Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Forthcoming Short Essay On War, Society, Habit, And Freedom

I intend to write a short essay before I proceed with my work on the final portions of 'Art, Zen, and Insurrection'.

This new essay is tentatively titled 'The Militarization Of Society And The Decoupling of Habit And Freedom'. Generally, it will try and address the way that habit is no longer viewed as a viable source of freedom. Specifically, I want to ask if this decoupling of habit and freedom is due to the intertwining of military and civilian institutions that began in the sixteenth century.

There are two articles that are serving as my major starting points. The first, and perhaps the more important, is Zizek's 'Madness And Habit In German Idealism: Discipline between The Two Freedoms'. This is an article that really pushes me to think about the relationship between habit and freedom, and really forces me to ask why we think of habit as incompatible with freedom. It asks me to think historically about the relationship between habit and freedom.

The second article is Manuel Delanda's 'Economics, Computers, And The War Machine'. In that article Delanda urges scholars to create economic and institutional histories that do away with simplistic ideas like 'the capitalist system'. Instead, Delanda claims that we must recognize that different economic systems (feudalism, elements of capitalism, banks, command systems) existed at the same time and influenced one another. What we need is a better understanding of 'institutional ecologies'. The most important element of the article, however, is Delanda's claim that these " 'institutional ecologies' should include military organizations playing a large, relatively independent role" (Delanda, 2004, 4). In other words, economic and institutional historians have not payed adequate attention to the way that the military influences other institutions.

Perhaps the most important effect the military has had on civilian institutions is the imposition of its bureaucratic and command structure. The military, historically, was the first institution to try to craft people into highly disciplined machines, the first to try and instill habits deep into people to make them work more efficiently. This is a very Foucaultian notion. The main thrust of Discipline & Punish is the idea that the military model of discipline infiltrated our most significant civilian institutions. Thus, prisons, hospitals, insane asylums, and schools all resemble the military in command structure, spatial organization, and most importantly, in the way that they instill highly specific, normalized habits deep into their subjects. Delanda even cites Foucault in this article, showing me that I'm not crazy to read D&P the way I do.

This military 'invasion' of civilian institutions has major implications for the role in habit in modern culture. Habit is no longer conceptualized as a personal thing, as something we craft for ourselves. Habit is, rather, something that is imposed on us from above, something that comes from our most powerful institutions and their desire for us to conform with their rigid structures.

Doesn't it seem like the rise of Foucault's 'disciplinary society', or Delanda's 'militarization of society', has serious implications for the relationship between habit and freedom?

I sure as hell think it has serious implications.

How does one, then, reclaim habit as a viable source of freedom when all of our habits are instilled in us by impersonal, pseudo-militaristic forces?

What to do with all these habits, all these institutions, all these demands made on us left and right?!

How is one to behave habitually and still feel free?

My new essay will attempt to answer these questions.

I don't know when I'll get around to it, because I'm still very busy. I'm still working alllll the time. Oh well.

But I will have to reread Zizek's essay. I'll be getting Delanda's A Thousand Years Of Nonlinear History in the mail any day now.

I don't know when. But I will get to this essay. I believe I will be able to ask some interesting questions. And I believe that I know some people who can help me think about this. Here's to you, Zizek, Delanda, and Foucault. Here is to the others who will help me. Here's to all of us.

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