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Autonomous Knowledge and Power in a Society Without Affects

Autonomous knowledge can be constituted through the analysis of the way that complex machines function.

autonomous knowledge, potentials

Walking through cities connected to world distribution networks, we shift from one imaginary to the next, from Monoprix™ to UGC™, from Friskies™ to Guggenheim™ or Pinault™ to MacDonald's™. Each time we activate fields of relational, communicational or sensational possibilities, equivalent and interchangeable. The commodity-possibilities© offered by world supermarket culture are born of desires and needs conjured up by advertising and the media. They can only be actualized with the money we have at our disposal, through our work and our credit at the bank. The richest one has a good chance of being right, because he's got the cash for it. He can create his own commodity-possibilities©, and impose them on everyone else. An equation associating truth, money, technology and power takes form: it allows you to work on your own indoctrination, your own subjection. Foucault speaks of "regimes of truth" by which he means the self-tightening circle in which the subjection of individuals and the production of subjectifying truths reinforce one another.

Different kinds of autonomy stand out from this context. They reveal themselves in the rising power of diffuse intellectuality, diffuse creativity and diffuse resistance, exercised by individuals and collectives creating forms of life (expressive, dietary, passional, urban), bringing forms of social or civil disobedience into play, developing their skills and secreting meaning autonomously, critically. These manifestations of autonomous knowledge/power provoke a crisis in the monopoly of access to possibilities held by the productive organizations of consumer society. Unlike a subjectifying truth-regime, an autonomous form of knowledge acts by resonance, intensifying the potentials of being and deconstructing the complex machines, the unipolar totalities that constitute our environment: technological and economic power; bureaucratic, cultural and sexual power. The being who brings autonomous knowledge and power into play is a potential being. S/he is not just there, frozen in a role or trained to seek or desire a particular, normalized possibility, or to choose among such possibilities. Her possibilities are not commodity-possibilities, controlled and rationalized by the capitalist system, but real chances, possible destinies brought into play by the activity of being.

deconstructing the complex machines, to reconstruct them unconventionally

Autonomous knowledge decolonizes possibilities, opens up the existence and potential of being through horizontal exchanges of knowledge and experience: Italian hacklabs, in the domain of informatics; networks for the reciprocal exchange of knowledge; amateur practices in biotechnology (critical art ensemble, a u.s.-based group of artists and researchers); the struggle for access to extra-atmospheric space (association of autonomous astronauts); video close to home (for example, in brussels by the art group PTTL); struggles for the shared organization and management of the environment (water, in the case of the SEMAPA, a group of local inhabitants in cochabamba, bolivia); fights for the use of networks, in the case of seattle wireless (u.s.a.); struggles over land, in the case of the sem terra or landless peasants' movement in brazil; struggles over urban space, in the case of the squatters' movement in france; over the circulation of people, in the case of kein mensch ist illegal (a social movement originating in germany)... etc.

Autonomous knowledge can be constituted through the analysis of the way that complex machines function. Deconstructing a program or an operating system in order to reconstruct them unconventionally is exactly what the hackers or the free software movements do. The Italian hacklabs create an economy by placing knowledge of electronics and informatics at the disposal of any interested person. They do not furnish services. They are organizations that bring together skills in a more-or-less informal way. They offer different kinds of expertise, transmitting their knowledge and know-how for free. The deconstruction of complex machines and their "decolonized" reconstruction can be carried out on all kinds of objects, not just computational ones. In the same way as you deconstruct a program, you can also deconstruct the internal functioning of a government or an administration, a firm or an industrial or financial group. On the basis of such a deconstruction, involving a precise identification of the operating principles of a given administration, or the links or networks between administrations, lobbies, businesses etc., you can define modes of action or intervention on these businesses, lobbies or administrations. But to deconstruct a machine, you must first have access to it and understand its functioning, or in other words, you must access the information that constitutes it. However, scientific and technical information, but also organizational information, are of very limited access today. The drive to deconstruct the complex machines is therefore doubled by a demand for free access to knowledge, and its free circulation.

strategy of truth

In a post-Clausewitzean strategy (where overkill is what MUST be avoided), the living organism itself and its manipulation become the stakes (the object) of war. It is a matter of producing being, and no longer of producing truth. Politics is no longer located in the symbolic but in the biological and the psychic dimension, via electromagnetic energy, etc. The symbolic remains in the form of infowar, i.e. as a strategy of truth and no longer as a regime of truth. The "truth" is constructed pragmatically, productively, as a function of the effects it can produce. In this sense, it becomes impossible to believe in the antagonism between a regime of truth (claiming authenticity and deriving from the symbolic) and a strategy of truth (which doesn't care if the truth is true, and is concerned more with the distribution, circulation and effects of a message, than with its production).

Content type
Projects Power Lines, Opposing Gazes
Public Netbase
bureau d'études
Date 17.01.2003
Location Vienna


subjectivity regimes of truth autonomy knowledge world supermarket culture politics organism electromagnetic energy free access Brussels Michel Foucault PTTL Bureau d'etudes
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