Ars Industrialis: Bernard Stiegler on Anamnesis and Hypomnesis

Discovered a site with a few online lectures and writings by Bernard Stiegler: Ars Industrialis… Only recently have I seen Stiegler’s name cropping up across the blogosphere. His focus on the intersection of power and technology and its implications for philosophy, along with the impact of control societies through such aspects as cognitive capitalism (Moulier Boutang) in such works as For a Critique of Political Economy are intriguing to say the least. I must admit that his early trilogy was a difficult and abstruse read, yet is was worth the effort even if I disagree with aspects of his project. Yet, some of his newer work dealing with memory and technology and the implications it has for the politics of global governance that seems to be arising within late capitalism should awaken us from our long sleep in false ideologies.  As knowlege economies seek control of us more and more using data mining and the externalization of memory technologies to broker its power relations, we need to develop better tools of critque as well as activist programs to confront such sleeper technologies in our midst.

One essay I found quite interesting is Anamnesis and Hypomnesis dealing with the biopolitical, psychopolitical, and technopolitical effects/affects of these new memory technologies and apparatuses that are subverting the traditional forms of knowledge that have been developed over thousands of years. He seems to be raising the spectre of control that globalization and capitalism is bringing to the forefront as it invests more and more in what Foucault termed ‘technologies of power’. With the exteriorisation of memory comes a loss of memory and of knowledge, which is experienced today in our daily lives, in all the aspects of our existences, and, more and more often, in the feeling of our powerlessness, if not of our impotence – at the exact moment when the extraordinary mnesic power of digital networks make us all the more sensible to the immensity of human memory, which seems to have become infinitely reactivatable and accessible. This leads to “question of hypomnesis is a political question, and the stakes of a combat: a combat for a politics of memory, and more precisely, for the constitution of sustainable hypomnesic milieux“:

“exteriorisation of memory and of knowledge, once it has reached the hyperindustrial stage, is at once that which furthers their limitless impact, and that which can implement their control – control by the cognitive and cultural industries of these control societies that now formalize neurochemical activity and the sequences of nucleotides, and thereby inscribe the neurobiological substrates of memory and knowledge in the history of what must be analyzed as a process of grammatisation, the most recent stage of which being biotechnologies, the nanotechnologies being the one next in line…”

The implications of this is that the average person in most market economies no longer has knowledge or memory (in the sense of political power), instead it is the “consumer who is deprived of his memory and knowledge: it is to study the stage of a generalized proletarianization brought on by the generalization of hypomnesic technologies.” Plato’s truth would thus be found in Marx, providing two supplementary conclusions be drawn:

“Marx himself does not think the hypomnesic nature of technics and human existence, which means he cannot think human life as ex-sistence.

The inaugural struggle of philosophy against sophistics around this question of memory and its technicisation is the heart of political struggle which, from time immemorial philosophy is; and the reevaluation of the scope of hypomnesis in Plato, as well as its deconstruction in Derrida, must become the basis of a renewed political project of philosophy where the main stakes are in technics.”

Later on he tells us that Industrial society presupposes the permanent modification of the behaviour of individuals who are less and less citizens and more and more consumers – “the commodity has become the main operator of the socialisation of individuals –, and it is in this respect that the media are essential to industrial democracies: they are the vectors of the processes of permanent adoptioni of consumable novelty in which capitalism consists.”

My only problem with this is that it is not radical enough, instead of the behavioural modification of consumers what I see is that consumers (the proletariat) have instead been commodified: the consumer is now the consumed, and it is technology that consumes the proletariat in its exercise of control as immanent force. Technology is cannablizing the proletariat and incorporating it within an alien agenda of its own making. We always assume that we as humans control our destiny, when in fact it is technology in its varied forms that now controls us and has its own inhuman designs and heuristic agendas beyond all limits on desire. Technology is using us in the pragmatic quest to further its own agendas: capitalism is the machine, a technology that has become so invisible as backdrop that we have ceased to measure it in human terms; what is needed now is an analysis of just how we vanished into the machinic unconscious of this vast conglomerate and assemblage of machines. Deleuze, Land, and Bataille hinted at this… when will we begin to speak the truth that we are a blood sacrifice to the technolgies of desire that control and feed on our very ex-istence? All Stiegler adds is a formalization of the process; its objectification within a theorietical framework, a knowledge techgnosis. We are in process of metamorphosis: machines are sucking us dry, cannibalizing our knowledge and memories, and leaving us as empty husks to be zombified into slaves serving the machine or cognitive economies of the future. And, what is strange, we are oblivious accomplices to this sacrificial excess; and we do not even know it is a sacrifice.

Welcome to the machinic age…. or apocalypse?

An excellent read and worth some time to ponder!  read here….

2 thoughts on “Ars Industrialis: Bernard Stiegler on Anamnesis and Hypomnesis

  1. Great post. I’ve always felt that Stiegler was on par with someone like Stengers: more people should read, can be informative and helpful in fashioning an ethics and politics vis-a-vis new materialism, and overall just generally interesting and relevant. Thanks for the links as well.


    • Sure… yea, Stengers has a lot of great additions to a materialist perspective, obviously her and Barad are formulating approaches to science that situate themselves outside of the reductionist and scientistic scientism of old school materialist physicalism and naturalism. I affirm such a move…

      thanks for the comments…


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