People Are the Source of All Power


Here is a thought whose recurrence in me today was prompted by Commonwealth.  Hardt & Negri insist on Foucault’s argument that power can only be exercised over free subjects.  That is, the nature of power (i.e. biopower, pouvoir, constituted power) is that it tries to act on the free activity of people, either to repress it or to cause it to flow in particular directions.   The free activity of people–their drive that continues to churn, to create, to assert itself–is primary.  (This is what D&G call desiring-production, and we could call it puissance, or constituent power, or, my favorite, kratos.)  We commonly think of domination as sequentially prior to resistance, that domination is imposed and then a resistance is born.  But that is wrong.  Domination must always impose itself on something, and that something is the ongoing free activity of people.  In that sense, resistance is just the temporary guise that already-existing free activity takes as it continues to churn, to escape whatever controls have been imposed so that it can continue its work, continue to pursue its insistent project of creation.

All this made me think of my post on Far From Heaven, in which we can see people heavily constrained by norms of race, class, gender, and sexuality, who nevertheless continue to churn, to desire, to create.


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