The Productive Subject

arton2202

It is impos­si­ble at the present time to write his­to­ry with­out using a whole range of con­cepts direct­ly or indi­rect­ly linked to Marx’s thought and sit­u­at­ing one­self with­in a hori­zon of thought which has been defined and described by Marx. One might even won­der what dif­fer­ence there could ulti­mate­ly be between being a his­to­ri­an and being a Marx­ist.1

Power: From Politics to the Economy

In the con­clud­ing sec­tion to The Will to Knowl­edge, Fou­cault explains what led him to con­sid­er pow­er, as it exists today, not from a neg­a­tive per­spec­tive – as a con­straint that is ini­tial­ly juridi­cal in form – but from a pos­i­tive one, inas­much as pow­er relies on mech­a­nisms that mate­ri­al­ly orga­nize and even help to “pro­duce” human life, instead of impos­ing bound­aries on it. This idea is at the very core of his con­cep­tion of “biopow­er.” As he writes about it:

This biopow­er was with­out ques­tion an indis­pens­able ele­ment in the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism; the lat­ter would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the con­trolled inser­tion of bod­ies into the machin­ery of pro­duc­tion and the adjust­ment of the phe­nom­e­na of pop­u­la­tion to eco­nom­ic process­es. But this was not all it required; it also need­ed the growth of both the­se fac­tors, their rein­force­ment as well as their avail­abil­i­ty and docil­i­ty; it had to have meth­ods of pow­er capa­ble of optimiz­ing forces, apti­tudes, and life in gen­er­al with­out at the same time mak­ing them more dif­fi­cult to con­trol. If the develop­ment of the great instru­ments of the state, as insti­tu­tions of pow­er, ensured the main­te­nance of pro­duc­tion rela­tions, the rudi­ments of anato­mo- and biopol­i­tics, cre­at­ed in the eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry as tech­niques of pow­er present at every lev­el of the social body and uti­lized by very diverse insti­tu­tions (the fam­i­ly and the army, schools and the police, indi­vid­u­al med­i­cine and the admin­is­tra­tion of col­lec­tive bod­ies), ope­rated in the sphere of eco­nom­ic process­es, their devel­op­ment, and the forces work­ing to sus­tain them. They also act­ed as fac­tors of seg­re­ga­tion and social hier­ar­chiza­tion, exert­ing their influ­ence on the respec­tive forces of both the­se move­ments, guar­an­tee­ing rela­tions of dom­i­na­tion and effects of hege­mony. The adjust­ment of the accu­mu­la­tion of men to that of cap­i­tal, the join­ing of the growth of human groups to the expan­sion of pro­duc­tive forces and the dif­fer­en­tial alloca­tion of prof­it, were made pos­si­ble in part by the exer­cise of biopow­er in its many forms and mod­es of appli­ca­tion. The invest­ment of the body, its val­oriza­tion, and the dis­trib­u­tive man­age­ment of its forces were at the time indis­pens­able.2

To put it schemat­i­cal­ly, Fou­cault explains in this pas­sage the need to rethink pow­er by free­ing it from the grip of pol­i­tics, so as to bring it closer to the con­crete lev­el of the econ­o­my; an econ­o­my that is pri­mar­i­ly con­cerned with the “man­age­ment” of life, bod­ies and their “pow­ers” – a term that per­sis­tent­ly recurs here – even before hav­ing as its focus the val­ue of trad­ed goods with­in an econ­o­my of things. Fur­ther­more, for Fou­cault, it is impor­tant to restore a his­tor­i­cal dimen­sion to this new under­stand­ing of pow­er, which he does by relat­ing it to the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism and the speci­fic social rela­tions of pro­duc­tion set in place in the con­text of the Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion. Although the term “class” is not overt­ly men­tioned, it is clear­ly implied with the ref­er­ence in the above pas­sage to the “fac­tors of seg­re­ga­tion and social hier­ar­chiza­tion, exert­ing their influ­ence on the respec­tive forces of both the­se move­ments, guar­an­tee­ing rela­tions of dom­i­na­tion and effects of hege­mony,” and “the join­ing of the growth of human groups to the expan­sion of pro­duc­tive forces and the dif­fer­en­tial allo­ca­tion of prof­it.” Fou­cault appears here to almost flirt with Marx’s analy­ses in Cap­i­tal, which he rec­on­ciles with his attempt to view pow­er from a pos­i­tive and “pro­duc­tive” per­spec­tive.

Five years lat­er, com­ing back to this point in a lec­ture given in Bahia in 1976, pub­lished under the evoca­tive title “The Mesh of Pow­er,”3 Fou­cault explic­it­ly con­firms this con­ver­gence. There, he writes:

How may we attempt to ana­lyze pow­er in its pos­i­tive mech­a­nisms? It appears to me that we may find, in a cer­tain num­ber of texts, the fun­da­men­tal ele­ments for an analy­sis of this type. We may per­haps find them in Ben­tham, an Eng­lish philoso­pher from the end of the 18th and begin­ning of the 19th cen­tu­ry, who was basi­cal­ly the great the­o­reti­cian of bour­geois pow­er, and we may of course also find the­se ele­ments in Marx, essen­tial­ly in the sec­ond vol­ume of Cap­i­tal. It’s here, I think, that we may find some ele­ments that I will use for the analy­sis of pow­er in its pos­i­tive mech­a­nisms.

Fou­cault means that Ben­tham and Marx are basi­cal­ly talk­ing about the same thing, even if they do so in dif­fer­ent ways: the emer­gence of a new con­fig­u­ra­tion of pow­er, coin­cid­ing with the rise of cap­i­tal­ism and the bour­geoisie, did not sole­ly con­sist of an insti­tu­tion­al change or a seizure of polit­i­cal pow­er, since it fun­da­men­tal­ly depend­ed upon an orig­i­nal har­ness­ing of the forces of life itself, pro­vid­ing the econ­o­my with its speci­fic object ‒ an econ­o­my whose trans­for­ma­tions have dri­ven social change. This per­spec­tive, it could be argued, moves toward the the­sis of the deter­mi­na­tion by the econ­o­my in the last instance, on con­di­tion that the con­cept is extend­ed to even­tu­al­ly sub­sume the man­age­ment or the “pro­duc­tion” (to fol­low Foucault’s ambigu­ous term) of life in all of its forms. In the rest of the lec­ture, Fou­cault enu­mer­ates the four dimen­sions that char­ac­ter­ize this his­tor­i­cal and social shift in pow­er, and insis­tent­ly refers to Marx for each one: the dis­per­sion of pow­er into a mul­ti­plic­i­ty of het­ero­ge­neous pow­ers; its detach­ment from the state-form; its pos­i­tive, rather than pro­hib­i­tive or repres­sive, ori­en­ta­tion; and final­ly, its pro­gres­sive tech­ni­ciza­tion that devel­oped unplanned through tri­al and error, and thus was not sub­or­di­nat­ed to any devised or pre­con­ceived ends. Fou­cault con­sid­ers this last point to be the most impor­tant: it appears in the pas­sage from the Will to Knowl­edge cit­ed above con­cern­ing “meth­ods of pow­er capa­ble of optimiz­ing forces, apti­tudes, and life in gen­er­al with­out at the same time mak­ing them more dif­fi­cult to con­trol.”

When Fou­cault cites the “sec­ond vol­ume of Cap­i­tal,” he clear­ly has in mind the sec­ond vol­ume of the French edi­tion of Marx’s work, pub­lished by Édi­tions Sociales, which com­pris­es Parts 4, 5, and 6 of Vol­ume I, the only vol­ume to appear in Marx’s life­time, the final edit­ing of Vol­umes II and III being posthu­mous­ly com­plet­ed by Engels. Althusser, in a pref­ace writ­ten for the 1969 pub­li­ca­tion of Vol­ume I of Cap­i­tal in Flammarion’s GF book series, had rec­om­mend­ed read­ing it by start­ing direct­ly with the sec­ond half, that is, by skip­ping the first part, as its inter­pre­ta­tion pos­es the most prob­lems, prob­lems only resolv­able when one gets to the end of the work and can grasp the argu­men­ta­tion as a whole. Fou­cault seems to go even fur­ther, advis­ing that Marx’s book be approached through the fourth part, which deals with “The Pro­duc­tion of Rel­a­tive Sur­plus-Val­ue (Mehrw­ert).” Indeed, in this pas­sage he sees, appear­ing for the first time, the ele­ments enabling the def­i­n­i­tion of the new con­fig­u­ra­tion of pow­er, her­ald­ed from the end of the 18th cen­tu­ry by the­o­rists such as Ben­tham: name­ly, “bour­geois pow­er” and its mech­a­nisms, i.e., the speci­fic pro­ce­dures per­tain­ing to a tech­nol­o­gy of pow­er, to whose analy­sis Marx made the great­est con­tri­bu­tion. By focus­ing his atten­tion on this part of Cap­i­tal, Fou­cault there­by finds a way of dis­tanc­ing him­self from the polem­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion pro­vid­ed in The Order Of Things – not of Marx’s thought stric­to sen­su, as found in his own texts, but what arose from it in the form of “ortho­dox” Marx­ism, in which Fou­cault had detect­ed an avatar or epiphe­nom­e­non of polit­i­cal econ­o­my in its Ricar­dian form, full stop. From this point of view, it is as if Fou­cault pro­posed to add a new chap­ter to the project Althusser him­self ini­ti­at­ed with the pub­li­ca­tion of Read­ing Cap­i­tal, which had already begun to chal­lenge tra­di­tion­al, ortho­dox Marx­ism.

What could have inter­est­ed Fou­cault in the pas­sages from Cap­i­tal, begin­ning with Part 4, to the degree that he presents them as sources for a pos­i­tive study of pow­er, root­ed in the devel­op­ment of the econ­o­my and its “forces?” We would like to clar­i­fy this point by return­ing to Marx’s text, which Foucault’s sug­ges­tion prompts us to read in a man­ner that might be called “symp­to­matic,” since it is not at all obvi­ous at first glance how one might derive the prin­ci­ples for an analy­sis of “pow­er” which is at best implic­it in Cap­i­tal, hov­er­ing in the back­ground. To rough­ly pose our ques­tion: how is it pos­si­ble to draw the ele­ments of a the­o­ry of pow­er from the expla­na­tion of the process of the pro­duc­tion of rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue, with­out falling into over­in­ter­pre­ta­tion, since the prob­lem of pow­er, if not com­plete­ly extra­ne­ous to this expla­na­tion, is only posed at its mar­gins? Let us say straight away that this ques­tion, which involves the par­tic­u­lar rela­tion that pow­er main­tains with the econ­o­my of cap­i­tal­ism, and which leads us to brack­et the rela­tions that pow­er might oth­er­wise have with polit­i­cal and state forms, also leads us to take into account and re-estab­lish the pri­ma­ry impor­tance of the notion Marx him­self saw as his prin­ci­pal the­o­ret­i­cal inno­va­tion, because it enabled him to rad­i­cal­ly break with Ricar­dian eco­nom­ics: the con­cept of “labor-pow­er,” whose word­ing con­tains pre­cise­ly a ref­er­ence to “pow­er,” a ref­er­ence Fou­cault attach­es such impor­tance to in his own con­cep­tion of the new econ­o­my of pow­er. This econ­o­my, it can be said, is not an econ­o­my of things or goods but an econ­o­my of “forces,” and as such, inex­tri­ca­bly an econ­o­my of per­sons; an econ­o­my which in real­i­ty is close­ly inte­grat­ed with pro­ce­dures for the sub­jec­tion of per­sons and, more pre­cise­ly, bod­ies. To put it in Foucault’s terms, we must ask our­selves how cap­i­tal­ism, by uti­liz­ing the exploita­tion of labor-pow­er, devel­oped “meth­ods of pow­er capa­ble of optimiz­ing forces, apti­tudes, and life in gen­er­al with­out at the same time mak­ing them more dif­fi­cult to gov­ern.” It should be not­ed that the aim of such an inquiry is not to demon­strate that Foucault’s ideas are already black and white in Marx’s text, which would amount to invent­ing the fic­tion of a “Marx­ist” or “Marx­isant4 Fou­cault, as such an heir to Marx, but to enrich our poten­tial under­stand­ing of this text, by clar­i­fy­ing it in light of the hypothe­ses Fou­cault advances and thus tra­vers­ing the path that leads from Fou­cault back to Marx in the hope of reveal­ing new aspects of the latter’s thought and – this is the point that pri­mar­i­ly con­cerns us – refram­ing the ques­tion of pow­er in par­tic­u­lar by shift­ing it from the lev­el of pol­i­tics to that of the econ­o­my.5

The System of Wage-Labor and the Exploitation of Labor-Power

In order to answer the ques­tions that have just been raised, we must first return to the the­o­ry of wage-labor, which, accord­ing to Marx’s pre­sen­ta­tion, forms the basis of the cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my and rad­i­cal­ly dis­tin­guish­es it from pre­ced­ing mod­es of pro­duc­tion. We can sum­ma­rize this the­o­ry by iden­ti­fy­ing three major traits. In the speci­fic con­text of cap­i­tal­ism itself, the pro­duc­tion of val­ue-bear­ing, and thus exchange­able, com­modi­ties depends on the pro­duc­tive con­sump­tion of labor-pow­er; this last, labor-pow­er, is the prop­er­ty of the pro­le­tar­i­an, and in exchange for a wage, the cap­i­tal­ist acquires the right to use it for a cer­tain time with­in the space of his enter­prise, where it is “con­sumed.” When he talks about the labor con­tract, Marx often writes that the pro­le­tar­i­an sells its labor-pow­er to the cap­i­tal­ist, a mis­lead­ing short­hand if tak­en lit­er­al­ly. What the work­er actu­al­ly alien­ates in exchange for a wage is not his labor-pow­er as such, con­sid­ered in its sub­stance as some­thing embod­ied in him, in the sense of being insep­a­ra­ble and even indis­cernible from his bod­i­ly exis­tence; if he were to do that, he would become, in a way, a slave to his employ­er – he would no longer be free and would lose as a con­se­quence the respon­si­bil­i­ty of main­tain­ing this sub­stance that is one with his per­son. In exchange for the wage, the pro­le­tar­i­an in real­i­ty only grants the right to exploit his labor-pow­er for a cer­tain time and in a cer­tain place: he rents it out, strict­ly speak­ing, with the stip­u­la­tion that the rent he is paid in exchange under the terms of this trans­ac­tion is deferred, the wage not being paid until after use and not before, as is the case in the major­i­ty of rental con­tracts. This pro­vi­sion ren­ders the exchange rela­tion unequal from the start, inso­far as it rep­re­sents a form of pres­sure exer­cised by the buy­er over the sell­er. It fol­lows that if we want to under­stand what wage-labor is, we must care­ful­ly dis­tin­guish between labor-pow­er as such – what we have called its sub­stance – and its employ­ment, which is mea­sured in time and space, the basic unit of this mea­sure­ment being for­mal­ly con­sti­tut­ed by the work­ing day as orga­nized with­in the bounds of the enter­prise (at least until the end of the nine­teen­th cen­tu­ry, man­u­al labor­ers were gen­er­al­ly hired and paid by the day, which dis­tin­guished them from salaried employ­ees).

The wage-labor sys­tem, which deter­mi­nes the rela­tion of cap­i­tal to labor, pre­sup­pos­es the sep­a­ra­tion of the­se two aspects – the sub­stance and its employ­ment – and there­fore that labor-pow­er, as an apti­tude borne by the body through­out its life, is in fact sep­a­rat­ed from the con­di­tions of its acti­va­tion as it is imple­ment­ed with­in cer­tain time lim­its and in the speci­fic space of the enter­prise, where the work­er must go, bring­ing his labor-pow­er with him, so that it can be used under suit­able con­di­tions. The exis­ten­tial capac­i­ty remains the inalien­able prop­er­ty of the work­er who, in exchange for a wage, con­cedes to his boss the pos­si­bil­i­ty of using it, of putting it to work for his prof­it for a cer­tain peri­od with­in a given frame­work. This first point shows that the notion of labor-pow­er, while it ini­tial­ly appears as a sim­ple, uni­fied, nat­u­ral given, as a “pow­er” orig­i­nat­ing in life and the body, is much more com­plex; the his­tor­i­cal inter­ven­tion of cap­i­tal­ism and its speci­fic mode of pro­duc­tion, it could be sug­gest­ed, has the pre­cise effect of com­pli­cat­ing this notion by exploit­ing the afore­men­tioned divi­sion, none of which is at all nat­u­ral.

In this respect, Fou­cault would be enti­tled to talk of a tech­ni­cal pro­ce­dure result­ing in the estab­lish­ment of a pow­er rela­tion: in effect, when he exchanges the employ­ment of his labor-pow­er for a wage, the work­er is only for­mal­ly “free” to do so. But for the pro­ce­dure to work, the work­er must actu­al­ly be made to do so, because in order to sur­vive, he is placed in the posi­tion of a job-seek­er; a docile posi­tion, it could be said, inso­far as it com­plies with an “eco­nom­ic” neces­si­ty that in the last instance has noth­ing juridi­cal about it. In oth­er words, the fact that labor-pow­er is sep­a­rat­ed from its usage is his­tor­i­cal­ly con­di­tioned: it cor­re­sponds to the devel­op­ment of a speci­fic mode of pro­duc­tion that depends on the exploita­tion of labor-pow­er made pos­si­ble by this sep­a­ra­tion, and whose very first effect is to bind the work­er, the bear­er of labor-pow­er, to the con­straints of the job mar­ket. Indeed, it is not enough that he “has” his labor-pow­er, in the sense that his body belongs to him, as it still needs to be able to be set to work under cer­tain con­di­tions inde­pen­dent of him.

But that’s not all. At the out­set, wage-labor appears as an exchange which, like all exchanges between com­modi­ties, should in prin­ci­ple be an exchange of equal val­ues. What the work­er brings to the labor mar­ket is him­self: his body, his labor-pow­er, whose usage he alien­ates; and, for this, he receives a wage which, in prin­ci­ple, must pay for what he has sold at its val­ue, cor­re­spond­ing to its main­te­nance over the peri­od dur­ing which he grants its usage. Main­te­nance should be under­stood as every­thing that enables the regen­er­a­tion of this pow­er as is nec­es­sary both for the sur­vival of the indi­vid­u­al work­er, and also that of his fam­i­ly. Not only is his own labor-pow­er repro­duced with­in the fam­i­ly, but also that of his off­spring; and in pay­ing the wage, the cap­i­tal­ist takes out an option on this lat­ter, there­by exer­cis­ing a sort of pre-emp­tive claim over it. For the sys­tem to func­tion nor­mal­ly – accord­ing to rules, thus mak­ing it legal­ly indis­putable – the com­mod­i­ty must be sold at its true price, which fluc­tu­ates around an aver­age val­ue deter­mined by mar­ket con­di­tions, that is, by vari­a­tions in the rela­tion­ship between sup­ply and demand, as is the case for all mar­ket trans­ac­tions. When he gets his wage, the work­er there­fore has not been robbed or plun­dered, which he implic­it­ly acknowl­edges by com­ply­ing with and will­ing­ly com­ply­ing with the terms of the exchange, and for­mal­ly speak­ing does so will­ing­ly. Nev­er­the­less, one can­not leave mat­ters here. For the exchange to effec­tive­ly take place, it must reflect the inter­ests that con­crete­ly bind the con­tract­ing par­ties. The seller’s inter­est is com­plete­ly clear: the work­er trans­fers the use of his labor-pow­er for the wage because with­out it, he could not sat­is­fy his needs or those of his fam­i­ly. If he brings his “com­mod­i­ty” to the labor mar­ket, then it is sim­ply because he can­not do oth­er­wise: it is the con­di­tion of his sur­vival. But in regards to the buy­er, who will employ this labor-pow­er to his ben­e­fit, things are much less clear: what the cap­i­tal­ist bought at its val­ue, he in fact intends to exploit, not at equal val­ue, but in order to derive from it an addi­tion­al val­ue that will rep­re­sent his prof­it, a prof­it des­tined to either increase his pro­duc­tion or his wealth; at every turn he wins, and if this wasn’t the case, the trans­ac­tion would not inter­est him the slight­est. So there is some­thing strange, anom­alous, in the way that this rela­tion is estab­lished. Under the terms of the exchange between the wage labor­er and the per­son pay­ing him, if one of them, the work­er, strict­ly speak­ing, los­es noth­ing, he does not gain any­thing either, that is, he can­not hope to gain more than he has ini­tial­ly pledged; and, if turns out that his wage even mar­gin­al­ly exceeds his real needs, allow­ing him either to spend waste­ful­ly on extras or to save for him­self, a cor­rec­tion almost auto­mat­i­cal­ly takes place and his wage drops, even­tu­al­ly bring­ing about a fall in the aver­age val­ue of the wages for all the oth­er work­ers. Where­as, under the terms of the same exchange, the oth­er par­ty, the buy­er, aims not only to recoup his stake, there­fore los­ing noth­ing, but to increase it, prov­ing this exchange of equal val­ue, from which the sys­tem of wage-labor derives its legit­i­ma­cy in terms of law, masks a con­jur­ing trick which trans­forms equal­i­ty into inequal­i­ty, with­out, how­ev­er, for­mal­ly vio­lat­ing the com­mer­cial right of exchange. What has hap­pened?

To under­stand this bet­ter, it is use­ful to apply the schema elab­o­rat­ed by Marcel Mauss – in anoth­er con­text, to account for the mech­a­nism of the gift, an exchange which puts two par­ties in a rela­tion of reci­procity – to the labor con­tract that sanc­tions the exchange.6 This schema is tri­an­gu­lar, and artic­u­lates three oper­a­tions: “giv­ing,” “receiv­ing,” and “return­ing.” Let us sup­pose that the labor con­tract, which is the basis for wage-labor, falls under this schema. The giver in this case is the per­son offer­ing the com­mod­i­ty he seeks to part with: name­ly, the work­er who brings his labor-pow­er, his body – whose employ­ment he rents out to some­one else – to the mar­ket. In exchange, the buy­er, his future employ­er, “returns” to him a val­ue equiv­a­lent to the main­te­nance needs of this pow­er. But, when this buy­er is the cap­i­tal­ist, what is there­fore “returned” – rec­om­pensed in the form of wages – isn’t exact­ly the same thing as what is “received” by the one who, in terms of the exchange, occu­pies the posi­tion of pur­chaser: this is the con­di­tion for this exchange of equal val­ue to pro­duce inequal­i­ty. In oth­er words, what the cap­i­tal­ist acquires in exchange for the wage, and grant­i­ng him the right to exploit it accord­ing to his own wish­es, in a man­ner con­sis­tent with his inter­ests, is not exact­ly what has been brought, “given,” or for­mal­ly sold in exchange for this wage. Thus, at this lev­el, the pre­vi­ous divi­sion reap­pears, split­ting up labor-pow­er into two sides: one of the­se is “given” by the sell­er, the work­er, and the oth­er “received” by the buy­er, the cap­i­tal­ist; the afore­men­tioned con­jur­ing trick depends on this split­ting, which turns an exchange of equal val­ues into an oper­a­tion that ben­e­fits only one of the con­tract­ing par­ties, and is only pos­si­ble because this exchange occurs with­in the frame­work of a pow­er rela­tion where­in one par­ty, the sell­er, occu­pies the sub­or­di­nate posi­tion and the oth­er, the buy­er, the dom­i­nant posi­tion, enabling the lat­ter to impose their inter­ests. For the sys­tem of wage-labor to take effect, the work­er has to be placed in the posi­tion of a split sub­ject who, while remain­ing entire­ly in con­trol of his labor-pow­er, alien­ates only its usage, which pre­sup­pos­es that this pow­er can effec­tive­ly be sep­a­rat­ed from its use.

On this basis, we can eval­u­ate the break intro­duced in the expla­na­tion of the sys­tem of wage-labor by the sub­sti­tu­tion of labor-pow­er for labor, a break that Marx presents as his prin­ci­pal the­o­ret­i­cal inno­va­tion.7 If the sell­er, the wage labor­er, alien­at­ed his labor, and if this was paid at equal val­ue, as clas­si­cal polit­i­cal econ­o­my until Ricar­do sup­posed for all exchange, then the buy­er, the cap­i­tal­ist, would gain noth­ing fur­ther, and the exchange would not hap­pen sim­ply because it would not present any inter­est for him. But if what the sell­er brings – “gives” – is his labor-pow­er, or at least the pos­si­bil­i­ty of employ­ing it for a cer­tain time, then the same can­not be said: for what is trans­ferred, “received” at the end of the exchange is not exact­ly the same thing as pre­sent­ed at the begin­ning. What is received is the pos­si­bil­i­ty of employ­ing labor-pow­er over and above its real val­ue, and there­fore to prof­it from its use. This prof­it is reserved for who­ev­er buys the right to employ labor-pow­er at its val­ue, which is not what it pro­duces, but what pro­duces it, that is, the val­ue nec­es­sary for the main­te­nance of the pow­er that once pro­duced, pro­duces, as the bear­er of the capac­i­ty to pro­duce in excess of the val­ue need­ed to pro­duce it. Antic­i­pat­ing con­cepts that will be intro­duced lat­er on, we can say that at the moment he accepts the pro­vi­sions stip­u­lat­ed by his employ­ment con­tract, the work­er under­goes a qua­si-mirac­u­lous muta­tion: he ceas­es to be his body in per­son, whose exis­tence is by def­i­n­i­tion equal to no oth­er, and becomes a “pro­duc­tive sub­ject,” a bear­er of “labor-pow­er,” whose per­for­mance – “social labor” – is sub­ject­ed to a com­mon eval­u­a­tion; and, in this fash­ion, he is sub­ject­ed [assu­jet­ti], in all sens­es of the word.8

At stake here is the ambi­gu­i­ty sur­round­ing the con­cept of labor, an ambi­gu­i­ty rein­forced by the French lan­guage, which com­bi­nes in one term two things that the Eng­lish lan­guage and the Ger­man lan­guage dis­tin­guish: on the one hand, in the­se two lan­guages, the terms Werk and work indi­cate the result of labor, once it is fin­ished and thus when it has attained its end; and on the oth­er hand, there is the oper­a­tion or the process that pro­duces, that is to say the activ­i­ty of pro­duc­tion as it is actu­al­ly in pro­gress, and is head­ed toward its end but has not attained it yet, which is indi­cat­ed by the terms Arbeit and labor. One could say this ter­mi­no­log­i­cal dis­tinc­tion is tak­en up metaphor­i­cal­ly by Marx in his dis­cus­sion of “dead labor” and “liv­ing labor.” Dead labor is “fin­ished,” objec­ti­fied labor, crys­tal­lized in the pro­duct where­in its tra­jec­to­ry is com­plet­ed. Liv­ing labor is labor in the course of its exe­cu­tion, on a lev­el that gives it a par­tic­u­lar­ly dynam­ic range, while the pro­duct rep­re­sent­ing dead labor exhibits only a sta­t­ic dimen­sion. In forg­ing the con­cept of “labor-pow­er,” his own con­tri­bu­tion to the the­o­ry of wage-labor, Marx intro­duced the­se two aspects into this com­pound for­mu­la, just as the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, which pre­sup­pos­es the pos­si­bil­i­ty of sub­sti­tut­ing one for the oth­er even though they cor­re­spond to dif­fer­ent deter­mi­na­tions, does in real­i­ty. One side of labor-pow­er is decid­ed­ly dynam­ic, a pow­er, with the dimen­sion of capac­i­ty that defines it and has liv­ing labor as its bear­er; dead labor is the oth­er side, the sta­t­ic side of labor, in the sense of being the result of the com­plet­ed labor process.9 The con­cept of labor-pow­er, which joins the­se two aspects togeth­er, in this way allows for an under­stand­ing of what real­ly hap­pens when liv­ing labor trans­forms itself into dead labor and vice ver­sa.10

Let’s return to the tri­an­gu­lar mod­el of the gift on this basis. In exchange for a wage, the work­er brings to the labor mar­ket some­thing that eco­nom­i­cal­ly rep­re­sents dead labor – that is to say, the val­ue of the goods that are nec­es­sary for his main­te­nance and enable his labor-pow­er to exist, inas­much as labor-pow­er is itself the pro­duct of a labor whose val­ue is equal to that of the­se goods. This is what is paid to the work­er, what is “returned” to him as the wage. From this point of view, labor-pow­er is a pro­duct. But what the cap­i­tal­ist “receives,” with the aim of exploit­ing it, is liv­ing labor, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of employ­ing or acti­vat­ing the capac­i­ty that labor-pow­er is the bear­er of when it is exploit­ed beyond what’s required for its sub­sis­tence, dur­ing the por­tion of time in which the work­er, hav­ing ceased to work for him­self, works for the cap­i­tal­ist, that is, his prof­it. This is no longer a pro­duct strict­ly speak­ing, but what Marx rather enig­mat­i­cal­ly calls a “pro­duc­tive pow­er,” mean­ing a pow­er defined by the activ­i­ty of pro­duc­tion that it is con­di­tioned to exer­cise. By play­ing with our terms, we can say that what the work­er alien­ates is the usage of his Arbeit­skraft, his labor-pow­er as it is whol­ly con­sti­tut­ed since it it is one with him; and what the cap­i­tal­ist exploits is a Arbeitsver­mö­gen, which through a process of exte­ri­or­iza­tion has been employed with­in the frame­work of pro­duc­tive activ­i­ty. We now under­stand why the cap­i­tal­ist is the win­ner – and even in a “win-win sit­u­a­tion” – in an exchange that is equal in prin­ci­ple, but in real­i­ty is a fool’s bar­gain, as most juridi­cal rela­tion­ships are, inas­much they tac­it­ly con­ceal a rela­tion­ship which itself is not juridi­cal.

The ques­tion, then, is how such a thing, improb­a­ble once its prin­ci­ple is revealed, can come to real­ize itself in fact. What brings the work­er to “freely” – the quo­ta­tion marks are in Marx’s text – sub­mit to the con­di­tions of this pecu­liar con­tract that is in prin­ci­ple between equal val­ues but only in prin­ci­ple, since only one of the con­tract­ing par­ties emerges as the win­ner, and even can­not lose from an exchange which can­not be said to real­ly “ben­e­fit” the oth­er par­ty engaged in this rela­tion­ship, because it can­not do oth­er­wise? This anom­aly can be explained as fol­lows: with­in the frame­work of the exchange in ques­tion, reci­procity is only appar­ent because, in the very process of the exchange, fol­low­ing its own tra­jec­to­ry, its nature has changed. At the start of this tra­jec­to­ry, as we have assumed, there is the Arbeit­skraft of the work­er, that is to say, his labor-pow­er, mean­ing his per­son­al labor, which is embod­ied in his indi­vid­u­al exis­tence; and it is pre­cise­ly as an indi­vid­u­al and on his own behalf that he agrees to enter into the labor con­tract, by which he trans­fers for a cer­tain time the use of his labor-pow­er in exchange for a wage. But at the end of its course, that is, when the buy­er – the cap­i­tal­ist – takes deliv­ery of the com­mod­i­ty he has bought, the lat­ter presents itself in a whole new light: it has become labor-pow­er, exploitable with­in con­di­tions that are no longer those of indi­vid­u­al labor, marked by the speci­fic char­ac­ter­is­tics of the pow­ers of ini­tia­tive of the per­son who per­forms the work, but which define pro­duc­tive activ­i­ty in gen­er­al, sub­ject to com­mon norms. Once he has entered into the sys­tem of wage-labor, the work­er, with­out even real­iz­ing it, has ceased to be the per­son he is, with his indi­vid­u­al­ly con­sti­tut­ed Arbeit­skraft; tru­ly sub­ject­ed, he has become the execu­tor of an oper­a­tion that sur­pass­es the lim­its of his own exis­tence. This oper­a­tion is “social labor” which strict­ly speak­ing is no longer his labor, or at any rate not only his, but labor car­ried out under con­di­tions which escape his ini­tia­tive and con­trol; the­se con­di­tions are the reg­u­la­tion or ratio­nal­iza­tion of labor, or what is called at the end of the nine­teen­th cen­tu­ry, by Tay­lor in par­tic­u­lar, the “orga­ni­za­tion of labor,” whose out­line is already traced by Marx. To return to the ter­mi­nol­o­gy employed pre­vi­ous­ly, what the work­er “gives” is the usage of his body inas­much as it is the bear­er of his own pow­er, and what the cap­i­tal­ist “receives,” with the aim of exploit­ing for his prof­it, is the right to use this pow­er as a pro­duc­tive force, whose capac­i­ties are assessed, cal­i­brat­ed, for­mat­ted, and, one can say, nor­mal­ized accord­ing to prin­ci­ples that con­di­tion its opti­mal use, in the sense of the con­di­tion­ing of a pro­duct – an oper­a­tion in which a pro­duct is reclas­si­fied in order to meet com­mon stan­dards. If the exchange autho­rized by the sys­tem of wage-labor takes place, it’s because in the course of the exchange the instru­ment of the exchange has been trans­formed with­out the per­son look­ing for work being aware of it, with the con­se­quence that this trans­for­ma­tion is not tak­en into account in cal­cu­lat­ing the terms of the exchange, an exchange that takes place between equal val­ues while still being unequal, con­form­ing to the inter­est of the per­son who in this same rela­tion holds the posi­tion of both pay­er and receiver or buy­er. This is what defines the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion: labor-pow­er is treat­ed as a two-sid­ed real­i­ty, and so is not exact­ly the same thing for the per­son who is its nat­u­ral bear­er and for the per­son who has become its user. This results in the pos­si­bil­i­ty of deriv­ing a prof­it from its use, kept by the cap­i­tal­ist for him­self in the form of a sur­plus val­ue (Mehrw­ert) that is not com­pen­sat­ed by the wage and thus appears as a sur­plus. The exploita­tion of work­er relies on this “trick”: although he remains in pos­ses­sion of his labor-pow­er, he is relin­quish­es its use, as if its usage was no longer part of this pow­er and as if this force exist­ed inde­pen­dent­ly of its exer­cise. It real­ly is a sleight of hand, whose invis­i­bil­i­ty is the con­di­tion for its effi­ca­cy. This leads us to extend the scope of the con­cept of indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion, accom­pa­ny­ing the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ism. Besides sophis­ti­cat­ed machin­ery (with the steam engine as pro­to­type), the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion depend­ed on the inven­tion of the “pro­duc­tive pow­er” essen­tial to the oper­a­tion of the­se machi­nes, “labor-pow­er,” the result of a tech­ni­cal inven­tion asso­ci­at­ed with the deploy­ment of speci­fic pro­ce­dures of pow­er, as Fou­cault explains fol­low­ing Marx. Machi­no­fac­ture is a com­plex sys­tem of pro­duc­tion that besides phys­i­cal equip­ment, includes the more or less skilled agents who run it and are at the same time incor­po­rat­ed into its sys­tem as bear­ers of a labor-pow­er des­tined to be pro­duc­tive­ly con­sumed. The images in Chaplin’s film Mod­ern Times show pre­cise­ly this: they present a par­tic­u­lar­ly force­ful analy­sis of the mode of labor speci­fic to indus­tri­al cap­i­tal­ism, in which inan­i­mate machi­nes and human machi­nes are close­ly inter­twined.

The sur­plus gen­er­at­ed by the exploita­tion of labor-pow­er is vari­able by def­i­n­i­tion, inso­far as it is itself the result of a vari­a­tion. In order to the­o­ret­i­cal­ly cal­cu­late the rate of exploita­tion (sur­plus val­ue), Marx uses the mod­el of the “work­ing day”: i.e., the total amount of time dur­ing each work­able day (and, as we have remarked, in the nine­teen­th cen­tu­ry, man­u­al labor­ers were gen­er­al­ly employed “by the day,” ensur­ing max­i­mum flex­i­bil­i­ty in their employ­ment) that the work­er spends work­ing, thus acti­vat­ing his labor-pow­er under con­di­tions imposed on him by the entre­pre­neur. This work­ing day is ide­al­ly rep­re­sent­ed in the form of a seg­ment that can be bro­ken down into its ele­ments, which, accord­ing to Marx’s analy­sis, cor­re­spond to two dis­tinct peri­ods of time: one devot­ed to “nec­es­sary labor” (notwendi­ge Arbeit) and the oth­er to “sur­plus labor” (Mehrar­beit). Nec­es­sary labor is labor under­tak­en to pro­duce a quan­ti­ty of val­ue equiv­a­lent to that required for the main­te­nance of labor-pow­er as Arbeit­skraft: it is this val­ue that is effec­tive­ly paid by the wage given to the work­er in exchange for the right to exploit his labor-pow­er, even though the result of this exploita­tion rep­re­sents a val­ue that is not the same as that remu­ner­at­ed by the wage. Sur­plus labor for­mal­ly cor­re­sponds to the oth­er part of the day dur­ing which the work­er per­forms tasks that are not remu­ner­at­ed by his wage, since they pro­duce a quan­ti­ty of val­ue exceed­ing that nec­es­sary to main­tain his labor-pow­er, a quan­ti­ty of val­ue that, con­se­quent­ly, with­in the frame­work of the per­for­mance of the labor process where Ver­mö­gen­skraft is employed, rep­re­sents the pro­duc­tive activ­i­ty whose exploita­tion releas­es a sur­plus val­ue, Mehrw­ert. One must not how­ev­er lose sight of the fact that this divi­sion of the work­ing day into two peri­ods, rep­re­sent­ed by sub-seg­ments fol­low­ing each oth­er on a sin­gle line, has a pure­ly the­o­ret­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. Only for the pur­pos­es of for­mal­ly cal­cu­lat­ing the rate of exploita­tion of labor-pow­er is it assumed that the work­er, in per­form­ing nec­es­sary labor, works for him­self until a cer­tain hour of the day, and beyond this lim­it, for the exclu­sive ben­e­fit of his employ­er; in real­i­ty, from the first hour to the last – every moment the work­er acti­vates his labor-pow­er – his time is com­posed of fixed pro­por­tions of nec­es­sary labor and sur­plus labor, whose bor­der­line is not clear­ly dis­cernible. This is made pos­si­ble by the fact that, quite unbe­known­st to the work­er, who has no way of know­ing when he is still and when he is no longer work­ing for him­self, his labor-pow­er is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly exploit­ed in its dual aspect: as Arbeit­skraft, whose val­ue is mea­sured by the quan­ti­ty of labor nec­es­sary to pro­duce it; and as Ver­mö­gen­skraft, whose val­ue is mea­sured by the quan­ti­ty of labor that it is capa­ble of pro­duc­ing. This being said, Marx intro­duces the cap­i­tal dis­tinc­tion between absolute sur­plus val­ue (to which the third sec­tion of Vol­ume I of Cap­i­tal is devot­ed) and rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue (to which the fourth sec­tion is devot­ed, that is to say, the part of the text that par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed Fou­cault for rea­sons yet to be spec­i­fied) on the basis of this for­mal divi­sion, and to sim­pli­fy its proof.

Thus, let the work­ing day be a line (with a direc­tion, as it rep­re­sents the pas­sage of time in a cer­tain direc­tion) divid­ed into two parts which are meant to suc­ceed one anoth­er:

working day222 (1)

The cap­i­tal­ist has an inter­est in chang­ing the pro­por­tions between the two quan­ti­ties of time (rep­re­sent­ed above) in his favor; where­in the first seg­ment (A), if it costs him noth­ing because the val­ue is ful­ly con­tained in the pro­duct he keeps, it also brings in noth­ing, while only the sec­ond seg­ment (B) rep­re­sents a prof­it for him, because he does not need to invest the quan­ti­ty of val­ue rep­re­sent­ed by the pay­ment of a wage to have at his dis­pos­al the goods this seg­ment pro­duces. To suc­ceed in chang­ing the rela­tion­ship between the­se two ele­ments, A and B, in his favor, the cap­i­tal­ist can take two cours­es of action accord­ing: length­en the sub-seg­ment on the right of the dia­gram, which inter­ests him because it yields a prof­it, either by extend­ing it to the right (there­by pro­duc­ing absolute sur­plus val­ue), or by short­en­ing it to the left, there­by reduc­ing the length of the first seg­ment (and pro­duc­ing rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue).

Con­crete­ly, the first solu­tion con­sists in extend­ing the length of the vital part of the day, devot­ed to the per­for­mance of pro­duc­tive tasks, as far as pos­si­ble, by post­pon­ing the end of the work­ing day: the work­er, instead of work­ing a total amount of time, X, will work X+X’, then X+X’+X’’, etc…for exam­ple, if we take 12 hours of work activ­i­ty as a start­ing point, then 14 hours, 16, 18, etc …This ten­den­tial increase, how­ev­er, encoun­ters a nat­u­ral lim­it: the astro­nom­i­cal day has a fixed dura­tion of 24 hours. If the cap­i­tal­ist could fur­ther pro­long this length of time and there­fore find the tech­ni­cal pro­ce­dure allow­ing it to last for (why not?) 26 hours or 28 hours instead of 24 hours, enabling him to pro­duce more absolute sur­plus val­ue, he would not hes­i­tate one sec­ond; but this pro­ce­dure has not yet been dis­cov­ered (he might pull it off by send­ing his work­ers to work on anoth­er plan­et with­out chang­ing their con­di­tions of pay; but the trans­port costs might burn a hole in his pock­et, mak­ing the oper­a­tion unprof­itable). On the oth­er hand, regard­less of this nat­u­ral obsta­cle, regret­tably insu­per­a­ble, the ten­den­cy toward the increased pro­duc­tion of absolute sur­plus val­ue encoun­ters two lim­its: if the cap­i­tal­ist wants to ful­ly prof­it from the worker’s labor-pow­er for at least the peri­od paid for by the wage, he must also con­cede a break peri­od of non-work, devot­ed not to unpro­duc­tive leisure but to recu­per­a­tion, and more gen­er­al­ly to pro­ce­dures of main­te­nance and renewal of this labor-pow­er: to eat­ing, per­haps to pro­cre­ation, and in this case to have some time to devote to his chil­dren, since if he did not do so, his capac­i­ties would be rapid­ly exhaust­ed (as inten­sive agri­cul­ture may, beyond cer­tain lim­its, exhaust the soil’s yield) and then the col­or­ful expres­sion that “the work­er works him­self to death” would no longer be just a metaphor. The cap­i­tal­ist who employs this labor-pow­er must take into account the fact that it wears down and that its pow­er would com­plete­ly dis­si­pate unless given time, even a min­i­mum amount, to restore itself. The ten­den­cy toward the increase in pro­duc­tion of absolute sur­plus val­ue encoun­ters anoth­er lim­it, name­ly the resis­tance gen­er­at­ed by the employer’s insa­tia­bil­i­ty, which push­es him to go ever fur­ther in this direc­tion, and thus to con­tin­u­al­ly increase, lit­tle by lit­tle, the length of labor time: at a cer­tain point, the work­ers, who are always asked to do more, and real­iz­ing that enough is enough, under­stand that it is in their inter­est to unite to advance their demands. This ter­ri­fies the cap­i­tal­ist because for his enter­prise of extract­ing sur­plus val­ue to pro­duce max­i­mum returns, he must be able to deal with the work­ers who appear before him as indi­vid­u­al work­ers, whose divi­sions he can exploit – not as a group, which would increase their capac­i­ty to resist. When it assumes a col­lec­tive form, this work­ers’ resis­tance car­ries the addi­tion­al incon­ve­nience of becom­ing pub­lic: the cap­i­tal­ist hates pub­lic­i­ty! He espe­cial­ly does not want peo­ple shov­ing their noses in his busi­ness, which he means to car­ry on as he pleas­es! And what real­ly per­turbs and infu­ri­ates him is when the work­ers’ demands, after obtain­ing a mea­sure of pub­lic­i­ty and offi­cial sta­tus, are tak­en up by pub­lic bod­ies and insti­tu­tions. Lo and behold, the idea of legal­ly reg­u­lat­ing work­ing hours appears, in par­tic­u­lar the lim­i­ta­tion of child labor, a process that once set in motion expands to include ado­les­cent and adult labor. Then inspec­tors, who do not nec­es­sar­i­ly share the businessman’s point of view, and (how nar­row-mind­ed! how naive!) claim­ing that all they are doing is enforc­ing the law, begin to vis­it the work­shops, make reports, record vio­la­tions, levy fines, etc., etc. – intol­er­a­ble from the businessman’s per­spec­tive, because as own­er of his com­pa­ny, he is resolved to remain mas­ter of his own house and rejects out of hand any exter­nal con­trol over his activ­i­ties. The lengthy ten­th chap­ter in the third part of Vol­ume I of Cap­i­tal on “The Work­ing Day” (Chap­ter 10 of the French edi­tion trans­lat­ed by Joseph Roy under Marx’s direc­tion) pro­vides abun­dant (and ter­ri­fy­ing) doc­u­men­ta­tion relat­ing to this the­me, which Engels had already used in 1845 to write his book on The Con­di­tion of the Work­ing Class in Eng­land (After the Obser­va­tions of the Author and Authen­tic Sources), one of the foun­da­tion­al texts of what would lat­er be called the “soci­ol­o­gy of work.” The cur­rent con­tro­ver­sy around the issue of the 35-hour week demon­strates that this chap­ter of work­ers’ strug­gles is not yet closed, and that the cap­i­tal­ists have not given up on squeez­ing a max­i­mum of absolute sur­plus val­ue from the exploita­tion of labor-pow­er, while deplor­ing the con­ces­sions to which they been forced to very reluc­tant­ly sub­mit due to the bal­ance of forces; but they always remain hope­ful that they can renege on the­se con­ces­sions when­ev­er the oppor­tu­ni­ty aris­es, and specif­i­cal­ly, that labor time can be extend­ed (at the same wage-rate, of course).

When the pos­si­bil­i­ty of increas­ing the pro­duc­tion of absolute sur­plus val­ue is blocked despite the capitalist’s efforts, he leaves open the option of switch­ing sides, thus increas­ing the length of sub-seg­ment B in the over­all schema of the work­ing day by stretch­ing it, not towards the right, in the direc­tion of the pro­duc­tion of absolute sur­plus val­ue, but towards the left, in the direc­tion of the pro­duc­tion of rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue. How does he do this? Since he under­stands cost cal­cu­la­tion, his spe­cial­ty, he real­izes that this oper­a­tion, whose goal is to reduce to a min­i­mum the por­tion of time devot­ed to nec­es­sary labor, is con­di­tion­al on low­er­ing the val­ue of labor-pow­er in the strict sense, i.e., the Arbeit­skraft remu­ner­at­ed by the wage that pays nec­es­sary labor and noth­ing more. There is no oth­er way of doing this oth­er than by low­er­ing the over­all cost of goods, which auto­mat­i­cal­ly results in a decrease in the amount of val­ue need­ed for the main­te­nance of Arbeit­skraft, with­out this decrease being accom­pa­nied by a fall in the quan­ti­ty of val­ue cre­at­ed by the pro­duc­tive activ­i­ty in the form of Verm[o]genskraft. Not only will this quan­ti­ty of val­ue not decrease, it will increase: for this to hap­pen, less is paid for the same amount of labor time, cre­at­ing more val­ue, with this decrease and increase being strict­ly cor­rel­a­tive. In oth­er words, to increase his prof­it, the cap­i­tal­ist will cap­i­tal­ize on the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of labor-pow­er as a “pro­duc­tive pow­er” from which, in the same peri­od of time, and with the pro­duc­tion of absolute sur­plus val­ue hav­ing been pro­vi­sion­al­ly sta­bi­lized, he can extract a much greater quan­ti­ty of val­ue in the form of rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue. This notion of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty allows us to under­stand the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion by going to its very heart, that is, its vital prin­ci­ple, its dri­ving force.

Labor-Power as Productive Power

What should be under­stood by the “pro­duc­tiv­i­ty” of labor-pow­er? To answer this, it is nec­es­sary to revis­it the con­cept of “pro­duc­tive forces” whose sig­nif­i­cance is cru­cial in this respect. Here, invalu­able ele­ments of expli­ca­tion may be found in the Dic­tio­n­naire cri­tique du marx­is­me (Crit­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of Marx­ism), edit­ed by Georges Lab­i­ca, in Jean-Pier­re Lefebvre’s arti­cle on “pro­duc­tive power/productive forces.”11 By pro­duc­tive forces in the plu­ral, Pro­duk­tivkräfte, is meant the total­i­ty of the phys­i­cal and organ­ic ele­ments which enter into the labor process: that is, both the nat­u­ral and arti­fi­cial means serv­ing pro­duc­tion as well as bod­i­ly dis­po­si­tions acti­vat­ed by work­ers to employ the­se means to pro­duce mate­ri­al goods – the ulti­mate goal of craft and indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion. When Marx’s text employs this same con­cept in the sin­gu­lar, not with­out a cer­tain ter­mi­no­log­i­cal incon­sis­ten­cy, Pro­duk­tivkraft refers not to the ele­ments present, whether the­se are raw mate­ri­als, tech­ni­cal instru­ments or liv­ing bod­ies, but some­thing quite dif­fer­ent. It refers to a capac­i­ty the force has inas­much as its real­i­ty is “dynam­ic” in the prop­er sense of the word, that is, it rep­re­sents a “pow­er,” a Ver­mӧ­gen. Dunamis, in the Aris­totelian sense (Meta­physics Delta, 12) is “a source, in gen­er­al, of change or move­ment in anoth­er thing or in the same thing qua oth­er.” It is the expres­sion of the ten­den­tial and con­tin­u­ous process through which what exists at first as “poten­tial­i­ty” is des­tined, under the right con­di­tions, to real­ize itself “in action.” For exam­ple, when the art of the doc­tor man­ages to trans­form the sick body into a healthy body, rep­re­sent­ing a change in the state of the body, the doc­tor does so by exer­cis­ing the speci­fic “virtue” that applies to him and makes his art effec­tive. From this per­spec­tive, the pow­er is meant to rep­re­sent the cause to which a change is imput­ed. Before this change takes place or is pro­duced, it exists as a pos­si­bil­i­ty real­iz­ing itself only when the change has tak­en effect, that is, when all the effects have been derived from the cause. The ref­er­ence to a pow­er assigns to this poten­tial­i­ty a qua­si-exis­tence, between being and non-being. For this rea­son it is marked by an indeli­ble ambi­gu­i­ty, inso­far as it “already is” that which it “is not yet,” two for­mu­las where the verb “to be” has two dif­fer­ent val­ues mis­tak­en under the same term. The cap­i­tal­ist exploits this ambi­gu­i­ty to the full: with the wage he pays labor-pow­er for what it “already is,” as Arbeit­skraft [labor-pow­er], reserv­ing for him­self the right to use it for what it “is not yet,” as Arbeitsver­mӧ­gen [labor-capac­i­ty], which he intends to mold accord­ing to his wish­es in order to put it to work. As we have seen, the mir­a­cle that the sys­tem of wage-labor per­forms con­sists in sep­a­rat­ing pow­er from its action by arti­fi­cial­ly cre­at­ing con­di­tions that allow a pow­er to be con­sid­ered inde­pen­dent­ly from its action, as if a non-act­ing pow­er, a pow­er that would not be active, would still be a pow­er. From the phys­i­cal point of view, this is more than a mys­tery: it is an absur­di­ty.

In the case of a pos­i­tivist philoso­pher like Auguste Comte, the causal­is­tic inter­pre­ta­tion of pow­er and its action is taint­ed with meta­phys­i­cal pre­sup­po­si­tions which ren­der his pre­ten­tion to objec­tive­ly under­stand real phe­nom­e­na per­fect­ly vain. At best, he can only offer an approx­i­mate descrip­tion of them. To say that opi­um puts one to sleep since it is endowed with a sopori­fic virtue con­sti­tut­ing its pow­er or its prop­er force, from which it draws its capac­i­ty to act, does not in any way advance knowl­edge. This is mere­ly to invent the fic­tion of a “virtue” exist­ing inde­pen­dent­ly of its actu­al­iza­tion, and con­se­quent­ly pre­ced­ing it so that it “would already be” before even occur­ring, thus with­out hav­ing “yet” tak­en place. There­fore, when ratio­nal mechan­ics as a branch of math­e­mat­ics – which spares it the oblig­a­tion of fac­ing up to the givens of expe­ri­ence – employs the notion of “force” and states, as New­ton did, the laws of action of forces, one must be care­ful not to attrib­ute to this con­cept a phys­i­cal real­i­ty. One should con­fine it to the role of an abstract con­cept or intel­lec­tu­al con­struc­tion which has a demon­stra­tive val­ue, but cer­tain­ly not an explica­tive one in the sense of a causal expla­na­tion. Stat­ing that forces are caus­es of the motion they gen­er­ate sim­ply means say­ing noth­ing at all. This is why mechan­ics aban­dons the eval­u­a­tion of forces for what they are and con­tents itself with cal­cu­lat­ing their “work,” rep­re­sent­ed through their real effects.

From this point of view, we could say that when the cap­i­tal­ist occu­pies him­self with his work­ers’ labor-pow­er, which he has acquired the right to employ in exchange for a wage, treat­ing it as a “pro­duc­tive pow­er” whose pro­duc­tiv­i­ty he intends to increase in order to pro­duce rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue – he prac­tices meta­physics not in a the­o­ret­i­cal but in a prac­ti­cal way. He prac­tices this pecu­liar sort of meta­physics not dur­ing his leisure time, as a dis­trac­tion or men­tal exer­cise, as he would a cross­word puz­zle, but through­out the entire work­ing day ded­i­cat­ed to pro­duc­tion. By open­ing up his com­pa­ny to notions such as “pow­er,” “capac­i­ty” and “cau­sa­tion,” he there­by makes them a real­i­ty, real­iz­ing the­se fic­tions, the­se prod­ucts of the mind, which he then employs with daunt­ing effi­ca­cy. In this way, with pay­rolls and charts of orga­ni­za­tion­al tasks at hand, he shows, bet­ter than a philosopher’s abstract proofs, that the work of meta­physics could not be more mate­ri­al, pro­vid­ed that one knows how to put it to good use in intro­duc­ing it into the fac­to­ry. One could, inci­den­tal­ly, derive from this a new and caus­tic def­i­n­i­tion of meta­physics: in this rather speci­fic con­text, it boils down to a mech­a­nism for prof­it-mak­ing, which is no small mat­ter. This means that, amongst oth­er inven­tions that have changed the course of his­to­ry, cap­i­tal­ism has found the means, the pro­ce­dure, the “trick” enabling it to put abstract con­cepts into prac­tice – the hall­mark of its “genius.”

What in fact is this famous pro­duc­tiv­i­ty attrib­ut­ed to labor-pow­er in order to mod­i­fy it, or rather to re-mod­i­fy it? It is the “virtue” or “pow­er” that may be ascribed to it when one begins to con­sid­er and treat it mate­ri­al­ly: as a “pro­duc­tive pow­er” in the sense of a capac­i­ty to be put to work. This pow­er is not only mea­sur­able on paper but can be mod­elled and mod­i­fied so as to increase it. Such is effec­tive­ly the goal of the ratio­nal­iza­tion of labor, which, by sub­or­di­nat­ing it to norms, and by shift­ing the­se norms, inten­si­fies labor’s “pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.” From this per­spec­tive, the norm not only has a con­sta­tive but a per­for­ma­tive dimen­sion. It serves not only to deter­mine an aver­age state, count­ed as “nor­mal,” but itself becomes “nor­ma­tive.” In oth­er words, the norm acts to trans­form the real­i­ty to which it applies, grasps it not as it is but as it could be if one were to devel­op its poten­tial. This is the the­me tack­led by Didier Deleule and François Guéry in their short book, The Pro­duc­tive Body, where they draw atten­tion to the fact that it is not at all the same to treat labor-pow­er as a pow­er that pro­duces and as a pro­duc­tive pow­er.12 If the cap­i­tal­ist were to pay a wage to labor-pow­er as the pow­er that pro­duces, he would then be for­mal­ly placed under the oblig­a­tion of rec­om­pens­ing the work­er with a quan­ti­ty of val­ue equal to that effec­tive­ly pro­duced by the worker’s labor. Thus the the­sis of Ricar­dian eco­nom­ics that the worker’s labor is paid at its real val­ue would be ver­i­fied. But, quite evi­dent­ly, such a thing can­not be of inter­est to the cap­i­tal­ist because even if this trans­ac­tion cre­at­ed val­ue it would not make him any prof­it, or would at least force him to share with the work­ers he employs the sur­plus val­ue cre­at­ed by the acti­va­tion of their labor-pow­er. If he was to con­fine him­self to the exploita­tion of the labor-pow­er of his work­ers mea­sured by results, that is to what it real­ly pro­duces in val­ue terms, such an approach would not gen­er­ate any “growth” in his terms; that is in the sense of an increase in the val­ue of cap­i­tal, “his” cap­i­tal, which he joint­ly owns with his share­hold­ers, the only peo­ple he must account to for the way he man­ages it. That is why the labor-pow­er he employs inter­ests him – in the strongest sense of the word – not as a pow­er that pro­duces but a pro­duc­tive pow­er. This cre­ates the pos­si­bil­i­ty of treat­ing it not as an active pow­er, which it “already is,” but as a poten­tial pow­er, which it “is not yet,” and as such the bear­er of poten­tial­i­ties that one can apply pres­sure to and con­trol so as to inten­si­fy them.

The notion of “liv­ing labor” thus attains a new dimen­sion. Liv­ing labor is labor that not only pro­duces but is pro­duc­tive, that is, acti­vates labor-pow­er as a “pro­duc­tive pow­er.” Liv­ing labor pro­duces val­ue under con­di­tions that can be reg­u­lat­ed by exploit­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties for change that, thanks to its plas­tic­i­ty and adapt­abil­i­ty, life is so rich in. The issue of “flex­i­bil­i­ty,” so fash­ion­able today, is at the core of this prob­lem, which a meta­physi­cian of the cal­iber of Mme. Parisot13 per­fect­ly mas­ters, being a meta­physi­cian with­out know­ing it, mak­ing her “spec­u­la­tion” par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive. Pre­cise­ly because it takes labor-pow­er not as the pow­er that pro­duces but as a pro­duc­tive pow­er, cap­i­tal­ism can allow itself to treat labor-pow­er with a max­i­mum of flex­i­bil­i­ty since it has every­thing to gain by doing so. To its dying breath it rejects the rules that the law seeks to impose on it under the pre­text that the­se rules stul­ti­fy a real­i­ty it con­sid­ers to be liv­ing. As such, it treats real­i­ty as mal­leable, in the man­ner of a wild ani­mal to be tamed so that it per­forms amaz­ing tricks, which at first sight one would nev­er have thought it capa­ble, jumps through flam­ing hoops, spins faster and faster in a revolv­ing cylin­der, etc., etc…In the sequences of his film Mod­ern Times, Charles Spencer Chap­lin, a meta­physi­cian of a dif­fer­ent class than Mme. Parisot, pro­vides a strik­ing illus­tra­tion of the high-wire acro­bat­ics per­fect­ed by cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion. There one sees his hero, Char­lot, being caught in an assem­bly line, his body becom­ing so sup­ple that, flat­tened by the con­vey­or belt, he merges and becomes indis­tin­guish­able from it. He becomes an accel­er­at­ed bolt screw,14 to the point that once he gets out of the fac­to­ry he nei­ther knows nor can do any­thing else, which is a way of show­ing his “pow­er” no longer belongs to him pre­cise­ly to the extent that it has been sep­a­rat­ed from him. Of course, this man­age­ment of his capac­i­ties, which makes his labor-pow­er “pro­duc­tive” as suits the cap­i­tal­ist, has the effect of cre­at­ing a new rigid­i­ty, riv­et­ing him to his assigned func­tion. He must ful­fil this func­tion obey­ing norms deter­mined for him in the strongest sense of the term. In this way, sup­ple­ness recre­ates rigid­i­ty. The cap­i­tal­ist does not con­tent him­self with being a meta­physi­cian. He is a dialec­ti­cian, he rec­on­ciles oppo­sites, which is his way of man­ag­ing the pow­ers he exploits, not just by trac­ing their par­al­lel­o­gram in the man­ner of a math­e­mati­cian but by forc­ing them to enter into the schema he has estab­lished accord­ing to his inter­ests. This schema con­sists in extract­ing the max­i­mum prof­it from the means of pro­duc­tion at his dis­pos­al, includ­ing the labor-pow­er of his work­ers – in par­tic­u­lar by mak­ing them pro­duce rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue.

One pas­sage in Marx’s text strik­ing­ly illus­trates this. This pas­sage, which is at the end of Chap­ter 12, “Divi­sion of Labor and Man­u­fac­ture” (Chap­ter 14 of the Roy edi­tion15 ), high­lights the con­trast between the form the divi­sion of labor with­in the fac­to­ry already takes under the con­trol of the man­u­fac­tur­ing cap­i­tal­ist, there­fore before the sys­tem of indus­tri­al machi­no­fac­ture, and the form it takes with­in the wider frame­work of soci­ety:

While, with­in the work­shop, the iron law of pro­por­tion­al­i­ty sub­jects def­i­nite num­bers of work­ers to def­i­nite func­tions, in the soci­ety out­side the work­shop, the play of chance and caprice results in a mot­ley pat­tern of dis­tri­b­u­tion of the pro­duc­ers and their means of pro­duc­tion among the var­i­ous branch­es of social labour…Division of labor with­in the work­shop implies the undis­put­ed author­i­ty of the cap­i­tal­ist over men, who are mere­ly the mem­bers of a total mech­a­nism which belongs to him. The divi­sion of labour with­in soci­ety brings into con­tact inde­pen­dent pro­duc­ers of com­modi­ties, who acknowl­edge no author­i­ty oth­er than that of com­pe­ti­tion, of the coer­cion exert­ed by the pres­sure of their rec­i­p­ro­cal inter­ests, just as in the ani­mal king­dom the “war of all again­st all” more or less pre­serves the con­di­tions of exis­tence of every species. The same bour­geois con­scious­ness which cel­e­brates the divi­sion of labour in the work­shop, the life­long annex­a­tion of the work­er to a par­tial oper­a­tion, and his com­plete sub­jec­tion to cap­i­tal, as an orga­ni­za­tion of labour that increas­es its pro­duc­tive pow­er, denounces with equal vigour every con­scious attempt to con­trol and reg­u­late the process of pro­duc­tion social­ly, as an inroad upon such sacred things as the rights of prop­er­ty, free­dom and the self-deter­min­ing “genius” of the indi­vid­u­al cap­i­tal­ist. It is very char­ac­ter­is­tic that the enthu­si­as­tic apol­o­gists of the fac­to­ry sys­tem have noth­ing more damn­ing to urge again­st a gen­er­al orga­ni­za­tion of labour in soci­ety than that it would turn the whole of soci­ety into a fac­to­ry.16

In this pas­sage Marx pin­points the para­dox of lib­er­al dis­course, which is the warp and woof of bour­geois ide­ol­o­gy. If the lat­ter defends lais­sez-faire, dereg­u­la­tion, non-inter­ven­tion, it does so to bet­ter estab­lish a the­o­ry of author­i­ty, tak­ing the form of the “life­long annex­a­tion of the work­er to a par­tial oper­a­tion and his com­plete sub­mis­sion to cap­i­tal, as an orga­ni­za­tion of labor that increas­es its pro­duc­tive pow­er.” There­fore, a pow­er rela­tion under­lies the treat­ment of labor-pow­er not only as a pow­er that pro­duces, but a pow­er with a mea­sured pro­duc­tiv­i­ty that can be grad­u­al­ly raised. It is a pow­er imposed on the indi­vid­u­al work­er, hence­forth dis­pos­sessed of all ini­tia­tive in the employ­ment of his labor-pow­er, exploit­ed in every sense of the word with­in the frame­work of a sys­tem of which he has become a cog. Free­dom is the word the cap­i­tal­ist con­stant­ly repeats and demands exclu­sive­ly for him­self in order to turn it into a means of enslav­ing the work­ing class­es, whose opin­ion he does not ask, let alone their con­sent, in sub­ju­gat­ing them to the norms of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty which he, the apos­tle of free­dom, has made into an “iron law.” Today, almost two cen­turies after the fac­to­ry sys­tem was estab­lished dur­ing the first half of the 19th cen­tu­ry, coin­cid­ing with the explo­sion of a fre­net­ic cap­i­tal­ism, the rhetoric of the boss­es has not changed one bit: free­dom is my free­dom, from which stems the unlim­it­ed right to enslave oth­ers, and is the con­di­tion of the pro­duc­tion of sur­plus val­ue under both of its forms, rel­a­tive and absolute.

Thus it is exact­ly where the labor process actu­al­ly takes place that a sys­tem of pow­er and sub­ju­ga­tion mirac­u­lous­ly rec­on­cil­ing the oppos­ing val­ues of neces­si­ty and free­dom is estab­lished through the very forms in which labor is orga­nized, that is con­trolled. Once the work­er has alien­at­ed the usage of his labor-pow­er in exchange for a wage, it is as if he is split into two and becomes a divid­ed, overde­ter­mined sub­ject. On the one hand, he remains the per­son he is, attached to his bod­i­ly exis­tence, whose invi­o­lable own­er he rests to his death. He often drags it behind him like a bur­den, for he must feed it, shel­ter it, nurse it, repro­duce it (by hav­ing chil­dren), all this most often at his own expense and on his respon­si­bil­i­ty, even when he lacks the mate­ri­al resources to do so. On the oth­er hand, he is trans­formed into a being whose pow­er no longer depends sole­ly on its own con­di­tions of exis­tence because its usage and acti­va­tion have become depen­dent on rules that tran­scend it, turn­ing him into a pro­duc­tive sub­ject. He is the bear­er and own­er of a labor-pow­er divid­ed into an Arbeit­skraft which belongs to him and is his exclu­sive con­cern and an Arbeitsver­mö­gen that may be refash­ioned at will; its sub­stance, Kraft, has been made sup­ple, flex­i­ble, so that it may be more close­ly annexed to the type of task assigned to the work­er, at a given lev­el of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Neces­si­ty in free­dom: that is the great inven­tion of cap­i­tal­ism. And, in fact, it had to be invent­ed and appro­pri­ate pro­ce­dures found to put the idea into prac­tice.

This sys­tem of pow­er, which dis­solves the oppo­si­tion between neces­si­ty and free­dom, is of a par­tic­u­lar kind, speci­fic to the epoch of the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion and the type of soci­ety it estab­lish­es, which is, in Foucault’s ter­mi­nol­o­gy, a soci­ety of norms. This sys­tem pre­sup­pos­es a com­plete rede­f­i­n­i­tion of the very notion of pow­er. Name­ly, for it to work, for the dialec­ti­cal mir­a­cle to hap­pen, the rela­tion­ship it estab­lish­es must not appear as a pow­er on high whose author­i­ty con­sists in the real­iza­tion of an exter­nal order and there­fore has the char­ac­ter of a for­mal con­straint that is above all repres­sive and neg­a­tive. Quite the con­trary, the project of nor­mal­iza­tion, con­sist­ing in the orga­ni­za­tion of work so as to increase its pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and there­by the pro­duc­tion of rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue, is defined by fact that its inter­ven­tion must not appear as a com­mand out of the blue. Rather it must be hand in glove with the liv­ing real­i­ty, with “labor-pow­er” as the “pro­duc­tive pow­er” which it seeks to con­trol and suc­ceeds in inhab­it­ing so as to pos­sess it in its very being. From this per­spec­tive, it appears a gen­uine cre­ation cor­re­spond­ing to the pas­sage to a sec­ond nature.

The term sec­ond nature des­ig­nates a nec­es­sar­i­ly equiv­o­cal, ambigu­ous plane of real­i­ty which is a nature with­out actu­al­ly being one and has the para­dox­i­cal char­ac­ter of a nature that is not “nat­u­ral.” Hence it is a nature not given as such but pro­duced, cre­at­ed, con­struct­ed from top to bot­tom, suit­ed to become “pro­duc­tive,” flex­i­ble, trans­formable, to com­ply with the objec­tives of growth. Itself the pro­duct of change, it is always open to change, result­ing in an order whose per­sis­tence is assert­ed in the prin­ci­ple of change. There­fore, what we have here is an unsta­ble con­di­tion which, in the absence of a base or foun­da­tion or pur­pose to secure it, derives its very sub­stance from its insta­bil­i­ty. It rep­re­sents the same through the fig­ure of the oth­er, per­ma­nence in the form of nov­el­ty. That great prac­ti­cal meta­physi­cian Mme Parisot might well adopt Nietzsche’s dic­tum accord­ing to which “man is the not yet deter­mined ani­mal” (das noch nicht fest­gestell­te Tier). The mean­ing of this say­ing lies entire­ly in the “not yet” (noch nict), indi­cat­ing the fun­da­men­tal pre­car­i­ous­ness of a form of exis­tence in search of its real­iza­tion, towards which it does not cease to strive pre­cise­ly in so far as it nev­er attains it. Arguably, if the human, togeth­er with human labor-pow­er whose employ­ment con­sti­tutes liv­ing labor, belongs to sec­ond nature, it is because every­thing in its “nature” or alleged nature is poten­tial­ly “sec­ondary”; that is, not strict­ly speak­ing derived but hav­ing an absolute­ly sec­ondary char­ac­ter that can­not be relat­ed to any base or foun­da­tion. There­fore, a pro­ce­dure of expro­pri­a­tion, going beyond the alter­na­tive of per­fect order and pure dis­or­der, lies behind the top­ic of sec­ond nature. This pro­ce­dure rep­re­sents an uncer­tain mix­ture of order and dis­or­der that is per­pet­u­al­ly flex­i­ble and open to manip­u­la­tion, always ready to tip the scales in a lit­er­al­ly nev­er-end­ing back and forth, search­ing not above but below, always plumb­ing the depths of the unre­al­ized, of the “not yet fixed” where the idea of “pro­duc­tiv­i­ty” takes on its full mean­ing.17

What is it that allows sec­ond nature to present itself as “a” nature even though it is no longer “a” nature or “of” nature? It is the fact that it guides human behav­ior with­out ever appear­ing to con­scious­ness as its gov­ern­ing prin­ci­ple, this being the main con­di­tion of its effi­ca­cy. It oper­ates under the guise of spon­tane­ity. To belong to sec­ond nature is to live under com­pul­sion while accept­ing this con­di­tion as self-evi­dent, hence from the out­set refus­ing to ques­tion its raison d’être, the ends it serves and the speci­fic lim­its placed on the­se ends. This is, broad­ly speak­ing, what Bour­dieu sought to analy­se using the con­cept of habi­tus, and Fou­cault that of dis­ci­pline. When he puts for­ward the con­cept of habi­tus,18 Bour­dieu resists the temp­ta­tion to put it under the head­ing of doc­tri­nes of “vol­un­tary servi­tude.” In his opin­ion the­se make the mis­take of rein­tro­duc­ing a cer­tain mea­sure of reflex­iv­i­ty into the adop­tion or accep­tance of a type of behav­ior that is acquired with­out even being aware of it and fol­lowed mechan­i­cal­ly, so to speak nat­u­ral­ly, except that this “nat­u­ral” belongs not to first but to sec­ond nature. In a sim­i­lar spir­it, Fou­cault refus­es to con­ceive of dis­ci­pline as an order or injunc­tion descend­ing from the soul into the body: for dis­ci­pline is only estab­lished at the lev­el of the body and its acknowl­edged pow­ers through a process of tri­al and error, rely­ing on dis­ci­plin­ing strate­gies which, as far their func­tion­ing is con­cerned, do not obey any deter­mi­nate final­i­ty that can be con­scious­ly under­stood. This is the sense of the def­i­n­i­tion of dis­ci­pline put for­ward in the lec­ture “The Mesh of Pow­er”:

Dis­ci­pline is basi­cal­ly the mech­a­nism of pow­er by which we come to exert con­trol in the social body right down to the finest ele­ments, by which we suc­ceed in grab­bing hold of the social atoms them­selves, which is to say indi­vid­u­als. Tech­niques for the indi­vid­u­al­iza­tion of pow­er. How to super­vise [sur­veiller] some­one, how to con­trol his con­duct, his behav­ior, his apti­tudes, how to inten­si­fy his per­for­mance, mul­ti­ply his capac­i­ties, how to put him in a place where he will be most use­ful: this is what I mean by dis­ci­pline.19

When Fou­cault speaks, as he does here, of “the mech­a­nism by which we come to exert con­trol,” a for­mu­la­tion which seems to con­fuse the posi­tions of the one who ana­lyzes the sys­tem and the one who makes it func­tion for his own ben­e­fit – and not about “the mech­a­nism by which con­trol is exert­ed,” which would amount to sep­a­rat­ing out the­se posi­tions – he doubtless wish­es to indi­cate that the exis­tence of such a sys­tem is con­sub­stan­tial with what he else­where calls “the ontol­ogy of present,” in the sense of a present which can­not but be ours and thus coin­cide with our his­tor­i­cal epoch. The dis­ci­pli­nary mech­a­nism impos­es itself as some­thing that appears nat­u­ral pre­cise­ly at the lev­el our actu­al­i­ty, to which it is strict­ly adapt­ed as only a tech­nol­o­gy aim­ing at effi­cien­cy can be. It is not self-evi­dent that it should be observed from a dis­tance and reduced to its guid­ing prin­ci­ple, which is what Marx in a tour de force nev­er­the­less man­aged to achieve.

Con­se­quent­ly, sub­jec­tion to the order or dis­or­der of sec­ond nature, accord­ing to the speci­fic pro­ce­dures of a dis­ci­pline or habi­tus, elim­i­nates the for­mal­i­ty of rea­soned and con­scious assent: but this is to be sub­ject­ed with­out any objec­tion to the rule of “it is so,” rul­ing out any prospect of reflec­tion and crit­i­cal dis­tance, the bases of con­tes­ta­tion. What we have here is a form of sub­jec­tion that cre­ates a cor­re­spond­ing sub­ject by recre­at­ing it ab ini­tio and entire­ly, deny­ing it any pri­or, pre­con­sti­tut­ed real­i­ty pre­ced­ing its impo­si­tion. When it func­tions under the­se con­di­tions, com­mand tran­scends the alter­na­tive of vio­lence and con­sen­sus, as Fou­cault explains in his essay “The Sub­ject and Pow­er”:

The exer­cise of pow­er may well inspire as much accep­tance as one would like: it can pile up the dead and hide itself behind what­ev­er threats it can imag­ine. In itself the exer­cise of pow­er is not a vio­lence which some­times hides, nor is it an implic­it­ly renewed con­sent. It is a set of actions upon pos­si­ble actions; it oper­ates in the field of pos­si­bil­i­ty where the behav­ior of act­ing sub­jects is inscribed: it incites, it induces, it seduces, it makes eas­ier or more dif­fi­cult, it enlarges or lim­its, it ren­ders more or less prob­a­ble; in the extreme it con­strains or for­bids absolute­ly; but it is nev­er­the­less always a way of act­ing upon an act­ing sub­ject or act­ing sub­jects by virtue of their act­ing or being capa­ble of action…to gov­ern in this sense is to struc­ture the pos­si­ble field of action of oth­ers.20

The new pow­er estab­lished in this way is one exer­cised not on real, already accom­plished actions, but on pos­si­ble ones whose imple­men­ta­tion it antic­i­pates by “struc­tur­ing the field of pos­si­ble action” in which the lat­ter will take place. This field of pos­si­ble action is pre­cise­ly what con­sti­tutes sec­ond nature, whose sub­jects are con­fig­ured so as to respond to what is expect­ed of them with­out any need either to per­suade or force them. For they them­selves are “pos­si­ble” sub­jects, assem­bled from birth and trained so as to be more eas­i­ly gov­erned, that is, from the per­spec­tive of our return to Marx, eco­nom­i­cal­ly “pro­duc­tive.” Homo oeco­nom­i­cus, whose inte­gra­tion is accom­plished by this struc­ture, is a fic­tion in that its real­i­ty or “nature” is com­plete­ly fab­ri­cat­ed as a sec­ond nature; but this fic­tion nec­es­sar­i­ly became real from the his­tor­i­cal moment when it became part of the func­tion­ing of the mech­a­nisms it blind­ly serves.

It should now be clear why Bour­dieu and Fou­cault con­verge in dis­miss­ing the ref­er­ence to ide­ol­o­gy, which pur­ports to place between peo­ple, their nat­u­ral dis­po­si­tions, and the his­tor­i­cal forms with­in which the­se are exploit­ed an inter­me­di­ate lay­er occu­pied by ide­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions locat­ed in the spir­it. From this point of view, the Althusse­ri­an the­o­ry of the ide­o­log­i­cal inter­pel­la­tion of indi­vid­u­als into sub­jects is inap­pro­pri­ate and is diag­nosed as the return of a ram­pant spir­i­tu­al­ism. For them, the pro­ce­dure of sub­jec­tion takes place entire­ly at the lev­el of the body as an act of pen­e­tra­tion or pos­ses­sion which nei­ther cor­re­sponds to any rec­og­niz­able goals of its own nor requires the medi­a­tion of any word, good or bad, because it becomes iden­ti­cal with the course of its repro­duc­tion. And it should be acknowl­edged that if the pro­ce­dure by which the pow­er that pro­duces is trans­formed into a pro­duc­tive pow­er finds its jus­ti­fi­ca­tion in the ide­ol­o­gy of growth which intel­lec­tu­al­ly reunites the out­come of the pro­ce­dure in the dis­course of the cap­i­tal­ist who has him­self, lit­tle by lit­tle, and blind­ly, devel­oped this same pro­ce­dure, not know­ing exact­ly where he was going: then this ide­ol­o­gy, which inter­ve­nes after the fact and takes the form of a sec­ondary elab­o­ra­tion whose role is to jus­ti­fy recu­per­a­tion, has at best only an aux­il­iary val­ue. It does not play any direct role in the oper­a­tion through which this trans­for­ma­tion takes place, a trans­for­ma­tion that can­not be reduced to a lan­guage game. It does not make the deci­sion. For the sys­tem of wage-labor – with its speci­fic type of sub­jec­tion that con­di­tions the exis­tence of the pro­duc­tive sub­ject and not only the sub­ject that pro­duces – to work it is not nec­es­sary for ideas and words to be prime movers. What is required are tech­no­log­i­cal and insti­tu­tion­al mech­a­nisms which com­pre­hen­sive­ly refash­ion the sta­tus of the liv­ing beings sub­ject to this regime, that is the com­plex total­i­ty of the pro­ce­dures which Fou­cault groups togeth­er under the con­cept of “biopow­er.” Such a pow­er is exer­cised and pro­duces its effects on the rhythm of life itself which, hav­ing tak­en over, it strives to recre­ate ab ini­tio. When the cap­i­tal­ist hires pro­duc­tive sub­jects –the bear­ers of a two-sid­ed labor-pow­er, both Arbeit­skraft and Arbeitsver­mö­gen, a divi­sion that enables him to extract sur­plus val­ue in its two forms, absolute, by extend­ing the length of the work­ing day, and rel­a­tive, by low­er­ing the cost of goods through rais­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ty – he does not have to act the smooth-talk­ing sales­man and con­vince them of the rea­son­able­ness of this divi­sion. This divi­sion appears to them, that is the pro­duc­tive sub­jects they have become, an estab­lished fact that they do not have the choice of accept­ing or refus­ing. Bour­dieu is right to claim that their servi­tude is by no means vol­un­tary sim­ply because there is no need, or even pos­si­bil­i­ty, for it to be so con­sid­ered to be accept­ed.21

In estab­lish­ing sec­ond nature as part of the process of mak­ing labor-pow­er “pro­duc­tive,” cap­i­tal­ism has as it were dis­solved ide­ol­o­gy in econ­o­my, in the sense of both the sys­tem of mate­ri­al pro­duc­tion and the meth­ods that orga­nize it so as to extract max­i­mum prof­it at min­i­mum loss. One of those meth­ods, accord­ing to Fou­cault, is the dis­ci­pli­nary sys­tem which he defines in gen­er­al as fol­lows:

Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, it might be said that the dis­ci­plines are tech­niques for assur­ing the order­ing of human mul­ti­plic­i­ties. It is true that there is noth­ing excep­tion­al or even char­ac­ter­is­tic in this; every sys­tem of pow­er is pre­sent­ed with the same prob­lem. But the pecu­liar­i­ty of the dis­ci­plines is that they try to define in rela­tion to the mul­ti­plic­i­ties a tac­tics of pow­er that ful­fils three cri­te­ria: first­ly, to obtain the exer­cise of pow­er at the low­est pos­si­ble cost (eco­nom­i­cal­ly, by the low expen­di­ture it involves; polit­i­cal­ly, by its dis­cre­tion, its low exte­ri­or­iza­tion, its rel­a­tive invis­i­bil­i­ty, the lit­tle resis­tance it arous­es); sec­ond­ly, to bring the effects of this social pow­er to their max­i­mum inten­si­ty and to extend them as far as pos­si­ble, with­out either fail­ure or inter­val; third­ly, to link this “eco­nom­ic” growth of pow­er with the out­put of the appa­ra­tus­es (edu­ca­tion­al, mil­i­tary, indus­tri­al or med­ical) with­in which it is exer­cised; in short, to increase both the docil­i­ty and the util­i­ty of all the ele­ments of the sys­tem.22

Fou­cault clear­ly indi­cates here that this dis­ci­pli­nary econ­o­my applies not to indi­vid­u­als tak­en sep­a­rate­ly but to “mul­ti­plic­i­ties.” It is pre­cise­ly by incor­po­rat­ing indi­vid­u­al lives into such mul­ti­plic­i­ties, “mass­es,” that it man­ages to “econ­o­mize” their usage in a way that, amongst oth­er sav­ings, obvi­ates the need for ide­o­log­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tions. The lat­ter weigh in, if at all, only after the event, when the job is already done, hav­ing no influ­ence over its course, a course already mapped out by sec­ond nature, with lit­tle chance of devi­a­tion and none of rene­go­ti­a­tion.

At first sight, such a sit­u­a­tion seems hope­less. If there is at best still some room left for a change in con­scious­ness, it comes only after the fact, hence too late for the prob­lem to be dis­cussed and nego­ti­at­ed. Does this mean that the new fig­ure of pow­er – a hor­i­zon­tal pow­er, close to the ground, insid­i­ous, which nev­er has to admit its true nature because it has the advan­tage of appear­ing self-evi­dent and spon­ta­neous – wipes out any pos­si­bil­i­ty of resis­tance? No, but only on con­di­tion that our under­stand­ing of resis­tance is com­plete­ly revised. This revi­sion would dis­miss the idea of a glob­al resis­tance, planned and ini­ti­at­ed from the start from a cen­ter; and because it is based on a clear under­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion, draws its effi­ca­cy from its abil­i­ty to devel­op a coher­ent dis­course of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion. Snared in the “mesh“ of the new pow­er, which catch­es it so to speak at source in its every­day exis­tence, the pro­duc­tive sub­ject can rely only on mobile points of scat­tered resis­tance that are ini­tial­ly blind and unco­or­di­nat­ed. The insta­bil­i­ty of the con­junc­ture asso­ci­at­ed with the ambi­gu­i­ty of sec­ond nature, which is a mix­ture of order and dis­or­der, opens an inde­fin­able space for such points of resis­tance. Rather than adopt a project of per­ma­nent rup­ture cor­re­spond­ing to the for­mu­la “class again­st class” – a strik­ing exam­ple being the ide­o­log­i­cal the­me of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary moment of truth, all the more strik­ing because it is divorced from real­i­ty – the pro­duc­tive sub­ject finds a way to oppose the sys­tem that cap­tures him from birth and con­sti­tutes the key to his sub­jec­tion, a sub­jec­tion that makes him a split sub­ject. He does so by engag­ing in par­tial strug­gles, most often impro­vised, mak­ing the most of those occa­sions when the under­ly­ing ambi­gu­i­ties and con­tra­dic­tions of the sys­tem, whose trace can­not be com­plete­ly erased, come to the fore. There is no recourse again­st biopow­er, at least in the begin­ning, save in forms of bio-resis­tance that, with­out illu­sions and with the ener­gy of despair, exploit its weak­ness­es as much as pos­si­ble. They do so post­pon­ing the syn­the­sis, the pro­vi­sion­al reuni­fi­ca­tion of the­se dis­persed ini­tia­tives even if it means tak­ing up the prob­lem from scratch when the oppor­tu­ni­ty aris­es. There­fore, the pro­duc­tive sub­ject is left with plu­ral strate­gies, whose threads he is in no hur­ry to gath­er into gen­er­al pro­grammes. The lat­ter are nec­es­sar­i­ly mis­lead­ing if they claim to defin­i­tive­ly resolve the ques­tion with which they are con­front­ed, a ques­tion whose clear and ratio­nal per­cep­tion emerges only grad­u­al­ly with­out promis­es or guar­an­tees. The best thing for the work­er, when pres­sured to be always more pro­duc­tive, is to fol­low the very path tak­en by the cap­i­tal­ist to estab­lish the sys­tem of exploita­tion from which he hopes to extract the max­i­mum prof­it. Name­ly, he must pro­ceed by tri­al and error, step by step, so as to estab­lish lit­tle by lit­tle, again­st the tech­nolo­gies of pow­er that have tak­en con­trol of his very exis­tence, tech­nolo­gies of resis­tance that strive where pos­si­ble to loosen this grip. It is there­fore in the very process of pro­duc­tion, where the employ­er deploys var­i­ous fig­ures of author­i­ty, that the sub­ju­gat­ed work­er comes to fight and oppose the author­i­ty which has suc­ceed­ed in pen­e­trat­ing the inner­most recess­es of his being. This strug­gle and this oppo­si­tion, how­ev­er, have no chance of suc­cess if they are waged indi­vid­u­al­ly. That is why they have to be tak­en in charge by work­ers’ asso­ci­a­tions, main­ly by what are today called unions, that orga­nize their protests down to the last detail and sub­or­di­nate them to more and more col­lab­o­ra­tive and coor­di­nat­ed plan­ning in such a way as to rid them of the unfin­ished char­ac­ter to which they are con­demned as long as they remain spon­ta­neous.

The New Power and Forms of Authority Developed Within the Labor Process Itself

From the above we can see why Fou­cault was par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the pas­sages of Cap­i­tal which high­light fig­ures of author­i­ty that are close­ly bound up with the labor process and rep­re­sent the advent of the new form of pow­er. It is pos­si­ble in par­tic­u­lar to re-read the few pages con­cern­ing coop­er­a­tion of the eleven­th chap­ter (Chap­ter 13 of Joseph Roy’s trans­la­tion) of the fourth sec­tion of the first book of Cap­i­tal where some speci­fic modal­i­ties of the inte­gra­tion of pow­er rela­tions with the labor process are exam­ined: a trick the cap­i­tal­ist employs, like a magi­cian, to over­come the oppo­si­tion between free­dom and neces­si­ty to his advan­tage.

The first con­di­tion of this inte­gra­tion is pro­vid­ed by the assem­bly of work­ers in the same place of work, not only next to but togeth­er with each oth­er:

A large num­ber of work­ers work­ing togeth­er, at the same time, in one place (or, if you like, in the same field of labour, auf dem sel­ben Arbeits­feld), in order to pro­duce the same sort of com­mod­i­ty under the com­mand of the same cap­i­tal­ist, con­sti­tutes the start­ing point of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion. This is true both his­tor­i­cal­ly and con­cep­tu­al­ly.23

This assem­bly in the same “field” where their oper­a­tions are to be coor­di­nat­ed has a direct impact on the way the work­ers set their labor-pow­er in motion:

Even with­out an alter­ation in the method of work, the simul­ta­ne­ous employ­ment of a large num­ber of work­ers pro­duces a rev­o­lu­tion in the objec­tive con­di­tions of the labour process.24

Accord­ing to the proverb, “uni­ty is strength,” a pow­er result­ing not only from the addi­tion of asso­ci­at­ed ele­ments but from their com­bi­na­tion, which by syn­the­sis­ing them cre­ates a new pow­er whose pro­duc­tive poten­tial is increased both quan­ti­ta­tive­ly and qual­i­ta­tive­ly:25

Just as the offen­sive pow­er of a squadron of cav­al­ry, or the defen­sive pow­er of an infantry reg­i­ment, is essen­tial­ly dif­fer­ent from the sum of the offen­sive or defen­sive pow­ers of the indi­vid­u­al sol­diers tak­en sep­a­rate­ly, so the sum total of the mechan­i­cal forces exert­ed by iso­lat­ed work­ers dif­fers from the social force that is devel­oped when many hands co-oper­ate in the same undi­vid­ed oper­a­tion, such as rais­ing a heavy weight, turn­ing a winch or get­ting an obsta­cle out of the way. In such cas­es the effect of the com­bined labour could either not be pro­duced at all by iso­lat­ed indi­vid­u­al labour, or it could be pro­duced only by a great expen­di­ture of time, or on a very dwarf-like scale. Not only do we have here an increase in the pro­duc­tive pow­er of the indi­vid­u­al, by means of co-oper­a­tion, but the cre­ation of a new pro­duc­tive pow­er, which is intrin­si­cal­ly a col­lec­tive one.26

The com­bined work­ing day pro­duces a greater quan­ti­ty of use val­ues than an equal sum of iso­lat­ed work­ing days, and con­se­quent­ly dimin­ish­es the labour-time nec­es­sary for the pro­duc­tion of a given use­ful effect. Whether the com­bined work­ing day, in a given case, acquires this increased pro­duc­tiv­i­ty because it height­ens the mechan­i­cal force of labour, or extends its sphere of action over a greater space, or con­tracts the field of pro­duc­tion rel­a­tive­ly to the scale of pro­duc­tion, or at the crit­i­cal moment sets large mass­es of labour to work, or excites rival­ry between indi­vid­u­als and rais­es their ani­mal spir­its, or impress­es on the sim­i­lar oper­a­tions car­ried on by a num­ber of men the stamp of con­ti­nu­ity and many-sid­ed­ness, or per­forms dif­fer­ent oper­a­tions simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, or econ­o­mizes the means of pro­duc­tion by use in com­mon, or lends to indi­vid­u­al labour the char­ac­ter of aver­age social labour – whichev­er of the­se is the cause of the increase, the spe­cial pro­duc­tive pow­er of the com­bined work­ing day is, under all cir­cum­stances, the social pro­duc­tive pow­er of labour, or the pro­duc­tive pow­er of social labour. This pow­er aris­es from co-oper­a­tion itself.27

In par­tic­u­lar, once it became a part of this col­lec­tive pow­er indi­vid­u­al labor-pow­er changed its nature, mak­ing it cal­cu­la­ble accord­ing to dif­fer­ent para­me­ters. It has ceased to be this or that pow­er whose char­ac­ter is specif­i­cal­ly deter­mined by the bod­i­ly exis­tence of its own­er. As explained, it has become labor-pow­er, even social labor-pow­er, mea­sur­able accord­ing to uni­fied cri­te­ria, enabling the plan­ning, the ratio­nal­iza­tion of its appli­ca­tion in order to increase its pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, a notion applied to labor-pow­er in gen­er­al, ter­med social labor-pow­er, before being extend­ed to the par­tic­u­lar labor-pow­er of indi­vid­u­als. The main aspect of this change is con­sti­tut­ed by the appear­ance of, what Marx calls, “the aver­age work­ing day.” At the end of the nine­teen­th cen­tu­ry Tay­lor will take up this con­cept when talk­ing of “the loy­al work­ing day,” the basic unit of his sys­tem of ratio­nal work orga­ni­za­tion. Like Quetelet’s “aver­age man,” this aver­age work­ing day is an abstrac­tion since it nev­er actu­al­ly com­plete­ly coin­cides with the con­crete activ­i­ty of any given work­er unit­ed in the same field of work, for whom this notion at best func­tions as a bench­mark, a pro­gram to ful­fill, pre­sup­pos­ing a cer­tain mar­gin of approx­i­ma­tion or error. But for the cap­i­tal­ist, this abstrac­tion is no longer exact­ly an abstrac­tion inas­much as he takes it into account in the cal­cu­la­tions accord­ing to which he man­ages his enter­prise. In effect, work for him exists only as the result of the employ­ment of a “col­lec­tive pow­er,” and is defined as such in his accounts. Assert­ing his author­i­ty, he strives to trans­late this pow­er into real­i­ty in his work­shops where work­ers are brought to work togeth­er and not sep­a­rate­ly, each by and/or for him­self.

Let us note in pass­ing that, beyond the trans­for­ma­tions that coop­er­a­tion stamps upon the pro­duc­tive con­sump­tion of labor-pow­er ‒ which there­by becomes a “col­lec­tive pow­er” – the char­ac­ter­is­tic of the new type of soci­ety, whose estab­lish­ment coin­cides with the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion and which Fou­cault calls “the soci­ety of norms,” is the, so to speak, mass28 assem­bly and man­age­ment of its sub­jects. Thanks to ana­lyt­ic tools such as sta­tis­tics and prob­a­bil­i­ty cal­cu­lus – pre­vi­ous­ly unknown to the state admin­is­tra­tion– it has become pos­si­ble to eval­u­ate col­lec­tive per­for­mance not on the scale of iso­lat­ed cas­es but of large num­bers, and from there to antic­i­pate the devel­op­ment of this per­for­mance and to adjust its course with the aim of improv­ing pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Instead of being car­ried out on an ad hoc basis, in a dis­or­ga­nized way, indi­vid­u­al actions are in some way antic­i­pat­ed, pre­pared, pre­fig­ured by the glob­al sys­tem with­in which they occur, there­by influ­enc­ing their out­come. One of the aspects of this change is rep­re­sent­ed by the trans­for­ma­tion of agents of pro­duc­tion into pro­duc­tive sub­jects which fun­da­men­tal­ly mod­i­fies the con­di­tions in which their work is done. In terms of work results, pro­duc­tive sub­jects must now meet pro­grammed expec­ta­tions over which they have lost con­trol. The objec­tives they must achieve are deter­minable pri­or to the process charged with accom­plish­ing them. What is deci­sive in this regard is that one has begun to think in terms of pos­si­bil­i­ties that can be defined inde­pen­dent­ly of their imple­men­ta­tion. In gen­er­al, “pow­ers” are sought out even beyond the lim­its of the field of man­u­fac­ture or indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion. The­se pow­ers have the sta­tus of vir­tu­al real­i­ties which are impart­ed in advance with capac­i­ties that have only to be actu­al­ized by con­form­ing to the mod­els pre­scribed to them.

In a soci­ety of norms every­thing is pro­grammed or can be pro­grammed. The behav­ior of each indi­vid­u­al com­pelled to take his place in a process that is mold­ed in such a way los­es the char­ac­ter of indi­vid­u­al actions pos­sess­ing an intrin­sic val­ue. It is list­ed, cat­a­logued, for­mat­ted accord­ing to func­tion­al cri­te­ria that are not up for dis­cus­sion and impose them­selves by claim­ing to be self-evi­dent. In such a col­lec­tive way of life which is, as we already observed in rela­tion to indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion, meta­physics in action, one could say, in fact, that essence pre­cedes exis­tence. The order estab­lished fol­low­ing this type of pro­ce­dure is bind­ing but exerts its con­straints more smooth­ly, insid­i­ous­ly, pre­cise­ly because it takes the sub­jects to which it is applied at the very source, antic­i­pat­ing their behav­ior, prepar­ing and lead­ing them towards their goal by incor­po­rat­ing itself into their con­duct. When their behav­ior does not com­ply with set objec­tives they are penal­ized with rejec­tion, side­lined with­out any need for for­mal sanc­tion. In this respect, we can speak of con­di­tion­ing by a norm which no longer depends on obe­di­ence to exter­nal com­mands, for like what we pre­vi­ous­ly called “sec­ond nature,” it has become com­plete­ly imma­nent to the process­es it affects as it com­pletes them. In this way, the new pol­i­tics of “pop­u­la­tions” of which Fou­cault speaks is prop­a­gat­ed, a pol­i­tics that is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly and insep­a­ra­bly an eco­nom­ics since, in the last instance, it is at the lev­el of the econ­o­my that the new chal­lenges of pow­er are defined, from which new fig­ures of sub­jec­tion fol­low.

The­se remarks allow us to bet­ter grasp the scope and lim­its of the con­cept of “the dis­ci­pli­nary soci­ety,” on which Fou­cault from the out­set based his expla­na­tion of the nature of the new type of pow­er estab­lished dur­ing the sec­ond half of the 18th cen­tu­ry with­in the speci­fic frame­work of lib­er­al soci­ety. The usage of this con­cept, intro­duced by Fou­cault in 1975 in Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish, encoun­ters a basic prob­lem. Does describ­ing a cer­tain type of a soci­ety as “dis­ci­pli­nary” mean attribut­ing to it an orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple, “dis­ci­pline,” that applies equal­ly to all its aspects and con­se­quent­ly deter­mi­nes it in its very being, more pre­cise­ly in its “dis­ci­pli­nary being?” This issue is raised by Stéphane Legrand in his arti­cle, “Le marx­is­me oublié de Fou­cault,” which warns again­st the essen­tial­ist and reduc­tive syn­cretism of the notion of dis­ci­pline under which Fou­cault some­times seems to sub­sume mutu­al­ly het­ero­ge­neous forms of sub­jec­tion, reduc­ing the­se to a sin­gle process for which “dis­ci­pline” always pro­vides the mod­el: “One won­ders, how is it that this same schema can be used to pro­duce train­ing, mil­i­tary prowess, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty at work, hos­pi­tal treat­ment?”29 In the same spir­it, we could ques­tion the rel­e­vance of the con­cept of “norm” when it lays claim to an explana­to­ry val­ue in itself. How­ev­er, it is clear that when Fou­cault talks about the “soci­ety of norms” – if this for­mu­la means any­thing and can be tak­en seri­ous­ly – it is not in ref­er­ence to the ide­al mod­el of a soci­ety of the norm but to a real­i­ty of a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent order, to a com­plex and dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed game of norms, a notion that is at any rate bet­ter to employ only in the plu­ral. Oth­er­wise one risks attribut­ing to dif­fer­ent norms, coex­ist­ing at a given moment and poten­tial­ly con­fronting each oth­er in the same his­tor­i­cal social for­ma­tion, a sin­gle pur­pose relat­ing to the speci­fic pow­er of a norm in itself, con­sid­ered both as an essence and as a cause. When, in Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish, Fou­cault talks about “dis­ci­pline” in the sin­gu­lar (as he does when he gives this title to the third part of the book) he takes pre­cise­ly this risk and even appears to make mat­ters worse when he presents the panop­tic schema not as a par­tic­u­lar exam­ple but as a sort of mod­el that, start­ing from the speci­fic case of the pris­on, can be uni­ver­sal­ly applied, to oth­er dis­ci­pli­nary insti­tu­tions like the army, school, work­shop, hos­pi­tal, etc…The notion of dis­ci­pline, like that of “norm,” can only serve as an effec­tive ana­lyt­ic tool if it ceas­es to be reduced to the abstract pre­sup­po­si­tion of a con­ver­gence of its forms of appli­ca­tion and is instead direct­ed towards the inter­ac­tion of the­se forms in a con­text where their con­tent is exposed to per­pet­u­al rene­go­ti­a­tion. Anal­o­gous­ly, if one presents the inter­ven­tion of norms in the social order by reduc­ing it to a pro­gram of “ratio­nal­iza­tion” for­mu­lat­ed with ref­er­ence to the prin­ci­ple of a rea­son entire­ly con­sti­tut­ed a pri­ori in itself, one eras­es at once the his­tor­i­cal and thus con­junc­tural char­ac­ter of this inter­ven­tion.30

This gen­er­al objec­tion is not the only one that we can make to the notion of the “dis­ci­pli­nary soci­ety.” If the soci­ety of norms was noth­ing but a soci­ety of dis­ci­pline, this would mean that the only point of appli­ca­tion for its mech­a­nisms would be behav­ior, and more specif­i­cal­ly indi­vid­u­al bod­i­ly behav­iors whose reform is pre­cise­ly their objec­tive. How­ev­er, what char­ac­ter­izes the soci­ety of norms is pre­cise­ly that it does not treat indi­vid­u­als as such but as ele­ments form­ing larg­er groups, the type formed by pop­u­la­tions. Thanks to this move, it is capa­ble of “gov­ern­ing” them in the very speci­fic mean­ing that Fou­cault imparts to this notion, that is, to use a for­mu­la we have already encoun­tered, “struc­tur­ing the field of their pos­si­ble action.” When Marx speaks of the “field of labor (Arbeits­feld),” where the cap­i­tal­ist orga­nizes the pro­duc­tion of sur­plus val­ue under his com­mand, he aims pre­cise­ly at some­thing of this kind. With­in such a “field,” the work­ers have ceased to exist as indi­vid­u­als and become pro­duc­tive sub­jects, total­ly immersed in the “col­lec­tive pow­er,” that is in a col­lec­tive body out­side of which they no longer have a real­i­ty of their own.

Let us bring this digres­sion to an end and return to the analy­sis of new mod­es of the labor process, in so far as they rest upon the con­sump­tion of a col­lec­tive pow­er, thus enabling the increase of its pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Thanks to the uni­fi­ca­tion of indi­vid­u­al pow­ers into a col­lec­tive pow­er, the cap­i­tal­ist is now in a posi­tion to exert strict con­trol not only over the results of the labor process, hence over its pro­duct as dead labor (Werk, tra­vail, work), but also over its course as the appli­ca­tion of liv­ing labor (Arbeit, tra­vail, labor). The change in scale thus pro­vokes a mod­i­fi­ca­tion in the nature of labor. In the begin­ning the exploitation/extortion of sur­plus val­ue applies to the indi­vid­u­al work­er, forced to work not for him­self but for anoth­er. As exploita­tion becomes inte­grat­ed with and “mas­sifes” the oper­a­tion of the labor process, it comes to apply to the col­lec­tive work­er who per­forms labor in com­mon, social labor whose orga­ni­za­tion it now takes in charge:

We also saw that, at first, the com­mand of cap­i­tal over labour (das Kom­man­do des Kap­i­tals über die Arbeit) was only a for­mal result of the fact that the work­er, instead of work­ing for him­self, works for, and con­se­quent­ly under, the cap­i­tal­ist. Through the co-oper­a­tion of numer­ous wage-labour­ers, the com­mand of cap­i­tal devel­ops into a require­ment for car­ry­ing on the labour process itself, into a real con­di­tion of pro­duc­tion. That a cap­i­tal­ist should com­mand in the field of pro­duc­tion is now as indis­pens­able as that a gen­er­al should com­mand on the field of bat­tle. All direct­ly social or com­mu­nal labour on a large scale requires, to a greater or lesser degree, a direct­ing author­i­ty, in order to secure the har­mo­nious co-oper­a­tion of the activ­i­ties of indi­vid­u­als, and to per­form the gen­er­al func­tions that have their orig­in in the motion of the total pro­duc­tive organ­ism, as dis­tin­guished from the motion of its sep­a­rate organs. A sin­gle vio­lin play­er is his own con­duc­tor: an orches­tra requires a sep­a­rate one. The work of direct­ing, super­vi­sion and medi­a­tion becomes one of the func­tions of cap­i­tal, from the moment that the labour under capital’s con­trol becomes co-oper­a­tive. As a speci­fic func­tion of cap­i­tal, the direct­ing func­tion acquires its own spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics.31

Marx here makes two com­par­isons in order to explain how the cap­i­tal­ist “directs” the exploita­tion of labor-pow­er; on the one hand, with the army gen­er­al, and on the oth­er, with the con­duc­tor of an orches­tra. The­se com­par­isons become even more inter­est­ing once fur­ther par­al­lels have been drawn between them. The orches­tra rep­re­sents modal­i­ties of coop­er­a­tion con­form­ing pri­mar­i­ly to tech­ni­cal objec­tives; and the army modal­i­ties of coop­er­a­tion involv­ing a ver­ti­cal, hier­ar­chi­cal struc­ture which orga­nizes joint action by trans­mit­ting orders and check­ing that they are fol­lowed in prac­tice, that is obeyed. In line with the­se two mod­els, a sys­tem of author­i­ty com­bin­ing sev­er­al func­tions is estab­lished: direct­ing, super­vi­sion and medi­a­tion, as enu­mer­at­ed by Marx in this pas­sage. Direc­tion is the very first form of author­i­ty which con­sists in giv­ing impe­tus to a move­ment by pre­scrib­ing it an uni­fied ori­en­ta­tion from which it must not devi­ate. It estab­lish­es the prin­ci­ple of sim­pli­fi­ca­tion, reduc­ing diver­si­ty to homo­gene­ity. The very first task the con­duc­tor must ensure instru­men­tal­ists respect is that they play togeth­er, and not each for him­self accord­ing to whim. Under the com­mand of its gen­er­al, com­mu­ni­cat­ed through its “dai­ly orders,” an army must march “as one man,” leav­ing no space for deviant behav­ior and elim­i­nat­ing in advance rebels or pro­test­ers who have no choice but to exit a game in which they no longer belong. How­ev­er, this direct form of author­i­ty, which is exer­cised far and wide, is not enough: left to itself it risks remain­ing a dead let­ter. That is why it must be cir­cu­lat­ed and in a way cashed in, dis­trib­ut­ed. Besides a high­er author­i­ty that in the last instance gives the orders, this pre­sup­pos­es medi­at­ing bod­ies that super­vise their appli­ca­tion in detail, check­ing that the small­est indi­vid­u­al acts con­form to com­mon rules and respect the norms. For this rea­son, instead of being uni­form­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed from cen­ter to periph­ery, author­i­ty expands through the count­less chan­nels of a com­plex orga­ni­za­tion, thus becom­ing suf­fi­cient­ly flex­i­ble to adapt itself to all aspects of pro­duc­tive activ­i­ty with­out excep­tion: in oth­er words, it diver­si­fies. How­ev­er, to avoid diver­si­fi­ca­tion turn­ing into dis­per­sion, flex­i­bil­i­ty into a fac­tor of dis­or­der, it is nec­es­sary, more­over, that the mul­ti­plic­i­ty of medi­at­ing bod­ies, which con­crete­ly enact author­i­ty in such a way that it pen­e­trates the most min­ute details of the labor process, are not left to them­selves but are kept to the over­all per­spec­tive they must obey and from which they must not be detached. Thus, they are reduced to the sta­tus of “medi­a­tions” chained to one anoth­er. Once again, the hier­ar­chi­cal mod­el of the army is fore­ground­ed. Its aides de camp, offi­cers, N.C.O.s, mar­tinets and min­ions of all kinds ensure that pow­er, instead of resid­ing only at the head, is present at all points of the orga­ni­za­tion, even the most min­ute, where it is repro­duced, “rep­re­sent­ed” to the extent that it is assigned a place with­in the sys­tem in which it par­tic­i­pates and on which it depends. In such an orga­ni­za­tion, there is not, on the one side, pow­er, and on the oth­er, oppo­site it, those it dom­i­nates, but a com­plex net­work whose pro­lif­er­at­ing inter­me­di­ary links occu­py posi­tions that are at the same time those of dom­i­nant and dom­i­nat­ed. Here obey­ing and com­mand­ing are no longer alter­na­tive func­tions but com­bine to the point where they can no longer be dis­tin­guished from one anoth­er, which means that those occu­py­ing the­se places obey by com­mand­ing. In this way, the oper­a­tions of direc­tion-super­vi­sion-medi­a­tion, which enable the orga­ni­za­tion of the labor process to pro­duce the max­i­mum rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue, are based on this orga­ni­za­tion, which becomes thor­ough­ly entan­gled in the “mesh­es of pow­er” from which it can no longer escape. Fou­cault took up this idea in sum­ma­ry fash­ion in his Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish:

Sur­veil­lance thus becomes a deci­sive eco­nom­ic oper­a­tor both as an inter­nal part of the pro­duc­tion machin­ery and as a speci­fic mech­a­nism in the dis­ci­pli­nary pow­er.32

In a foot­note, Fou­cault cites the end of the pas­sage of Chap­ter 13 (Chap­ter 11 of the orig­i­nal Ger­man edi­tion) of the Roy trans­la­tion of Cap­i­tal that we have just com­ment­ed on.33

In this regard, one can speak of a gen­er­al­iza­tion of author­i­ty, which as it extends becomes imma­nent to the process of its real­iza­tion, with which it ful­ly merges. Para­dox­i­cal­ly, this gen­er­al­iza­tion, which in the begin­ning fol­lows a pat­tern of homog­e­niza­tion, leads to an oper­a­tion of spec­i­fi­ca­tion or spe­cial­iza­tion, thus grant­i­ng rel­a­tive auton­o­my to the medi­at­ing instances that we have just been dis­cussing:

If cap­i­tal­ist direc­tion is thus twofold in con­tent, owing to the twofold nature of the process of pro­duc­tion which has to be direct­ed-on the one hand a social labour process for the cre­ation of a pro­duct, and on the oth­er hand capital’s process of val­oriza­tion - in form it is pure­ly despotic (despo­tis­ch). As co-oper­a­tion extends its scale, this despo­tism (Despo­tismus) devel­ops the forms that are pecu­liar to it. Just as at first the cap­i­tal­ist is relieved from actu­al labour as soon as his cap­i­tal has reached that min­i­mum amount with which cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion, prop­er­ly speak­ing, first begins, so now he hands over the work of direct and con­stant super­vi­sion of the indi­vid­u­al work­ers and groups of work­ers to a spe­cial kind of wage-labour­er. An indus­tri­al army of work­ers under the com­mand of a cap­i­tal­ist requires, like a real army, offi­cers (man­agers) and N.C.O.s (fore­men, over­seers), who com­mand dur­ing the labour process in the name of cap­i­tal. The work of super­vi­sion becomes their estab­lished and exclu­sive func­tion.34

In order to adhere to the oper­a­tion of the labor process, the com­mand of cap­i­tal fol­lows it in the dou­ble sense of guid­ing and super­vis­ing it, step by step, in such a way that the pres­sure that com­mand exerts is per­ma­nent and the chances of dis­crep­an­cy or loss are kept to a min­i­mum. Con­se­quent­ly, mass pro­duc­tion refines the forms of the divi­sion of labor, sep­a­rat­ing out func­tions cor­re­spond­ing to activ­i­ties that are not direct­ly pro­duc­tive and per­form this role of guid­ance and super­vi­sion. The idea of super­vi­sion, as Fou­cault has shown, notably in the stud­ies devot­ed to dis­ci­pli­nary pro­ce­dures, is part and parcel of the func­tion­ing of the soci­ety of norms. What specif­i­cal­ly does the super­vi­sion of activ­i­ties mean? It means that activ­i­ties should not only be con­trolled after­wards in terms of their effects or results but super­vised at source even before they have begun to take effect. The sys­tem of super­vi­sion has pri­mar­i­ly a pre­ven­tive role, acts as a deter­rent. It pre­fig­ures the ends it seeks to enforce and is the more effec­tive as it has no need to inter­vene in the activ­i­ties with sanc­tions or pun­ish­ment. This is exact­ly the func­tion assigned to man­age­ri­al staff whose author­i­ty, pre­cise­ly because it ful­fils a super­vi­so­ry func­tion, oper­ates in close con­tact with the labor process, which it “fol­lows” step by step and even pre­cedes, direct­ing the lat­ter in a such a way as to leave no mar­gin of devi­a­tion or error. Thanks to the­se inter­me­di­aries, the com­mand of cap­i­tal spreads through­out the pro­duc­tive body, through­out the col­lec­tive pow­er of social labor, tak­ing full con­trol using dif­fer­ent chan­nels whose orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture it has mas­tered. This is the pre­con­di­tion for its spread­ing with­out dilut­ing. On the con­trary, it is all the stronger for employ­ing this mul­ti­plic­i­ty of chan­nels which refine its dis­tri­b­u­tion.

This dis­tri­b­u­tion, end­ing up with the diver­si­fi­ca­tion of con­trol and super­vi­sion tasks, is even­tu­al­ly accom­plished by the sep­a­ra­tion of man­u­al and intel­lec­tu­al labor, that is labor which is not sat­is­fied with just “doing” the job or work­ing but in return reflects upon it. This reflec­tion on the orga­ni­za­tion of the labor process, which aims to set in motion the new col­lec­tive pow­er cre­at­ed by coop­er­a­tion, is accom­plished both at a dis­tance and in close prox­im­i­ty, on an ad hoc basis and unin­ter­rupt­ed­ly. Freed from mate­ri­al, that is man­u­al forms of labor, intel­lec­tu­al labor of dif­fer­ent lev­els of grad­u­a­tion pro­vides itself with the means to inter­vene all the time and every­where. The first to free him­self from the process of pro­duc­tion prop­er­ly speak­ing – that is the pro­duc­tive con­sump­tion of labor pow­er – is the cap­i­tal­ist or boss. From his office, he pulls all the strings, takes impor­tant deci­sions, defines com­pa­ny strat­e­gy. In his train, lit­tle by lit­tle, all those he needs to trans­mit his orders and make sure they are cor­rect­ly applied become detached or rather spe­cial­ized in the “super­vi­sion” of the work of oth­ers – mes­sen­gers, inspec­tors, secu­ri­ty per­son­nel, drill sergeants of every shape and stripe, to whom he del­e­gates a part of his author­i­ty so as to con­sol­i­date its exten­sion.

In this respect, we can talk about an econ­o­my of pow­er which is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a con­ser­va­tion of pow­er. Author­i­ty is man­aged like a mate­ri­al pow­er, there­by rein­forc­ing its effec­tive­ness, whose mea­sure in the last instance is the max­i­mum pro­duc­tion of prof­it. Let us cite in this con­nec­tion a final pas­sage from the chap­ter of Cap­i­tal on coop­er­a­tion, which sum­ma­rizes its gains:

The work­er is the own­er of his labour-pow­er until he has fin­ished bar­gain­ing for its sale with the cap­i­tal­ist, and he can sell no more than what he has – i.e. his indi­vid­u­al, iso­lat­ed labour-pow­er. This rela­tion between cap­i­tal and labour is in no way altered by the fact that the cap­i­tal­ist, instead of buy­ing the labour-pow­er of one man, buys that of 100, and enters into sep­a­rate con­tracts with 100 uncon­nect­ed men instead of with one. He can set the 100 men to work, with­out let­ting them co-oper­ate. He pays them the val­ue of 100 inde­pen­dent labour-pow­ers, but he does not pay for the com­bined labour-pow­er of the 100. Being inde­pen­dent of each oth­er, the work­ers are iso­lat­ed. They enter into rela­tions with the cap­i­tal­ist, but not with each oth­er. Their co-oper­a­tion only begins with the labour process, but by then they have ceased to belong to them­selves. On enter­ing the labour process they are incor­po­rat­ed into cap­i­tal. As co-oper­a­tors, as mem­bers of a work­ing organ­ism, they mere­ly form a par­tic­u­lar mode of exis­tence of cap­i­tal. Hence the pro­duc­tive pow­er devel­oped by the work­er social­ly is the pro­duc­tive pow­er of cap­i­tal. The social­ly pro­duc­tive pow­er of labour devel­ops as a free gift to cap­i­tal when­ev­er the work­ers are placed under cer­tain con­di­tions, and it is cap­i­tal which places them under the­se con­di­tions. Because this pow­er costs cap­i­tal noth­ing, while on the oth­er hand it is not devel­oped by the work­er until his labour itself belongs to cap­i­tal, it appears as a pow­er which cap­i­tal pos­sess­es by its nature – a pro­duc­tive pow­er inher­ent in cap­i­tal.35

This brings us back to the analy­ses pre­sent­ed at the begin­ning of this essay. What the cap­i­tal­ist buys and pays with a wage – under the terms of the labor con­tract, which is an exchange between par­ties free and equal in law – is the pos­si­bil­i­ty of using the labor-pow­er of each indi­vid­u­al pro­duc­er for a cer­tain time with­in the spa­tial lim­its of his firm. But, in real­i­ty, what he exploits in order to extract a sur­plus val­ue that he appro­pri­ates in full is a gen­er­al pro­duc­tive pow­er that is more than the sum of indi­vid­u­al labor-pow­ers, and which con­se­quent­ly he obtains gratis. This gen­er­al pro­duc­tive pow­er – that, in Marx’s words, “cap­i­tal pos­sess­es by its nature, a pro­duc­tive pow­er inher­ent in cap­i­tal” – is the speci­fic result of coop­er­a­tion which inserts indi­vid­u­al activ­i­ties into the col­lec­tive labor process as it is per­formed under the com­mand of cap­i­tal, cor­re­spond­ing to pro­duc­tiv­i­ty norms that have lit­er­al­ly seized hold of the­se activ­i­ties by plac­ing them under con­trol and super­vi­sion. The author­i­ty the cap­i­tal­ist exer­cis­es in this con­text is legit­i­mate, there­fore legal­ly unas­sail­able, for it rests on an exchange based on rules mutu­al­ly agreed by the con­tract­ing par­ties. Besides being legit­i­mate this con­tract is from the point of view of the cap­i­tal­ist also effi­cient since its imple­men­ta­tion “returns” a sur­plus val­ue in the form of the pro­duc­tion of rel­a­tive sur­plus val­ue that con­sti­tutes his own prof­it. With­out any prospect of prof­it, unless he is a saint, which is unlike­ly, he would nev­er embark on any such under­tak­ing. This enter­prise turns him into what we have pro­posed to call a meta­physi­cian in action, one bring­ing togeth­er all the con­di­tions required for essence to pre­cede exis­tence not only on paper but in real­i­ty as well. At a push, one could say that cap­i­tal­ist indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion man­u­fac­tures the human essence as a form of pro­duc­tive pow­er in order to exploit it.

One can appre­ci­ate how much the­se analy­ses might have inter­est­ed Fou­cault and encour­aged him in his efforts to devel­op a new, non-juridi­cal con­cep­tion of pow­er. The­se analy­ses make it pos­si­ble to get at, what he called, the “real func­tion­ing” of pow­er, of which the law is, at best, the ide­o­log­i­cal reverse, that is, a rep­re­sen­ta­tion out of step with how it actu­al­ly oper­ates. How­ev­er, one can­not say in the abstract that this ide­ol­o­gy is pure­ly and sim­ply wrong and as such should be reject­ed as an illu­sion that it would suf­fice to dis­pel. For, in its own way, it par­tic­i­pates in the func­tion­ing of pow­er and con­tributes to its effec­tive­ness:

Let me offer a gen­er­al and tac­ti­cal rea­son that seems self-evi­dent: pow­er is tol­er­a­ble only on con­di­tion that it mask a sub­stan­tial part of itself. Its suc­cess is pro­por­tion­al to its abil­i­ty to hide its own mech­a­nisms. Would pow­er be accept­ed if it were entire­ly cyn­i­cal? For it, secre­cy is not in the nature of an abuse; it is indis­pens­able to its oper­a­tion. Not only because pow­er impos­es secre­cy on those whom it dom­i­nates, but because it is per­haps just as indis­pens­able to the lat­ter: would they accept it if they did not see it as a mere lim­it placed on their desire, leav­ing a mea­sure of free­dom how­ev­er slight – intact? Pow­er as a pure lim­it set on free­dom is, at least in our soci­ety, the gen­er­al form of its accept­abil­i­ty.36

To be pro­duc­tive, pow­er must become inte­grat­ed into net­works that, along with wealth-pro­duc­ing mate­ri­al goods, pro­duce the bod­ies which labo­ri­ous­ly man­u­fac­ture the­se very goods, con­form­ing to norms that gov­ern their man­u­fac­ture. The con­di­tion for this is that the action of pow­er is grad­u­al, with­out draw­ing atten­tion or being rec­og­nized, oth­er­wise its attempts at pen­e­tra­tion run into points of resis­tance that its advance, once exposed, in turn pro­vokes. To achieve this goal, that is to remain invis­i­ble, pow­er uses decoys, includ­ing the invert­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tion of its action pro­vid­ed by juridi­cal dis­course. The trick is to recu­per­ate this rep­re­sen­ta­tion, which tak­en in itself cor­re­sponds to noth­ing real, and make it an ele­ment of the tech­nol­o­gy of pow­er.37 This oper­a­tion, which reduces the law to the lev­el of a pure rep­re­sen­ta­tion dis­con­nect­ed from any real con­tent, and thus to a neg­a­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion, does not have a time­less char­ac­ter, but takes place, as Fou­cault spec­i­fies, “at least in our soci­ety.” In oth­er words, it should not be used to char­ac­ter­ize pow­er in gen­er­al, a con­cept devoid of any real con­tent. It rather applies to the type of his­tor­i­cal soci­ety which has made pro­duc­tiv­i­ty the heart of its exis­tence and devel­oped forms of indus­tri­al “coop­er­a­tion” to achieve this end, that is, in dif­fer­ent ter­mi­nol­o­gy, cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety. In the lat­ter the tech­nolo­gies of pow­er have tak­en on a par­tic­u­lar­ly refined appear­ance, per­mit­ting them amongst oth­er feats to turn the lan­guage of law to their advan­tage as a mask for their real activ­i­ty which takes place on a plane entire­ly dif­fer­ent to that of the law and its pro­hi­bi­tions. In oth­er forms of soci­ety, such as feu­dal soci­ety, one might ask whether the law was just a lan­guage serv­ing the same type of dis­course of recov­ery used by the bour­geoisie. Aca­d­e­mic Marx­ism fell head­long into this trap. It took lit­er­al­ly the dis­course of pow­er elab­o­rat­ed by bour­geois soci­ety which makes pow­er appear as a “super­struc­ture” whose orders come down from high. In real­i­ty the­se orders ascend bot­tom up, from the depths of the sys­tem where val­ue is pro­duced. The truth of pow­er, “at least in our soci­ety,” is eco­nom­ic before being polit­i­cal.38

Accord­ing to Fou­cault, Marx helps us to bet­ter under­stand this, at least in those pas­sages of his work where he decon­structs the “mech­a­nisms” through which cap­i­tal exerts its author­i­ty over labor, exploit­ing labor-pow­er so as to increase its “pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.” But, for this to hap­pen the sub­jects must them­selves be made “pro­duc­tive,” thanks to appro­pri­ate pro­ce­dures of sub­jec­tion which are part of the estab­lish­ment of the new econ­o­my. The­se com­plex pro­ce­dures of sub­jec­tion are relat­ed to the estab­lish­ment of the new form of pow­er which, by over­com­ing the alter­na­tive between the indi­vid­u­al and col­lec­tive, con­stant­ly moves back and forth between the sphere of the econ­o­my and that of pol­i­tics. As Fou­cault has explained in a key pas­sage of Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish where he refers in a note to Chap­ter 11/13 of Cap­i­tal on coop­er­a­tion, and to Deleule and Guéry’s Pro­duc­tive Body:

If the eco­nom­ic take-off of the West began with the tech­niques that made pos­si­ble the accu­mu­la­tion of cap­i­tal, it might per­haps be said that the meth­ods for admin­is­ter­ing the accu­mu­la­tion of men made pos­si­ble a polit­i­cal take-off in rela­tion to the tra­di­tion­al, rit­u­al, cost­ly, vio­lent forms of pow­er, which soon fell into dis­use and were super­seded by a sub­tle, cal­cu­lat­ed tech­nol­o­gy of sub­jec­tion. In fact, the two process­es – the accu­mu­la­tion of men and the accu­mu­la­tion of cap­i­tal – can­not be sep­a­rat­ed; it would not have been pos­si­ble to solve the prob­lem of the accu­mu­la­tion of men with­out the growth of an appa­ra­tus of pro­duc­tion capa­ble of both sus­tain­ing them and using them; con­verse­ly, the tech­niques that made the cumu­la­tive mul­ti­plic­i­ty of men use­ful accel­er­at­ed the accu­mu­la­tion of cap­i­tal. At a less gen­er­al lev­el, the tech­no­log­i­cal muta­tions of the appa­ra­tus of pro­duc­tion, the divi­sion of labor and the elab­o­ra­tion of the dis­ci­pli­nary tech­niques sus­tained an ensem­ble of very close rela­tions (cf. Marx, Cap­i­tal, Vol. I, Chap­ter XIII and the very inter­est­ing analy­sis in Guéry and Deleule). Each makes the oth­er pos­si­ble and nec­es­sary; each pro­vides a mod­el for the oth­er. The dis­ci­pli­nary pyra­mid con­sti­tut­ed the small cell of pow­er with­in which the sep­a­ra­tion, coor­di­na­tion and super­vi­sion of tasks was imposed and made effi­cient; and ana­lyt­i­cal par­ti­tion­ing of time, ges­tures and bod­i­ly forces con­sti­tut­ed an oper­a­tional schema that could eas­i­ly be trans­ferred from the groups to be sub­ject­ed to the mech­a­nisms of pro­duc­tion; the mas­sive pro­jec­tion of mil­i­tary meth­ods onto indus­tri­al orga­ni­za­tion was an exam­ple of this mod­el­ling of the divi­sion of labor fol­low­ing the mod­el laid down by the schemata of pow­er. But, on the oth­er hand, the tech­ni­cal analy­sis of the process of pro­duc­tion, its “mechan­i­cal” break­ing-down, were pro­ject­ed onto the labor force whose task it was to imple­ment it: the con­sti­tu­tion of those dis­ci­pli­nary machi­nes in which the indi­vid­u­al forces that they bring togeth­er are com­posed into a whole and there­fore increased is the effect of this pro­jec­tion. Let us say that dis­ci­pline is the uni­tary tech­nique by which the body is reduced as a “polit­i­cal” force at the least cost and max­i­mized as a use­ful force. The growth of a cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my gave rise to the speci­fic modal­i­ty of dis­ci­pli­nary pow­er, whose gen­er­al for­mu­las, tech­niques of sub­mit­ting forces and bod­ies, in short, “polit­i­cal anato­my,” could be oper­at­ed in the most diverse polit­i­cal regimes, appa­ra­tus­es or insti­tu­tions.39

This pas­sage con­firms, with­out hav­ing to decide between the hypoth­e­sis of a Fou­cault who is (still) a Marx­ist and that of Marx who is (already) a Fou­cauldian, that the encoun­ter between the­se two ana­lysts of the mod­ern regime of socia­bil­i­ty had already tak­en place, result­ing in a new con­cep­tion of pow­er, author­i­ty ‚and the sub­ject which can be tak­en as the basis for fur­ther analy­ses.

– Trans­lat­ed by Tijana Okić, Patrick King, and Cory Knud­son

This text was orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten as a con­tri­bu­tion to the col­lec­tive research project head­ed by Macherey, “Savoirs, Tex­tes, Lan­gage,” and first appeared on the group’s web­site, “La philoso­phie au sens large.” It sub­se­quent­ly appeared in a slight­ly mod­i­fied form in Macherey’s 2014 col­lec­tion of essays, Le Sujet des normes. The present trans­la­tion is based on the ini­tial ver­sion. We thank the pub­lish­er of Le sujet des normes, Édi­tions Ams­ter­dam, for allow­ing the release of the trans­la­tion. 

The trans­la­tors would also like to thank David Broder for com­ments on the draft and Sara Mendes for her help with the dia­gram. 


  1. Michel Fou­cault, “Pris­on Talk,” in Power/Knowledge: Select­ed Inter­views and Oth­er Writ­ings1972-1977, ed. Col­in Gor­don, trans. Col­in Gor­don, Leo Mar­shall, John Mepham, and Kate Sop­er (New York: Pan­theon Books, 1980), 53. 

  2. Michel Fou­cault, The His­to­ry of Sex­u­al­i­ty, Vol. 1, trans. Robert Hur­ley (New York: Pan­theon, 1978), 140-141, trans­la­tion mod­i­fied. 

  3. Michel Fou­cault, “The Mesh of Pow­er,” trans. Christo­pher Chit­ty, View­point Mag­a­zine 2 (2012). 

  4. Translator’s Note: This term refers more broad­ly to some­one who is sym­pa­thet­ic to Marx­ism. – T.O. 

  5. This out­look is close to the one adopt­ed by Stéphane Legrand in his “Le marx­is­me oublié de Fou­cault,” Actuel Marx 36.2 (2004), 27-43: “The fun­da­men­tal con­cepts of the Fou­cauldian the­o­ry of pow­er rela­tions in “dis­ci­pli­nary soci­ety” will remain per­ma­nent­ly blind unless they are artic­u­lat­ed with a the­o­ry of exploita­tion and a the­o­ry of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion” (28). We will not, how­ev­er, go so far as to affirm, as Legrand does, that Fou­cauldian the­o­ry was con­struct­ed by rely­ing on a “Marx­ist frame of ref­er­ence” that it stro­ve to hide. The side tak­en by the present study is to reread Marx in light of Fou­cault, rather than explain Fou­cault using Marx, by estab­lish­ing a rela­tion­ship of one-way deter­mi­na­tion or direct lin­eage between the lat­ter and the for­mer. 

  6. Cf. Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Rea­son for Exchange in Archaic Soci­eties, trans. W.D. Halls (New York: W.W. Nor­ton, 1990). 

  7. See the com­men­tary by Engels in his 1891 intro­duc­tion to the Eng­lish edi­tion of Marx’s Wage-Labor and Cap­i­tal

  8. We can ten­ta­tive­ly make this com­par­ison: in an anal­o­gous fash­ion, dur­ing mass, when the sacra­men­tal words are spo­ken, the piece of bread becomes some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. The sys­tem of wage-labor, which is at the basis of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, basi­cal­ly only trans­pos­es the mys­tery of tran­sub­stan­ti­a­tion onto a world­ly lev­el in order to make the high­est prof­it, instead of rais­ing souls toward the heav­en in the hope of earn­ing their sal­va­tion. 

  9. From this per­spec­tive, when Marx intro­duces the con­cept of labor-pow­er into eco­nom­ics, he does so by implic­it­ly refer­ring to the vital­ist con­cep­tion of force, the­o­rized by [Paul-Joseph] Barthez using the notion of “vital force,” then tak­en up by [Marie François Xavier] Bichat when the lat­ter defined life as the dom­i­na­tion of life forces over phys­i­cal forces, and inverse­ly death as the dom­i­na­tion of phys­i­cal forces over life forces. In this view, “liv­ing labor” is labor as action, which encoun­ters nat­u­ral obsta­cles that it seeks to over­come; and “dead labor” is labor as result, rein­te­grat­ed with the givens of nature at the moment when, the action hav­ing been com­plet­ed, death takes hold of life again: the pas­sage from liv­ing labor to dead labor rep­re­sents the entrop­ic con­sump­tion of ener­gy. 

  10. In a per­son­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Éti­en­ne Bal­ibar writes the fol­low­ing in this regard: “Marx is inter­est­ed in the ques­tion of the grow­ing ‘dis­pro­por­tion’ between ‘liv­ing labor’ and ‘dead (or objec­ti­fied) labor,’ that is, the fact that with the devel­op­ment of cap­i­tal­ist ‘pro­duc­tiv­i­ty’ an ever small­er quan­ti­ty of ‘liv­ing labor’ is able to be set in motion, or ‘bring back to life’ – reac­ti­vate – an ever greater quan­ti­ty of ‘dead labor.’ This can be read ‘pos­i­tive­ly’ (the pro­duc­tive pow­er of labor-pow­er con­tin­u­ous­ly increas­es) or indeed ‘neg­a­tive­ly’ (liv­ing labor is invari­ably dom­i­nat­ed by dead labor); obvi­ous­ly, the Promethean demi­ur­gy of the ‘social­ist’ Marx con­nects the­se two per­spec­tives as suc­ces­sive moments, of alien­ation and dis­alien­ation. But what’s espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing, from the per­spec­tive of the cri­tique of polit­i­cal econ­o­my, is the shift to the notion of val­ue: in real­i­ty, the basis of Marx’s argu­ment con­cern­ing the pro­duc­tion of sur­plus val­ue is that the labor process simul­ta­ne­ous­ly oper­ates on two lev­els: it ‘con­serves’ the val­ue of means of pro­duc­tion (that is to say it recre­ates or repro­duces it) and it ‘adds’ new val­ue (which only in part, an ever dimin­ish­ing part, cor­re­sponds to the repro­duc­tion of labor-power)…Marx’s implic­it doc­trine is the inverse of the ‘log­i­cal’ order of the deriva­tion of con­cepts: ‘sur­plus val­ue’ is in fact the con­di­tion of ‘val­ue’ and not the oth­er way around, since (in the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion) there is no repro­duc­tion of the val­ue of the means of pro­duc­tion by liv­ing labor unless new sur­plus val­ue is pro­duced. In this sense, the ‘raven­ing appetite’ of accu­mu­la­tion is always-already inscribed in the process of the ‘expen­di­ture of labor-pow­er’ and this is what the notion of the ‘organ­ic com­po­si­tion of cap­i­tal’ claims.Perhaps we can go so far as to say, extend­ing this analy­sis, that, in the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, the lim­it between what is val­ue prop­er­ly speak­ing and what is sur­plus val­ue is nev­er clear­ly defined, enabling their rela­tion­ship to be con­stant­ly rene­go­ti­at­ed with the aim of what the cap­i­tal­ist calls, in their speci­fic ter­mi­nol­o­gy, ‘growth’; that is to say, not growth in itself, but growth that serves his inter­ests, cor­re­spond­ing to increased exploita­tion through an increase in the “pro­duc­tiv­i­ty” of labor-pow­er, an unsta­ble and infinite­ly flex­i­ble com­bi­na­tion of liv­ing labor and dead labor.” 

  11. Jean-Pier­re Lefeb­vre, “Force(s) productive(s),” in Dic­tio­n­naire cri­tique du marx­is­me, ed. Gérard Ben­sus­san and Georges Lab­i­ca (Paris: PUF, 1982), 466-471. Translator’s note: In the Pen­guin trans­la­tion of Cap­i­tal, Marx’s con­cepts Pro­duk­tivkraft and Pro­duk­tivkräfte are ren­dered by “pro­duc­tive pow­er” in the sin­gu­lar, and as “pro­duc­tive forces” or less fre­quent­ly “pro­duc­tive pow­ers” in the plu­ral. –T.O. 

  12. François Guéry and Didier Deleule, The Pro­duc­tive Body, trans. Philip Barnard and Stephen Shapiro (New York: Zero Books, 2014). 

  13. Translator’s note: Most like­ly a ref­er­ence to Lau­rence Parisot, a CEO and for­mer head of the main French employ­ers’ fed­er­a­tion, MEDEF. Macherey may have in mind “spec­u­la­tion” such as the fol­low­ing: “Life, health and love are pre­car­i­ous, so why should work escape this law?” As Pres­i­dent of MEDEF, Parisot called for the “mod­ern­iza­tion” of the labor code, the aban­don­ment of the legal dura­tion of work­ing time, and for “the enter­prise [to be placed] at the heart of French soci­ety.” – T.O. 

  14. The slang expres­sion “boulon­ner,” for “to work,” is thus par­tic­u­lar­ly sig­nif­i­cant. Translator’s note: Macherey is refer­ring to “boulons” in the French text, mean­ing “bolts.” –T.O. 

  15. Translator’s Note: It is also Chap­ter 14 of the Eng­lish-lan­guage edi­tion. 

  16. Marx, op. cit., 466-467. 

  17. The demon­stra­tion of the uncer­tain­ties relat­ing to the usage of the term “sec­ond nature” under­pins the anthro­pol­o­gy of the non-intrin­sic [impro­pre] devel­oped by Bertrand Ogilvie in his book, La sec­on­de nature du poli­tique – Essai d’anthropologie neg­a­tive [The Sec­ond Nature of the Polit­i­cal –An Essay in Neg­a­tive Anthro­pol­o­gy] (Paris: L’Harmattan 2012), which explains how this astound­ing philosophe­me is “ani­mat­ed by a move­ment of inter­nal con­tes­ta­tion, or nega­tion, which describes an essence that looks beyond but refus­es in the end to tran­scend itself, with­out how­ev­er absolute­ly uphold­ing its imma­nence” (83). We pro­pose here to show how this same ambi­gu­i­ty cuts across the cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my when, in the grip of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty fever, it begins to employ labor-pow­er as a “pro­duc­tive” pow­er and no longer sim­ply a pow­er that pro­duces. 

  18. Bour­dieu defines habi­tus as the “sys­tem of durable and trans­pos­able dis­po­si­tions, struc­tured struc­tures pre­dis­posed to func­tion as struc­turat­ing struc­tures, that is, as the gen­er­at­ing prin­ci­ples of the prac­tices and rep­re­sen­ta­tions that can be objec­tive­ly adapt­ed to their out­comes with­out pre­sup­pos­ing a con­scious aim­ing at ends or an express mas­tery of the oper­a­tions nec­es­sary to attain them.” Cf. Pier­re Bour­dieu, The Log­ic of Prac­tice, trans. Richard Nice (Stan­ford: Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1990), 53. 

  19. Fou­cault, “The Mesh of Pow­er,” op. cit., trans­la­tion mod­i­fied. 

  20. Michel Fou­cault, “The Sub­ject and Pow­er,” Dits et Ecrits, t. IV, éd. (Paris: Gal­li­mard, 1994), 236-237, Essen­tial Works of Fou­cault, 1954-1984, Vol. 3, ed. James D.Faubion, trans. Robert Hur­ley and Oth­ers, New Press, 2000, 341, Translator’s note: the ver­sion used here is from Crit­i­cal Inquiry, 8.4 (1982), trans. Leslie Sawyer, 777-795, trans­la­tion mod­i­fied. –T.O. 

  21. This could be trans­lat­ed into a dif­fer­ent lan­guage: in the case of exploit­ed work­ers, class con­scious­ness can­not be auto­mat­i­cal­ly deduced from class being, from which it is, on the con­trary, ini­tial­ly dis­so­ci­at­ed. 

  22. Michel Fou­cault, Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish, trans. Alan Sheri­dan, (New York: Vin­tage Books, 1977), 218. 

  23. Marx, op. cit. (1976), 439. 

  24. Ibid., 441. 

  25. Translator’s note: “l’union fait la force” intro­duces a play on words on the notion of pow­er as capac­i­ty, force, and strength which in French can be con­veyed by the same word “force,” but is untrans­lat­able as a sin­gle word in Eng­lish. –T.O. 

  26. Ibid., 443. 

  27. Ibid., 447. In the chap­ter of Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish devot­ed to “docile bod­ies,” Fou­cault cites an abridged ver­sion of this last pas­sage from Cap­i­tal; Fou­cault, Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish, (New York: Vin­tage Books, 1977), 163. 

  28. Translator’s note: “En masse” also alludes to the “force d’une masse,” the col­lec­tive pow­er, aris­ing from the trans­for­ma­tion of labor-pow­er into social labor-pow­er through com­bi­na­tion in the cap­i­tal­ist labor process, and embod­ied in the pro­duc­tive sub­ject, the col­lec­tive work­er. –T.O. 

  29. Legrand, op. cit., 32. 

  30. Fou­cault sharply cor­rect­ed him­self on this point in lat­er inter­ven­tions where he under­li­nes the fac­tu­al char­ac­ter of his analy­ses that guards them from the temp­ta­tion of essen­tial­ism. For exam­ple, in his con­tri­bu­tion to the vol­ume L’impossible pris­on [The Impos­si­ble Pris­on] edit­ed by Michelle Per­ot, he writes, in a spir­it one might call Der­ridean: “It is nec­es­sary to demys­ti­fy the instance of the real as a total­i­ty to be restored. There is no “the” real that could be regained if one was to speak of all things or cer­tain things more “real” than oth­ers, that one would let slip, to the advan­tage of incon­sis­tent abstrac­tions, if one lim­it­ed one­self to show­ing oth­er ele­ments and oth­er rela­tions. It is per­haps also nec­es­sary to exam­ine the prin­ci­ple, often implic­it­ly assumed, that the only real­i­ty that his­to­ry should lay claim to is soci­ety itself. A type of ratio­nal­i­ty, a way of think­ing, a pro­gram, a tech­nique, a set of ratio­nal and coor­di­nat­ed efforts, objec­tives that are defined and pur­sued, instru­ments to achieve it, etc., all this is real even if it does not claim to be “real­i­ty” itself nor “the” entire soci­ety. And the gen­e­sis of this real­i­ty, once the rel­e­vant fac­tors are brought to bear, is per­fect­ly legit­i­mate.” (« La pous­sière et le nuage » [“The Dust and the Cloud”], 1980, Dits et Ecrits, t. IV, éd. Gal­li­mard, 1994, 15.) And, dur­ing the round­table that fol­lowed the pre­sen­ta­tion of this text, he stat­ed in sup­port of this gen­er­al the­sis: “I do not think we can speak of “ratio­nal­iza­tion” in itself with­out, on the one hand, pre­sup­pos­ing the absolute val­ue of rea­son and with­out expos­ing our­selves, on the oth­er, to the dan­ger of lump­ing togeth­er any­thing and every­thing under the head­ing of ratio­nal­iza­tions. I think we should lim­it this word to an instru­men­tal and rel­a­tive meaning…We are not say­ing that prac­tices should be mea­sured in terms of a ratio­nal­i­ty that judges them as more or less per­fect forms of ratio­nal­i­ty; rather the ques­tion is how the forms of ratio­nal­iza­tion form part of prac­tices or sys­tems of prac­tices, and what role they play in the­se” (Id., 26). In oth­er words, there are only region­al and tem­po­ral ratio­nal­i­ties and prac­tices of ratio­nal­iza­tion that are rel­a­tive in each case to the con­junc­ture in which they oper­ate, and we can­not auto­mat­i­cal­ly extend their action to oth­er cir­cum­stances. 

  31. Marx, op. cit., 448-449, trans­la­tion mod­i­fied. Translator’s note: The orig­i­nal has: “Diese Funk­tion der Leitung, Überwachung und Ver­mit­tlung, wird zur Funk­tion des Kap­i­tals…” The French edi­tion used by Macherey has “medi­a­tion” for “Ver­mit­tlung.” In the Pen­guin edi­tion, the lat­ter is trans­lat­ed as “adjust­ment,” which is some­what impre­cise. The pas­sage con­tains anoth­er usage of “medi­a­tion” (retained also in the French edi­tion): “Alle unmit­tel­bar gesellschaftliche oder gemein­schaftliche Arbeit auf größtem Maßstab bedarf mehr oder min­der ein­er Direk­tion, welche die Har­monie der indi­vidu­el­len Tätigkeit­en ver­mit­telt und die all­ge­meinen Funk­tio­nen vol­lzieht, die aus der Bewe­gung des pro­duk­tiven Gesamtkör­per­sim Unter­schied von der Bewe­gung sein­er selb­ständi­gen Organe entsprin­gen.” In the French edi­tion, “Überwachung” is trans­lat­ed as “sur­veil­lance.” The Pen­guin edi­tion has “super­in­tend­ing” and “super­vi­sion,” which is used inter­change­ably. We have insert­ed the lat­ter for the sake of con­sis­ten­cy. –T.O. 

  32. Fou­cault, Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish, 175. 

  33. Translator’s note: The cita­tion is: “The work of direct­ing, super­vi­sion and medi­a­tion becomes one of the func­tions of cap­i­tal, from the moment that the labor under capital’s con­trol becomes co-oper­a­tive. As a speci­fic func­tion of cap­i­tal, the direct­ing func­tion acquires its own spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics.” See Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish, 175, where it has been incor­po­rat­ed into the main body of the text. –T.O. 

  34. Marx, op. cit. (1976), 450. In a note in Dis­ci­pline and Pun­ish (163-4), Fou­cault cites the last phrase of this pas­sage [in fact it is from a dif­fer­ent pas­sage repro­duced in Macherey’s text from Cap­i­tal, 443-trans.] from the chap­ter of Cap­i­tal on coop­er­a­tion, which, accord­ing to him, under­li­nes “the anal­o­gy between the prob­lems of the divi­sion of labor and those of mil­i­tary tac­tics.” More gen­er­al­ly, he con­sid­ers that the true genius (in the sense of the spir­it of inven­tion, inge­ni­um) of cap­i­tal­ism con­sist­ed in trans­fer­ring tech­ni­cal pro­ce­dures of pow­er and com­mand that were first elab­o­rat­ed in mil­i­tary orga­ni­za­tion to the devel­op­ment of the labor process. 

  35. Ibid., 451. 

  36. Fou­cault, op. cit. (1978), 86. 

  37. Thus a respon­se is pro­vid­ed to the ques­tion raised by Mitchell Dean in his study Crit­i­cal and Effec­tive His­to­ries. Foucault’s Meth­ods and His­tor­i­cal Soci­ol­o­gy: “How is it pos­si­ble that a headless body so often behaves as if it did indeed have one?” (cit­ed by Thomas Lemke in his study “Marx sans guillemets,” in Marx et Fou­cault, Actuel Marx, PUF, 2004, 15). Lib­er­al soci­ety, which pro­fess­es the end of ide­olo­gies, prac­tices ide­ol­o­gy in the para­dox­i­cal form of its nega­tion and absence, allow­ing it to inte­grate ide­ol­o­gy into its oper­a­tion by simul­ta­ne­ous­ly depriv­ing ide­ol­o­gy of the char­ac­ter of a lofty dis­course, pro­claimed from on high, as if it came from the top. 

  38. In the fourth lesson of his course at the Col­lège de France in 1977-1978 (under the gen­er­al title, “Secu­ri­ty, Ter­ri­to­ry, Pop­u­la­tion”), pub­lished sep­a­rate­ly in 1978 under the title “Gov­ern­men­tal­i­ty,” Fou­cault explains, refer­ring to Ques­nay and Rousseau, that: “I believe that the essen­tial issue of gov­ern­ment will be the intro­duc­tion of econ­o­my into polit­i­cal practice…To gov­ern a state will thus mean the appli­ca­tion of econ­o­my, the estab­lish­ment of an econ­o­my, at the lev­el of the state as a whole, that is to say, the exer­cise of super­vi­sion and con­trol over its inhab­i­tants, wealth, and the con­duct of each and every­body, as atten­tive as that of a father over his house­hold and goods.” See Michel Fou­cault, Secu­ri­ty, Ter­ri­to­ry, Pop­u­la­tion, Lec­tures at the Col­lège de France, 1977-8, edit­ed by Michel Senel­lart, trans. Gra­ham Burchell (Lon­don: Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2007), 133. By trans­fer­ring pol­i­tics to the plane of the econ­o­my, mod­ern gov­ern­ment at the same time trans­forms the econ­o­my into a pol­i­tics in its own right. 

  39. Fou­cault, op. cit. (1976), 220-221. 

Author of the article

is Professor of Philosophy at Université Lille Nord de France.