A Question for Institutions

The word ‘institution’ indicates a change in the level of analysis. An institution is just a summarization of ecosystemic coordinations. To ‘study institutions’ means to study that conceptual, or even political, operation whereby a new layer of coordinated activity is established. To think or act institutionally is to shift the discourse neither ‘left’ nor ‘right,’ but rather up, to a higher layer or perspective. By raising the question of institutions, the speaker immediately forces a dimensional shift in the geometry of the local conceptual-political field. Such an institutionally ‘corrupted’ discourse inevitably devolves into a sort of summary-machine: the consequence is a shift not only in our collection of ideas, but necessarily even their inter-relations, that is, even the essence of the ideas themselves.

The problem of institutions, like that of violence, is very obscure. It is currently situated at what amounts to an ‘inertial point’ with respect to dominant traditions. Raising the problem of institutions accelerates the convergence of critical discourses. Disciplines compel each another to merge together, in order to explain. Yet a single voice may be able to express what an entire chorus may not.

For when the question of establishment itself is reached, specialists suddenly surrender their confidence in method, precisely that which would enable them to distinguish clearly what about this question would otherwise be essentially obscure. For at the point where the proper question of institutionalization is finally able to be posed as such, then disciplines suddenly seem to have an incredible difficulty in maintaining their idiosyncratic approach, their distinct identities. They merge into a single goal and question. A discipline re-organized. Indeed, when an overly specialized approach breaches the critical zone, it swiftly becomes de-organized by dint of the hyper-organization of the object.

Institutions combine the ‘eternal memory’ of science, mathematics and religion, with the ‘momentary experience’ of phenomenology, sociopsychology, and critical theory. The problem of institutions is the problem of slavery and aristocracy, the problem of freedom and envy. Approached through the lens of objective science, the subject simply imitates the multiplicity of the institution. Even science becomes an institution only when its sets about to study them as a subject (‘subject to law’) -- and, in a real sense, to control them by this study. The universal simulation produced by the institution is the central problematic of hyper-mechanization; it is the dream of establishment -- a paradise. All institutions secretly want to become utopias; this desire distorted, become obscene, is capital. Social thought has become almost completely functionalized, embodied as exchange within an open community. The closure of society to the universe is almost irreversible; the functionalization of the universe for society is almost complete. But we are not yet machines, and still have time to postpone the moment of inhumanity.

Let us begin by saying institutionalization is a becoming-machine, the establishment of a universalizable operation cycle. The institution is a machine which as such has no authority to impose rules and laws, is impotent as such -- and so rather subjects the entire universe to its cycle of operations, utilizing whatever forces are available to it to ensure its survival.

Institutions provoke a cosmic functionalization which is necessarily ambiguous: to open new spaces for coordinated vitality, some others must be closed forever. Society is a machine which unfolds itself more than it folds back in: it is a super-institution, which miraculously donates a positive function to all that which benefits its self-organization.

Thus machinic subjects understand intimately the role of science, even if they can no longer conceive of the scientific as such. Does the institution destroy the possibility of pure science? It is perhaps too much to assert that science can only becomes ‘innovative’ when at a distance from machinic organizations of subjectivity; doubtless they require one another. Yet this very need seems somewhat contrived, something of a fiction. Yet what would such a ‘pure’ science be, in isolation from any predictable processes? And what would such an institution produce, devoid of order, synchrony or goal?

Culture is an institution in the past tense: what was or has been established. But the dynamics of coordination do not necessarily proceed along indicated cultural paths. To all goals, identities, desires, layers, pathways, endpoints, institutions are indifferent.

In short, institutes are organizations which transform energy; speed is the only important difference. Establishment invests energy directly into a circular process of self-renewal. Consider a cube replaced by infinitely many differently-sized spheres: the fact of difference (in size) precludes any question of alternative distributions, and the position of the largest determine the necessary arrangement of the smaller...

The geometry of social order is invested by divisions of life-space, while the intensity of social desire seeks to overcome divisions by reunification, streamlining the separation which produces cultural objects... Eventually the process ends where it had begun: we find our culture has become automatic, our thoughts and actions reflexive, our intensity subdivided until it has become harmless.

Institutions neutralize desire. There is no escaping the fact that the massive coordination of activity has as its necessary consequence the 'automatization' of almost every aspect of life, to the extent we are shocked when the world doesn't correspond to our institutionalized cognition. So my question is this: is it possible to truly think post-institutionally, given that our cultural mode of thought has been irrevocably shaped by institutions?

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