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Which clippings match 'Monad' keyword pg.1 of 1
22 JULY 2014

The Arcades Project: a world of secret affinities

"the entire Arcades complex (without definitive title, to be sure) remained in the form of several hundred notes and reflections of varying length, which Benjamin revised and grouped in sheafs, or 'convolutes;' according to a host of topics. Additionally, from the late Twenties on, it would appear, citations were incorporated into these materials–passages drawn mainly from an array of nineteenth–century sources, but also from the works of key contemporaries (Marcel Proust, Paul Valery, Louis Aragon, Andre Breton, Georg Sinunel, Ernst Bloch, Siegfried Kracauer, Theodor Adorno). These proliferating individual passages, extracted from their original context like collectibles, were eventually set up to communicate among themselves, often in a rather subterranean manner. The organized masses of historical objects–the particular items of Benjamin's display (drafts and excerpts)–together give rise to 'a world of secret affinities;' and each separate article in the collection, each entry, was to constitute a 'magic encyclopedia' of the epoch from which it derived. An image of that epoch. In the background of this theory of the historical image, constituent of a historical 'mirror world;' stands the idea of the monad–an idea given its most comprehensive formulation in the pages on origin in the prologue to Benjamin's book on German tragic drama, Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels (Origin of the German Trauerspiel)–and back of this the doctrine of the reflective medium, in its significance for the object, as expounded in Benjamin's 1919 dissertation, 'Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik' (The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism). At bottom, a canon of (nonsensuous) similitude rules the conception of the Arcades."

(Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, p.x)

Benjamin, Walter (2002). "Das Passagen–werk [The Arcades Project]", US: Harvard University Press. 0674008022
Fig.1 Edizioni Brogi (circa 1880). No.4608 "Ottagono della Galleria Vittorio Emanuele", Milano.



193519th century • a world in miniature • a world of secret affinities • affinityAndre Bretonarcadescitationcollectibles • convolutes • department stores • documentary synopsis • encyclopaedia • epoch • Ernst Bloch • expose • Georg Sinunel • historical image • historical objects • Institute of Social Research • Louis Aragon • magic encyclopaedia • Marcel Proustmirror worldmonad • monadology • nostalgic tributenostalgic yearningnotes • original context • Parispassages couvertsPaul Valery • reflections • sheafs • Siegfried Kracauer • similitudeThe Arcades ProjectTheodor Adorno • topics • Walter Benjamin


Simon Perkins
04 OCTOBER 2005

Regulation through discourses/practices

"The prison operates through the production of norms to divide the population into prisoners and non–prisoners. Since the goal of the prison is to return prisoners to the status of non–prisoners, there must be a criterion, one carefully and comprehensively elaborated, to recognise the non–prisoner, the prisoner, and the developmental stages in the change from the one to the other. There must also be a detailed regimen to effectuate the change. There must finally be a method or system of keeping track of the change in each prisoner. Foucault borrows from Bentham the term Panopticon (one who sees all) to denote the entire apparatus of defining the norm, disciplining the negative term, observing the change from the negative to the positive and studying the whole process so that it can be perfected. But there is a difference. For Bentham the Panopticon was an artifice that deflected the criminal's mind from the irrationality of transgression to the rationality of the norm. It imposed social authority on the prisoner in a constant, total manner. The prisoner's actions could be monitored by guards at any time but without his ever knowing it. The prisoner would, in Rousseau's phrase, be forced to be free. With no escape or reprieve from the Panoptical eye, the prisoner would accept the authority of the norm with its rational system of pleasures and pains. For Foucault the task is to see the system as an imposition of a structure of domination, not as a rational, humanist intention. As we know, the Panopticon, evaluated on the standards of liberal and Benthamite theory, is a failure. Foucault's aim is to grasp the workings of the Panopticon outside the liberal framework: if it does not reform prisoners, what does it do? What are the effects of the social text of the prison, of Panoptical discourse? His argument is that the prison, in the context of a liberal capitalist society that celebrates the anarchy of the marketplace, the chaos of free monads pursuing infinite wants, the rationality of the unhindered subject – the prison in this world imposes the technology of power, the 'micropolitics' of the norm. In capitalist society, regulation takes the form of discourses/practices that produce and reproduce the norm. The school, the asylum, the factory, the barracks to greater or lesser degrees and with considerable variation all imitate the Panopticon. In modern society power is imposed not by the personal presence and brute force of a caste of nobles as it was in earlier times but by the systematic scribblings in discourses, by the continual monitoring of daily life, adjusting and readjusting ad in finitum the norm of individuality. Modern society may be read as a discourse in which nominal freedom of action is canceled by the ubiquitous look of the other. It may be interpreted semiologically as a field of signs in which the metadiscourse of the Panopticon is reimposed everywhere, even in places in which it is not installed. We may suggest that the free individual requires a repressed other, a sort of external super–ego, an absent father if only to guarantee his or her freedom."

(Mark Poster pp.90–91)

Poster, Mark. 1990 The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. ISBN: 0745603262



asylumauthority • barracks • biopolitical power relationscapitalismcontrolcultural normsdisciplinediscipline and punishmentdiscoursedominationfactoryJeremy Bentham • liberal capitalist society • Mark Poster • metadiscourse • Michel Foucaultmonadmonitoringnormspanopticonpracticeprisonprisonerpunishmentregulationrulesschoolsocial normsthe other

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