The Debt-Dollar Discipline: Part I

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ashvinp
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The Debt-Dollar Discipline: Part I

The following is Part I in a two part series of articles on the relatively rapid emergence and collapse of the "debt-dollar discipline" imposed on our global society. It is being done in two installments mainly due to my current time constraints, but also for the sake of shorter length and targeted focus. This part will introduce Michel Foucault's (renowned french philosopher, 1926-1984) analysis of "discipline" and "punish" in the modern state, and apply it to the global debt-dollar reserve system. The next part will focus entirely on the ongoing collapse of this discplinary system, as it such an important and far-reaching topic.

Introduction:

Quote:

Michel Foucault's seminal work Discipline and Punish explored the extreme institutionalization of "discipline" in modern Western society, as best exemplified by the evolution of the modern penal system. He illustrated this transformation by contrasting medieval public executions with the wholly distinct system of punishment we have today. The former was a stage for the sovereign (usually a King) to exhibit physical punishment on a criminal for violating the laws of the land, which were seen as an extension of the sovereign's body, and was designed to explicitly make the public aware of the sovereign's absolute power.

      According to Foucault, this non-uniform system of public punishment eventually had the unintended consequence of creating public resentment for the sovereign, as the oppressed people would begin to indentify with the suffering of the punished. This dynamic was evidenced by the violent riots that would erupt in support of prisoners during public exections. The powerful sovereign could no longer continue to maintain its domination while its political legitimacy was being undermined by such adverse reactions. These public displays may have revealed the extent of the sovereign's authority, but they were too disorderly for the modern state's purposes.

      It is no coincidence that the modern penal system evolved along with the emergence of industrial production as the dominant economic force in Western society. The latter was a system entirely focused on increasing efficiency, where students, workers and soliders alike were trained to be more obedient, faster and stronger in every aspect of their designated functions. Modern states facilitated this process of immense wealth production by instituting high levels of order on their citizens, or what Foucault would term "discipline". It was not really a tool for the Kings and Monarchs of old, but rather was more useful for controlling the populations of emerging democratic states [emphasis mine]:

Historically, the process by which the bourgeoisie became in the course of the eighteenth century the politically dominant class was masked by the establishment of an explicit, coded and formally egalitarian juridical framework, made possible by the organization of a parliamentary, representative regime. But the development and generalization of disciplinary mechanisms constituted the other, dark side of these processes. The general juridical form that guaranteed a system of rights that were egalitarian in principle was supported by these tiny, everyday, physical mechanisms, by all those systems of micro-power that are essentially non-egalitarian and asymmetrical that we call the disciplines. [Foucault, Michel (1975). Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison, New York: Random House (p.222)]

      Foucault pointed out the striking similarities of the prisons, schools, hospitals (especially "mental" institutions), military barracks, office buildings and factories that had been established in the modern state, as they were all designed around specialized functions, regimented schedules and high degress of observation and control. These insitutions even shared very similar physical architectures and were typically legitimized by an underlying "scientific" foundation, whether that be criminology, psychology, medicine or economics. It was their ultimate goal to internalize strict discipline within the individuals themselves, so they would automatically follow these societal "norms" without questioning any of their reasons or results. Anyone who strays too far from the expected behaviors are labeled as part of the "delinquent class", and are deemed to be in need of reform, rehabilitation, treatment or punishment.

      The quintessence of this institutional disciplinary structure for Focault was Jeremy Bentham's "Panopticon", which is a prison design involving a central watchtower with heavily tinted or mirrored windows. The prison cells would be located around the periphery, and prisoners would never be able to tell whether they were being observed or not. Bentham himself described the design as allowing "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example." [1]. It fit in quite well with industrial society's ever-important goal of maximizing efficiency, as it allowed prisons to cut down on the number of staff needed to control the prison population.

      The Panopticon design principles have been implemented in several different prisons and even some hospitals after Bentham's time, but the general concepts can also be seen in other areas of modern life. For example, many U.S. highways have signs warning drivers that "speed limits are enforced by aircraft". It is highly unlikely that the state police department actually takes on the expense of using aircrafts for such a purpose, but that fact is largely irrelevant for the state. As long as drivers believe they are potentially being monitored from above, they will be more likely to obey the speed limits given to them.

Full piece - http://peakcomplexity.blogspot.com/2010/12/debt-dollar-discpline-part-i-financial.html

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