I’m a big fan of Cliff Rosenberg’s work on police as a mechanism of power operating through and in the name of the social. His work on immigration at the beginning of the 20th century in France is one of the bases for my own concept of a “post-social police,” by way of contrast with the police reforms i witnessed in the early 21st. So I was pleased to see that he made an explicit connection between regimes of the social in a recent review of Stephen Kotkin’s Magnetic Mountain:
Did population policy under Stalin differ, in any fundamental respect, from those of inter-war France or other Western countries? In a radical rethinking of the Soviet experience, Stephen Kotkin said no. Magnetic Mountain moved the field of Soviet history past an increasingly sterile cold war standoff between the so-called new social history and the totalitarian school. With the social history generation, Kotkin insisted on seeing the Soviet project from the perspective of ordinary people, subject to the same kind of forces that applied throughout Europe. He had no truck with ideas like oriental despotism or Russian exceptionalism, but, with the totalitarian school, he took ideology seriously, presenting everyday life and high politics within a single analytical frame. To do so, he drew eclectically on a range of theoretical perspectives, above all on the work of the late Michel Foucault. Foucault often implied that Auschwitz and the Gulag were the logical outcome of the Enlightenment project, but his primary goal was to illuminate the corrosive, coercive nature of liberal reform efforts in Western Europe, to puncture their claims to universality. The vast bulk of his corpus avoided the twentieth century. Kotkin, by contrast, used Foucault’s perspective directly on the Soviet system itself.
Population Politics, Power and the Problem of Modernity in Stephen Kotkin’s Magnetic Mountain
In order to spurn me on when I need writing inspiration, and as its own form of procrastination, I created a Spotify playlist of all the songs I remember listening to while while in France during my dissertation research. Now I’ve learned that you can embed Spotify playlists into WordPress posts, so you’re all in luck and can play along at home:
In one of Aesop’s fables a fox comes to the den of a sick lion. the lion calls out for him to enter, but the cunning fox remains outside. ‘Why won’t you come in?’ the lion asks. And the fox answers: ‘I’d come straight away if I didn’t see a lot of tracks going in but none coming out.’. In Horace’s version: ‘Vestigia terrent‘, ‘The footprints are scary’; it has become a familiar quotation. Weber gave the impression of a sick lion to those who saw him during his illness–though certainly a lion without danger. This ‘vestigia terrent‘ kept going through my head as I ventured deeper into the field of Weber studies. Was it wise of me? Doubts rose up again and again. here too there were many tracks going in but few coming out. I had been used to conducting research on open ground, on the outer edges of the social sciences fraternity. But now Weber had landed me right at the centre, where space is tight and you can feel the elbows pushing.
One thing I’m a bit embarrassed by is how paltry our coverage of the events in Ukraine have been over the past few weeks. I’m sure I’m not alone in watching from afar and being fascinated with what is happening, but I have no special expertise in the region. Does anyone from our readership?
One thing that’s fascinated me in particular is how quickly the state of policing shifted, and what this potentially means for how we think about such things as “police,” “state,” “violence,” and “democracy.” You know, all those classic elements of Police Studies that draw on Weber.
Let us (if we can) imagine a society without language. Here is a man copulating with a woman, a tergo, and using in the act a bit of wheat paste. On this level, no perversion. Only by the progressive addition of some nouns does the crime gradually develop, grow in volume, in consistency, and attain the highest degree of transgression. the man is called the father of the woman he is possessing, who is described as being married; the amorous act is ignominiously termed sodomy; and the bit of bread bizarrely associated in this act becomes, under the noun host, a religious symbol whose flouting is sacrilege. Sade excells in collecting this pile of language: for him, the sentence has this function of founding crime: the syntax, refined by centuries of culture, becomes an elegant (in the sense we use the word…
Please write to your Senators and House Representatives to thank them for enacting a fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations bill that provides increased funding to federal science agencies important to social and behavioral science researchers. In addition to protecting research budgets, the FY 2014 omnibus bill was free of troublesome policy riders that would have been harmful to the social science research enterprise. Through the Consortium of Social Science Association’s (COSSA) portal, you can find out how your representative voted and send a personalized thank you note. Please take a moment to thank your elected officials for their efforts to come to final agreement on FY 2014 spending and preserve social science.
Marilyn Strathern has an article in the latest issue of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute and, per usual, it hurts my head and will take some time to unpack, traversing the work of Paul rabinow, Marshall Sahlins, Donna Haraway, Isaac Newton, Isabelle Stengers and others in just a few short pages. When it comes to Strathern, usually this effort is far exceeded in its rewards. For now, one passage caught my eye, on the work of “relation” in Paul Rabinow’s writing:
Lawrence Cohen, in one of the seemingly endless stream of insights he casts around, once suggested to me that the history of anthropology needs to be understood in terms of its status as a “field science” over and against the development of “the laboratory” in the 19th century.
I guess I’m just now coming to terms with what we lost with the passing of George Stocking, but it seems to me that what such a project would require–and I am certainly not the person to do it–is a kind of George Stocking for the 21st century. Stocking’s histories of anthropology pushed aside the easy origins myths the discipline liked to tell itself and opened the possibility to situate anthropology as a discipline within a broader intellectual, emotional and political tradition.
Certainly “laboratory studies” are now plentiful, to the point of being basically passe, in anthropology and in STS more generally. But do any of them take up this question of “the field” in such a way as to insist on anthropology’s central role in constructing scientific knowledge? Who will be anthropology’s next Stocking, placing it at the core of how we understand “knowledge” and “power” today?