# FOUCAULT /// Episode 4: The Cartography of Power

Panopticon plan by Jeremy Bentham (1791)

In the last ‘episode’, I was evoking the will of Michel Foucault to be considered as a cartographer. In a text written for the journal Critique (dec 1975), Gilles Deleuze proposes an analysis of the book Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la prison (Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison) under the title: Un Nouveau Cartographe (A new cartographer). Through this text, Deleuze introduces Foucault’s method to map the mechanisms of power (which legitimizes somehow the fact that he has been called a structuralist) as well as his very definition of power: (French original version is at the end of this article)

[Power] is less a property than a strategy, and its effects cannot be attributed to an appropriation ‘but to dispositions, manoeuvres, tactics, techniques, functionings’; ‘it is exercised rather than possessed; it is not the “privilege”, acquired or preserved, of the dominant class, but the overall effect of its strategic positions.’

Power has no essence; it is simply operational. It is not an attribute but a relation: the power-relation is the set of possible relations between forces, which passes through the dominated forces no less than through the dominating, as both these forces constitute unique elements

Deleuze Gilles, Foucault trans Sean Hand. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.

If Power is not an attribute but rather a relation, one can understand the necessity to map this system of relation between its various actors. This abstract map is not a geographical one but rather, what I would call, a dynamographic one (dynamo is the greek root for power or force). It does not insist so much on the actuality but rather on the potentiality of actualization of power.

What can we call such a new informal dimension? On one occasion Foucault gives it its most precise name: it is a ‘diagram’, that is to say a ‘functioning, abstracted from any obstacle [. . .] or friction [and which] must be detached from any specific use’.18 The diagram is no longer an auditory or visual archive but a map, a cartography that is coextensive with the whole social field. It is an abstract machine. It is defined by its informal functions and matter and in terms of form makes no distinction between content and expression, a discursive formation and a non-discursive formation. It is a machine that is almost blind and mute, even though it makes others see and speak.

What is a diagram? It is a display of the relations between forces which constitute power in the above conditions: “The panoptic mechanism is not simply a hinge, a point of exchange between a mechanism of power and a function; it is a way of making power relations functions in a function, and of making a function through these power relations.” We have seen that the relations between forces, or power relations, were microphysical, strategic, multipunctual and diffuse, that they determined particular features and constituted pure functions. The diagram or abstract machine is the map of relations between forces, a map of destiny, or intensity, which proceeds by primary non-localizable relations and at every moment passes through every point, ‘or rather in every relation from one point to another’.

Deleuze Gilles, Foucault trans Sean Hand. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.

The Panopticon is indeed the most well-known of this diagrams invented by Foucault and we have been referring to it many time in previous articles. What is usually misunderstood about it however, is the fact that Foucault was using it as a paradigm of the disciplinary society, and is therefore not applicable to the current Western society. The Panopticon places the exerciser of power in the center of this circular prison. The prisoners in the periphery are subjected to this power and cannot communicate between each other. Many people have been invoking this diagram to describe processes of surveillance (such as CCTV) from the various instances of order. These processes are however, mostly symbolic and apply a power only by suggestion. The society of control that many of us live in tends to make this transcendental application of power (the central proctor in his tower) disappear to replace it by the immanent construction of normative behaviors. A new paradigmatic diagram/cartography has therefore to be invented to describe such a scheme of the application of power. Foucault had chosen to ‘flatten’ an architecture into a diagram to represent the society of discipline, we can do the same with another one, BIG’s Stockholmsporten to represent the society of control. In this regard, the sequel of this article could be the following one I wrote in April 2011 about this project:

The Architectural Paradigm of Society of Control: The Immanent Panopticon

Original French version of the texts quoted:

[Le pouvoir] est moins une propriété qu’une stratégie, et ses effets ne sont pas attribuables a une appropriation, « mais a des dispositions, a des manœuvres, a des tactiques, a des techniques, a des fonctionnements » ; « il s’exerce plutôt qu’il ne possède, il n’est pas le privilège acquis ou conserve de la classe dominante, mais l’effet d’ensemble de ses positions stratégiques. » p33

Le pouvoir n’a pas d’essence, il est opératoire. Il n’est pas attribut, mais rapport : la relation de pouvoir est l’ensemble des rapports de forces, qui ne passe pas moins par les forces dominées que par les dominantes, toutes deux constituant des singularités. P35

Comment appeler cette nouvelle dimension informelle ? Foucault lui donne une fois son nom le plus précis : c’est un « diagramme », c’est-a-dire un « fonctionnement abstrait de tout obstacle ou frottement…et qu’on doit détacher de tout usage spécifique ». Le diagramme, ce n’est plus l’archive, auditive ou visuelle, c’est la carte, la cartographie, coextensive a tout le champ social. C’est une machine abstraite. Se définissant par des fonctions et des matières informelles, elle ignore toute distinction de forme entre un contenu et une expression, entre une formation discursive et une formation non-discursive. C’est une machine presque muette et aveugle, bien que ce soit elle qui fasse voir, et qui fasse parler. P42

Qu’est ce qu’un diagramme? C’est l’exposition des rapports de forces qui constituent le pouvoir, d’après les caractères analyses précédemment. « Le dispositif panoptique n’est pas simplement une charnière, un échangeur entre un mécanisme de pouvoir et une fonction, c’est une manière de faire fonctionner des relations de pouvoir dans un fonction, et une fonction par ces relations de pouvoir ». Nous avons vu que les rapports de forces, ou de pouvoir, étaient microphysiques, stratégiques, multiponctuels, diffus, qu’ils déterminaient des singularités et constituaient des fonctions pures. Le digramme ou la machine abstraite, c’est la carte des rapports de forces, carte de densité, d’intensité, qui procède par liaisons primaires non-localisables, et qui passe a chaque instant par tout point, « ou plutôt dans toute relation d’un point a un autre ».  P44

Deleuze Gilles, Foucault Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1986.

4 Comments on “# FOUCAULT /// Episode 4: The Cartography of Power

  1. Pingback: # FOUCAULT /// Episode 5: The Political Technology of the Body | The Funambulist

  2. Pingback: The Funambulist on Foucault | Progressive Geographies

  3. Pingback: Foucault: cartografia, arquitectura y poder « Filosofía Contemporanea

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