File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 115

Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 14:17:51 +0000
Subject: cyborgs and the inhuman

Eric and All

The concept of the cyborg is one of the clearest representations of the 
inhuman. It goes way beyond the understanding of the Fruedian 
'prosthetic god' and our problematic relationship with the tools we use 
and with ourselves (a perspective I wholeheartedly approve of). 
 Lyotard's writing on the inhuman  has a number of  carefully defined 
targets - firstly the enemy is 'development' which is of course advanced 
global capitalism with its endless psuedo-progressivism and 
techno-scientific innovation. Secondly there is the cyborgian imperative 
- which is of course a subset of  development.  Lyotard attacks the 
inhuman nature of the system which wants to remake humans closer to the 
inhuman. What drives development are the linked notions of efficiency, 
performance and value, Lyotard rejects these tendencies preferring 
'...what it hurries and crushes, is what after the fact I find I have 
always tried, under diverse headings - work, figural, heterogeneity, 
dissensus, event, thing - to reserve: the unhamonisable...That a 
senseless difference be destined to making sense, as opposition in a 
system....' What the inhuman aims to eradicate is difference, because of 
the dominance and construction of humans by and through development. To 
simplify the argument Lyotard rejects the enchroachment of the inhuman 
into our everyday lives - the argument is placed in such a way that that 
which constitutes human thought is being bypassed by the 'development' 
version of the techno-scientific consensus.

The cyborg within Lyotards work is a way of understanding the ongoing 
merger of the human with the inhuman machines and the replacement of 
difference by the same. For the cyborg to become the replacement for the 
human it has to sublimate not just human suffering, gender and sexuality 
but a committment ot accepting difference. Lyotard believes in the 
inhuman that 'development and techno-science' is is constitutionally 
incapable of functioning in that way becauise it would constrain 
development in ways that it cannot concede. Development seeks control 
not only of the present but also into the future, removing difference, 
dissensus and even time...

Haraway represents the cyborg as a way of advancing feminism, she aims 
to redefine the cyborg through her redefinition of gender. The cyborg 
enables the escape from the trap of gender and the construction of new 
relationships with the world. Cyborgs are a mixture of 'machine and 
organism' stepping aside from history and biology... The myth of the 
cyborg she aims to construct  is about the trangression of 
'...boundaries, potent fusions and dangerous possibilkities' Though she 
accepts there are potential issues opf capitalist domination - 'From one 
perspective a cyborg world is about the final imposition of a grid of 
control on the planet, about the final abstraction emodied in the satr 
wars  apocalypse waged in the name of defence, about the final 
appropriation of women's bodies  in a masculinist orgy of war. From 
another the cyborg world might be about lived social and bodily 
realities in which people are not afraid of their joint kinship with 
anuimals and machines, not afraid of permenently partial identities and 
contradictory standpoints...'(p154). The issue with Haraways approach is 
that she imagines that the binary polarity she is defining as the cyborg 
is in some sense a complete representation of the cyborg/human 
condition. In both cases the human is reduced to a secondary figure and 
it is this which is being addressed by Lyotard rejection of the inhuman. 
It is yet another version of the faustian myth in this case the contract 
under offer is that by merging with machines we escape from the 
boundaries of our bodies and lives. It is significant that the cheap 
science fiction stories she uses to define the myth of the cyborg 
identity are nearly all americans (apart from Wittig) who are defined 
against and write against the american experience.... Perhaps the 
positive cyborg myth is merely another way of  addressing the american 
spectacle. Of course the new cyborg myth is wrong - the reality is that 
it aims to dominate and destroy difference - its primary incarnation is 
in the military-scientific complex, criuse missiles, intelligent mines 
and smart bombs. The replacement of the human by the limbless human body.

Compare the Haraway Cyborg myth which aims to eradicate female 
difference at the very moment when the type known as 'women' have begun 
to be able (almost) to function from a position of equality. With the 
driftwork constructed by Lyotard under the ' diverse headings - work, 
figural, heterogeneity, dissensus, event, thing - to reserve: the 
unhamonisable...That a senseless difference be destined to making sense, 
as opposition in a system....'  Perhaps what follows from this is that 
whilst we have to reject the tainted bloody history of western humanism 
we also need to recognise that to replace it with some version of the 
inhuman is to surrender to the requirements of  development.

slowness and resistence rules...

steve (for Osvaldo the snail)


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