A Question for Institutions

Establishment always occurs simultaneously with a change in focus, a reconstitution at a higher level of analysis. The origin of institution lies in an emergent super-organization, capable of responding to abstract summarizations of events, persisting as a kind of discipline, a higher and orderly vantage point with which to regard the chaos of local ecosystemic coordinations. Institution is a concept-State: its function is to designate a new layer of coordinated activity which is to established by forces external to it. To think or act institutionally is to shift the discourse neither ‘left’ nor ‘right,’ but rather ever upwards into infinity: not only to a higher layer or perspective, but to a new plane of consistency whereby we become aware of the intrinsic machinic value of energy. The institutionalizing impulse-to-order externalizes its own energy as a dimensional break in the geometry of the local conceptual-political field.

Yet despite the noble analyses of centuries of thinkers, it is clear that the problem of institutions, like that of violence, remains very obscure. Establishment as such is currently situated at what amounts to an ‘inertial’ analytical point. For establishment already unifies, accelerates the convergence of critical and clinical discourses. Discipline is a compulsion towards a unity of speed and of precision, so institutionalization mercilessly compels discourses to confront one another, even to become indiscernible from one another — and sometimes even against their ‘will’! — in order to explain, to predict, to control. Institution’s only operation is the sacrifice of energy to gain control; all donation is only to gain or maintain a higher, radically total vision, so that a single voice could be able to express the entire concept, so that a single hand could control the entire State.

But institutions thereby recreate the universe, or at least — compel everything to move to its rhythm, at its speed, in its particular style and mode of expression: the goal of institution is for the subject even to unconsciously duplicate the machine. For is it not when the question of insitution itself is finally posed, that disciplines suddenly seem to have an incredible difficulty in maintaining their idiosyncratic approach, their distinct identities? Against the pure abstract source of order, the furnace from which they derive their very scientificity, the veridicality of their reason — even these concrete certainties cease to become axiomatic. All thought mergse into a single goal, a single question. Discipline re-organized. Becoming must be undertaken cautiously: for when an overly specialized approach breaches the critical zone, it even runs the risk of losing its shape, its rigorous intensity, its vitality, even its territory. Thought can become disorganized because of the extraordinary organization of its object.

Let us begin by saying institutionalization is a becoming-machine, the establishment of a universalizable operation cycle. The institution is a machine which as such has no authority to impose rules and laws, is impotent as such — and so rather subjects the entire universe to its cycle of operations, utilizing whatever forces are available to it to ensure its survival.

Institutions provoke a cosmic functionalization which is necessarily ambiguous: to open new spaces for coordinated vitality, some others must be closed forever. Society is a machine which unfolds itself more than it folds back in: it is a super-institution, which miraculously donates a positive function to all that which benefits its self-organization.

Thus machinic subjects understand intimately the role of science, even if they can no longer conceive of the scientific as such. Does the institution destroy the possibility of pure science? It is perhaps too much to assert that science can only becomes ‘innovative’ when at a distance from machinic organizations of subjectivity; doubtless they require one another. Yet this very need seems somewhat contrived, something of a fiction. Yet what would such a ‘pure’ science be, in isolation from any predictable processes? And what would such an institution produce, devoid of order, synchrony or goal?

Culture is an institution in the past tense: what was or has been established. But the dynamics of coordination do not necessarily proceed along indicated cultural paths. To all goals, identities, desires, layers, pathways, endpoints, institutions are indifferent.

In short, institutes are organizations which transform energy; speed is the only important difference. Establishment invests energy directly into a circular process of self-renewal. Consider a cube replaced by infinitely many differently-sized spheres: the fact of difference (in size) precludes any question of alternative distributions, and the position of the largest determine the necessary arrangement of the smaller…

The geometry of social order is invested by divisions of life-space, while the intensity of social desire seeks to overcome divisions by reunification, streamlining the separation which produces cultural objects… Eventually the process ends where it had begun: we find our culture has become automatic, our thoughts and actions reflexive, our intensity subdivided until it has become harmless.

Institutions neutralize desire. There is no escaping the fact that the massive coordination of activity has as its necessary consequence the ‘automatization’ of almost every aspect of life, to the extent we are shocked when the world doesn’t correspond to our institutionalized cognition. So my question is this: is it possible to truly think post-institutionally, given that our cultural mode of thought has been irrevocably shaped by institutions?

Institutions combine the ‘eternal memory’ of science, mathematics and religion, with the ‘momentary experience’ of phenomenology, sociopsychology, and critical theory. The problem of institutions is the problem of slavery and aristocracy, the problem of freedom and envy. Approached through the lens of objective science, the subject simply imitates the multiplicity of the institution. Even science becomes an institution only when its sets about to study them as a subject (‘subject to law’) — and, in a real sense, to control them by this study. The universal simulation produced by the institution is the central problematic of hyper-mechanization; it is the dream of establishment — a paradise. All institutions secretly want to become utopias; this desire distorted, become obscene, is capital. Social thought has become almost completely functionalized, embodied as exchange within an open community. The closure of society to the universe is almost irreversible; the functionalization of the universe for society is almost complete. But we are not yet machines, and still have time to postpone the moment of inhumanity.

This entry was written by Joseph Weissman and published on Tuesday, September 4, 2007 at 5:35 pm. It’s filed under culture, identity, institution, Science / Mathematics / Technology, speed, survival. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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