Embodiment and materiality

In reading the scholarly literature on social systems theory, I sometimes come across the claim that for Luhmann psychic systems means the mind–and that this mind is incorporeal. The person this claims that Luhmann fell back on the old body/mind duality, according to which there is a mind distinct from the physical body. But these claims are simply false. The psychic system is conscious awareness; it is the body’s awareness of itself. The psychic system consists of whatever the body can perceive via its five senses and its “sixth sense, proprioception (perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body). Thus all sentient beings, not just humans, have a psychic system. A better term that psychic system might be sensorium–the sensory apparatus or faculties considered as a whole.

Including the excluded

In this panoptic society of which incarceration is the omnipresent armature, the delinquent is not outside the law; he is, from the very outset, in the law, at the very heart of the law, or at least in the midst of those mechanisms that transfer the individual imperceptibly from discipline to the law, from deviation to offence. Although it is true that prison punishes delinquency, delinquency is for the most part produced in and by an incarceration which, ultimately, prison perpetuates in its turn.

The “failure” of the prison system

Penality would then appear to be a way of handling illegalities, of laying down the limits of tolerance, of giving free rein to some, of putting pressure on others, of excluding a particular section, of making another useful, of neutralizing certain individuals and of profiting from others. In short, penality does not simply ‘check’ illegalities; it ‘differentiates’ them, it provides them with a general ‘economy’.

More on individuality

Before the classical age, biographies were less stories of individuals than stories of the holder of some important office of position–e.g., the life of a statesman, general, king, or emperor. For example, Plutarch’s biography of Alexander the Great was the story of a great military leader, not the story of a particular person.

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