Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hunting power, a correlate to pastoral power. On Grégorie Chamayou's Manhunts.

Jason Read has an interesting and smart post on Grégorie Chamayou's book Manhunts: A Philosophical History. I have been meaning to do a post on that book for a while, and this is a good opportunity. So, make sure to go read Jason Read's post first, then come read this post. Don't worry, we'll wait for you.

First, a couple of quick additions to the feel of the book. It is relatively short--I read it in two afternoons. As Jason Read points out, there is a slightly disjointed feel to the book, as we move from one historical point of the manhunt to another. However, Chamayou does an excellent job coming in reminding us of how this all links up (and if we don't get it the first time, it has a well done conclusion tying it all together). The disjointedness has a theoretical point. Chamayou specifically contrasts his project to Rene Girard's theory of the scapegoat, because for Girard the scapegoat has an ahistorical character. Chamayou wants to try to ground his work in specificity (one can see this also being a critique of Agamben, that Chamayou also contrasts his work with).
Despite the contrast, Manhunts has the feel of a book by Agamben, or Daniel Heller-Roazen, and I mean that in the best sense. Whatever problems I have had with Agamben, I have always enjoyed reading his books, and Manhunts has that remarkable pacing I have always found satisfying in Agamben's books. Now, it is pretty clear that Chamayou is both anthropocentric and a humanist (the book ends with a cry for universal humanism, and the ambivalent nature of humanism with its possibilities for universalism are alluded to more than once), but I still think this is an excellent book for those of us working in posthumanism and critical animal studies.

The nature of this book is to distill and explain the logics and diagrams of a particular form of power--cynegetic (hunting) power. This is exciting because the rise of analysis of biopolitics has taken a problematic direction. In the thanatopolitical understanding of the biopolitical, the Nazi Lager comes to have an almost platonic form of evil, so that analysis of biopolitics come to (a) see everything as an extension of the camp, and (b) all other evils come to be understood only in how close they come to reflecting Auschwitz. While a thorough understanding of the diagrams of power that made the Holocaust possible seems utterly necessary, this platonic evil comes to make analysis of power nearly impossible. The cure is to do something like Chamayou has done, and instead develop genealogies of power that is not just biopolitics (Foucault, I feel, would be the first to agree). So, back to cynegetic power.

As Chamayou notes (and I have elsewhere) in both Plato and Aristotle hunting is seen as an essential part of political theory and philosophical anthropology.
In the Sophist, Plato emphasizes the fact that hunting cannot be reduced to tracking wild animals. Among the different branches of the cynegetic art there is also an art of manhunting, which is in turn subdivided into several categories: “Let us define piracy, manstealing, tyranny, the whole military art, by one name, as hunting with violence.” Although not all these forms are equally tolerated—for example, Plato condemns piracy, “the chasing of men on the high seas,” because it transforms those who practice it into “cruel and lawless hunters”—war appears, by contrast, to be a form of legitimate hunting that is worthy of citizens. Aristotle says much the same: “the art of war is a natural art of acquisition, for the art of acquisition includes hunting, an art which we ought to practice against wild beasts, and against men who, though intended by nature to be governed, will not submit.” Greek philosophers conceive manhunting as an “art” or technology of power. There is an “art of acquiring slaves.” From the outset, domination is examined in a technological perspective: what must masters do to be masters? On what procedures does their power depend? (p.5)
Chamayou is particularly interested in charting this cynegetic power, particularly as a correlate to Foucault's pastoral power.
There are several of us in animal studies who are engaging with Foucault's understanding of pastoral power in thinking through human domination of other animals. In particular, you should read Anand Pandian's "Pastoral Power in the Postcolony" in Animals and the Human Imagination, and read Nicole Shukin's "Tense Animals: On Other Species in Pastoral Power." They are both, actually, really good article, and you should actually read them. Chamayou, however, is not just interested in pastoral power, but its correlate or opposition. Here, another long quotation:
Michel Foucault located, on the basis of Hebrew tradition, the emergence of a pastoral power. But I think this genealogy is missing an essential component. To what, in fact, is the pastorate opposed? In the Old Testament, Foucault explains, “the bad kings, those who are denounced for having betrayed their task, are designated as bad shepherds, not in relation to individuals, but always in reference the whole.” But the figure of the bad king cannot be reduced to the case of the failed shepherd. The real counterpoint to pastoral power, what is opposed to it not simply as a defective form of itself but as its true antithesis, its inverted double and at the same time its foil, is Nimrod, the hunter of men. In the long history of the thematization of power that began in Hebrew tradition, there are in fact two opposing terms: Abraham and Nimrod, pastoral power and cynegetic power. What are the characteristics of this opposition? The first principle of pastoral power is its transcendence. God is the supreme shepherd, but he entrusts his flock to subordinate shepherds. The schema is that of the human shepherds’ entire dependency and complete submission to divine authority. With Nimrod the opposite is true: far rom receiving his people from the hand of God, he captures it by force, with his own hands. The reign of the hunter-king is not only the first power on Earth but also the first power that is specifically terrestrial, whose authority is not inherited from a transcendent source. Nimrod is the first figure of the immanence of power. His rationality is that of a physics rather than a theology of power. This is the first major characteristic of the opposition between cynegetic power and pastoral power: the immanence of the power relationship or the transcendence of the divine law as the foundation of political authority. (pp. 14-15)

While Chamayou will frequently disturb this easy division in his book, it still basically functions throughout. Cynegetic power is fundamentally concerned with accumulation (particularly primitive accumulation) and massification. Pastoral power is concerned with growth and good government. It is concerned with the individual health and life of those in its sway. Cynegetic power is none of these things. It is the logic of the levy and raid. It divides, but does not individualize. Abraham grew a flock, Nimrod conquered an empire.
Chamayou's book is concerned with following the historical development of the concept of cynegetic power. We spend time with colonization and the hunt of indigenous people, hunting of enslaved people, the hunt of the poor in Europe, the hunting of lynching gangs, the police hunt, the hunt of foreigners, the hunt of Jewish people, and the current hunt for undocumented workers. The concern for questions of capital, race, and colonization is a nice corrective to certain texts of current biopolitics that finds within the Nazi Lager the entirety of modern political thought (yes, I mean Agamben and Esposito). One could wish that Chamayou did not take the man of the Manhunt so literally, and take seriously some of the more obviously gendered manhunts. In particular, the withhunt seems glaringly obvious in its omission. Luckily, Silvia Federici's Caliban and the Witch has us taken care of on that front. One could also wish he had taken a serious consideration in the ways that hunting of nonhuman animals have contributed to some of these problems, like the connection between hunting and colonial imperialism. Luckily, John M. MacKenzie's The Empire of Nature has us covered on that front. Let us, though, continue on charting the characteristics of cynegetic power.
Chamayou further argues:
manhunting becomes a means of waging cynegetic war—a kind of war that has the following characteristics: (l) it does not take the form of a direct confrontation, but of a process of tracking down; (2) the power relationship is marked by a radical dissymmetry in weapons; (3) its structure is not that of a duel: a third term is mobilized as a mediation; (4) the enemy is not recognized as such, that is, as an equal—he is only a prey; (5) use is made of nonnoble means related to policing or hunting rather than to the classical military register. (p. 73)
Several important points here. A cynegetic war is not a traditional war. Clausewitz famously compared war to a dual, however the entire point of hunting is to never engage in a dual. This is why, for Chamayou's latest book The Theory of the Drone (not yet translated), he explains that the drone turned the battlefield into a global hunting ground. Also, Chamayou's opposition to the view of the hunt as being opposed to a dual is part, as Jason Read pointed out above, his opposition to Hegel's master/slave dialectic.

Cynegetic power is seeks to accumulate, it seeks to capture, it takes territory, it divides and massifies. It sees the other not as an equal or a foe, but as prey, and seeks the subjugation and/or eradication of this prey. I am sure you can see that even though Chamayou is horribly humanist and anthropocentric, I see potential in the concept of cynegetic power. This is something I hope to take up in another post, but the question of non-native ("invasive") species is one that is rooted in cynegetic power. Or at least, one we will have trouble understanding if we only have recourse to pastoral power. Why, after all, if there are non-lethal alternatives to dealing with non-native species (assuming we even do), do we so often turn to hunting? To policies of "contain, control, and eradicate"? Or, as the Park Service and the Nature Conservancy once put it, a "mega kill, poison, and burn" plan? As I said, I hope to come back to this, but I think we will need recourse to cynegetic power to understand such moves.