Biopower, psychopower and the logic of the scapegoat

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Biopower, psychopower and the logic of the scapegoat

by Bernard Stiegler




The capture of attention by technological means is a global phenomenon (affecting all continents), a massive one (affecting all generations and all social strata) and totally new: the length of capture has now reached 6 hours a day in the USA, not to mention the phenomena of hyper-attention, to use the term of Katherine Hayles, which provoke a splitting of attention between several media simultaneously, and which motivate the Kaiser family foundation to modify its figures – increasing the average number of hours to 8 and a half per day for American adolescents.

Humanity has never experienced such a phenomenon of synchronised and hyper-realist collective hallucination, and the consequences of these facts on psychical and collective individuation are as yet hardly theorized, although they are beginning to enter as objects of the study of psychopathology, or investigations in the human sciences, for example the case of the syndrome of cognitive saturation.  Nevertheless, the pathogenic factors caused by this actual situation remain most of the time analysed in “neurocentric” terms – as for the questions tied to attention deficit – when in fact their causality is massively sociotechnical and therefore economic-political, even though  the neuropsychic “terrains” play their role.


The theory of attention that I set out in my latest book, Taking care 1: Of youth and of generations which continues on the basis of insights gleaned in Misbelief and Discredit, … … brings this question, an apparently psychological or phenomenological one, back to a question of care and concern: to a question of therapy, therapeutic, in the ancient Greek sense of the term.

My thesis is that psychical and individual individuation can only take place through the formation and upkeep of a general system of care and concern, whose primary condition is education in the largest sense of the term, i.e. as an intergenerational relation a case of which is the transmission of knowledge, and as the formation of attention as a faculty at once psychic and social.


The technological, industrial, systematic and constant capture of attention that has been called cultural capitalism has been made possible by the emergence of psychotechnologies, and it corresponds to what I call psychopower.   The techniques of management and marketing relying on story telling, the quite recent rediscovery, with the publication in French of his book Propaganda, of Edward Bernays, the place of soft power in American geo-politics, the psychological cast, at once affective and drive-base, of the recent French electoral campaign – peoplisation, as the word is now used in Franglais, being nothing but a psychopolitics of symbolic misery --, the incredible dynamism of the new media, the immense effects of the techno-industrial integration through digitalization, Google attempting now to gain control over the cell-phone network and industry, that is, over human motricity, all of that, and so many other phenomena (I could continue the list all night) are concretizations of this psychopower whose paradoxical effect is that the device of the construction of attention is now seriously threatened: its industrial exploitation leads to its destruction.

Now this is the case for reasons which were already examined by Plato in the Phaedrus: in other words, we are confronted with questions of pharmacology.  And this is what leads me to a project of general pharmacology, itself a branch of what I have tried to formalize as a general organology, and the condition of all possible therapeutics, of which positive knowledge as well as politics as positive law are cases, it being understood that:


1) there can be no general therapeutics,

2)the task of philosophy would then be to constitute the discourse of general pharmacology.




The necessity of such theories, assuming you grant me this necessity, can be felt, and becomes not only thinkable, but in my eyes obvious, because the facts I have just listed, and above all their sanitary, economic, political and noetic consequences create a passage out to the limit where they are brutally aggravated and suddenly pushed to their extreme states: they constitute the vicious circle of an industrialised libidinal economy having become self-destructive, and this vicious circle is a vortex which brings up the question of what I would dare to name a renewable libidinal economy, that is to say also, a new age of marketing.

By making this last remark in order to let it be known that I do not situate myself in the register of those who reject industrial society.  Such an attitude is totally vain, irresponsible and downright hopeless (proprement désespérante).  Numerous figures in the world of arts and letters have adopted this stance, and I can only regret it, infinitely.  On the other hand, I do not situate myself in the register of those who would renounce critique and seek consensus, or this form of misbelieve consisting in believing that the world cannot be changed, what is called in post-Thatcherite English speaking countries the TINA logic: there is no alternative.  In short, I am on a campaign, explicitly since I write The Time of Cinema, for the advent of what I call a new critique.

This campaign can be recapped in a these I hold in Taking care 1: psychopower call for a psychopolitics claiming the status of a noopolitics, and I believe that only this latter politics (a psychopolitics thought as a noopolitics) is capable of reconstituting attention – for these are the actual states, on all plans: the economy, security, well-being and the blossoming of individuals and groups, etc.  Now, the elevation of psychopolitics to this status of noopolitics cannot consist in anything else but a process of sublimation.

These questions are inscribed in a becoming of biopower and biopolitics wherein the industrial system as a whole encounters its limits, and it is in terms of a general political economy that the question of a libidinal economy, not only industrial but capitalist, must be re-negotiated.  And I believe that this question oriented the research of Michel Foucault when he turned to the question of the care of self and techniques of the self (of mélétè, of épimeleai) , that is, of care, and in introducing these theses with reference to the question of desire.  However, I believe that he failed to measure up to this question, perhaps simply because he lacked the time to develop his intention, but also on account of motives internal to his work.




The question of attention is the question of care – therapeuma, epimeleia, cura.  In other words, attention must be thought in the context of a system of cares, cares constituting the social appropriations of tertiary retentions by the interiorisation whereby individual and collective attention can hook up retentions and protentions, for example at school.


Attention is what is formed in the play of retentions and protentions, and what, through retentional devices constituted by public or private institutions and organisations, by hooking up tertiary retentions, promotes the implementation of politics (pl.) of attention.


The formation of at-tention always consists in hook-ups, through the intermediary of psychotechnics, re-tentions and pro-tentions.  Attention is the flux of consciousness.  This flux is temporal, and as such, it is constituted first of all by what Husserl analysed as primary retentions.  Primary retentions are those whereby an appearing object is constituted for consciousness, that is, becomes present, of which I retain the outline as its very presence.  This retention, called precisely primary because it belongs to the dimension of perception, is conditioned by secondary retentions, that is, by the past of the attentive consciousness, and these secondary retentions form its experience.  By selecting primary retentions on the basis (and in the stock of) secondary retentions, consciousness projects protentions, that is, expectations.  It is this hook-up of primary and secondary retentions projecting protentions, that is, expectations, that constitutes attention.


Now, the formation of attention is always already both that of a psychic faculty and a social faculty to the extent that its capture canalises primary retentions in function of the psychic secondary retentions of the individual, but in inscribing them in the collective psychic renentions symbolised and supported by terniary retentions.  Collective individuation is constituted in collective retentions, common to those who co-individualise only by sharing a common retentional fund.  This retentional fund, which forms what Simondon calls a pre-individual milieu, where transindividuation takes place, is formed by objects which are also the objectified memories of a epiphylogenetic memory, that is to say a technical one.  It is in the epipylogenetic milieu that properly mnemotechnical (or, to say it in Platonese, hpomnesic objects)  appear, that form as tertiary retentions the material bases of psychotechniques.


Thus “tertiarised,” that is, materially and spatially projected on psychotechnical supports, collective secondary retentions can be interiorised by those who have no experience of them, and who project of them their own lived secondary retentions, which is a specific case of what Freud himself calls projection.  This projective mechanism, which is the basis of the process of adoption, is also the mechanism of the constitution of the transindividual: the formation of attention by its social capture, what is called education, and the road down which psychic individuals not only co-individuate themselves, but transindividuate themselves – including at the unconscious level, of which it can be said that it is “structured like a language.”


By dwelling on the final Foucault, I seek to show that attention always implies attentional techniques (analysed by Foucault as techniques of the self), but such that the question today is less that of a biopolitics and a biopower than that of a psychopower – thought for a long time now in the United States as soft power – such that it has become a ravaging beast (ravageur), in the guise of the psychotechnologies constituted by the culture industries.  The constitution of a psychiopolitics reaffirming itself as a noopolitics through the technologies of the spirit is the major stake in a reorganisation of capitalism, notably to the extent that it is confronted with the limits of its model of development relying on the production of carbon dioxide, in the face of which the modification of behavioural models requires the relaunch of individual and collective capacities of sublimation.


The fact that the question of attention is being unpacked here as a hook-up of retentions and protentions allows us to take up intentional processes (in Husserl’s sense: the formation of sense) as social processes, and not only psychical or noetic ones, to the extent that I posit that tertiary retention is the key to the hook-ups between retentions and primary and secondary protentions in which attention consists therefore, and with attention, and more profoundly, intentionality, an in-tentionality that, as intentional fulfilment, is par excellence an at-tention networking re-tentions and pro-tentions whereby expectations are formed.

In short, the question of attention is that of a politics of retentional devices.  I believe that this belongs to what, since Plato, must be treated in terms of pharmacology.  This also means that Husserl and Simondon must be closely and contradictorily thought together.  This is difficult to think in that supremely philosophical idiom that, according to Heidegger, German represents.  For if retention is Retention and protention Pretention, attention is translated in German as Achtsamkeit, Beachtung, Achtung (Achtung also meaning estime).

The composition of primary retentions and secondation retentions depends on tertiary retentions that constitute themselves as hypomnesis, that is, as what Plato analyses in terms of the pharmakon, and that means

1) that attention is pharmaco-logically networked and

2) that it requires a formation by the therapeutic interiorisation of these pharmaka that tertiary retentions just are.




I would like two things to be underscored here:


.  the first is that it is not sufficient to criticise Platonic metaphysics which consists in an opposition between anamnesis and hypomnesis to answer the pharmacological question.  To speak more clearly, deconstruction can lead to what all philosophy destines for itself, to wit the preparation of political decision by a process of psychosocial individuation that we still call citizenship, only providing the elaboration of a pharmaco-logics, that is, a logic of the supplememnt, but such that it would be capable (through a history of the supplement, a history that I call a general organalogy)  of combating that which, in supplementarity, tends to produce the short-circuits of transindividuation.

Such are, according to my analyses, the irreducible sense and necessity of the anamnesic affirmation of Plato, and as the fruit of a dialectical practice: the latter is precisely that modality of psychical and collective individuation as the individuation of an associated milieu, or again, a dialogic device in the Bakhtinian sense of the term, with respect to which Plato poses that the pharmakon creates short-circuits, i.e. engenders dissociated symbolic milieus.  For all that, I maintain that the pharmakon is also what allows the formation of long circuits, and that the dialectic, as anamnesis, supposes in fact hypomnesis: for example, the reasoning of the slave boy Meno supposed a rapport always already hypomnesic, i.e., grammatised – to speech, which cannot become dialectical and anamnesic otherwise than under this condition.  This constitutes the major stakes of two texts, The writing of self and The techniques of the self, where Foucault shows how an epistolary dialectic is born in the age of the Stoics.


. The second thing I would like to underscore is that the object of attention is the object of desire: all objects of desire are inscribed in an economy of desire where it can always become the object of every attention, and after a fashion invade or invest this attention.  There is an originally addictive dimension to the object of attention, that is to say here a fantamatic, hallucinatory, affective dimension, that creates addiction, heteronomy, and reveals all positions of autonomy as illusory – souverainty becoming as a result the most martial of the arms of the spirit, an eristic (where noesis is a sublime technesis) that a pure pretechnical liberty … (??) for these are truly the stakes: the place of technics in the freedom of the spirit, that is, in the nobility of a being that I prefer to call not-inhuman rather than human.  The not-inhuman being.

Now capitalism exploits this dimension, which is always and again and again referred to the fetichism of the commodity, must be thought as a stage in a libidinal economy that has reached the limits of this economy by the fact of un unprecedented exploitation of these tertiary retentions:


            1. at this stage there is a tendential drop in libidinal energy

            2) this stage brings on a passage to the limits of the industrial sociotechnical system


These themes were already at work between the lines in The Fault of Epimetheus: épimétheia, which was the object of the first volume of Technics and Time, is obviously a figure of desire in technicity.  Epimetheus is the spouse of Pandora.  And Pandora, whose god-mother so to speak is Athena, is covered with vestments, that is, with artifices forged by Hephaistos, the limping god.




The question of care, which I propose to see as always already the question of attention, and as it is posed in Plato as anamnesis and dialectics, is examined by Foucault at the beginning of his conference, entitled The Techniques of the self.  Foucault points out that care, with the Greeks in general and Plato in particular, especially in Alcibiades, is named epimeleai, and that the Greeks had a precept: epimeleisthai sautou.  This precept, according to Foucault, is placed under the primacy of the gnôthi seauton.   This means that care is placed under the authority of knowledge and that the question of care in same stroke is lost.


This question is of primordial importance because attention, inasmuch as it is not reducible to knowledge, and constitutes an affect – and an inter-individual relation, let us rather say an always already collective psychical individuation, which is also an intergenerational relation – the attention which, in this respect, that is, as affect, is the condition of philia, this attention, which is formed, and which is always involved in education, of which teaching is but a part, is today no only threatened, but literally de-formed.


Attention is care, and that is why it belongs to what Heidegger called the existentials: that attention is both psychic and social means that it is also – insofar as it projects itself toward its object, projection which is a being toward or a being for … -- the Sorge, the “care,” the solicitude, that is, the most buried and the most originary of the forms of temporality: the most proper, eigenlich, to re-use the Heideggerian topic (I believe Heidegger considered introducing into this topic the question of what he calls in paragraph 76 of Sein und Zeit the Weltgechichtlichkeit, (and that I call tertiary retention) but that he finally renounces placing it in originary temporality precisely because that would imply letting the pharmakon as primordial condition of this thanatology enter into it.)


Well, I think that this question is both posed and eluded, and not only eluded but ineluctably missed by Foucault when he seeks to re-introduce the question care taken non only as the administration of living potential, as he called it when he was theorising the biopolitical, but also as care of the self, and in that, as épileleia.




Let us return here to Plato, and to what Foucault does with Plato.  I think that the submission of epimeleia to the know yourself – that is, to knowledge – is a systemic part of the radical opposition Plato sets up between anamnesis and hypomnesis: knowledge is anamnesis per se.

And reciprocally: knowledge is anamnesis as noetic act, the latter purified by Plato of all empiricity and, thus, of all technicity, even though anamnesis is also, accidentally, a kind of care.  Now, the care of the self, contrary to anamnesis, is practical, that is, always in one way or another technical, the implementation of rules, submission to exercises, etc.  This is precisely what Foucault shows in analysing the role of writing in epimeleia, in particular in Seneca’s time.


For all that, Foucault never reasoned in terms of pharmacology, there where he nevertheless stove to think knowledge in terms of the archive, archaeology, substratum, support, document and technologies of power constituted by the hypomnesic realities which would call for such a pharmacology.  He never poses the problem of the intrisiquely duplicitous, ambiguous, ambivalent character of the pharmakon, which is not only a remedy and a poison, but the scapegoat.


The fact that he forgot the pharmakon stems from a process of the repression of the original question of philosophy, this question being constituted as a repression itself original: the repression of technics, and of the responsibility it assigns to thought insofar as thought is turned to action, that is, in our societies, to politics.  In Foucault’s case, I also think that this forgetting of the pharmakon is what leads him into a situation where, in the course of his authorship, he cannot pose, in a unified way, the question of discipline, which is also a translation of épimeleia.


Foucault serializes (fait varier) this question of discipline on different registers which prove to be contradictory: what do disciplinary societies have in common with the discipline of epiméleia?  Everything in fact, but nothing in Foucault’s work.  Everything, and in particular the link to this pharmakon that writing is, but the latter is described in  Discipline and Punish as what Foucault describes as an apparatus of writing and a power of writing which is but the particularly complex extension OF the control of the individual as a technique of individualisation which is in fact a technique of control over attention, a redoubtable extension of the panoptikon which schools, primary schools and highschools normalised by the écoles normales!


Now discipline is also general grammar, whose programme Foucault set out to think in 1966, and chose to jettison, in 1969, in The Archaeology of knowledge. 


In fact, Foucault never managed to propose a synthesis of this question of discipline, no doubt because he lacked the time to do so, but also, certainly, because this question must of necessity bring up the question of the pharmakon.  For discipline is ambiguous just as the pharmakon is.  And it is as well the entire ambiguity of systems of care in general, that can always reverse themselves into systems of control.


Still, this erasure of the pharmacological question, which underlies the question of discipline – no épiléleai without pharmakon, and no épimeléia which is not a therapeutic of this pharmakon --, this erasure is also that which leads Foucault to totally erase from his overview of biopower and of biopolitics the question of public education which will be central in the course of the 19th century, in the wake of Enlightenment discourse.  And it is too what will lead him to ignore the very important question of reading and writing posed by Kant in Was ist Aufklärung?, and which constitutes the pharmacological, political and noetic stakes of what I call an organalogy of the majority.


Foucault develops his analyses of educational institutions as disciplinary ones by referring to the texts of religious or military establishements, but he never cites the sources coming out of the struggle for non-denominational education (laïcité) devoted to the subject. Consequently, he is lead to a pure and simple rejection of the stance that school and education are also something other than an institution of control: it is, for example, the institution that created him, Michel Foucault, a product of  l’école normale, then professor at the Collège de France, an institution founded against the spiritual power of the church, that is, as an instrument of noopolitics.


But in truth these occultations stem just as well from an extraordinary underestimation, by Foucault, in his analysis of contemporary biopolitics, of the influence of marketing in the 20th century, and which becomes the veritable device of control of behaviour by the capture of intention, of which school is also a case, but a case founded on and by a therapeutic whose key element was anamnesis as the accomplishment of knowledge by the individuation of the associated milieu in which this knowledge consisted.  Now, this whole dimension of the question is swept aside by the panoptic viewpoint of Foucault: he oversees everything with a gaze formed by his thinking of the panoptic, but his own gaze becomes in a way itself panoptic.




With this political technology that discipline is, you need, in the army as well as in the factory and at school, but also in administrations, thus forming a police in the extended sense of the term, “to control the slightest elements, be which we can attain to the social atoms themselves, that is, individuals,” (note, page 1010 Quarto tome 2)) and this takes place to better exploit the value of population thus formed, which confers a fundamental, functional and new role to apprenticeship, and more generally, to education.  The army, the factory and the school work in the same way, according to Foucault, to implement an individualizing technology – that is a disindividualizing one – in the service of a politics “that essentially aims at individuals in their bodies and in their behaviour, … to the point of atomising them.” (note)


This technology of power, which is a “political anatomy,” is nevertheless not yet a biopower strictly speaking.  The later does not exercise its dominion over subjects, but over populations, “living beings traversed, commanded, regulated by biological processes and laws,” (note) the mastery of which can conduce a population to become a “machine of production.”


But, precisely, the question of a biopower is less, today, that of “using a population” for production that to turn it into markets for consumption.  It is here that Foucault’s analyses can no longer suffice.  What he describes, which is, in theend, the genesis of the State on its way to the industrial revolution with a conquest of power by the bourgeoisie, implements the conditions of formation of a capitalism proper to the 19th century, as Marx described it, and for which production is the main preoccupation.  But the 20th century encounters altogether different questions.


The question of the 20th century is that of the revolution of human modes of existence, which must become modes of consumption by liquidating styles of life in what becomes an industrial economy of services of which programme industries are the base. (note: Telecracy against democracy and Re-enchanting the world)  This leads to the destruction of associated milieus (note), which are symbolic milieus, replaced by dissociated milieus (note) which are cybernetic ones.  The science of all this is less the cybernetic itself, as Heidegger believed  which is in fact a stage of grammatisation (note), than the marketing that prescribes this pharmacology, and makes children the prescribers of their parents, and of these parents, eternal adolescents – marketing being a prescription against any system of care, and in particular, against all intergenerational circuits.


Vance Packard wrote in 1958 that


From 1950, while surplus production was looming large on all sorts of fronts, the preccupations of the leaders of industrial societies underwent a fundamental modification.  Production was relegated to a subsidiary level.  Instead of thinking what to produce, they thought about selling.  (Packard)


Ernest Dichter, the main actor of the Recherche des Mobiles (Research into Motivations) which become the main theory and technique of marketing, established the principle that one must fine “the means to pre-condition the client to buy products by engraving its characteristics in his mind.”  (note)

Thus began the process which would lead to the destruction of the juvenile psychic apparatus and to the liquidation of intergenerational relations, of which attention deficit disorder has become the dominant symptom.


The question is not longer that of a biopower over producers, but a psychopower over consumers.  There you have the stakes of a theory of attention: thinking the genesis of this contemporary state of affairs, but also to provide and propose the means to think the reconstitution of a politics of attention in the era of psychotechnologies, that is, to think the transformation of psychopower into noopolitics.




A noopolitics is what cannot do without an economy of the infinity of the object of desire.  The only object worth its weight is the one attesting to the consistency of all the others in that it finds itself elevated to the level of the object of all attention: what we could call an unconditional object.  The object of all attention is the object which imposes itself on all other objects of attention – and which sometimes replaces them, displaces and vampirises them, vertriloquises them, substitutes for them in all sorts of ways, and from one point of view, haunts them as the spirit of these objects, as the object of all objects, the sense of all objects.


From this viewpoint, the unconditional object tends to become an unconditioned object, that is, an omnipotent and eternal object: it is an object of idealisation in the sense that it is sooner or later posited as without condition, independent, absolutely sovereign with respect to any other object – and in particular, with respect to the other object which is the subject of attention, who is conscious of this object of its desire and of all its attention.  Thus does this object tend to rise to the level of the horizons of sublimation, and produces durability in Hannah Arendt’s sense, and this attachment which, as philia, as structure of the social, for example a family, if this object is a spouse, or a child, or some other parent, but also all kinds of other structures: knowledge as the libido sciendi if the scientist, the nation, a church, etc. …


Here, what I think is always at bottom the  mystagogical structure of knowledge as gnosis – insofar at it is grounded in non-demonstrable entities, it always recurs to ideas, what could be called its transcendental dimension – tends to become the gnosis of an absolutely sovereign object: the one Plato called the sovereign good – and which will become God for the entire duration of monotheism.  But this theo-logy begins theoretically, that is, prior to the advent of monotheism – with Aristotle, and in total freedom vis-à-vis the guilt complex that Freud will see concretized in the monotheism of the Eternal Father as the object of all his children’s desires, that is, all instances of their covetousness.


The theory of attention and of systems of care that I am elaborating here posits in the Aristotelian vein (which is a though of movement and emotion) that all systems of care project such a mystagogical object, and that there is no care that would keep itself sheltered from all mystagogy.  For that which must be care for always refers back to the object of all possible desires, as their unity: it is the object of a limitless collective individuation which in the lay world is called universality. (the universal).


This is not to say that this mysterious object is miraculous or supernatural.  It is to say that this object makes mystery, produces it, and requires, so as to become accessible, initiatory, mystagogic or esoteric discourses: it requires a discipline implying practices of the self.  In 20th century philosophy, this accession becomes a conversion, for example the conversion of the gaze with phenomenology (which tears itself away eidetically from the “natural attitude) or the conversion of the listening faculty with psychoanalysis (which listens for the unconscious voice behind every conscious discourse).


The fruit of an idealisation failing which there is no desire, nor libido sciendi, the object of all attention is however originally on the plane of consistencies, and it requires from Ancient times on, the practice of otium or of skholè whereby one gains access to the objects of contemplation, that is, to the objects of theory, whose ideal place is the skholeion, the school as the Greeks conceived it from the start.




To take care is always to take care of time as it opens up onto the infinite as the improbable itself.  But such a question is senseless if it is not projected into the succession of generations to come, if is it is protentionalised through them and as the legatees of these retentions that forebears are.  To confront the question of the responsibility for the next generations, as Hans Jonas does, for example (while concealing the close link of this question with the object of all desires), et to assume responsibility for the problem of what today is called the long term, would demand an in-depth study of the relations between what Heidegger calls the ontic, the field of Besorgen, which is what can become the object of positive and calulatable determinations, and the ontological, solely accessible in the sphere of Sorge, and as an indeterminable condition of such determinations, that is, of any emergence of what presents itself as that which is, and that Heidegger calls being. (with a small b)


The question of what permits, indeed imposes the distinction between long term and short term belongs to the discipline of economy – of political economy first of all, but also of libidinal economy (as difference).  This is not a question posed in abstracto: it reconfigures itself constantly in function of the evolution of instruments, as well as the evolution of organisations they made possible: 1) instruments like the araire or the canal, which allowed the Egyptians to exploit the Nile floodings, just as much as financial instruments, which have brought a part of world-wide finance to its knees, and everything like psychotechnology which results from the most recent stage of grammaisation, 2) organisations such as the psychic apparatus, based on the vital organ that is the central nervous system, which is configured by the interiorisation of collective secondary retentions (like language) and tertiary retentions, first of all in the course of synaptogenesis, which is also the age of primary identification, and constantly reconfigured in the course of existence as successive identifications, 3) social organisations whereby the transindividuations issuing from these identifications materialise, and where we find, for example, l’OMC, Nike, Canal J or the university in service of the struggle for intelligence – at the Sorbonne as in Saudi Arabia – as well as the organisations of the European Union.


Now, the economic distinction between these co-determinations, between these terms, the short and long term, which are ECHEANCES and concern political economy along with libidinal economy insofar as they form devices of investment, is what brings up the question of temporality as it was posed as such since Augustine, then, with Heidegger, as the conjugation of being and time, and in the bosom of which Jonas reason, without ever questioning it per se.  My thesis is that this absence of problematisation passively invalidates the discourse on responsibility which has to presuppose such an analysis, and which collapses once what was implicit becomes evident: that the Heideggerian conception of time, on which Jonas’s reasoning depends, avoided in advance the veritable problem.  (problems with this phrase: et qui s’effondre lorsque il deviant manifeste que demeurée tacite, … je crois qu’il s’agit de la dépendance du discours de Jonas de l’analyse défectueuse de Heidegger.)


Jonas cannot confront the question of time – and the question of responsibility cannot be posed outside the ken of this primordial question of time – and the reason lies in the fact that desire, that is, expectation and time as attention, is not thinkable from a strictly Heideggerian standpoint.  It demands, as the question of the archive and its retentional technicity, buttressing the practices of self through the devices of care, to extend Foucault’s reflexion on the techniques of the self and to surpass the opposition Besorgen/Sorge which stems from the opposition, inherited from Plato, between hymomnesis and anamnesis.


Today it is a matter of rethinking the question of temporality insofar as it involves not only the gnôthi seauton, and the “rationality” bequeathed to us by platonic metaphysics and everything that ensued in the guise of dialectics, including Hegelian and Marxist dialectics, to become the rationality of ratio, that is, of calculation, but also, precisely, as Foucault (l’instruit) began to theorise it, as épimelesthai sautou.  But,

1) there is no doubt h ere that this is inscribed in Heidegger’s initial move (which assigns for this reason knowledge to the ontic regionality of being, whereas the Sorge is the experience of the question of Being itself – and the ordeal of its ontological difference with all knowable beings: the ordeal of its mystagogy)

2) This is precisely what Jonas never questions (thus leaving his own mystagogy in the wings).

To these avoidances and high-jackings of attention with respect to what is, basically, the question of attention and its formation, that is, also its technicity, it is high time we oppose another thinking – which, without forgetting the sense of the privilege Heidegger confers on the future, involves the question of technics as it is constituted, as Weltgeschichtlichkeit, that is, devices of tertiary retentions, techniques of the self as well as psychotechniques (such as radio, that Heidegger started to think through as soon as 1927) and the nootechniques of epimeleai forming systems of care, that can be called, if you will, epochs of being and which, as hook-ups of primary and secondary, psychic and collective retentions and protentions, constitute hisorially temporality as originarily individual and collective.

Heidegger radically opposes Besorgen (that is, preoccupation as calculation and foresight determining a behaviour in the short and long term) and Sorge (as concern and care projecting from out of originary temporality the in-determinability of all true, proper and authentic resolution, which is its incalculability).  Now, this opposition excludes the composition of drives (and tendencies, and principles) as the question of desire.  Now, like Marcuse, who interiorized this opposition in his discourse on Freud, Johas emprisonned himself in it in such a way as to no longer be able to pose the question of the long term, which for Heidegger remains an ontic problem, or on ontic formulation of an altogether other problem – that is, a trivial and impertinent problem with respect to a thinking of Sorge.

This is the reason why Jonas is obliged to construct his ethics of technics and responsibility on a heuristics of fear.


Because it draws back from all these questions, Jonas’s thesis, tacitly dependant on Heidegger’s, is not acceptable because it is based on fear, that is, on a drive which, when it is not tied by desire, which in that respect is always a form of sublimation, resembles what the shy savage animal the doe is a victim of – and can in that respect inspire shame.   This drive, fear, emerges with Jonas in the place where anguish should have figured.  Heideggerian anguish, so important for Lacan, is a psychoanalytic question of the first importance: the thought of anguish is the basis of Freud’s second topic.


Now, the Jonasien regression from anguish to fear originates in the major chasm of the existential analytic which cannot think Dasein as a desiring in-dividuation – that is, as of process of individuation capable of transforming its drives into objects of desire and sublimation, and following the irreducible mystagogy which established that the desired object is structurally incomparable with relation to any other.  The object of Dasein, that is the object of the Sorge that constitutes Dasein, the object of concern, of solicitude, of care, as in is not thought as object,d but as being-toward, … as being for .. as what Heidegger calls the existentials, and this non-object of all attention that Heidegger calls the ontological difference, and that Dasein encounters in being for death which is a hook-up of protentions and retentions conceded, preceded, acceded and succeeded by and in the organalogical conditions which are the archai-logical and pharmaco-logical reality of historiality (Geschichtlichkeit).