Spiritual Exercises and the Panopticon

Gianluca Cuozzo

Bureaucracy works through a thorough codification of collective consciousness. As the first step toward this enslavement of the spirit, the temporal dimension of human existence is deprived of its original meaning, and strictly regimented – as Kafka asserted following Arthur Holitscher’s argument in Amerika Heute und Morgen. Accordingly, law rises in this void as mere form without a content, a phenomenon which finds its equivalent in the subject’s fall into a state of inability. My aim is to sketch a conceptual genealogy of the contemporary bureaucratic triumph. Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises introduce a strict discipline of existential time from a quantitative point of view, a preamble to the process of mechanization of life. Another important contemporary philosophical reference for the analysis of bureaucratic efficiency is Michel Foucault’s panopticon, an architectural model of power which enables the total permeability of interiority. Discussing these crucial authors, I argue that bureaucratic capitalism inherits only pervasive feelings of guilt, without any hopes for salvation. Kafka’s Metamorphosis is the perfect representation of this degeneration of life into a mechanism from hell, in which any gesture, in its endless repetitiousness, generates its own punishment.

Reality and the Bureaucratic Phantasmagoria
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