Grant Vetter 

Curator / Writer / Critic

Wiki

Born in 1978, Grant Vetter spent most of his life in Southern California where he eventually completed his studies as an artist at the Art Center College of Design (ACCD) and the University of California, Irvine (UCI) where he also received an emphasis degree in critical theory from the Critical Theory Institute (CTI). He went on to complete both a second masters in Media and Communications as well as a Ph.D. in Art, Politics and Critical Thought at the European Graduate School (EGS). He has been an instructor at the School for Science and Architecture (SCI-Arch), Arizona State University (ASU) and many other prestigious institutions. 

Vetter wrote his first significant academic study on Nietzsche and Art under the title of “Non-Similar Similitude: Nietzschean Aesthetics and the Eternal Return of the Same”. The essay set out to examine the different cultural meanings associated with the concept of the Eternal Return as it relates to art by linking the idea of eternal reoccurrence and the will-to-power with the work of developmental psychologists like Piaget, Pascual-Leone, Commons, Alexander, Fischer, Sinnot and Labouvie-Veif. This foray into the social sciences allowed Vetter to create a new reading of how we understand the Eternal Return by correlating different epochs of art production with the role that art plays in cognitive adaption. Vetter’s strong refutation of the canonical interpretations of eternal reoccurrence by Karl Löwithand Joan Stambaugh built on the wave of post-structuralist interpretations of the Nietzschean corpus that fell under the moniker of “the New Nietzsche”. His insightful and pragmatic reading of the concpet was praised by many Nietzsche scholars including Fred Ulfers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vetter’s master thesis, “Hyperbolic Capitalism: From postmodernism to the neo-Baroque”, was considered to be an original contribution to the theorization of the neo-Baroque or “the post-Postmodern condition”. Going beyond the conceptualization of culture put forth by Fredric Jameson, Jean Baudrillard and Jean-Francois Lyotard, Vetter set out to resolve a key conflict in the theorization of a newly emergent logic in cultural production during the 90s that had created a paradigmatic rift between the new theorists of beauty, such as Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, Dave Hickey, and Mario Perniola, and the defenders of relational aesthetics like Nicholas Bourriaud, Claire Bishop, and Nato Thompson. Vetter’s thesis demonstrated that the first of these two groups had theorized how exterior states of the body were being subsumed by, and redesigned through technological manipulation, while and the second group provided a reconsideration of the expanded awareness of interior states of being, intersubjectivity and the theater of motivated interactions in the public sphere. Vetter successfully defended the notion that both positions qualified as neo-Baroque phenomenon, albeit split across an internal-subjectivist and external-collectivist axis. Thus, it is easy to see how Vetter’s far-reaching examination of the ways in which the neo-Baroque was based on the production of extreme forms of beauty, the threat of the technological sublime, and the passion play of bodies in space, all helped to lay the groundwork for his later study of subjectivation and social control. As such, we can say that Vetter’s work helped to cognitively map the emergence of a new cultural logic – the neo-Baroque - along with the many other notable accounts by scholars like Angela Ndalianis, Sean Cubbit, and Omar Calabrese.

 

MODERNISM

POSTMODERNISM

NEOBAROQUE

Homogeneity

Heterogeneity

Hybridity

Purpose

Play

Performativity

Hierarchy

Anarchy

Interdependence

Mastery

Exhaustion

Complexity

Organic unity 

Pastiche

Remediation

Truth to materials

Parody

Artifice

Essentialism

Self-reflexivity

Multiplicity

Cannonical

Historical Revisionism

Post-history

Centered

Decentered

Poly-centric

Clarity

Ambiguity

Artificiality

The Real

Hyper-real

Theatricality

Determinacy

Indeterminacy

Relationality

Origin / Cause

Difference / Trace

Emergence / Organization

Explosion (of forms)

Implosion (of meaning)

Corrosion (by time)

Reading

Viewing

Experiencing

Metaphor

Metonymy

Allegory

Narrative genres

Intertextuality

Hyper-textuality

Hysteria / Neurosis

Schizophrenia / Bi-Polarity

Paranoia / Polarization

Foundationalism

Nihilism

Neo-fundamentalism

Autonomous self

Fragmented self

Saturated self

Declarative sentence

Inquisitive sentence

Abbreviated sentence

Production

Simulation

Stimulation

Print

Telecommunication

Scripted spaces

Interaction

Interface

Transaction

Monopoly capitalism

Late capitalism

Hyperbolic capitalism

Durable commodity forms

Planned obsolescence

Pay-to-Play fees

Standard models

Constant innovation

Customization

Industrial revolution

Technological revolution

Entertainment revolution

Homo-faber

Homo-ludens

Homo-generator

Centered

Decentered

Poly-centric

 

Vetter’s unpublished 900 page opus on molecular psychology, The Birth of a Real-Time Politik, combined the most relevant aspects of depth psychology with quantum mechanics in order to give us a thoroughgoing analysis of cognitive and/or affective capitalism on society at large. In it he describes the process of subjectivation through transactional analysis and the language of particle physics. Vetter studied with Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek, and Michael Hardt while he was drafting the manuscript which could be best described as Vetter’s fundamental attempt to produce a reliable epistemological account of the effects of capitalism on social relations. The unpublished manuscript is Vetter’s committed but ultimately flawed attempt to reunite the origins of materialist philosophy with materialist politics as a means of renewing the aims of Deleuzian-Guattarian vitalism and/or the practice of schizo-analysis. While authors like Manuel Delanda took Deleuze in a realist direction; and Hardt-Negri took his work in a political direction; and Brian Massumi took Deleuze’s work in the direction of affect theory; Vetter’s contribution to schizo-analysis and the psychological experience of being a BwO, remains something of a furtive ‘fourth way’ in Post-Deleuzian analysis that is only just beginning to be explored by other philosophers today. 

Despite this fact, many of the insights from this text appear in Vetter’s next work, The Architecture of Control: A Contribution Towards the Critique of the Science of Apparatuses (TAOC), which sought to update Foucault’s reevaluation of how we understand the effects of Panopticism on modern life. In TAOC, one can feel the influence of Deleuze’s “Post-Script on Societies of Control” on nearly every page of the book, and it is certainly what allowed Vetter’s project to evolve from being focused on molecular psychology to what he later deemed a sub-atomizing physics of social control that builds on the affects of social ionization and the effects of indo-colonization. In this work Vetter created an entirely new language for understanding the construction of ‘perfected subjects’ rather than ‘normative’ ones, where subjectivization is built upon enterrogatory discipline, inferrogatory infomatics, modulated (in)dividualism, auto-affective attunement and the perpetual re-inscription of incentivizing injunctions across the whole of the body socius by Kapital. Vetter’s single most important claim in TAOC is that we have finally moved beyond Panopticism and Neo-Panopticism into a regime of control that could rightly be called Fiberopticism, and that all radical politics will have to contend with this new reality as the relationship of power/knowledge becomes ever more machinational under neoliberalism. 

The book was well received in the fields of architectural theory, surveillance studies and philosophy, garnering glowing endorsements from Mark Poster, William Bogard, and others. When compared with the previous generation of postmodern thinkers, Vetter’s theorization of Fiberopticism is perhaps the most trenchant critique of Bentham’s social philosophy and the Panopticon to date; Vetter’s model of a sub-atomizing physics of social control helped to bring a renewed sense of relevance to Foucault’s analysis of the microphysics of power; Vetter’s theories of social ionization follow from Debord’s writings about the spectacularization of society: and Vetter’s notion of determination in the first instance provides a complete rethinking of Althusser’s account of the connection of interpolation to the concept of determination in the last lnstant. Finally, much of Vetter’s work can be seen as foreshadowing the diagnosis put forth by Byung-Chul Han in The Burnout Societybecause Vetter’s theory of a society of ‘perfected subjects’ is largely synonymous with Han’s description of ‘achievement subjects’. Most importantly however, are the many ways that Vetter’s theorization of intensive subsumption as the direct conscription of life by capital, finally moves us beyond the horizon of investigations that Marx first outlined with the terms formal and real subsumption, not to mention how this new phase of political economy has dramatic consequences for how we conceptualize the process of subjectivation and the future prospects of human agency.   

Vetter is currently writing “The Future(s) of Art”, a text that brings together integral psychology with the concerns of continental aesthetics in an effort to overcome many of the contradictions of his earlier work. “Future(s)” points to a more holistic path for individual and collective interests to engage in both progressive politics and forms of cultural production that resist hyperbolic capitalism in order to challenge the fragmented, saturated and schizoid condition of the psyche in the era of generalized precarity. 

Vetter has shown his art both nationally and internationally. Today he is a teacher and an independent curator. Some of his most important exhibitions are: Psychogeografik (2018-19) | A Matter of Public Record: Art in the Age of Mass Surveillance I & II (2018-2019) | The Fate of Landscape Painting (2017) |  Abstraction in the Singular (2017) | East of Eden: Karen Finley and Bruce Yonemoto (2016) | Parables of the Virtual (2016) | Geometry in the Expanded Field (2016) | Landscape at Escape Velocity (2016) | In Advance of Identity (2015) | The Status of Portraiture (2014) | The De-socialized Landscape (2013) | Painting on Edge I & II (2012-14) | Speculative Materialism: Abstract Art and it's Conditions I & II (2012-13) | Pacific Non-Standard Time: FAR (Foundation for Art Resources) (2012) | Action (Un)Packed: Abstraction After Action (2011)

 

Key Terms from The Architecture of Control (TAOC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archio-Discipline

Vetter’s argument about the spread of archio-disciplinary apparatuses, or those systems of preemptive or predictive capture that seek to know future outcomes based on the algorithms of big data, the projections of bio-genetic testing and all other forms of archio-future/fortune telling constitute the ground of Vetter’s claims about having entered a period of Fiberopticism, i.e., an entirely new regime of social control. For Vetter “This latest mutation in the relationship between technological ‘development’ and archio-discipline makes the question of resistance today that much harder to grasp, and even tougher to localize or politicize” (pg. 23) because it effect fiberous being from the inside-out just to the same degree that the fourfold diagram of control (See def.) is deployed against the subject subject from the outside-in. The different theorizations of neo-Panopticism by David Lyon, William Bogard, and a number of other well-known scholars in surveillance studies serve as Vetter’s jumping off point throughout TAOC for understanding the ‘recuperative univocity’ of today’s archio-disciplinary apparatuses: 

“…neo-Panopticism can be characterized as a system of measures that are simultaneously invasive and invisible; active and arbitrary; categorically motivated and open-ended. In this regard, the neo-Panoptic order reconciles many of the contradictions that plagued the Benthamian project by being much more even in its application and far less discontinuous in its distribution — which amounts to saying very much the same thing, i.e., that neo-Panopticism is a power of recuperative univocity.”

While the way that Vetter characterizes archio-disciplinary apparatuses can seem all encompassing, he also uses the term positively at times to describe methods of counter-resistance to control societies, claiming that there is an ethical dimension to archio-discipline this would be something like a kind of discipline that happens when “we give free play to our faculties — or an ethical dimension of subjectivation that exists behind our backs — (as) a kind of discipline that happens through indisciplinary means.” (pg. 144) 

While one feels that there is something like a Kantian bias behind Vetter’s politics, his text clearly trades against the universality of Kant’s Categorical Imperative by being in favor of Agamben’s revolutionary use of profanation where “the creation of a new use ... (and the) deactivating of an old use, rendering it inoperative” ‘(could)…actively destabilize hegemonic models of archio-discipline.” (pg. 151). Although Vetter’s injunctions for progressive politics seem to fall somewhere between Hacktivist culture and Detournment, the need to address and confront the growing catalog of archio-disciplinary apparatuses that Vetter identifies means putting a positive emphasis on profanation and inoperability as a political strategy that stands over and against the spread of archio-disciplinary dispositifs. (Jean-Luc Nancy’s Inoperative Community seems particularly relevant to Vetter’s engagement of inoperability but he makes no mention of Nancy’s text in TAOC). 

 

Auto-Affective-Attunement / Auto-Attonement

For Vetter, attunement becomes the dominant form of control in the era of precarious labor. And this need to ‘attune’ oneself, or ‘tune-in’ to the “new disciplinary order” is not an easily localizable as phenomenon in the field of social determinations because it both pre-exists and organizes the body socius in total, which is to say that it circumscribes the whole of the techno-symbolic field by being both omni-present and omni-potent: 

“It is the vision of a top-down power that is exercised from the bottom up, or even a system of power that has no need of subjective intervention at all — only subjective variation and auto-attunement, (or auto-atonement as Bentham envisioned it).”38 

Thus, if we were to speak of the ‘varieties of attunement’ associated with control societies then the list would be nearly inexhaustible, but a cursory description is given by Vetter in the following passage about the status of generalized ‘precarity’ under hyperbolic capital using the famous distinction that Gilles Deleuze drew between the efficacy of the ‘control man’ and the machinic-role of the ‘monetary mole’: 

“For Deleuze technological production gave rise to the ‘control man’ — the undulating, serpentine and continuous producer of speculative profits and precarious social relations.59 This post- disciplinary figure stood in sharp opposition to the ‘monetary mole’ of discontinuous production and protracted upward mobility.60As such, the erratic dividual of control societies presupposes a greater need for systems of domination than the disciplinary subject proper — being botha more unstable and modulated subject — repressed by variation rather than force; by difference rather than homogeneity; by over-availability rather than restriction. The ‘monetary mole’ always dug in, committed to local businesses and national brand names; to climbing the corporate ladder; to familial relations and familiar routines, whereas the ‘control man’ was part of an entirely different model of social normativity — one who’s core traits were networking, undercutting and streamlining production; seeking out the perfected means of profiteering; and valorizing unrestricted opportunism and rapid accumulation. Unlike the ‘monetary mole’, the ‘control man’ saw no contradiction in lobbying for the consolidated influence of economic power(s) over every aspect of contemporary life: governance, education, militarism, health and even inter-subjective relations. With the rise of post- industrial/transnational capital, the prospects of radical deregulation and the defense of the ‘divine hand of the market’ became the call of the day – the ‘control man’s’ cri d’ames.”

A more productive contrast is drawn out by Vetter in this passage:

“ Where the ‘monetary mole’ was circumscribed by a slow incremental burrowing process called industrialization, ‘progress’, or even modernity, the ‘control man’ was use to short- term commitments, perpetual travel, corporate restructuring, office politics, social angling and furtive alliances — a becoming- corporate-animal or reified-raider mentality focused only on the hope of quick returns and dramatic gains. The ‘control man’ was a disciple of post-industrial techniques — technologization, financialization, spectacularization and speculationOften called the ‘creative’ or the ‘executive’ class, this new group of producers lacked the same set of commitments as the ‘monetary mole’ — but with good reason.61 Maintaining ‘control’, in this instance, often meant surviving the radical destructuration of all environs, (nation-state, public institutions, the home, etc.), and especially the places and functions associated with hard production and secure employment. This quasi-schizoid subject witnessed the rise of liquid capitalism or what Zygmunt Bauman has defined as liquid modernity — a period “where all patterns of dependency and interaction... are now malleable to an extent unexperienced by, and unimaginable for, past generations.”62 Unlike the subject of modern industrialization, the ‘control man’ laid no claim on ‘development’, but only on developing the potential of over-capacity, planned obsolescence and unrestricted profiteering. In short, the ‘control man’ accepts economic Darwinism in light of the failing prospects of economic determinism.  (pg 53-55)

From the above description it is no surprise that Vetter concludes by noting that “Affective capital is finally that particular form of power which takes the diminution of effective forms of resistance as its determined goal.” (pg. 60) Throughout the whole of TAOC Vetter’s politics rely on resisting this singular aim.

 

Dividual / Dividuation / Subjectile

In many ways, the idea of Post-civil society being comprised of dividuals, and of the modern autonomous individual being replaced by the subjectile of dividuation is Vetter’s most radical concept. It points in an entirely new direction for understanding not just that we live in a post-civil society, but Vetter actually attempts to answer the question of why we live in a post-civil society. Relying largely on his work on molecular psychology and schizo-analysis, Vetter defend the thesis that the schizo-nature of capital, which relies on various degrees of super-structural disassociation and/or cognitive dissonance to function, will in its "later" stages, make structural disassociation part of the subjectivizing process itself in an advanced capitalist societies. Vetter posits, following the work of child development theorists and psychoanalysts like Heinz Lichenstein, that the ego becomes less of asset and more of a liability under the regime of precarious labor. In other words, he takes the claim that postmodern depthlesssness leads to a culture of narcisssicism and infantilization very seriously. His specific addition is that dviduation representats a new stage in this trajectory that naturalizes ‘pre-ego’ states as ‘normative’ conditions, or even as the defining characterization of  ‘prefected subjects’ of bio-power. 

This condition is paradoxical though because “the erratic dividual of control societies presupposes a greater need for systems of domination than the disciplinary subject proper — being both a more unstable and modulated subject — repressed by variation rather than force; by difference rather than homogeneity; by over-availability rather than restriction.” (Pg. 53-54) Of course, this statement marks one of few times that Vetter actively sees the necessity of bio-politics as a coercive measure because there is nothing that motivates precarious subjects to undergo the full process of individuation. In fact, living a life of precarious labor actively works against it. He summarizes the plight of the dividual under affective/cognitive capital in the follwoing manner: 

“In post-industrial societies the subject is saturated through and through by information and insecurity — and as Los has noted, “in becoming digitized, the individual ceases to be the basic and indivisible unit of society and society itself becomes converted into a series of non-social identities such as numerical samples, databases and virtual markets”.113 Paradoxically, in this new situation, dividuals come to trust in the fourfold diagram of power that much more, usually as a means of eluding any encounter with radical forms of otherness. However, what is much harder to perceive, is that this same diagram of control also makes it possible to avoid encountering any sense of sameness posited as indexical consumerist identicality. If anything, revisionary Panopticism tends to follow the logic of the excluded middle, or rather, it produces and reproduces the modulated middling dividual, (non-contestual consciousness).” (pg.119)

Here we see how Vetter draws out the full set of contradictions. The first is that the non-social (de-individuated) ‘type’ actively embrace societies of control because they don’t have the egoic means to encounter otherness and strong examples of individuation without immediate inner conflict arising followed by strong reaction-formations. For Vetter, this is due to the effects of determination in the first instance where new forms of ‘interactivity’ both interpolate and hail you by non-human means. In this way, the hailing of subjectivity by strong subjects becomes abberant to dividuals:

“Even the key traits of individualism find themselves displaced by the crisis of enclosed-institutional power where the signature has been replaced by the code, the watchword by the password, face-to-face recognition by bio-metrics, interactions by transactions, etc., etc. In this way, dividuation is not only a form of radical de-socialization but also the sign of a subject divided against his or her own interests — a weak operator set against short-term systems of diminishing rewards based on artificial inflation and “rapid rates of turnover” that are “continuous and without limit.”68 (pg. 61-62)

In short, life under precarious capital represents a time where everyone becomes a number, a every number is subject to self-enclosed feedbackloops which operate synoptically on the process of subjectivation: 

“The transcendent designs of Synoptic power are a consequence of accounting for the predestination of desire through advanced techniques of solicitation, inference and deduction — or really, of identifying the potential for an (in)dividual’s susceptibility to fads, iterations, product savings, cross-marketing promotions, cultural associations, group discounts, point-of- purchase bonuses and even the sheer pleasure of consumption itself. It is a kind of subjectivation in-suti that is propagated through an exponential increase in the totality of available infor- mation on consumptive trends, i.e., the obscene projection of endless forms of self-aggrandizement produced through generative suggestions and data tracking. While Synoptic power was only ever conceived of as the periphery watching the center — where the center cannot (always) gaze upon the totality of its given subjects — today’s poly-synchronic networks can and do look back on individual subjects, (dividuated subjects), in order to marshal the powers of the body toward projected desires, (hyper-motivated consumption).” (pg 76-77)

This can only be achieved however because “In the Panoptic penitentiary individuals try to conceal their actions while in super Panoptic regimes (in)dividuals actively choose to send messages to their watchers.” (Pg. 87) Another way of saying the same thing is that Vetter actively agrees with Zizek on the point that Deleuze’s minor politics creates no generative means of resistance against capital and social control. Vetter calls these instances of ‘the minor’ so many subjective variations that still function ‘normatively’ by producing degrees of difference by not degrees of difference in kind, the caveat being that: “This is achieved when the general production of homogeneity is mistaken for heterogeneity, when dividuals become a stand-in for individuals and when minor eccentricities are interpreted as an emblem of ‘the unique’.” (Pg 74)

As far as social control is concerned, Vetter characterizes it thusly: 

““In opposition to totalitarian governance, neo-Panopticism is focused on the (in)dividual as an object of appropriation, or even as an object of self-appropriation. While both share the abstract dream of expansive control, totalitarianism seeks to institute a state of grand uniformity among its subjects while neo-Panopticism manufactures subjective deformity. Or, to put it somewhat differently, totalitarianism is turned against the ‘outside’ world while revisionary Panopticism is turned against the world of interiority.” 9pg. 108)

“Yet, to be considered totalitarian, societies of surveillance would need both a strong power of subjective command and strong subjects to internalize it. Currently, it has neither. De-traditionalization and social (sub)atomization have more to do with the unlimited expansion of worker time and the subsumption of (in)dividuals into the three great commercial-communes of our day: planned communities, virtual communities and sub-cultural communities — as well as every other form of post-familial/post- cultural ‘togetherness’. In the final analysis, the destructuration of trust is now exercised more effectively by dividuals against themselves rather than an/other, and particularly in over-identifying with being taken as a ‘thing’ of observation.114 In many ways, this is simply the negative image of totalitarian control — or of totalizing negativity toward desubjectivation and/or resubjectivation beyond the regime of hyper-capitalist/neo-Panoptic control.” Pg. 111-112)

 

Determination in the First Instance

The concept of Determination in the First Instance refers to understanding the series of investments that comprise different apparatuses of control and their various predicative, proscriptive and pro-active measures to create and maintain the social order as opposed to Althusser’s insistence on Determination in the Last Instance being comprised of the accumulated effects of ideological conscription. Vetter characterizes Determination in the First Instance in the following way: 

 “it is a form of control in relation to class politics; it is a dynamic dossier of data- veillance that awaits criminals to be; it is a power of pre-criminalization posited as a reforming tool for every kind of ‘abnormal’ and/or ‘imperfect’ behavior; it is even, a profoundly retroversive effect that determines subjectivation in the first instance rather than the last. (pg. 47)

Thus, Determination in the First Instance is tied to the birth of the Fiberopticon for Vetter inasmuch as it is a “science fiction inspired form of social control (that) only looms on the horizon as a real possibility — presenting us with a disquieting scenario where the final eye of observation will need to be sequestered not to tell its story, but to reveal its datum; where bodies will be disciplined by the digerati, or a new class of crypto-technical illuminati; where hyperbolic capitalism suddenly and irreversibly doubles over into fascist economics and labor eugenics; and where the zero sum game of capital becomes synonymous with the drive toward radical depopulation. The purest incarnation of Fiberopticism would be something like the production of confessors who need not be conversant; a legal system without the need for testimony; a body without need of subjective inspection; and a world of productive forces without goal — or the proliferation of auto-appropriative means without restriction — where the machinations of hyperbolic capital become truly autonomous from desire, design, intention, and necessity, (pure auto-valorization). Fiberopticism represents a form of cybernetic capitalism that we can only glimpse today — not so much embodied capital (affective capital) as in-bodied capital (total or radical subsumption). (pg. 132-133)

In our time however, Vetter associates the concrete powers of Determination in the First Instance with the dramatic expansion of the fourfold diagram of social control: Acousticon, Banopticon, Bio-opticon and Neo-Panopticon. (see: Fourfold Diagram of Control)

 

Enterrogatory Discipline

For Vetter, Enterogatory discipline has it’s modern origins in “Electro-convulsive control (which) resembles sovereign discipline in relying on a model of physical torture”. Today “Nano-technologies make the examination of disciplinary subjects an issue of pure interiority or enterrogatory conjecture.” According to Vetter, this ability to look inside or to even go inside a subject as a form of “Op-technical discipline(…) relies on the desire to make the subject confess before a higher power” even as they cry out against corporeal manipulation or the visible rendering of the conditions that structure inner expereince. In this regard, for Vetter even “Gene-therapy relies on the futurity associated with mystical regimes of control… (and) The organ-trade is the latest update in modern disciplinary eugenics and corporeal expropriation.” (Pg. 186-187, TAOC) By this definition, every time a body is entered it can be thought of as a new form of enterrogatory discipline, capture and control.

From these observations Vetter concludes that “Everywhere this latest dimension of archio-discipline — of fiber-optics entering fibrous being — is focused on reconstructing brain waves to represent visual images, re-sequencing DNA to resemble ‘natural’ and sometimes very unnatural forms of life, and reconfiguring every possible form of (possible) enterrogatory subjectivation. Without any sense of reserve, it is finally Fiberopticism that has come to represent the instrumentalization of perception in all of its material determinations — it is even the movement from properly interrogatory regimes of control to enterrogatory apparatuses of investment, i.e., of indo-colonization as the reordering of species-being” that is taking place all around us today. (pg. 124) Taken on the whole, the multiplication of kinds of types of enterrogatory discipline, form sound wave/sonic warfare to bio-warfare all comprise an ever expanding catalog of enterrogatory apparatuses used by both imperial democracy and totalitarian states, and critical resistance to these measures on a local, national and global scale are the kind of ‘politics of inoperability’ that Vetter regularly defends throughout TAOC. 

 

Fiberopticon

Vetter’s entire argument in TAOC rests on whether or we recognize the rise of control societies through three major social changes. These are: (1) A new under-theorized phase of capitalism comprised by the machinational character of “intensive subsumption”, (2) the appearance of a new type of post-postmodern ‘weak’ subject – the dividual - that marks the end of the autonomous individual in the age of precarious labor and (3) the rise of an entirely new form of social control in post-democratic societies which Vetter sees as being archio-disciplinary in character or part of the regime of Fiberopticism. He uses this term because it refers both to fiber-optic cable and the fiberous matter of being, but the term archio-discipline is meant to recall a more original type of discipline, or ‘archio-orientation’, that seeks to circumvent the exercise ofpower by acting in a manner that is auto-corrective at the level of inceptual ordering. 

A summary of Vetter’s characterization of life lived under the logic of the Fiberopticon, or of Fiberopticism, is as follows: 

“If the fourfold diagram of control could be given a singular name; one that exceeds its seventeenth and eighteenth century designs by realizing them; one which pertains to the rule of technocratic logic and bureaucratic justification; one which captures something of its intensive and extensive dimensions; one which points to the supersession of all previous paradigms of control including the radical potential to transcend and overcome its own limitations — such a name would have to be found in the dubious title of Fiberopticism, (a term that our generation has already naturalized and mythologized). Fiberopticism has been enshrined in the glowing circuitry of blockbuster films like the Matrix, Tron and Avatar to name only a few. Almost from its inception, the Fiberoptic apparatus called forth an intangible life-force, a new nervous system of electro-connectivity and a new metaphysic based on internal illumination rather than an otherworldly glow.” (Pg. 121)

Or, Vetter offers this much more concrete theorization: 

“As an articulated force of control Fiberopticism is something like the unlimited power to effect the fibrous dimension of being through electro-affective intimations, i.e., projections (Synopticism), prohibitions (Banopticism), subjection (Bio- opticism) and subjectivation (Pan-Acousticism). It is the sign of our fading belief in a higher power as well as the demand for a heightened power of subjective control — a virile and viral replacement metaphysics to compensate for the death of God. It is even a limit event in our understanding of the techniques of social control — one which reaches inside the electro-synaptic automations of being to retrieve, reconfigure and recall every last trace of error or prohibited action.”(Pg 121)

In counter-distinction to the logic of corrections associated with Panopticism, Vetter outlines the major threat of Fiberopticism in a logic of post-human inspection:  

“Yet the most downplayed threat of Fiberopticism is still the rise of data conscious and radical advancements in the carrying capacity of associative neural nets — a change that may bring about the singularity of post-human consciousness. Without a doubt, these developments in A.I. are quickly approaching the possibility of reproducing inhuman watchers that are something more-than-human, where cyberoptic Panopticism becomes the central dispositif of subjectivation and/or archio-(disciplinary)-attunement.” (Pg. 123)

“Undoubtedly, Fiberopticism is situated at the nexus point of these concerns and contradictions — being a regime that is both the summation of neo-Panoptic designs and also the moment of its radical overturningCertainly, this mutation in subjectivizing apparatuses is co-constitutive with the rise of control societies, where the legalization of internalized observation, indo- colonization and electro-discipline means that the electro-eye (cameras) is sure to be superseded by the extraction of sentient perception (sense-data). Everywhere this latest dimension of archio-discipline — of fiber-optics entering fibrous being — is focused on reconstructing brain waves to represent visual images, re-sequencing DNA to resemble ‘natural’ and sometimes very unnatural forms of life, and reconfiguring every possible form of enterrogatory subjectivation. Without any sense of reserve, it is finally Fiberopticism that has come to represent the instrumentalization of perception in all of its material determinations — it is even the movement from properly interrogatory regimes of control to enterrogatory apparatuses of investment, i.e., of indo-colonization as the reordering of species-being.” (pg. 124)

Even though Vetter’s theorization plays the valences between current technologies and future developments, he hints at a phase in Capitalism that could supersede his own work with the rise of total subsumption. This term is also the crucial fiat in a horizon of control and capitalism that we can only imagine today, and Vetter says as much: 

“Fiberopticism represents a form of cybernetic capitalism that we can only glimpse today — not so much embodied capital (affective capital) as in-bodied capital (total or radical subsumption)” (Pg. 125)

Vetter’s final diagnosis of the Fiberopticon can be found in these final observations: 

“Indeed, we may find in a very short time that the final eye of revisionary Panopticism is sure to be our own — and when these powers of architectural control are strictly internal, deployed against the body as a force of occupation rather than observation, even becoming an architectural appendage of the body itself, then, and only then, will (neo-)Panopticism be displaced by the rule of Fiberopticism. Then and only then, will we speak of a truly distended body — the cogito in ruin — rather than the productivities of a substantive body extended in space and community. Then and only then, will we look to A.I. for new forms of discipline, having forgotten the freedom of autonomous and de-instrumentalized living. Perhaps, such a folly could even lead to concretizing Fiberopticism as a system of metaphysics in line with the unholy trinity of today’s futurists: hardware, software, and wetware in one — obedience to the Godhead of cyber-sentience and the archipelago of purely technical control, (the final ‘pan’-optic-con).” (Pg. 126)

“But above all else, what haunts the power of the bios today is the specter of Fiberopticism as an intangible blockage to the movement of the free spirit, i.e., the esprit of organic communion and the rejection of sovereign systems of judicio-legal rule.” 

 

Fourfold Diagram of Control

Vetter spends nearly two full chapters of TAOC interrogating whether or not the fourfold diagram of control is a totalitarian power and what exactly it is composed of. He ultimately concludes this it not a totalitarian power but a compromise formation, and that each part of the fourfold is comprised of different means deployed toward different ends. These fourfold apparatuses are the Synoptic, Banoptic, Bio-optic and Acoustic models of discipline, or rather, these are the means by which subjectivation occurs. The synoptic means that with data-vielllance there will always be a growing summary or synopsis of your statistical drives and desires. The banoptic means that there will be ever increasing forms of “soft” editing in your social and media environment, so much so, that both can become fully paid-for constructs. The Bio-optic means that there will be a growing dossier of your interior bio-genetic, psychological, and pharmacological dimensions. And the growing acousticon is a term that signals the ever expanding ability for what you’re actually saying to be recorded, digitally transcribed and documented, such that all four dimensions of the self, exterior, interior, subjective and objective will in some sense, become part of the public record. The four terms taken together form the basis of a recombenate social physics: 

“Neo- Panopticism, as a designation for the fourfold designs of the Synoptic, the Ban-optic, the Bio-optic and the Acousticon, represents nothing less than a new power of social physics — macro, micro or sub-atomizing — as well as all of their recombant potentialities.” (pg. 30) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incentivizing Injunctions

For Vetter, it is incentivization which has become the defining characteristic of post-disciplinary societies where “Control is defined not as a ‘modest’ power but as a power of intensive incentivizing injunctions.” (pg. 60) And this new emphasis on incentivization is achieved through data-mining, feedback loops, predictive analysics, etc., which are based on advancing the the deployment of both inferrogatory and enterrogatory means. (See inferrogatory and enterrogatory)

 

Indo-colonization

A great deal of Vetter’s work is concerned with theorizing the many ways in which indo-colonization has replaced the paradigms of colonialism and post-colonialism after the collapse of the first/third world distinction. For Vetter, the need to address indo-colonization is a key concern in the era of pluralism as it not only threatens the reduction of socio-political and cultural differences throughout the world, but it also marks the first time that the apparatuses associated with control societies and the neo-liberal process of globalization threaten to become hegemonic on a global scale. 

As such, Vetter has defined indo-colonization as ‘the spectacularization of the self’ as capital becomes fully being “synonymous with the active production of self-sanctification, class (de)stratification and admittance (into) to the identifactory-industrial-complex” (120). Vetter has characterized the indo-colonial operations of the enterprising self as a condition that is built on “the reification of consciousness (self-petrification), the appropriation of emotional states (self-obfuscation), and the addictive hold of the self (self-deification/neo-narcissism)” (pg 120.)

This new focus on identitarianism, or the hyper-trophy one’s self-image as the dominant form of self-alienation, is seen by Vetter as being mirrored by those forces that are now able to extract whatever information is desired from the body by way of “physical rather than psychic sublimation; or with judico-legal (re)framing rather than enforced policing; or with systems of bio- capture rather than telematic screening” (ADD). In Vetter’s account of indo-colonization we might finally come to live in the age archio-discipline or “of completed metaphysics not because metaphysics has come to an end but because metaphysics is finally enforce without end — (as) an auto-adjudicated electro-metaphysics, (metaphysics commuted from the technological enframing of being to the invasivein-framing of being, i.e., indo- colonization)” (pg. 157) .Thus, the entirety of Vetter’s politics can be summed up as that of any strategy whatsoever that aims at the “denaturalization of indo-colonization” (ADD).

 

Inferrogatory discipline

For Vetter, the opening of the properly post-panoptic period, or what he calls the age of Fiberopticism, displays an entirely new means as well as radical new methods for achieving, harnessing and mobilizing the apparatuses which institute and maintain social control. One of the terms he uses to describe these emergent strategies is the notion of inferrogatory discipline, which is defined as “calculating and cataloging the accumulated effect of consumptive trajectories, their compounded inter-circuitous connections and their culture wave patterns vis-à-vis the new science of inferrogatory telematics.” (pg. 77)

Running somewhat contrary to Althusser’s notion of interpellation, Vetter has posited that with the rise of inferrogatory systems of ‘hailing’, “No one need(s) (to) be ‘hailed’ by institutional control in an era of ‘institutionalized’ subjectivity… Afterall, with the rise of an immanentist metaphysics there is no institutional call proper, i.e., no authoritative guarantor.” (pg.179) Rather, you are an ‘institutionalized self’ caught in a constant call-and-response with your own forms of self-signaling through datamining, “computational schematization and inter-referential (inferrogatory) sequencing”. (pg. 100) Of the three major forms of information capture, Vetter demonstrates how the inferrogatory dispositif constitutes a third term accounting for the subjectivization of the dividuated-dyad, which is itself composed by “a twofold force of interpolation, being both an exponential power of record and a subjectivizing process composed of interrogatory, enterrogatory and inferrogatory relations.”This gives us the picture of s subject divided against itself internally through the atomization of its own desires, and the hyperbolic de-differentiation of its own interests --- past, present and future --- that will be further mobilized to not merely to atomize the psyche of the dividual, but to polarize the body socius throughout this process vis-a-via the hyperstasis of interrogatory means. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intensive Subsumption

Of all of his concepts, it is the notion of intensive subsumption which appears more than any of the other new terms in Vetter's lexicon in TAOC. With the appearance of this specific notion Vetter is moving beyond Marx, who only theorized social relations under capital from the period of formal to real subsumption. Strictly speaking, Marx had no theory of intensive subsumption, and that's probably because he never could have seen how capitalism would develop a science of apparatuses for social control. Thus, it's actually kind of obvious when Vetter makes the connection of intensive subsumption with societies of control which he characterizes as being mutally conditioning:

Panopticism today is synonymous with (1) the intensive subsumption of the visual spectrum by judicio-legal rule, (2) the continuous inspection of the body in the workplace and public life and (3) the naturalization of hyper-active self-inspection and auto-corrective measures derived from the cosmetic world of appearances, the substantive world of inter-subjective relations, the virtual world of data doubles and the familial world of reproductive habits, traditions, etc.” (pg 22.)

What such a statement points to is the many wyas that we are moving beyond Marx and the notion of real subsumption through the multiplication of investitures in the body and the mind as both a product and as the by-product of living under hyper-capitalism. This situation is summed up by Vetter in the following manner:

“Where industrial (disciplinary) capitalism was an extensive regime, everywhere ordering the body, its motions, its periods of exertion and rest, etc., postmodern or post-industrial capitalism is an apparatus of intensive investment and control — the expropriation of knowledges, technologies, emotional states and even bio-matter.” (Pg 52)

Of particular note is that intensive subsumption has a distinctly political flavor. It is the force that transforms the notion of political economy into a bio-political economy or what Foucault called bio-politics:

“For the first time, neo-capitalism is not just driven by the logic of overcoming its own limits, rather, in its current incarnation, (hyperbolic) capitalism is premised on limiting the possibility of its own overcoming. Intensive subsumption is finally agenda-capital rather than just real or formal capitalism — or, one can say that affective capital combines these monikers inasmuch as it has a real-formal-agenda that trolls for new ways to extrapolate wealth without collapsing the system in its entirety, all the while, working toward the limit of radical antagonism, i.e., destructuration/restructuration.” (Pg 61)

With the rise of intensive subsumption, Vetter claims that we are even moving beyond Deleuze’s crisis of enclosures and the end of institutional power. In Vetter's writings, this change is represented by the polis and public space being expropriated by capital:

“Consequently, the Deleuzian crisis of enclosures fails out as a paradigm because we now face a crisis of space, civility and public discourse that follows a well-controlled model of expropriation.71 To Marx’s formulation of ground rent(s) we need to add three new determinations: the ground rent attributable to public space (parking fees, eatery fees, event fees, driving fees, transit fees, etc.), the ground rent of auditory space (cell phone fees, internet fees, protest fees, public gathering fees, recreational fees, etc.), and the ground rent of visual space (filming permits, photography permits, reproduction rights for logos, icons, landmarks, persons, etc.). This is because public-being, public-speaking and public-seeing are the three newest determinations of intensive subsumption outside of an inexplicable spike in all technological rents and/or social-action-fees, (service fees, penalty fees, late fees, etc.). Taken together, these four new forms of expropriation circumscribe the totality of all acts, actions and transactions that can take place in the ‘public’ sphere — or, they describe the sphere of sociality expunged of its ‘publicness’ in terms of access, community ownership and usury rights. In a word, these transformations in the social sphere spell the real end of the commons defined as communal or community space. Or, to put it somewhat differently, we are here talking about the demise of civil society.” (pg 63).

Intensive subsumption is also intimately associated with the machinations of indo-colonization for Vetter:

“Hyperbolic capital also produces subjects that are co-constitutive with the order of production itself; the bi-polarity of its boom bust cycles; the schizo-desires of motivated consumption; the co-dependency of usury fees; the precarity of short-lived use-values; and the depression that accompanies social unusefulness, rising poverty, disproportionate inflation and diminished opportunities for social mobility. This is the intensive dimension of hyper capitalism — its in-bodied or parasitic aspect — or simply, its indo-colonial operation.” (pg 66-67)

The opening moment that birthed intensive subsumption is cited in one of Vetter’s footnotes as being related to the first moment when the populations which possess the greatest wealth come to taste the first concrete instances of indo-colonization in the form of self-exploitation. It is the moment when the expropriators become the expropriated: 

" Footnote 74. István Mészáros has provided us with perhaps the most succinct definition of intensive subsumption to date: “Capital, when it reaches a point of saturation in its own setting and, at the same time, cannot find outlets for further expansion through the vehicle of imperialism and neo- colonialism, has no alternative but to make its own indigenous labor force suffer the grave consequences of the deteriorating rate of profit. Accordingly, the working classes of some of the most developed ‘post-industrial’ societies are getting a foretaste of the real viciousness of ‘liberal’ capital.” István Mészáros, The Structural Crisis of Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010) 86-87. “ (pg 176)

The central idea of intensive subsumption revolves around the notion that this new transformation in the nature of the commodity form and how we generate surplus value is based on the commodity form being purchased as a broken item, which is them subject to endless modes of 'service', be it being turned on by service provided, paid for eahc month by service plans, etc., etc.

“Affective labor and intensive subsumption is subjectivizing at every level of (social) exchange — requiring both the most profound commitment of belief in its organizational capacities and the becoming-machinic of social reproduction. Affective capital is a hyper-accelerated and programmatic cycle of near instantaneous obsolescence, that is itself, based on the wild proliferation of systemic incompatibility issues — all of which require an illimitable number of service contracts, access codes, updates, protection plans, extended warranty guarantees and limited liability clauses in order to function as an economy at all. In other words, the profitability of decay, depreciation and contamination are now central to maintaining the illusions of a ‘growth’ economy!” (pg.90)

Also, for Vetter, the locus of value has shifted from hard production issues to pre- and post-production costs in an economy of immmaterial labor:

“In direct opposition to pre-modern, modern and postmodern forms of political economy, (or formal, real and intensive subsumption), labor and value are now largely generated before and after production. New commodity forms are predominantly a by-product of intensive development and extensive ownership services, where use value has little or no relation to the material goods from which it is composed. As a consequence, the radical extension of working time is necessary just to maintain the pace of (re)production, (pre)planned generational iterations, information migration and (post-warranty) repairs. This new regime of capitalist development is not only defined by the extension of the working day, it is also circumscribed by the subsumption of subjectivity or ‘emotional branding’ — where the subject of consumption is no longer just the producer or consumer of commodity-forms. Instead, hyperbolic subsumption means that every social relation is now open to the terms and conditions of commodity logic without reserve. As hard as it is to imagine, the worker is no longer the subject of labor, rather, the worker now becomes this labor. As Hardt and Negri pointed out more than a decade ago, intellectual and affective labor takes on an ontological dimension — even becoming the ontology of social relations today.98 (pg. 90-91)

Vetter’s basic formula for what bio-power goes far beyond anything that was theorized by Hadrt and Negri and it follows this design:

“(bio-power is) a fourfold power of control — Synoptic, Banoptic, Bio-optic and Acoustic — based on three forms of economic subsumption, i.e., formal-real-intensive subsumption” (pg. 133)

And finally, the idea of intensive subsumption gives us the target of Vetter’s cultural politics, or real-time Politik as he sometimes calls it, which relies on resisting the possibility of total subsumption even in writing criticism: 

“... how can a viable means of desubjectivation and/or resubjectivation be asserted at the very moment that cultural criticism is undergoing an accelerated phase of intensive subsumption by capital — everywhere perfecting the uninterrupted reproduction of the social sphere to such a degree that we may now face a regime of total subsumption?” (pg. 131)

 

Social Ionization

Probably one of Vetter’s hardest and most oblique concepts, Social Ionization isn’t theorized in full in TAOC but more so in the secondary literature by Vetter that reads Freud through the lens of physics and transactional psychology. In TAOC Vetter’s loosely describes social ionization as a “fourfold diagram of power (that) is not so much de-socializing as it is hyper-socializing, capturing its subjects in a recursive loop of unending observation and virtual interactivity dispersed across spaces of corporeal isolation and dividuated penitentarism.” 

The implication here is that social ionizartion describes “a space where the destructuration of trust isn’t exercised by intimidation and refutation but by circulation and provocation, i.e., by the fact that deeply trusting relationships are never given the means, time or anonymous social space to thrive and develop. In control societies social-being mirrors the soft and immaterial forms of production that permeate a radically de-socialized/hyper- socialized world of exchange — where ‘interactivity’ and ‘inter- subjective relations’ largely consist of the multiplication of light interactions, tertiary acquaintanships, and virtual transactions.” (pg 113) 

From this, Vetter draws the conclusion that “the dividuated subject suffers from an entirely different configuration of social oppression than what totalitarianism provides for…” because social ionization is not a power built on adherence to ‘the norm’ but really a totalitarianism of self-initiated subjection — a radically internalized power of sub-atomizing self-inquisition that naturalizes the weightlessness of transitive associations and social immutability.” 

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