I like this whole debate on "the subject". but my first question might be
this what is "performativity?" I mean it is a concept throw around so
loosely in certain circles of academic discourse. I associate the term
with the lack of an "nature" or given behavioural norms. I mean since the
modern subject has constructed all notion of biological nature it can no
longer claim to have a meta-script to justifies his actions and as such
finds himself in the a "lacuna" or void from which the subject must
improvise a script, or performance. But the absence of "a nature" is just
one aspect of this, we also have the death or deconstruction of the world
(Holderlin), God (Nietzsche), Man, Science, Nature (Foucault), Art (dada)
etc. All attempts to legitimate and understand the world according to such
MetaTruths are futile and doomed to a certain Nihilism. So when you strip
away MetaTruth all you have is performativity, a certain myth making while
conscious that it is merely myth (Foucault meant myth here in the most
derogatory sense of the word myth as a lie and falsehood) the modern
subject experiences performativity with out "suspension of belief" (to use
more theatre jargon in a phil context). The subject or we for that matter
can not believe and this is what I meant in part by the Fragility of Being
or Fragility of Appearance, in the sense that Nietsche states "woe to us
if we even bump ourselves for we are made glass."
I was at one of Butler lectures while back in Berkeley and at that time
she made some arguments against this notion of performance as liberatory.
And I think this is in part what you are getting at with this idea of a
"pregiven" The Subject is already under he influence of "Tradition,"
"Science" the historical knowledge structure with constitute and define
his epoch. It is this Idea of Interpolation she take from Althussar and
his notion of "interpolation" which uses the example of someone knocking
on the door. The person who answers the door already knows who he is and
that the subject already knows who he or she is, or that he or she is a he
or a she, trapped in the biology of her or his bodily mapping!
As for Mob ized subjectivity I think it is a tricky notion , in the Gay
Science Nietzsche sees the greatest danger in the fact man has become raw
material of sorts. N claims that political school of Bismarck "real
politics" create leaders which serve as "great architects" and it is these
"great architects" who build society using men, or the masses as their
building material. Somewhere at the end of the GS he states something like
"man has value only in so far as he is a stone in the great edifice and
above all not an actor" So I would say you are right that for Neitzsche be
an actor or performer seems "in line with a performative understanding of
resistance" against what Arendt terms homo faber and Heidigger "man as
builder". But my question to you is this how does one "resist one's own
subjectification" and "bring into being a restive subject?"
throw yourself down: a journal of radical threory and action
On Mon, 28 Aug 2000, Anonymous wrote:
> Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 16:56:56 -0700
> From: Anonymous <rhizome85@xxxxxxxx>
> Reply-To: foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> To: foucault@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: Clarification (on performativity)
> In response to confusion about the nature of my question, here goes:
> In _Being and Nothingness_, Sartre argues for an ethic of
> responsibility whereby we view our actions as ultimately constitutive of our
> own ontology. Although Sartre's ethic is derived from the idea of a pregiven
> subject, when I encountered Foucault's notion of treating the self as a work
> of art, it struck me as similar to the ethic Sartre proposes. This led me to
> question the relationship of these philosophers to Nietzsche's work, since
> Nietzsche heavily influenced both Sartre and Foucault.
> I think the notion of performativity helps to clarify all this. The
> alternatives suggested by Foucault and Butler are based on a criticism of
> the notion of a pregiven subject. If I remember correctly, McCarthy as
> questioned how Foucault can both deny the existence of and advocate the
> action of a subject. Jessica Kulynych argues that McCarthy misguidedly views
> political participation as being representative, rather than performative.
> Here, we need to draw a distinction between the body and the subject. The
> BODY is pregiven. There is always a living human being that has the
> potentiality to act. It is the subject position from which this living being
> is acting that is unstable.
> Nietzsche discusses the way the slave morality debases humanity. It
> imposes a "mob"-ized subjectivity. Here, Nietzsche's rejection of this slave
> morality seems in line with a performative understanding of resistance.
> Resisting one's own subjectification brings into being a restive subject.
> Ultimately, the resistance that Butler and Kulynych describe seems to be
> readily translatable into Nietzschean terms.
> Once again, my greatest apologies--I am something of a novice when it
> comes to Foucault.