Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Heteronomy and Autonomy in Social Time

“It is obviously the illusion of the historian – our illusion, necessary to all of us – to measure eternity on the basis of his own life expectancy and to consider that whatever does not change for three centuries is 'stable.' But change the scale of time, and the stars in the heaves will step to a dizzy dance.”

Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society tr. Kathleen Blamey (Malden: Polity, 1987), 186.

Autonomy is the opportunity for both polyrhythmia and arrythmia, concerted repetition and novel creation, successes and failures, it has definite historical and material antecedents, and accidents, the most glaring of which is social dissociation and the dissolution of social existence forms. The historical conditions of autonomy, self-legislation, is an acceleration of social intercourse, but one which inaugurates the alienated and mediated form of the contract, a self-binding or subordination which becomes expressed a contradiction within society. Trading cities were made great by their indeterminacy, their aleatory flux or becoming; the modern world-empires have, in their turn, made themselves great by propagating their greatest cities, and thus extending the fields of immanence of these cities, the spaces they share on the planes of consistency that their cities connect to and relate to; a geometry of the formations and diformities of social action and interaction through time; a topography of the relative speeds and slownesses of the various social formations and a microphysics of their attractions or repulsions to one another. The object of consideration, then, is the contrasting modes of temporality that the city and the hinterland give rise to, i.e. the qualitative character of their respective rhythms and the causal substance of their divergence and mutation. Henri Lefebvre writes that cyclicality temporality “originates in the cosmic, in nature: days, nights, seasons, the waves and tides of the sea, monthly cycles, etc.,”1 whereas linear temporality stems from “social practice.”2 The city undoes the fabric of its surrounding hinterlands and transforms the manner in which it relates to itself (the hinterland comes to relate to itself through and by the city), the world-empires who are beholden to their great cities even moreso, and thus the object of consideration is also the structural character of that which is not identical to itself, the non-identical, torsions or contradictions within society. So, on the one hand there is cyclical, formative, slow or frozen time of the hinterlands, and on the other there are aleatory fluxes, or becomings, bound up with cities, their indeterminacies and immanences, the world-formations that cities give rise to. 

Heteronomy is the social fact of orders premised upon the concerted suppression and abstention from thought, the atrophy of conscious life, the capitulation to social existence forms in which conscious thought figures seldom or never, with a low degree of scope or intensity. Kant defines heteronomy as the condition under which the “the will would not give itself the law but a foreign impulse would give the law to it by means of the subject's nature, which is attuned to be receptive to it.”3 Territory and territorial control gives rise to heteronomy, and the forgetting of irreversible time, the erosion or subversion of this control gives rise to both the inventions and accidents of irreversible time. Heteronomy, autonomy, and accident, are therefore three modes of subjectification, occuring under two modes of temporality; the first, wherein the exterior milieu gives law to the subject [subjectus], cyclical temporality; the second, wherein the subject gives law to its exterior milieu [subjectum], irreversible time; and the third, in which the exterior milieu fails to give law to the subject, or the subject fails to give law to its exterior milieu, and indeed both, also irreversible time. Autonomy and accident straddle subjectum, as the properly Cartesian subject, and the subjectus, as the properly Hobbsian man of State, they are the concrete material circumstances which both Descartes and Hobbes attempted to chart, but insofar as these concrete circumstances were processes, their respective descriptions of subjectivity miss the real agencies of subjectification (those processes which make the subject supple to the State or isolate it from the State completely).

Accident historically represents the substrate of the intensification of social intercourse and irreversible time, and invention, concerted and societal autonomy, historically represents the exception, rather than the rule. Social autonomy, the substantive proliferation of autonomous thought and action, is precariously composed from the ebbs and flows of eroded control, Empires crumble, cities fail, Autonomy and accident are, in many ways, inextricable. Heteronomy and autonomy concern the degree to which the law is imprinted on the material substrate of history, and the extent to which this material substrate is able to make this law, this imprint, function otherwise than it was intended, to internalize law as opposed to control; accident concerns the short-circuiting or manipulation of the former, but an incapacity for the latter, becoming free from imprint and cyclical time, but without law, and thus substantively unfree (i.e. becoming dissociated). Kant writes that heternomy is essentially the causality of a preceding state, or set of conditions, whereas autonomy is “the faculty of beginning a state from itself, the causality of which does not in turn stand under another cause determining it in time”4 insofar as “reason creates the idea of a spontaneity, which could start to act from itself, without needing to be preceeded by any other cause that in turn determines it to action according to the law of causal connection.”5 In other words, autonomy concerns the capacity for instituting conditions, but this generative effect is determined after the fact, where the fact is the receptivity or resistance of masses to the conditions of external necessity. Deleuze and Guattari write that the binding contract “appears as the proceeding of subjectification, the outcome of which is subjection,”6 it is conditioned by a political distribution which exceeds it and apportions its relative allotments. Thus, Kant argues, practical freedom is “the real moment”7 of the difficulties encountered by the transcendental idea of freedom, and that, thus, “freedom in the practical sense is the independence of the power of choice from necessitation by impulses of sensibility.”8 The disruption, erosion, and subversion of heteronomy provides the historical conditions for the emergence of autonomy, but it neither guarantees it nor necessitates it; its collapse is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the social proliferation of autonomy. Castoriadis writes that the autonomy of society requires the “explicit recognition that the institution of society is self-institution.”9 Heteronomy is the obfuscation of this social fact, which transmutes obedience to the pathological character of frozen time into a present social and political framework, and society institutes itself as heteronomic, as refusing the obligations of action and intercourse that such a recognition would entail.

Heteronomy is distinguished from Autonomy, its subfunctions, and accident, by its entropy, its tendency to uniformal, uniaccentual, univocality, the repetition of heard phrases which come to appear obligatory in this or that concrete situation; heteronomy lacks dissociation by virtue of its asociality, it's incredibly asphyxiating and isolate conditions of social intercourse. Homogenous magnitudes under an unlimited governmental power lack abortive or diformed thought insofar as their conditions of production do not engender it, “much as a bag with potatoes constitutes a potato-bag.”10

Autonomy is distinct from physis, and includes Poïesis among its subfunctions, it is not becoming but rather command over the internal consistency of becoming, a gap between dominated by necessity and a formal command over that necessity; Kant calls this 'transcendence.' Indeed, he writes, “a principle that takes away these limits, which indeed bids us to overstep them, is called transcendent.”11 Autonomy is a transcendence of heteronomy and accident, it is transcendental insofar as its regulative ideal is not empirically constrained; heteronomy is merely physical insofar as it replicates the process itself, it generates no emergent properties. Lest one imagine that this need necessitate the introduction of spurious metaphysics, the object of consideration is rather bodies of men and women who either are or are not, were or were not, capable of taking the axioms and principles of class conscious thought into their own hands and engineering their own epochs. The difference between autonomy and accident is whether the system becomes constructive and expressive, whether more subjects become autonomous, or whether it merely inaugurates a contrasting and oppositional heteronomy and thus social degeneration; transcendence is the autonomy of the accident, and practical freedom is its concrete manifestation. This transcendence and practical freedom, however, is my no means assured, and is rather the consequence of a particular split between philosophical or conceptual consciousness on the one hand, and material incoherence, chaos, on the other.

In Kojin Karatani's schema of world-systems analysis, the modes of exchange analytic, all material consequences of theological or emotional social connection are indexed under mode of exchange D, i.e. transcendence, the form of exchange in which aspects of each of the other forms of exchange (reciprocal, territorial, and commodity) return in a different and uncanny form. Karatani analyzes the effect of mode of exchange D throughout a very large portion of history, and thus the category remains necessarily general. Karatani indicates that it was Proudhon who divorced mode of exchange D from its theological moorings, premising it rather on the actual concrete development of industrial capitalism, but it is surprising that he missed the opportunity to relate the distinctions of the kinds of actions and utterances one encounters in mode of exchange D back to Immanuel Kant, given Karatani's otherwise Kantian commitments. Mode of exchange D ought to be conceived of as branching into two distinct historical phenomena, which oftentimes overlap geographically and chronologically, irrational and rational modes of exchange D, which is autonomic. Note that theology may be of a rational and autonomous bent, as it was for Feuerbach, just as atheism may be of a heteronomous and irrational bent, as it was for Destutt de Tracy. What determines the rationality or irrationality of a mode of consciousness in a historical circumstance is not its internal consistency, which considered in the abstract would appear wild and irrational anyways, but rather its correspondence between the elements of a situation, that is, how it transcends a concrete situation that is itself irrational. What provides the opportunity for distinguishing historically between the two forms of mode of exchange D are historically irrational situations, times of great chaos and disorder.

Norman Cohn, writing of the late Middle-Ages, notes that “the social situations in which outbreaks of revolutionary millenarianism occurred were in fact remarkably uniform,” that “areas in which the age-old prophecies about the Last Days took on a new, revolutionary meaning and a new, explosive force were the areas which were becoming seriously over-populated and were involved in a process of rapid economic and social change.”12 In situations in which “traditional social bonds were being weakened or shattered and the gap between rich and poor was becoming a chasm. . . a collective sense of impotence and anxiety and envy suddenly discharged itself into a frantic urge to smite the ungodly – and by doing so bring into being, out of suffering inflicted and suffering endured, that final Kingdom where the Saints, clustered around the great sheltering figure of their Messiah, were to enjoy ease and riches, security and power for all eternity.”13 In other words, the development of city-states is characterized by a militant eschatology whose content is not predetermined but is rather constructed, ad hoc, in an irrational or rational manner. Law, imprint, is a function of territorial accretion, whereas this functioning otherwise is extra-territorial. Virilio suggests that when Paris police lieutenant Gabriel Nicolas de La Reynie set about lighting the streets of paris in the mid seventeenth century, it market the invention of both a “transterritoriality of nighttime”14 and an “extraterritorialitity of nightlife.”15 The creation of new existential territorialities gives rise to new material social existence forms and thus the mutation of already existent forms, i.e. “the perverted peasant.”16 Acceleration exhausts expanse, thus making necessary the invention of new territorialities, if not new literal territories, as in the creation of artificial islands. The city is always the space of the extra-territorial functioning otherwise, insofar as the intensification of social intercourse not only gives law to its hinterland, but changes its function.

Autonomy and accident essentially depend upon the development and extension of the forces of production and exchange in society, as heteronomy is dependent upon their retardation, on their non-development. Kinetic situations become divorced from their causal antecedents, and their separation is the premise of their mutual accident, their breakdowns happen within the distance between emission and reception, i.e. bodies at speed. Autonomy is not merely opposed to heteronomy, it represents the emergent properties and capacities of heteronomous masses, which exceed and become alien to heteronomic and static institutions. Autonomy is transcelerative, it is for motion and diformity, mutation, whereas heteronomy is entropic; heteronomic reference is acquiescent, receptive, complaisant, whereas autonomous reference is violent, generative, idiosyncratic. When Nicole Oresme writes that “every velocity is capable of being increased in intensity and decreased in intensity;”17 that “continuous increase in intensity is called acceleration,” which may happen more or less slowly, such that “it sometimes happens that velocity is increasing and acceleration is decreasing,”18 what he captures is the need to describe conditions as processes, rather than as static images of relation, these relations mutate. Cyclical time is eroded by the function of Commodity-Exchange, the consequence of which is the irreversible time of Commodity-Exchange, the aporia is that Commodity-Exchange is as corrosive to heteronomy as autonomy, such that they become physically counterposed in torsion in the world-economy, rather than the one succeeding from and historically triumphing over the other. Commodity-Exchange makes heteronomy and autonomy exist structurally in irrational torsion with one another in the metastable pattern of the heteronomous order and the autonomous and accidental historical classes.

Just before the manuscript breaks off in chapter fifty-two of Capital volume three, Marx writes that those who own merely their own labour, those who own capital, and those who own land, constitute “the three great classes of modern society based on the capitalist mode of production.”19 It is a pity, however, that he only had the opportunity to introduce the problem of the variation of classes, as the inquiry leads back to the torsion or tension between the capitalist modes of production and exchange and their material substrate, “the independent divorce of all landed property from capital and labour, or the transformation of all landed property into the form of landed property corresponding to the capitalist mode of production.”20 Irreversible time and its antecedents, its acceleration of social intercourse, is inserted into the hinterlands in the form of a total asynchrony, a disassociative temporality which is the obverse of pure heteronomic value, and thus the need to distinguish between the threefold identification of economic classes, and the origins of two of these classes from a process which the third undergoes. This third 'class,' the land-owners, function on the basis of stratification and their material force in the world comes to be expressed as the capacity to extort ground-rent, so they have an economic function, but not one which stems from the process which inaugurates the economic as a separate domain. The form and content of territorial control is economically implicated, but perhaps not in such a way as to imply a symmetry between each of the classes, so-called. Rather, territorial control is itself transformed, in part, to police and enforce the speeds and rhythms set by the cities.

Castoriadis argues, rather, that “what is given in and through history is not the determined sequence of the determined but the emergence of radical otherness, immanent creation, non-trivial novelty,”21 and that “it is only on the basis of this radical otherness and creation that we can truly think of temporality and time, the excellent and eminent effective actuality of which we find in history.”22 The dominant perception of temporality and causality is socially contingent, a product of its particular society which perceives itself as culminate and placed, predictably, at the end of the causal chain, whereas History recognizes no such culmination and completion, no such societal narcissism. Temporality is thus bifurcated between a nihilism, an “essential intemporality of a relation of order,”23 on the one hand, and “the very manifestation of the fact that something other than what exists is bringing itself into being,”24 on the other. Heteronomic reference rejects becoming, genesis, mutation, insofar as it designates its own particular historical temporality as closed, it is intempestive, resistant to irreversible time.

“Time can exist only if there is an emergence of what is other, of what is in no way given with what is, what does not go together with it. Time is the emergence of other figures. The points of a line are not other, they are different by means of what they are not – their place.”

Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society tr. Kathleen Blamey (Malden: Polity, 1987), 193.

Castoriadis argues that heteronomy constitutes “the covering over of otherness, the denial of time, society's ignorance of its own social-historical being in so far as these are grounded in the very institution of society such as we know it, namely, such as it has up to now instituted itself.”25 Heteronomy is the social alienation of concrete historical time with respect to its own development, the obscure remainder of “the refusal to see that it institutes itself.”26 He writes that the maintenance and reproduction of heteronomy relies upon a social representation of “an extra-social origin of the institution of society (an origin ascribed to supernatural beings, God, nature, reason, necessity, the laws of history or the being-thus of Being).”27 The character and contour of society is not the product of immanent social relation, according to this precept, but is rather an unapproachable given-in-advance, the organization handed down from above, the past, social superiors, etc. it is the ideology of the causal constitution of non-society, the rationalization of the suppression of the fact of the immanent, immediate, and continual re-institution of the forms of relations it prescribes. Insofar as it treats its own emergence at all it is “situated on a ground where the radical imaginary as social-historical and as radical imagination, indetermination as creation, temporality as essential self-alteration are excluded.”28

Though control over social temporality is inextricably bound up with territoriality, the fixing of time is nonetheless profoundly implicated in ideology, and the conditions and characteristics of temporality are an object of class struggle. Asocial temporalies are a consequence of Commodity-Exchange and irreversible time, and autonomy is the transcendence of this asocial or anti-social character of these temporalities. Such a transcendence would entail an associative elaboration of the quality of social time and a science attendant to the various ideological conceptions of social life of the contending economic classes. The irreversible time of the owning class is one which inaugurates a regime of naturalized accident, whereas the irreversible time of the class who have only their physical labouring power to sell, the workers, denatures this accidental time, exposing its historical contingency. The irreversible time of the owners is divided between a monorhythm and an arrhythmia, the irreversible time of the proletariat is polyrhythmic and polysynchronous, the former is policed time, and sociality is stratified between compliant living-labour and non-compliant living-labour, whereas the latter is stratified between socially necessary labour and free time as the development of the social organism resulting from the unfettered development of the means of production and exchange. Speed both liberates law from its terrestrial accretion, while the processes that allow for this liberation render law impossible for a different reason, the distance between the engineering of a material function and its concrete existence. Castoriadis writes that heteronomy, or “inherited thought,”29 can only perceive causality in virtue of the ensemble that it itself designates, or, in other words, “it can think of succession only from the point of view of identity.”30 The succession is perceived in virtue of its culmination, and in spite of its process, and thus relies on the apriori acquiescence to its own terms of reference and thus “the conclusion is given together with the premises.”31 And yet, as Cohn suggests, the rapidly industrializing urban centers of the Renaissance were characterized by “a state of chronic insecurity,”32 and, indeed, this condition is the basis of the mixed semiotic of Commodity-Exchange, the proliferation of precarious, marginal, and deterritorialized social existence forms.

Heteronomy and autonomy are not counterposed as equivalent political forms, but are rather asymmetrical to one another, the one constitutes a defense of the ruling class materially and ideologically, whereas the other stands for its thoroughgoing decomposition; counterrevolution is the perpetual attempt to reinstitute heteronomy, uniaccentual standard, and cyclicality on the part of the territorialized stratas. The owners of the means of production and exchange becoming a ruling strata whose interests lay with counterrevolution, heternomy, uniaccentual standard, and cyclicality, is the historical accident of autonomy. Thus the autonomy of one economic class came to manufacture the heteronomy of the other: the ideology of the owning class, in 1848, became politically right wing, it announced that it's intention was to preserve the ruling order insofar as it had become the ruling class.

The formulations of heteronomy and autonomy put forward by Kant and Castoriadis, respectively, differ in their figuration of the antecedent causes of both, as for Kant they represent merely self-structurations, whereas for Castoriadis they represent societal structurations. This is why Castoriadis might consider the formal content of Kant's autonomy to be heteronomous, that is, beholden to a particular self-legislation that is partial, contingent, intent on closure. It is not enough to distinguish between personal and societal self-legislation, but rather, in order to clarify the specific sociological character of populations which are practically free in the terms that Kant enumerates, Castoriadis's formulations are necessary. The frozen and cyclical temporality of the heteronomous terrain is not self-legislated away, but done away with by an accretion or agglomeration of self-legislations, which together may comprise and autonomous society, or may simply result in monstrous accidents of both heteronomy and the attempt to inaugurate autonomy. Personal or individual autonomy of the kind that Kant gestures to is a certainty in the context of the erosion of a monotemporal scene, but an autonomous society obviously isn't, and therefore requires a different ontological criteria for assessing the self-legislative. Kant's is a moral and universal self-legislation, the coordination of, and self-subordination to, a system of self-legislation, whereas, for Castoriadis, self-legislation is a particular event, a congregation, a space, a coalescence of actors, whose autonomy is fundamentally and inextricably social. The necessarily interrelated and public character of Castoriadis's conception of an autonomous society is one in which law emerges from social intercourse itself, whereas for Kant this would be an unacceptable concession to sensual and empirical experience.

Social time, polyrythmic and autonomous time, is that temporality which is lived by a self-legislating and heterogeneous masses, usually in the context of the emergent social existence forms, transterritorialities and transtemporalities, of the city. Accidental time, disjunctive, arythmic, desynchonized and chaotic time is the abortive temporality of the social and political contradicitons of the city, its classes and the torsions they give rise to. Heteronomy is unitemporal, monorhythmic, asynchonized and ahistorical, and emerges politically from the social relations which obtain outside of the city and its heterogenous social existence forms, most especially from the hinterland, or what becomes designated as hinterland as a consequence of the social microphysics of its relation to nodal sites of social intercourse, i.e. what accelerative forms transform into their hinterlands. The evacuation of heteronomy from a city's hinterland is its invention as hinterland, just as the construction of autonomy is the transcendence of its accident, or empirical circumstances.

1 Henri Lefebvre, Rhythmanalysis tr. Stuart Elden and Gerald Moore (London: Continuum, 2004), 8.

2 Ibid.

3 Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals tr. Mary Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 50.

4 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason tr. Paul Guyer and Allen Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 533.

5 Ibid.

6 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Capitalism and Schizophrenia: A Thousand Plateaus tr. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 460.

7 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 533.

8 Ibid.

9 Cornelius Castoriadis, World in Fragments: Writings on Politics, Society, Psychoanalysis, and the Imagination tr. David Ames Curtis (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 329.

10 Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (New York: Cosimo, 2008), 84.

11 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 386.

12 Nicholas Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (London: Pimlico, 2004), 53.

13 Ibid, 60.

14 Paul Virilio, A Landscape of Events tr. Julie Rose (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000), 3.

15 Ibid, 2.

16 Ibid.

17 Nicole Oresme, The Configurations of Qualities and Motions tr. Marshall Clagett (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), 283.

18 Ibid.

19 Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy Volume III tr. David Fernbach (London: Penguin, 1991), 1025.

20 Ibid.

21 Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society tr. Kathleen Blamey (Malden: Polity, 1987), 185.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid, 214.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid, 373.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid, 183.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid.

32 Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, 58.

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