Leggo My Ego-Sphere! Sloterdijk, Redacted
Some notes on Peter Sloerdijk Translated from the German by Daniela Fabricus “Cell Block, Egospheres, Self-Container” in Log, Summer/Fall 2007. Seems to me like the best thing from his peculiar project, and the article isn’t online, as far as I know, so if it’s useful to someone, here are my notes:
Epigraph: “The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his own…” John, 16:32
“Those who study the history of modern architecture in relation to the forms of life found in a mediatized society will immediately realize that the two most successful architectural innovations of the 20th century—the apartment and the sports stadium—are directly related to the two most prevalent sociopsychological tendencies of this epoch: the setting free of solitary individuals with the help of individualized home and media technologies, and the aggregation of the masses, unified in their excitement, with the help of staged events held in ‘fascinogenic’ mass structures.”
“The modern apartment… is the material realization of a tendency toward cell-formation.”
“As to the meaning of these individualistic aspirations, we will content ourselves for the moment with an observation that Gabriel Tarde already made in the 1880s: ‘Today’s civilized person is really aspiring to the possibility of dispensing with human support'”(89).
Counterpart to the Soviet communal apartment: the Western equivalent arranges itself for the liberated individual to devote himself “to the cultivation of his relationship to himself” (90)
We will define the apartment as an atomic or elementary ‘egospheric’ form—as a cellular world-bubble, the massive repetition of which generate individualistic foams.”
There is no moral judgment tied to this conclusion; it contains no concessions to current catholic and neoconservative criticism that, in its discussion of the contemporary trend toward ‘singles culture,’ offers little more than a stereotypically Augustinian scolding of egoism and indifference” (90).
To get closer to understanding the phenomenon of the apartment, one must take note of its close alliance with the principle of seriality…
Serialism—represents the transfer point between elementarism and social utopianism
“In serialism—which regulates the relationship between part and whole through precise standardization, so that decentralized fabrication and centralized installation become possible—lies the key to the relationship between cell and cellular compound” (90)
Apartments are Heideggerian: “Existence in a one-room apartment is nothing other than the being-in-the-world of one single case” (91)
When British physician Robert Hooke introduced, in his 1665 work Micrographia, the biological concept of the cell to describe the dense arrangement of discrete cavities in a piece of cork (discovered under a microscope), he was inspired by the analogy of rows of monks’ cells in a monastery” (92)
“With the push of modern architecture toward the idea of the reduced living unit as an ideal type, the concept of the cell returns to its starting point after its productive exile in microbiology—but this time, loaded with the surplus value of its analytical precision and constructive flexibility.”
“The emancipated living cell formulates a concept of the minimal architecture and sanitary conditions necessary for autonomy, which have to exist for the possibility of being able to live on one’s own to be formally fulfilled.”
The single bubble in a “living-foam” forms a container for the occupant
The “one-room apartment is usually found in buildings arranged as aggregations of typified living units according to a general plan” (92).
Le Corbusier: living space had to provide “psychic ventilation”
Marx and Eighteenth Brumaire: “What Marx particularly emphasizes is this “enormous mass whose members live in similar conditions but without entering into manifold relations with each other”—in their splintering, unable to articulate a shared interest
The peasant: Thus the great mass of the French nation is formed by the simple addition of homologous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes” (93-94).
What is required for sociality, and for class consciousness, is windows
Being windowless represents a deficiency of communication, enlightenment, and solidarity. Seen from this point of view, the parcel farmers form a para-proletariat; like the industrial proletariat after them, they see themselves as faced with the task of crossing over from an isolated and depoliticized existence to one that is organized and politically virulent.
The transformation of the “urban cave” into a communicatively ventilated workers’ colony, or even one communal apartment—the creation of “foams of solidarity” (95).
In the late 19th century—the entanglement of community and immunity
The transition to contemporary monadic living: marks “ a profound turning point” in “the ways and means of being-together of persons with like and with others”
Thus, the emergence of the problem of the “other” in moral philosophy
A new social plane: individuals and multitude of virtual inner others becomes epidemic—only then can “the fissure between the narcissistic other of self-reflexion and the transcendent other of a real encounter… become obvious in a general and public way” (96).
“One can speak of the presence of an egosphere when its inhabitant has developed elaborate habits of self-pairing, and regularly moves within a constant process of differentiation from himself… Such a form of life would be misunderstood if one were to fixate only on the attribute of living alone in the sense of being partnerless, as incomplete as a human being.”
“The nonsymbiosis with others that is practiced by the single occupant in the apartment turns out, after closer investigation, to be an autosymbiosis. Here, the form of the couple is fulfilled in the individual, who, in constant differentiation from himself, perpetually relates to himself as the inner other, or as a multitude of sub-egos. ‘Being together’ is transferred, in this case, to the ongoing changing of the conditions in which the individual experiences himself.”
This new solipsism “could not become truly suggestive until today’s media revolution had run its course. Ego-technological media in particular contributed to this by inscribing the individual with new routines and methods of returning to the self (97).
Homo alphabeticus: self-objectification in writing; the diary is one such ego-technological form; soul-searching is another
Faciality, interfaciality (facebook): “In the everyday routine of the modern apartment resident… the glance in the mirror has become a regular practice that serves his ongoing self-adjustment” (98).
“Individuals in their individualistic regime become punctiform subjects who fall under the sway of the mirror, that is, under its reflecting self-completing function. They organize their lives to an increasing extent under the illusion that they could lay both parts in the game of the bipolar relationship sphere, without the need for a real other” (98).
Elias Canetti—predicted a “society in which every person is depicted, and prays before his own image” (99)
Individualism is a cult of digestion that celebrates the passage of foods, experiences, and information through the subject.
Simultaneously a cave and a stage
The “self-care cycle”
Great term: “cosmetic autopraxis”: “Through cosmetics, one’s own facial countenance—the appearance—can near the level of the artwork”
Outfits become a “design problem”; “the clothing choices a self-project”
In a developed society—the individual qualifies as an author who claims authorship of his own image (100).
Much like Hegel and his notion of reading the newspaper as a kind of silent prayer; so the breaking of the night’s silence with the morning’s noise: “ a welcoming of other’s voices into an inner mono- and polylogue”
Modern society vibrates with millions of cells in sonar foams
“Considering that a creature of the homo sapiens type becomes that which it hears, the transition to an individual having the option to self-tune presents an anthropological juncture”
involuntary inner hearing (superego) dissolves in the trend toward the choice of one’s auditory environment (the figure of the Neirers mom with the headphones in all the time)—(NB: this is what is new about post-narcissism?—a narcissism without superego?) (102).
“Premodernism was convinced by the evidence that the most interesting messages are those that come from a strong sender—namely, from God. The bearers of the messages were saints, priests, and prophets. Modernity, by contrast, depends on long-distance senders of messengers like ‘geniuses’ and stock market analysts. Maybe this makes up the strongest characteristic of existence in metaphysically demanding civilizations: intelligence loosens itself from the primacy of local conversations and takes part in the rerouting of the flow of meaning from living near to living far. This is why ‘being’… now means swimming in signs that come from afar—signs that are validated by their strong senders. Under this effect ancient advanced civilizations were able to blossom as literary cultures… I am reachable for a distant life that is sending messages, and distant and past lives remain readable through us” (104).
“(Let us take note of how very much mass culture is based on the premise that most individuals have no reason to interest themselves in themselves, which is why they are well-advised to stick to the life of the stars. Definition of a star: a) and interesting magnification of the uninterestingess of everybody else; b) and agent of distraction from the admiration of the self.)” (105).