The Aesthetic Life of Power

James Millard Garrison IV
2015 unpublished
Subjectivation, the post-structuralist notion that contingency compels normative subjects to perform ritual norms in order to acquire recognition, autonomy, and the means for survival, is a compelling theory for describing the relational bodily self. However, this notion advanced by Michel Foucault and Judith Butler focuses on the psychic life of power at the expense of its creative side, of exploring aesthetic bodily practice. Though lacking a modern critical sensibility, classical
more » ... speaks in similar terms about ritual (li) in everyday life, in its discursive, aesthetic, and normative aspects. The contemporary thinker Li Zehou takes this basic vocabulary and expands it with his notion of subjectality, where early rituals are taken as artistic tools for the Marxian material economy of human survival, formalized in Confucianism, and sedimented with an internal structure of freedom in society's collective unconsciousness as a quasi-Kantian "noumenal humanity." All of this is to say that, society, much like the subject, is itself contingent. Subjectality and similar macro-level approaches (like those found in the respective phenomenological endeavors of Hannah Arendt and Bernard Stiegler) can provide a complementary symmetry to subjectivation by working through the implications with respect to human memory of appearance in the political realm being a kind of technique and subjectivation being a particular technology. Appreciating the root techniques of social and political life in this way brings with it the idea of refining those techniques, namely through the kind of body- focused, self-disciplined practices identified in Richard Shusterman's work on somaesthetics (e.g. t'ai chi ch'uan, yoga, dance, and the martial arts). Making bodily appearance a matter of artistic technique can lead the body to take on a life of its own, as a different type of "Other," with novel modes of self-recognition not beset by unconscious social demands. Engaging subjectivation and subjectality in a comprehensive framework a [...]
doi:10.25365/thesis.39570 fatcat:3rgdvvn4efe4nlawtwt6pikimy