Tomislav Medak (Zagreb)

Tomislav Medak, born in 1973, Zagreb, Croatia

Works as research and publishing coordinator in philosophy, social theory and aesthetics at the Multimedia Institute in Zagreb. Is a free software and free culture advocate. Member of Zagreb-based theater company BADco.


>> Lectures/ Presentations/ Panel

Sunday, 24.9., 12 a.m. - 19 p.m.

Moderation: Marina Gržinić (Vienna /Ljubljana)

„Why, It's no Rocket Science! - Critical Theory in Space“


>> Final presentation

Thursday 12.10., 20 p.m.

By and with Ralo Mayer, Philipp Haupt, Maren Grimm, Oliver Gemballa, Tomislav Medak u.a.


>> Contribution in MALMOE 34:

On the Use and Abuse of Intelligence for Life

In what follows we wish to outline some specific ways how intelligence emerges. To reflect on what intelligence we will need much more space than such a text can offer, and yet we do not take this question to be of our primary interest. On how intelligences emerges means to ask about intelligence as potestas [power, authority, domination, empire], while giving its definition describes intelligence as facultas. We propose therefore a dislocation regarding intelligence – from the narrower domain of epistemology into the domain of politics (and, indirectly, art). We assume that intelligence is related to power and that there is no intelligence that is no performing its own staging.

For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who can even comprehend it in thought or put the answer into words? Yet is it not true that in conversation we refer to nothing more familiarly or knowingly than time? And surely we understand it when we speak of it; we understand it also when we hear another speak of it. What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks me, I do not know. (Augustine, Confessions, XI, 14)

1. We should maybe turn the argument around: it's not time that proceeds on the background of knowledge, but knowledge, which emerges taking time as its base. The first case presumes a difference of an implicit and an explicit type of knowledge (implicit: full, explicit: empty), which guarantees the consistency of time. It seems as though time is dividing knowledge and makes it itself so inconsistent that there is no viable transition from one regime of knowledge into another which would be lossless. For Augustine time is such an object that simultaneously divides knowledge into separate domains and creates something which is related to knowledge, but is not itself knowledge. It is a loss/a remainder of knowledge; it is what remains out of the process of transition from implicit to explicit knowledge, and vice versa. This loss/remainder of knowledge (or in Augustine's terms, explanation) is indeed an articulation of knowledge, i.e. that which is no more or not yet a knowledge, but nevertheless somehow related to it. Or differently, articulation is a deficient knowledge – simultaneously something less than knowledge, but also something, which is a remainder of the moment when knowledge passes from its consistent/full to its inconsistent/empty form. A question arises whether such a (structural) deficiency has its root in time as a temporal dimension, or in time as a rhetorical unit, the most familiar and known, as Augustine says. In the latter case time represents a paradigm-case for similar general notions, or maybe even the language in toto. Such an option would mean, to sum it up, that language itself is the instance which disables its own articulation – so that articulation always stands in-between a fully accomplished signification and a meaninglessness of knowledge, as a remainder. If articulation of knowledge proceeds like that, which means that articulation is at the same time deficient and necessary, there is a question if such a process could be subsumed into some stable and general regime of knowledge. For Augustine this question, though important and worth of reflection, is just of marginal interest. Why? In the quoted paragraph the notion of eternity overdetermines the knowledge of time, with God being the instance which guarantees the consistency of knowledge. The argumentative sequence we are introducing here does not assume either of both; on the contrary, the question regarding a general frame where knowledge could be stabilized becomes radicalized to the extreme. Articulation (as a remainder of knowledge) is here understood negatively, as some kind of vicious circle and incessant circulation between two alternative regimes of knowledge. Articulation (of knowledge) in such an understanding is deficient, differential, diffused – and so on, until eternity.

Detour. What happens when knowledge is that which divides or opens up different dimensions of time? When knowledge that is always an articulated knowledge, is no more a loss/a remainder of knowledge bound to a vicious circle, but a moment which enables new sequences, new spaces in time? Is such an articulation identical to the consciousness and to a power of a historical materialist of whom Benjamin speaks in his thesis on history? Is this a power to break up the continuity of enslavement within history? Is this the power of emancipation?

Happy families are all alike; but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Tolstoy, Anna Karenina)

2. The analysis of the enlightened modernity always hinges on questions related to social power. For the authors of Dialectics of Enlightenment, Adorno and Horkheimer, the modern era – despite the obvious progress in technology or economics – has turned against itself, rendering its own foundation dubious. The core-insight of such a critical understanding is based upon the recognition that (both political and social) power has been perverted, i.e. that power has abandoned itself. But this abandonment is not to be understood as if power has abandoned some rationality inherent to it (and consequently that the abandoned power is completely irrational). On the contrary it depicts a process of compressing power. To put it otherwise – while in the past power was concerned with governance, at the present it has begun to care just how to stay in power. In this case again the alternatives are not of exclusive nature, though the initial quantitative difference has become a qualitative one. Governance gets simultaneously radicalized, depotentialized and rationalized in regard to the question how to stay in power. As the result, power (both political and social) becomes a distinct realm of human praxis – and at the same time paradoxically delimited and depotentialized. On one side, it is so powerfully autonomous, on the other it is so dependent upon side-supports.

Foucault has reached very similar conclusions when he speaks of governmentality. Modern, enlightened community according to him is no more a community where substances are invested, but it is a relational one (a community based on a relation between “community” and “us”), simultaneously accomplished and brought to an end, and therefore absolute. Therefore it is possible to say that the modern community as an absolute one is always much more and much less than a community. In a very specific way this community is consequently unavoidable, unsurpassable and impossible. Unavoidable, a necessary catastrophe. A catastrophe of political relations, not of substances or bodies. In his lectures from the late 1970s Foucault has minutely described what means to live in such a community at the end of all communities. In brief, life that has become its own law, its own measure and purpose is the subject of politics of such a "community." The logic of governmentality becomes the logic of not any more political governance and of decision making regarding the borders of commonality. Politics is here nothing more than police (that means of keeping of governance), in the strictest sense of this term.

The forgetting, the disappearance or the death of (political or social) governance is thus not only a destructive end of all things, as a certain mode of deciding has been replaced by another that is even more efficient and “democratic,” that is the mode of police.

Life that has became unconditionally a law, means a life that is its own absolute legitimization. For a life that lives its own utopia, it is not a problem the deficit of legitimization, but rather its surplus.

What interest us mostly here is the Foucauldian distinction between a territory and a population that is at the centre of the distinction between (classical) sovereignty and (modern) governmentality. For Foucault this distinction is just criss-crossed with further differentiations, so the univocal statement about how exactly the logic of sovereignty and governmentality relate to each other is rendered impossible. Is governmentality, therefore, a continuation and extension of sovereignty, or are they mutually exclusive?

To sum it up: while sovereignty governs the territory, governmentality governs the population – which does not coincide with at the first glance possible distinction between the physical and the psychic realm. Sovereignty reigns over the bodies and souls and as well over differentiations between bodies and souls, while the governance of govermentality is more precarious and unstable because it reigns beyond the realm of all bodies and souls and beyond their differentiations. And if a phrase nominalist materialism, which is so often used to depict Foucault's thinking, has any validity, it is necessary to argue then that governmentality as a regime governs that which Marx called general intellect.

General intellect is the fundamental productive life force beyond all imaginable relations, among bodies and souls, territories and populations. Intellect grasped that way therefore exceeds (simultaneously accomplishing and surpassing) the corporeal-territorial realms of sovereignty and the psychical-population realms of governmentality. Or, as we have already stated – it is governance which has became police, i.e. it is governance outside the realm of governing. It is therefore interesting to observe how Foucault, with his gesture of a new kind of positivism, has tried to describe the structural dynamics of such a community determined by intellect as its primary social driving force. If nationalism is the notion which describes the structure of inclusion/exclusion in national sovereignty, in governmentality this differentiation is fulfilled by racism – argues Foucault. But, we are talking here, about a very strange kind of racism, namely about a racism without a race/races that could be included or excluded from the "community" according to some psycho-physical characteristics. It is intellectual racism.

Intellectual racism as a driving force behind governmentality is all encompassing and tolerates no outside. That is a nunc stans, i.e., the instant that knows no temporal articulation of a community that no longer knows for an appeal and that gives no possibility to escape.

But, as we have argued earlier: on one hand we have governance so powerfully autonomous, and on the other it is so dependent upon side-supports. It needs to be backed up by life. We are dealing here with a dual nature of modern racism, and without this duality it could not in fact exist at all. It could not exist without life giving it consent to be governed and without theft of knowledge. Here we are more concerned with the latter aspect because it directly touches upon the topic of (ab)use of information & intelligence.

From the beginning, one resource of capitalistic enterprise has been the so-called "misappropriation of workers' know how." That is to say: when workers found a way to execute their labour with less effort, taking an extra break, etc., the corporate hierarchy took advantage of this minimal victory, knowing it was happening, in order to modify the organization of labour. In my opinion, a significant change takes place when the task of the worker or of the clerk to some extent consists in actually finding, in discovering expedients, "tricks," solutions that ameliorate the organization of labour. In the latter case, workers' knowledge is not used on the sly but it is requested explicitly; that is to say, it becomes one of the stipulated working assignments. (Paolo Virno, A Grammar of the Multitude)

The process which Virno describes, and which gain notoriety throughout the 20th century under the heading of Taylorism, was and still is part of the attempt to make – the concealed workers knowledge and cooperation – explicit, in order them to emerge as scientific management (=governance) of the production process. Why? As seen the other way around as implicit, the concealed workers knowledge and cooperation are considered to be obstacles to a more efficient techno-economic progress. In difference to the times when F.W. Taylor published his books, the necessity to make workers' intelligence explicit has become, today, a ruling norm (in a form of non-disclosure agreements, for example, i.e. is a legal contract between at least two parties which outlines confidentiality materials the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict from generalized use).

The presumed irrationality (tricks) of workers' agreements, their secrecy (concealment from the employer), etc. – this conglomerate of assumptions which served for the extortion of knowledge is today implemented already at the entry-level. This has been, for sure, a result of the imaterialization of labour in the late 20th century, but the turning point to which we would like to point is even more interesting; employees (=wage workers) are already at the entry-level obliged to make a decision that simultaneously consists of an indiscretion (towards a proper employer) and of a concealment (towards the environment). The employee is urged to make the decision upon which the governance evolves in the realm of articulation as such. Despite the differences, it seems that here we are dealing with same kind of articulation that we have encountered in Augustine – with the articulation caught in a vicious circle between the implicit and explicit.

Governance which in the last instance cares just about staying in power – governance which cares to govern only (on) itself, no matter if this has any effect on the environment or not – depends on a decision by an articulation that is brought just as such; that is deprived of any specific content and reduced to its who and how. If once workers' tricks and their behaviours were something that frightened but as well intrigued the employers, today the situation is upside down. That which propels our curiosity is the “magic” with which our own decisions, articulations, and decisions about articulations are always again inscribed in an infinite sequence of bad or lesser bad acts.

And though from today's perspective this could seem naive one should remember the hope which was inherent to a distinct historic task: The socialized labour can regain its identity only if workers re-appropriate the cognitive functions that capitalist management has alienated from them. This can only be achieved if workers as a revolutionary class strive within the processes of national production to realize the implications of their status as socialized workers. But, the effective workers' absorption of managerial governance and the consequent change of their respective status is in reality the same as forming the socialist human. (Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Imperialism – the era of dual economics, Praxis 1/2 - 1969).

Tomislav Medak and Peter Milat are philosophers from Zagreb, engaged in the Multimedia Center, developing new social pratices.