Sometimes my standard title convention is a bit limiting. And sometimes I can’t think of anything to title my post (which usually makes the title convention useful). Anyway.

This is the post I had in mind to write before I posted the last few (one I wrote from home where I don’t have internet – the one about Utah Philips, one on NP’s comment on Marx and labor power, and the one slapping up those book reviews). I’m a bit written out now, and I don’t have with me any of the books I mention. So this is going to be one stellar fucking post my friend, let me tell you.

A while back I read some of Foucault’s Security, Territory, Population and tried to do some thinking about the body and biopolitics (it started with a post on the body, then a post on Virno, then a post on labor power, then one on Mbembe and on killing), then the book got recalled at the library. I have it out again and have just restarted it.

In the lecture Foucault talks about sovereignty, discipline, and security, with the first being a sort of command like a law, the second being the application of punishment to people who break the law and the threat of punishment to modify the behavior of others to keep them following the command. Security is the setting of optimal standards of violation and rule following – statistical measurement of behavior, of the efficacy of discipline, estimates of probability of behavior, etc. [This is all from memory, have to doublecheck later when the book’s on hand.]

On a related note, William Forbath comments on the relationship between statistics and ‘thinking like a state’ [ditto last bracketed comment].

I mention this because in my research on workmen’s compensation I’m looking at the time when one state agency – the industrial commission – was trying to get information that didn’t yet exist, about accident rates and win rates and compensation rates and so on. This seems to me to be in part what Foucault is talking about in way, or rather, analogous to it. Security in relation to workplace safety and injury, as well as compensation for it. As much as I don’t like or understand Foucault’s remarks on population, part of what I think is going on with workmen’s compensation in the creation of a standard measure/rate for injury awards is the creation of injured workers as a population, standardized, one group to be treated in one way. Part of the opposition to the loss of jury trials is a sort of individualism, in what I think is a positive sense – a demand to keep the option of being treated individually as a unique case before a judge and jury. This individualized treatment also appeared to have allowed for greater dynamism and case specific decision making in awards (the complaint or rather one complaint against appears to have been that that it didn’t evince clear and universal/universalizable principles across cases).

[I need to run now, I have to be home soon – there’s 3 of us sharing 2 sets of keys so I have to be good about coming home at designated times. I wanted to go over some of the specifics from the primary sources I’ve gotten from the MNHS so far (which reminds me, I need to build up my primary source and archive database while I have internet access, for the archives that have digital catalogs, [I meant to do that today and forgot {damn it!}], so I can track what I have and haven’t looked at and prioritize what I want to look at) in more detail in this post, that will have to wait till I come back from being out of town I guess.]

Advertisements