Dispositive Theory

Submitted by admin on Thu, 09/01/2016 - 22:22

Discourse is clearly a socio-political reality, otherwise, what are the newspapers full of ? But, it also seems like a separate world, though it is influential and understandable.

There is no direct connection to anything else, however,

  • other types of thoughts, events, objects and so on ARE referred to and used in discourse
  • but, these events and objects are transformed when they are taken into discourse
  • it seems that actions are not discursive – for example ‘I think I will sow some seeds in the garden’ or ‘I will go and do some shopping’ are not discursive statements  (can ‘I’ statements ever be discursive ?)
  • Events are not discursive, and nor are physical reality and objects (it is water, it’s raining) are not discursive (whereas ‘climate change’ is discursive)
  • In general, discourse seems to be dominant and over-ride the other modes, in a subtle way which is too pervasive to be measured. We are born into discursive postures, and the discourse uses us to develop itself …… (and this is essentially also a description of the eastern system of karma, purusha and prakriti)

However, beginning with Foucault in The Archaeology of Knowledge, a new concept of the dispositive was developed to bring the physical plane, events and the discursive into one system. The following description is derived from Jaeger, 2001, pp 39-41

  • Non-discursive societal practices play a part in forming objects/manifestations
  • Foucault subordinates language, and therefore also linguistics, to thought, and makes then into a department of the cultural sciences
  • He saw a co-existence of discourse and reality and/or objects
  • The dispositive is a net hung between these elements and/or which links them together
  • However, he is unable to say what concrete or empirical relationships there are between the things which are linked together by the dispositive
  • The dispositive arrives as follows
    • An urgency arises
    • So an existing dispositive becomes precarious
    • So a need to act results
    • The social and hegemonial forces which are confronted with the urgency assemble the elements which they can obtain in order to counter this urgency
    • That is speech, people, knives, cannons, institutions, etc. to counter it
    • Everything is done in order to ‘mend the leaks’ – the urgency which has arisen
    • These elements are only connected by serving a common end (to fend off the urgency)
    • The ‘inner bond’ which might tie them together does not become evident
    • However, the bond exists in the form of sensory human activity which mediates between subject and object, the social worlds and ‘objective’ realms
    • Jaeger continues (ibid, p. 45) -’I have the impression that the difficulties in the determination of the dispositive are related to a failure to determine the mediation between discourse (what is said /what has been said), non-discursive practices (activities) and manifestations (products / objects).’

However, if    

  • manifestations are seen as materialisations or activities of knowledge (that is, everything in manifestation has been either designed by a human being on the basis of their knowledge, or it contains DNA, which seems to act in a similar way to a design)
  • non-discursive practices are seen as the active implementation of knowledge (that is, you know what you want to do, and you transform this knowledge into action, or an event)
  • and discourse is essentially a flow of knowledge between people and through time

then the dispositive is the net connecting these different operations of knowledge (discourse, objects and events), and Jaeger proposes that this solves many of the problems I have mentioned above. These are all mediated by the human subjects who link together discourse and reality.

Jaeger claims that discourse is subsidiary to the dispositive, and this is not as caught up in the verbal. He has gone back a step to the consciousness (the place where human thought and knowledge are stored – including affects, ways of seeing, and so on) which provides the basis for the shaping of reality by work ….

This is interesting, but does the dispositive have practical uses ? There are also other similar all-embracing concepts such as soul, anima mundi, the mental plane, and prakriti from different world traditions. Does the dispositive gain over these ?

The dispositive may be useful in its implication that discourse, objects and events are deeply intertwined, and bound together by varieties of knowledge. Examining their relationships further may be fruitful.