I spend a lot of time thinking about what I am doing on here. I find myself thinking about it more and more as I approach the re-placement of my body and labors into the academic realm. Consequently I find (possible) missions statements in everything I read. Here is the latest:
‘Bio-power’ is Foucault’s arresting term for the processes by which a modern society achieves the ‘subjection of bodies and the control of populations’, as we good citizens submit to all manner of corporate disciplines and rtional-seeming imperatives. We submit more often than not without recognising that our actions are in fact submissive: Foucault is playing the traditional, demystifying role of the intellectual in alerting us to the full measure of our daily implication in the ‘rapports de force‘, or of power relations, whose pervasiveness he intends to expose. (Sturrock 1998, 63)
Rather, this is a mission statement I decided long ago to reject. Ursa considers me an optimist (he would never say naive to my face) when I say that I doubt most people need to be informed of the complex power relationships trapping them. Maybe the specifics or the origins of that power are not known, but ‘consciousness raising’ strikes me as a cop-out. It is a way for people to feel better about not taking risks. What does need to be taught are strategies of resistance. En-couraging measures. One of the reasons I enjoy working with the high schoolers is because I can show them how to stand up to things. I can teach them that they have the ability and that adolescent insecurity is founded upon a paradox that chills action. I am constantly amazed at how savvy the kids can be when it comes to really understanding the forces they feel acting upon them.
Most demystifying intellectuals tend to focus on the wrong things. This is also my problem when people talk of micro-politics. Usually they mean ‘talking about shit’. That’s not micro-politics. Politics is about resource distribution and micro simply means further distributions but on a scale usually not seen. Liberating the empty house for squatters is micro-politics. Seizing a shut down factory until Bank of America restores the credit line is micro-politics. What then is Michael Moore’s latest film Capitalism: A Love Story?
I feel no compunction to continue the project of categorization for categorization’s sake, but this is an important question. Moore is really good about putting a human face on micro-politics. The small ruptures in our national myth are everywhere and yet oddly invisible. Nobody does as good a job showing it as Moore does. His movies are affecting. But he even acknowledges his own limitations. The end of the movie has a black screen with Moore asking people to get involved. Even he knows his movie actually does no thing to improve conditions, but rather serves as a conduit to encourage others. From a place of empathy.
And that is the kind of academic I strive to be. I want to teach about strategies. Contingencies are important, but people know their locations. What they do not know is (1) how to do something about it and (2) that they will not be alone when the police start cracking skulls.