DEEP SUMMARY - What Is Power_ - HAN, BYUNG-CHUL.;

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Here is a summary of the key points made in the passage:

  • Power is typically defined as a causal relationship where one party (the ego) imposes their will on another (the alter) against the alter's will, limiting their freedom. However, this definition does not capture the full complexity of power.

  • Power does not have to take the form of coercion or breaking resistance. Superior power forms the will of the subordinate, rather than just blocking it. The subordinate affirms and internalizes the will of the powerful as their own.

  • Power is about how actions are motivated - "I want to", not "I have to." It operates through forming environments and shaping desires, not just imposing external force.

  • Causality is an inadequate framework for understanding power, which involves more complex relations. Power works through mediation, transforming the will from within rather than just pushing against external resistance.

  • Power has a multifaceted dialectical nature. Weak parties can turn powerlessness into power through norms or dependencies. The powerful depend on subordinates' cooperation, dispersing power. Simple hierarchical models of power from top to bottom are undialectical.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Power is not inherently opposed to freedom. True power reaches its peak when the other person freely chooses to follow the will of the power holder.

  • Power allows the ego to continue their existence in the alter, to be with themselves in the other. It creates a continuity of self.

  • Power steers communication in a specific direction by increasing the likelihood that the alter will accept the ego's selected course of action. In this way power is productive rather than solely restrictive.

  • Power emerges where there is a possibility of rejection or resistance. Its function is to transform a potential "no" into a "yes."

  • Power should not be seen as amorphous or diffuse - its complexity stems from subtle, indirect foundations in a differentiated world.

  • Obedience demonstrates more freedom than passive endurance of violence. Both sides must have freedom for a power relation to form.

  • Power is a communicative medium that raises the likelihood of acceptance of the ego's decision by the alter. It avoids a negatively evaluated situation.

  • Power rests on the threat of sanctions, which both sides want to avoid, but which would impact the alter more than the ego. The ability to impose sanctions without using them creates power.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Luhmann ties power to the possibility of negative sanctions, but free power does not require sanctions. Crime is avoided more due to respect for the law than fear of punishment.

  • Power does not increase just because there are more decisions made or selections imposed. The number and diversity of decisions determined for actors is not a direct measure of power.

  • Increasing organizational complexity and anonymity can lead to alienation of individuals from their actions, as depicted in Kafka's works. But Luhmann confuses the compulsions of rigid organizational structures with power.

  • Luhmann claims power increases with freedom on both sides. But in modern organizations, the number of decisions made for others does not necessarily reflect an increase in power.

  • Luhmann argues that power operates at too concrete a level and cannot push through the complexity of modern societies. He sees power as among the "losers" in social evolution due to insufficient complexity.

  • Overall, Luhmann ties power too directly to negative sanctions, decision-making, and organizational complexity, losing sight of power as something that can be freely exercised. His view of power in modern organizations is questionable.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Luhmann's theory of power limits power to conscious action selection in interactions between individuals. He does not account for pre-reflective, spatial forms of power that establish an overall order.

  • Power constitutes different forms of continuity - it allows the ego to extend into the alter, providing a continuity of self. Supra-individual power structures also possess this subjectivity.

  • The degree of mediation affects how power manifests. A lack of mediation produces coercion, while intense mediation aligns power with freedom.

  • Even democratic states may act violently externally due to a lack of mediation. A globalization of power and rights is needed to overcome conflicts between nation states.

  • Naked, non-communicative violence aims to annihilate the will and alterity of the other. It lacks any intention beyond destruction.

  • Archaic forms of power involve killing and absorbing the 'mana' of enemies. This reifies power as a substance rather than a relation. True power emerges through one party submitting due to anticipated superiority.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

Canetti associates power mainly with coercion, repression, and subjugation. He sees power as a violent relation between oppressor and oppressed, like a cat playing with a mouse before killing it.

The author argues that Canetti's concept of power is too limited. Power does not just kill, but lets live. It provides time and space for action and freedom, even if potentially illusory.

In contrast to bare violence, power can be associated with sense and meaning. It inscribes itself into a hermeneutic horizon that structures understanding and action. Power founds significance by shaping a continuum of sense against which things are interpreted.

According to Nietzsche, sense originates from power. The powerful make the original decision on meaning and horizons of meaning. Language likewise stems from imposing one's will on others. Truth and purposes also emerge from the will to power.

For Nietzsche, power is poetic - it produces ever new forms and perspectives, rather than just despotic mastery. Power manifests itself in forms, enabling self-expression and growth.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Foucault challenges the common view that power is inherently repressive and prohibits things. He argues that power is productive and generates forces, pleasure, knowledge, and discourse.

  • Foucault moves beyond the juridical conception of power as law and prohibition. He sees power as operating through a network of relations throughout the social body.

  • Foucault identifies three "technologies" of power: 1) sovereign power, which operates through blood and the sword; 2) civil law, which operates through ideas, signs, and representation; 3) disciplinary power, which operates through surveillance and normalization.

  • Sovereign power uses the body and blood symbolically, like in public torture and execution. Civil law power circulates ideas and representations, controlling minds. Disciplinary power trains and norms bodies through observation and examination.

  • For sexuality, power does not just prohibit, it incites and multiplies pleasure through discourse and surveillance. Bodies are made meaningful and "eloquent" through power relations.

  • Foucault argues power should be seen as positive and productive, not just as repressive. But his monism of power overstates power's role in generating social meanings.

    Here is a summary of the key points about power, posters, symbols and texts circulated at the 'festival of the penal code', based on the passage:

  • Punishment no longer stages the power of the sovereign, but serves as a 'lesson' to renew the signifying system.

  • Power presents itself through words, signs, and children's stories, relying on mediation rather than sudden, unmediated acts of sovereignty.

  • Power exerts effects by creating the semblance of sense/meaning. It makes itself appear meaningful.

  • The 'ceremony of torment' with its 'arsenal of terror' is poor in sense/mediation compared to the symbolic renewal of union in medieval times.

  • Disciplinary power enters deeper into the subject, leaving 'traces' and creating habitual routines rather than ideas. It aims to be subtle like the penal code's power, but more immediate, relying on reflexes over reflection.

  • The prison derives from disciplinary power, which shapes the obedient subject through timetables, habits, and bodily constraints.

  • Disciplinary power speaks a differentiated language, wants to become second nature rather than hurt, works with norms rather than the sword. It also creates knowledge.

  • Disciplinary power focuses on the economy and efficiency of movements, rather than the language of the body. But it also describes the body, taking possession of it by inscribing it into a network of meanings.

    Here is a summary:

  • Foucault argues that the freer people are in their relationships, the more they enjoy exerting power over others through unpredictable "games" and directing others' behavior. In contrast, in societies with little scope for such games, the desire for power diminishes.

  • Heidegger sees power not just as maintaining what already exists, but as self-assertion and the will to expand. Power seeks to become more power. When this will disappears, power itself disappears, even if subjection remains.

  • For Heidegger, power arises from the essence of life as self-assertion beyond mere self-preservation. The will to power is rooted ontologically in the nature of life itself.

  • Heidegger links power to metaphysics and sees it as tied to subjectivity and representation in Western thinking. Power is inherently tied to modern technology as well, which challenges and orders nature.

  • Overall, Heidegger provides an ontological basis for power as self-assertion, rather than just a contingent social phenomenon. Power arises from the very nature of existence and life.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Going beyond itself is fundamental to power, but in doing so the subject of power does not lose itself. Expanding power means expanding the space of the self.

  • For Nietzsche, power involves imposing your own form on others. The ego conquers the alter by imprinting its image, enforcing a continuity of the ego in the alter.

  • But power can also involve the alter voluntarily integrating the ego's decisions, turning the ego's will into its own will. This creates a more stable power dynamic.

  • For Hegel, power distinguishes the living from the inorganic. The living assimilates the other into itself, establishing an identity and continuity of self.

  • Spirit exercises power through internalization, sublating the external into inwardness, remaining at home with itself in the other. In ideas, spirit rises above things, turning intuitions into its own possessions.

  • Power enables spirit to permeate manifold intuitions without losing itself in dispersion. Power is the capacity to be with oneself in the other.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Power is connected to inwardness and subjectivity. The more inward a being is, the more power it has.

  • Power is the ability to affirm the self despite negativity and otherness. It is the capacity to overcome non-being and integrate it into the self.

  • The more mediation there is between subject and object, the less violent power becomes. With intense mediation, power is non-violent and identificatory rather than destructive.

  • Neurotic withdrawal indicates a lack of power, as does an inability to tarry with the negative. True power comes from looking the negative in the face.

  • Violence stems from a lack of mediation between subject and object. When mediation is high, the subject recognizes itself in the object rather than destroying it.

  • Hegel sees power as illuminating and revealing what is already latent in things. Powerful comprehension does not violate but brings out the inward essence.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Hegel sees the grasping of objects not as a violent appropriation, but as a letting-appear of what already exists in embryonic form within the objects. Internalization is thus a reconciliation, not a violation.

  • Something mediates between subject and object - 'reason', which is present in both consciousness and the external world. Thus subject and object are not radically opposed.

  • In thinking, the subject reveals the universal that is common to itself and the object. Power is thus the power of the universal, not the power of an individual subject appropriating an object.

  • The power of the concept or universal is a 'free power' that releases the object into its own essence rather than violently subjugating it. The object submits freely and obeys the embracing power.

  • For Hegel, power is about mediation and creation, not primarily repression. Even God's creation of the world is a form of power, a return-to-self through the other.

  • Foucault sees human identity as an effect of subjection to power. Hegel sees power as founding identity. Violent power lacks mediation.

  • Hegel sees religion in terms of power. But religion may open a space beyond power, representing a different form of continuity not aimed at return-to-self.

    Here is a summary:

The section discusses Carl Schmitt's concept of sovereignty as the power to decide on the state of exception, suspending legal norms for the sake of self-preservation. Schmitt cites Kierkegaard's view that the exception reveals more than the general. But Hegel, who focuses on the normal case, also illuminates sovereignty through his idea that the monarch merely needs to say "yes" to validate laws. This "yes" expresses the same unconditional self-affirmation as the "no" by which the sovereign suspends the law in a state of exception. Both express the sovereign will's determination to realize itself, its subjectivity.

The theological, formal sovereign must be distinguished from the actual political sovereign who fears losing power. The former enacts a continuous self-affirmation, while the latter tries to amass power to avoid dispossession. Power stabilizes the political sovereign. The subjectivity of the formal sovereign becomes a means to an end for the political sovereign. Power is not an end in itself but serves self-preservation.

Yet the political sovereign is still motivated by a determination to self, even if power is just a means to self-preservation. The friend, by contrast, is devoid of this will to self. The friend exists in a dimension beyond power. Friendship is a free, ethical sociality not premised on power. Hegel mistakenly reduces community to a struggle for recognition where each wants to prevail over the other. But the friend seeks the other's well-being, not mastery. Friendship dissolves the relation of power.

Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Schmitt argues that even an absolute monarch relies on counselors and is subject to indirect influences, becoming isolated in a power "antechamber" and sliding into a dialectic of power and impotence.

  • The author critiques Schmitt's view, arguing that the apparatus of power is necessary and does not necessarily undermine the power chamber. In modern democracies power is decentralized rather than concentrated at the top.

  • Schmitt hypostasizes power into an autonomous reality that transcends humans, as a reaction to the complexity of modern societies where power is distributed. But the author argues power should be seen as decentralized in modern societies, not as an alien force.

  • The author argues that the "antechamber" of power is still part of the power chamber. Due to its finitude, human power is vulnerable to alienation but forms a continuum through affirmation by others.

  • Violence signifies impotence while power creates affirmation and continuity. The media have influence but not unambiguous power. Totalitarian regimes try to control media space. Power is spatial while violence is localized.

    Here are the key points:

  • Hegel sees the state as founded on spirit, morality, and law, not violence. Violence lacks the "power of mediation", i.e. spirit, that creates political community.

  • Hannah Arendt also distinguishes power from violence. Power springs from people acting together, while violence is isolated. Power requires legitimation by others to create a "space of appearance".

  • Power for Arendt illuminates the public, political realm. It serves appearance and creates a sense of reality.

  • Habermas agrees, seeing power as formed through communicative action aimed at agreement, not instrumentalizing others.

  • But Arendt's examples show power involves strategy and organization, not just communication. Power structures have a will to self and subjectivity.

  • Her definition of absolute power as "All against One" reveals power requires a opposing 'One'. Communicative action alone cannot explain this.

  • Power has a strategic, success-oriented aspect beyond just communication and understanding. It requires organization and strategy, not just agreement.

  • Habermas ignores this strategic side of power in his reading of Arendt, reducing power just to communication. But power involves more than that.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Arendt's argument about the power of the state vs the power of war is unclear. She moves abruptly from discussing the constitutional state based on majority consensus to discussing the instrumental use of power in war.

  • Habermas claims Arendt equates strategic action with instrumental action, but her examples show strategic action cannot be reduced to instrumental action.

  • Habermas sees communicative power as the fundamental phenomenon of power. But this consensus model ignores the strategic and polemical dimensions of power.

  • Power has two structural moments - subjectivity/self and continuity/continuum. These are present in both consensus and struggle models of power.

  • Habermas wants to integrate strategic action into his concept of the political, but sees it as a source of violence that represses communication.

  • It is more realistic to view communication as inherently strategic. This provides a flexible concept of power with different mediations, not a rigid separation of consensus vs violence.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • According to the author, asymmetric or unequal situations do not inherently arise from violence, but rather from forms of power that lack mediation. Violence merely signifies a situation where mediation has been reduced to nothing.

  • The absence of mediation means violence deprives participants of any feeling of freedom. But a power relationship where one party fully accepts the domination of the other is not violent if it still allows for some feeling of freedom.

  • Power, unlike violence, does not exclude the possibility of freedom. Power may even intentionally produce a feeling of freedom to stabilize itself.

  • Ideologies or narratives that legitimize fixed, unequal relationships by shaping communication are situated at the level of power, not violence. Violence is never narrative - any narration or mediation moves it into the realm of power.

  • Politics exceeds mere power struggles - it is about actively shaping collective action. But politics also always involves power, as political communication cannot be separated from strategic action.

  • Political compromise balances power rather than reaching consensus. So politics is inherently about power and decision-making.

  • The author sees orientation or "gathering" as a process of power, not just mediation. Sites "gather in" centripetally and form a continuum, reflecting an ipse-centric pull and will to power.

  • Globalization loosens the ties between power and territory, but does not eliminate orientation. Digital spaces can also be "occupied" through digital land-appropriation. Power requires some site, even if deterritorialized.

  • The ethics of power involve moderating ipseity and self-absolutism to allow openness to alterity. Power lacks an inherent friendliness to make excluded "off-sites" into sites again. An originary friendliness is needed to temper the ipse-centric striving.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Foucault tried to separate power relations from domination/coercion by linking them closely to the notion of freedom. He argued that power relations presuppose a certain freedom, as they can only exist between free subjects who have the choice to obey or resist.

  • Foucault claimed that power and freedom are not mutually exclusive, but involved in a complex interplay. Freedom appears as a condition for the exercise of power.

  • However, Foucault's argument is not fully coherent. Even a slave in chains still retains a minimal freedom to obey or resist, so slavery remains a power relation. Power does not require the openness of a game or contest.

  • By defining power as an 'open game', Foucault introduces an implicit critique of power and an ethos of freedom into his concept of power. He transforms freedom from a structural element of power relations into an ethical notion.

  • Foucault connects power processes with a 'practice of freedom' and 'liberation' from oppressive morality. This allows him to differentiate power from domination. But his concept of 'free power' is vague.

  • In his later work, Foucault emphasized ethics as a 'practice of freedom' and care of the self as key to avoiding tyrannical use of power over others. But the link between self-control and non-violent rule is questionable. His ethics of power is grounded in an ontology that prioritizes the self over relations with others.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Foucault's ethics of care of the self is oriented towards the self and unable to open up spaces beyond the intentionality of power. Power is a phenomenon of the self/subjectivity.

  • Foucault's ethics fails to generate the friendliness that makes visible what does not appear within the economy of care of the self.

  • Foucault holds onto the paradigm of possession of self, part of the European tradition trying to reconstitute an ethics/aesthetics of the self.

  • Nietzsche sees power as imposing oneself on others, spreading a continuum of self. Yet he also fuses power with other qualities like justice and friendliness.

  • Justice creates a movement opposed to the gathering of power - it wants to give to each their own, observing carefully from all sides. It suspends judgments and convictions.

  • Nietzsche speaks of a limitless hospitality/friendliness that welcomes all, exceeding care of the self.

  • The gaze of the powerful at the other/strange does them good, though power itself cannot explain this. The self experiences its own castles as a prison. Something beyond mere power enables power to develop a vast, friendly gaze and hospitality.

    Here are the key points in summarizing that passage:

  • The passage questions whether power alone can generate friendliness and generosity, as Nietzsche suggests.

  • It argues that friendliness requires something beyond power - an overflowing or suspension of power - in order to go beyond self-interest and become truly generous.

  • Power is inherently ipsocentric and centered on the self, so true friendliness comes from outside of or beyond power.

  • Even abundant power contains a will and desire that prevents the selflessness of true friendliness.

  • Power must be touched by something beyond itself, something without will or intention, to achieve boundless generosity.

  • Nietzsche recognizes this in invoking a giving that is unconscious and without wish, a selfless friendliness.

  • His philosophy of will to power thus leads to an ethics beyond the self, as he calls for self-giving and self-emptying to become no one.

  • The passage sees traces in Nietzsche of a thinking that exceeds power and the will, pointing to an otherness or alterity in generosity and friendliness.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Nietzsche sees power as a will that seeks to overwhelm and subjugate. Power is not just coercive force but a fundamental drive to assert one's will over others.

  • For Foucault, power is not possessed but exercised in relations. It is productive and not solely repressive. Power produces knowledge, discourse, norms, identities, etc.

  • Foucault sees power as decentralized and omnipresent in social relations. It is not localized in a particular institution or class.

  • Power operates through disciplines and biopower to regulate bodies and populations. It is embodied and inscribes itself on bodies through disciplinary techniques.

  • Power is positive and productive rather than simply coercive. It constitutes agents, knowledge, discourses, etc. Power and freedom are intertwined, not opposites.

  • Overall, both see power as diffuse rather than centralized, embodied rather than purely coercive, and productive rather than only repressive. But Nietzsche emphasizes the will and subjugation, while Foucault stresses relations, productivity, and knowledge.

    Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • Carl Schmitt argues that the sovereign is the one who decides on the state of exception, suspending the law in times of crisis. This decisionistic power defines sovereignty.

  • For Hegel, the monarch embodies the unity of the state and makes the final decision, but is still bound by constitutional structures and the rule of law.

  • Schmitt criticizes liberalism for trying to limit state power through checks and balances. He sees this as weakening the state.

  • Schmitt values a strong, unified state power and believes sovereignty requires the ability to suspend the law when necessary, not being bound by legal norms.

  • Hegel argues that the sovereign's power must be contained within a rational legal order that embodies ethical life. The sovereign cannot act arbitrarily.

  • Schmitt accuses Hegel of subordinating politics to morality in a way that dilutes sovereign power. Hegel charges Schmitt with promoting unconstrained authoritarianism.

  • Their differences reflect contrasting views of law and the role of the sovereign - exception vs constitution, decision vs rational order, authoritarian power vs ethical life.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Agamben argues that the concentration camp has become the underlying paradigm of modern political order, the "nomos" of the modern era.

  • Han disagrees, arguing that the camp cannot be seen as the foundation of modern political order. The camp is an "off-site" produced by a totalitarian political order, not the normative basis.

  • In analyzing the relationship between place and power, Han draws on Schmitt's idea of "taking possession" of a place and Heidegger's notion of "Ortung" (orientation/placing) as foundational acts that establish order.

  • For Han, power has a positive role in orienting and opening up shared spaces of appearance and action. Power gathers people and things into meaningful places and orders.

  • He critiques Heidegger for only seeing power negatively as "machination." Heidegger misses how power, logos, and gathering are connected in establishing order.

  • Han argues that globalization has not led to a diffusion of power without centers or structure. Rather, economic power remains concentrated in transnational corporations.

  • Totalitarian sites produce "off-sites" that have no recognized place in the order. But the off-site does not form the hidden basis of order itself.

    Here is a summary of the key points:

  • Agamben discusses the concepts of homo sacer (an individual banned from society without rights) and the "off-site" (a space outside normal legal protections). He suggests the possibility of "off-sites" raises ethical questions about the nature of power in society.

  • Foucault examines power not as repression or violence, but as an attempt to shape the behavior of others. He sees power relations as reversible and notes the possibility of resistance.

  • For Foucault, ethics involves caring for the self and forming oneself as an ethical subject. This requires practices of freedom and techniques of the self.

  • Nietzsche critiques the will to power as driven by ressentiment and a desire for revenge. He advocates for an ethics of aristocratic radicalism and boundless friendliness to overcome this.

  • The thinkers raise questions about the ethical dimensions of power relations, techniques of the self, and how to conceive of resistance or alternative subjectivities. Key concepts include homo sacer, off-sites, governmentality, care of the self, nobility, and radical generosity.

    Here is a summary of the key points about power from the book chapters:

  • Power is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that has been conceptualized in different ways by various thinkers.

  • Power can be understood as the ability to influence or control others, events, or resources. It is relational, situational, and productive.

  • Power operates through discourse, knowledge, institutions, and techniques of governmentality. It shapes subjectivities and identities.

  • Power and resistance are intertwined. Where there is power, there is resistance.

  • Power is present in all human relationships and systems. It can be coercive or productive.

  • The metaphysics of power explore its ontological basis and existential manifestations. Power shapes and structures reality.

  • The politics of power examine how it functions in sociopolitical contexts and its relation to sovereignty, authority, violence.

  • The ethics of power involve analyzing issues of legitimacy, justice, responsibility in power relations.

  • Key thinkers on power include Nietzsche, Foucault, Weber, Arendt, Habermas, Luhmann, Honneth.

  • Different forms of power include sovereign power, disciplinary power, biopower, ideological power, social power.

  • Approaches to studying power range from descriptive to normative, analyzing power synchronically or diachronically.

In summary, power is a fundamental social phenomenon that shapes human existence, relationships, and systems in complex ways. The book provides a comprehensive philosophical analysis of power from various angles.

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