate outcome of this back-and-forth, attack and counter-attack, resistance and struggle will be a ‘techno-agrarian’ society? In other words, a society whose original character and form has been significantly diminished? All is uncertainty. 

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