Micropolitics

I am proposing, at the risk of being quaint, a more “classical” definition of politics as the art of seeking the good of the polis, which is the common good.  The pursuit of this good involves, of course, the employment of power, understood as the capacity for action.  But this power is not the monopoly of the state, nor is it inevitably violent (or backed up with the threat of violence).  Though Weber mentions other forms of “politics” that extend into the realms of the economy, civil society, and even the family, it seems that he considers them political only in the most extended metaphorical sense, no doubt because they concern themselves with ends.  If, however, we take a broader notion of the political, we can see that in addition to the “macroscopic” operations of state power there are also the “microscopic” politics by which power is distributed throughout systems of social relations that extend beyond the scope of the state.  The micropolitics of power work without surfacing in the form of a state, through a multitude of obscure and occluded practices that perpetually trace patterns of meaning in human lives.  These microscopic forces may serve as constituent elements of the macroscopic politics of state power, or they may trace patterns of resistance.  The polis that is the site and agent of this micropolitics may well work for an end that it cannot specify, that it does not “have in view,” but that is registered in the form of resistant concentrations of power that subsist but momentarily in the interstices of macropolitics.  The point is that politics need not be reduced to the working of the state, but exists anywhere some shared end is pursued, even an unseen or unspecified one. (7-8)

Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt | Julian of Norwich and the Mystical Body Politic of Christ

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