Friday, July 23, 2010

The Body Politic, The Body Poetic, The Body Real

The deep formative connection between Dread Scott v Sanford (1857) and Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific (1886) is increasing more evident. Dread Scott, who sued for his freedom after accompanying his master to the free state of Illinois, was declared by the Supreme Court to be 'property,' and not a person. Santa Clara County v SP declared corporations to be persons. The latter decision has, over time, reconfigured everyone as "property." It's no mere linguistic quirk that Personnel Departments are now called Human Resources for the only legal persons that matter. Battlestar Galactica as a modern parable... but the robotic inventions that rule us are not technological devices, but institutions--and the matrix of laws that make us all wage slaves--if we're 'lucky' enough to hold a job.

This is the inexorable logic of the idea of property, of ownership. As the claim of ownership--whether of persons,things, land or the forces of nature, depersonalizes the owner into a complimentary thing, possessor and possessed being different manifestations of the same--a difference of custom and law but not of being, the very assertion of personhood, in as much as it is successful, deprives the person of the power of possession. Who--or what then is left to claim ownership, but the pseudo-person of the corporation, which in claiming ownership of labor, refashions as possessed things all in its employ--and, unlike human laborers, at no loss to its claim of personhood--as that claim is only a legal fiction. To insist on one's personhood, it is necessary to surrender the power to own to this fictive Person--which eventually to own everything. To be a person becomes increasingly difficult, and ultimately impossible, as survival demands surrender, acceptance of translation into a 'resource' -- the property of the Corporation.

From David Wolach Preliminary Reflections on "Commoning and the Body"
"Commoning and the Body".

David Wolach has sent the following notes, questions, and links to orient an approach to the Nonsite discussion he will facilitate on Sunday Juy 25, 2010:

This is the beginning of how, as poets, we need to think through our received ideas of property and the language of ownership--even to the level of possessive pronouns relating to the body. What do we really mean when we say something like, 'my arm,' 'my body' ... or rather, what else is meant that we overlook in our unmindful usage?
In a capitalist “service economy,” the body is ever more occulted, relegated, or in the way. An aesthetic rediscovery of the body as having proprioceptive, sensory, and kinesthetic potential to inform us uniquely and importantly, and to provide care by opening covered possibles, seems to be a kind of positive articulation of an overall renewed interest in and fear of the "occult body." Market magic, as many have noted in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, has been the raison d’etre and the excuse for the stripping away of public land rights and the erosion of habeas corpus, all while corporations have gained increasingly robust legal protections as bodies, as “persons,” a definition which not only runs counter to the rights of individuals in a “free” society, but does so by means of defining “person”—hence “corporation”—as pseudo-unified enclosure, workers becoming operational cells of an organ, barely in need of consciousness. I am interested in what the effective (cunning) manager is interested in suppressing: the fact and the knowledge of the value of the working body’s (growing) surpluses, the body's hidden marks and tracks, its sensory and affective capacities and contiguities with other bodies, hence relational (necessarily social) potentials. There is something passive in our current fragmentary realization that our affective capacities are considered by our managers as every bit as “defective” as our various and variable “disabilities.” That the two are on a spectrum, of a category, for the “competent” manager.

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