The Bloom does not experience a particular finitude or a determined separation, but the ontological finitude and separation, common to all men. As well, the Bloom is only alone in appearance: because it is not alone in being alone, all men have that solitude in common. It lives as a foreigner in its own country, non-existent and on the fringe of everything, but all the Bloom together inhabit the homeland of Exile. All the Bloom are indistinctly part of a same world, which is forgetting the world. So therefore, the Common is alienated, but it is only so in appearance, because it is still alienated as the Common – the alienation of the Common only signifies the fact that which is common between them appears to men to be something particular, their own, private. And this Common originates from the alienation of the Common, and what that forms is none other than the true Common that is unique among men, their original alienation: finitude, solitude, exposition. There, the most intimate merges with the most general, and the most “private” is the best shared.
The world is forgetting the world. And so it would appear to the chagrin of Breivik or with the ‘take back our country’ crowd, or with the ‘don’t retreat, reload’ set. But what is it that they would like to remember and to continue sharing, whether in alienated form or as collaborators of intimately familiar principles? Alienation persists in either event, existing as an island in both instances, where it finds a natural state of contentment blissfully estranged from the common. Success would imply that potential remedies, whether or not any remedy beyond outright oppression or brutality occurs. Thus the necessary fits of violence routinely directed beyond the immediate sphere of control, beyond the self, with the ultimate aim of controlling everything. Bloom is held out as the figure of a revolutionary, as an agent of transformation. Bloom as a forlorn, resentful being who searches for and reacts to something lost or stolen as an act of recuperation.
Let’s be clear: the concept of the Young-Girl is obviously not a gendered concept. The nightclub-going jock conforms to it just as much as the second-generation North African girl painted up to look pornstar old. The spirited telecom retiree that splits his leisure time between the Cote d’Azur and the Parisian offices where he’s kept a foot in the door, and the metropolitan single too caught up in her career in consulting to realize that she’s already lost fifteen years of her life to it – both obey the concept. After all, how would it be so easy to see the secret connection linking the plugged-in, puffed-up, civil-unioned humanity from the hip neighborhood and the petty-bourgeois americanized girl in the suburbs with her plastic family, if it were a gendered concept?
In reality, the Young-Girl is only the model citizen such as commodity society has defined it since world war one, as an explicit response to revolutionary threats against it. As such, she is a polar figure, guiding becoming more than predominating in it.
At the beginning of the 20s, in effect, Capitalism noticed that it couldn’t maintain itself as the exploitation of human labor without also colonizing everything found beyond strictly the sphere of production. Faced with the socialists’ challenge to its dominance, it too needed to socialize itself. It thus had to create its own culture, leisure, medicine, urbanism, sentimental education, and morals, and also create a disposition towards their perpetual renewal. This would become the fordist compromise, the welfare state, family planning: social-democracy capitalism. And now, submission by work, limited because the worker is still separate from his or her work, has been replaced by integration through subjective and existential conformity, meaning, at root, by consumption.
From being merely formal, Capital’s domination has become little by little real. The commodity society now seeks to find its best supports in the marginalized elements of traditional society themselves – women and youths first, then homosexuals and immigrants.
Commodity society can now give an air of emancipation to those that in the past it treated as minorities, who were the most foreign and most spontaneously hostile to commodity society, not having been folded into its dominant norms of integration. “The youth and their mothers,” acknowledges Stuart Ewen, “will supply the social principles of consumer ethics to the lifestyles offered by advertising.” The youth, because adolescence is “a period of life defined by a relationship of pure consumption with civil society.” (Stuart Ewen, Captains of Consciousness ). And women, because at the time it was the sphere of reproduction, over which women still held sway, that they needed to colonize. Youth and Femininity, hypostatized, abstract, and recoded into youthitude and feminitude, are then elevated to the rank of ideal regulators of empire-citizen integration. And the figure of the Young-Girl thus realizes an immediate, spontaneous, and perfectly desirable unity between those two variables.
The tomboy is indispensable as a kind of modernity, much more thrilling than all the stars and starlets so quickly invading the globalized imagination. Albertine, found on the wall around a seaside resort, exhausts the whole collapsing world of [Proust’s] “in search of lost time” with her relaxed, pansexual vitality. The high school girl makes her will the law in Ferdydurke. And a new authority figure is born, one that out-classes them all.
It’s origin founded in little more than a middle class student tax revolt against tuition increases, worthy of similar initiatives found along the political spectrum. Resonating with a multitude of voices, each embarks upon the same trajectory to nowhere in search of an audience with power and the collective unconsciousness, where a welcoming committee of police barriers, kettling, and jail for the unfortunate ones are inlaid on a slate transformed into an artificial green space representing the urban landscapes. Their agitated movement betrays the general confinement.
All in a day’s work, or on a sign heading that way. The brick layer, the cement truck, the salon, teleprompt journalism, the ballot box, ad agencies. Otherwise the things we stare at and that stares back at us would appear entirely different were it unmasked. As essential an occupation in society, and perhaps somewhat related, to that of the Pharmacist, the Priest, Psychiatry, etc. The value of aesthetics in society is evident in the many diverse and delicious flavours made available from which to sample from.
The causes and motives of seditions are, innovation in religion; taxes; alteration of laws and customs; breaking of privileges; general oppression; advancement of unworthy persons; strangers; dearths; disbanded soldiers; factions grown desperate; and what soever, in offending people, joineth and knitteth them in a common cause.
For the remedies; there may be some general preservatives, whereof we will speak: as for the just cure, it must answer to the particular disease; and so be left to counsel, rather than rule.
The first remedy or prevention is to remove, by all means possible, that material cause of sedition whereof we spake; which is, want and poverty in the estate. To which purpose serveth the opening, and well-balancing of trade; the cherishing of manufactures; the banishing of idleness; the repressing of waste, and excess, by sumptuary laws; the improvement and husbanding of the soil; the regulating of prices of things vendible; the moderating of taxes and tributes; and the like.
This interview took place in order for Foucault to answer questions frequently asked by American audiences. It was conducted by Paul Rabinow in May 1984, just before Foucault’s death. Translation by Lydia Davis, volume 1 “Ethics” of “Essential Works of Foucault”, The New Press 1997.
Michel Foucault: I like discussions, and when I am asked questions, I try to answer them. It’s true that I don’t like to get involved in polemics. If I open a book and see that the author is accusing an adversary of “infantile leftism” I shut it again right away. That’s not my way of doing things; I don’t belong to the world of people who do things that way. I insist on this difference as something essential: a whole morality is at stake, the one that concerns the search for truth and the relation to the other.
In the serious play of questions and answers, in the work of reciprocal elucidation, the rights of each person are in some sense immanent in the discussion. They depend only on the dialogue situation. The person asking the questions is merely exercising the right that has been given him: to remain unconvinced, to perceive a contradiction, to require more information, to emphasize different postulates, to point out faulty reasoning, and so on. As for the person answering the questions, he too exercises a right that does not go beyond the discussion itself; by the logic of his own discourse, he is tied to what he has said earlier, and by the acceptance of dialogue he is tied to the questioning of other. Questions and answers depend on a game—a game that is at once pleasant and difficult—in which each of the two partners takes pains to use only the rights given him by the other and by the accepted form of dialogue.
The polemicist, on the other hand, proceeds encased in privileges that he possesses in advance and will never agree to question. On principle, he possesses rights authorizing him to wage war and making that struggle a just undertaking; the person he confronts is not a partner in search for the truth but an adversary, an enemy who is wrong, who is armful, and whose very existence constitutes a threat. For him, then the game consists not of recognizing this person as a subject having the right to speak but of abolishing him as interlocutor, from any possible dialogue; and his final objective will be not to come as close as possible to a difficult truth but to bring about the triumph of the just cause he has been manifestly upholding from the beginning. The polemicist relies on a legitimacy that his adversary is by definition denied.
Perhaps, someday, a long history will have to be written of polemics, polemics as a parasitic figure on discussion and an obstacle to the search for the truth.