I wrote about fifty words today. It doesn’t sound like much but it means a lot to me. I wrote about the way subjects use the subjection of power to obtain agency. Subjects are created through power and it is the power that creates the subject that is, in effect, surplus and which is then used by the subject to assert agency that is conditioned by the power that creates the subject position in the first instance.
The narration of the subject is problematic. Power is a pre-condition for the emergence of the subject and yet power cannot exist without the existence of the subject. Kind of a chicken or the egg problem. So it’s impossible to narrativise the emergence of the subject without positing the preexistence of the subject. To narrate the emergence of the subject the subject must speak of itself in the third person whereby the subject disappears only to give rise to the narrating subject.
Just a few months ago I asked for the first time what subjectivity was. I simply did not know, had never heard the concept before. Now I’m writing about it. It was only late last year I heard about Michel Foucault for the first time. He now informs my theoretical approach to my thesis. At times I feel daunted, almost afraid of being found to be an intellectual fraud. But today I simply enjoyed learning. I read Judith Butler. It was one of Butler’s easier pieces. She has a reputation for writing in an inaccessable style, but she writes about subjects that require a new state of consciousness to grasp, not a simple, intellectual understanding. And after spending a considerable amount of time reading and re-reading, I was finally able to write a piece. This is what I wrote:
Judith Butler (1997, p. 12) poses the question in a similar vein: “How is it that the power upon which the subject depends for existence and which the subject is compelled to reiterate turns against itself in the course of that reiteration?” In response, Butler contends that, whilst power enacts the subject through subjection, it is also used productively by the subject to create itself as the precondition of agency and the “guarantor of its resistance and opposition” (p. 14). Subordination, therefore, becomes an important strategy on the part of the subject to obtain agency. For Butler, “the subject emerges both as the effect of a prior power and as the condition of possibility for a radically conditioned form of agency” (p. 15; emphasis in original). Thought in this way, power delivers to the subject the very agency it attempts to suppress.
It may not win a Pulitzer prize but it’s my unfolding in the agony of the delete key trying to suppress the slow formation of words.
Bulter, J. (1997). The psychic life of power: theories in subjection. Stanford: Stanford University Press.