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06 2008

On Police Ghosts and Multitudinous Monsters

Stefan Nowotny, Gerald Raunig

Translated by Aileen Derieg

“Plume was dining at the restaurant when the head waiter came up to him, looked at him severely, and said to him in a low and mysterious voice: ‘What you have there in your plate is not listed on the menu.’
Plume apologized immediately.”
Henri Michaux, A Certain Plume

Plume is a strange person. It may happen that he is so distracted that he walks across the ceiling with bare feet. On another occasion, when his index finger hurts a bit, he goes to the surgeon and has it cut off. Much in his life plays out between transgression and misfortune, and parts of the body falling apart does not play the most insignificant role in this. A head, which is already rather loosely attached to the neck, may be pulled off very quickly just by pulling the hair. The episode in the restaurant, when Plume eats a dish that is not on the menu, could seem almost incidental. Yet although Plume is sometimes distracted and orders a chop “at random”, he is not entirely naive. Made aware of his transgression, he quickly follows his overhasty order with an equally hasty apology. What he fails to take into consideration, however, because Plume is indeed a little naive, is that his apology is of no use to him and he can no longer get rid of his guilt.

Under these circumstances, it is almost to be taken for granted that, in the further course of the episode about “Plume at the Restaurant”[1], Michaux has the police appear at some point; indeed an entire police apparatus gradually enters, starting with a simple policeman, then the chief of police, and finally, following a telephone consultation with the superintendent of police, the Secret Police appear at the scene of Plume’s crime. Plume does not stop apologizing, but in fact every further apology only leads to the appearance of the next instance that charges him. When Plume is faced in the end with the alternative of either making a full confession or being beaten by the police, this is only the final step in this path through the levels of authority. It is to be assumed, in any case, that someone who has something on their plate that is not on the menu has a special truth, which if it is not otherwise to be brought to light must be beaten out of them. “It’ll be wiser to confess the whole truth. This isn’t our first case of this sort, you know. When things take this turn, it’s a serious matter.”

This sounds like a police state, all the more in a story first published in 1938. Yet it would be shortsighted to reduce Michaux’ story entirely to this. The occurrences in Plume’s world are too diverse and ambiguous. What interests us about the episode in the restaurant is not some “immoderateness” on the part of the police, but rather the order of their appearance. Although Michaux has the police appear at a certain moment, he immediately demonstrates how they are already there before they visibly appear: in the sternness of the head waiter as well as in Plume’s apology. In a sense, the police are haunting the modes of behavior from the beginning, they are there – like a ghost.

The Ghostly Appearance of the Police

Walter Benjamin wrote of the “ghostly appearance” of the police in 1921. He related it to the intervention of the police “[…] in countless cases where no clear legal situation exists, when they are not merely, without the slightest relation to legal ends, accompanying the citizen as a brutal encumbrance through a life regulated by ordinances, or simply supervising him”; Benjamin thus describes the “violence” of the police institution as “formless, like its nowhere tangible, all-pervasive, ghostly appearance in the life of civilized states”.[2] Benjamin’s critique does not correspond to the bourgeois critique of the police, which does not object to the violence of the police until this transgresses its “legitimate framework” (such as ensured by the state monopoly on violence). Instead, this critique is more interested in the institutional sense of the police, in its function in conjunction with the modern state and its legal institutions. Against this background Benjamin remarks that the “separation of law-making and law-preserving” – which is otherwise found in the modern state – is suspended in the police, which is documented primarily in the right of decree of the police, which can not be sufficiently explained from merely maintaining existing legal ends. Benjamin also speaks in this context of a “spectral mixture” (of law-making and law-preserving), and it is this mixture on which the ghostly presence of the police and their unpredictable appearance is based in Benjamin’s argumentation.

How can this description be traced historically? Let us consult two text documents from the formation phase of the modern police institution, both dating from early 18th century France: one is the extensive treatise Traité de la Police by Nicolas Delamare, which seeks not only to provide a comprehensive description of the manifold task fields of the police, but ultimately also a theoretical foundation of the police institution; the second is taken from a memorial speech held by Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle in 1721 for Marc René d’Argenson (the recently deceased Lieutenant Général de Police of Paris) and describes the practical function of the police within societal life.

In the introductory dedication of his treatise, which is addressed to the French king (Louis XV), Delamare calls the police “ce bel ordre duquel dépend le bonheur des Etats” (“that beautiful order, on which the good fortune of the states depends”).[3] For Delamare, “police” is not necessarily the name of a state instrument of order, although the police institution had already been established as a centralized authority directly responsible to the throne in 1666/67 by edicts from Louis XIV. “Police” can still refer to order itself. Nevertheless, this order has an explicitly political sense, which is seamlessly derived at the beginning of the treatise from the Greek word politeía. In this sense Delamare sees the term police grounded in the insight “that the implementation of those laws, of which public law is composed, and the preservation of civil society, which makes up and forms every political space [cité], are two inseparable things”.[4] Yet even this term, according to Delamare himself, is ambiguous, as it can be applied to both general forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy) and to the different tasks of governments (church police, civil police, military police), and finally – and this is what Delamare already calls the conventional meaning – “for the public order of every city”.[5]

This final point is also where the practical activity is located, which is still linked today with the name police, and to which we will return shortly. However, Delamare’s Traité deals with a far more comprehensive concept of police, which can be categorized in the following areas: religion; moral discipline; health; food; security and public peace; roadworks; sciences and liberal arts; trade; manufacture and mechanical arts; domestic service personnel; unskilled workers; the poor.[6] It thus basically covers the entirety of government agendas, wholly in keeping with the historical “Polizeiwissenschaft” found in the German-speaking region, which is a science of government and administration. Here we would like to briefly address a specific element in this list, which is significant for Delamare’s logic of reasoning and is not coincidentally listed in first place: religion. Delamare would later say of religion that it is “undoubtedly the first and the most important, we could even add: only [police matter], if we were only wise enough to perfectly discharge all the duties it prescribes for us”.[7]

The reason why this is interesting is that Delamare speaks on the one hand of three types of laws, of which the “laws of the police” are composed: “natural divine law”, “written divine law” and “civil law of human institutions”.[8] Police, understood as order, covers all three of these areas. Police, understood as the entirety of the government areas of responsibility that serves the observance of this order, conversely belongs undoubtedly to the area of “human institution”. Thus Delamare ,shortly before he addresses “that famous edict of December 1666” through which a new police order was introduced in Paris, discusses “two types of places”, which are distinguished primarily by their different institutional order: the first is characterized by having “a single tribunal”, the other by the presence of “several justices” (which corresponds to the circumstances in Paris before 1666/67). Whereas in the former case “no difficulty” regarding the “enforcement of the regulations of the police” arises, the latter state is associated with “major unpleasantness” in this regard. The Police générale, as the centralized authority furnished with extensive powers in the edicts of 1666/67, which is placed above the competing justices, is in other words a “human institution”, but at the same time it is an institution to which not only civil law is entrusted, but also, in a sense, the restitution of both natural and written divine law. This also explains why Delamare can speak in conjunction with the Edict of 1666 of the “re-establishment of the police of Paris” [rétablissement de la Police de Paris], rather than the establishment, for instance.[9]

In this way, however, Delamare attributes a virtually paradigmatic significance to the police. It may be conjectured that if religion were obeyed, then the realm of “human institution” would be in perfect harmony with the two areas of divine law and would not be additionally burdened with the task of re-establishing “that beautiful order, on which the good fortune of the states depends”. Since religion is not obeyed, however, the Police générale, the “general police”, becomes the institution par excellence (next to the king in any case, who occupies a somewhat different intersection) entrusted with the maintenance or restitution of the whole of legal orders.

Yet this is only one side, namely the theoretical reasoning and understanding about the police. The other side is that of the practical activity of the Police générale, which ensures public order. “The citizens of a well policed city enjoy the order that is established there without thinking about the effort it costs those who establish it […],” it says in Fontenelle’s “Eloge de d’Argenson”[10], which was held, as previously mentioned, as a memorial speech in honor of the deceased Lieutenant Général de Police of Paris. And the characterization of these efforts leads us back to the central question of the ghostly appearance of the police:

“[…] being present without being seen; finally moving and stopping an immense and tumultuous multitude as they see fit and being the constantly effective and almost unknown soul of this body, these are the functions of the police magistrate in general.”

For the eulogist it is understandably tempting to view the police as a soul orchestrating the body it inhabits. At least a divine spark is thus implanted in the body with the soul. Yet “being present without being seen” is also a characteristic of ghosts – with the difference that ghosts, just like the police, sometimes appear. Visible or not, ghosts fill certain spaces with their activity, but they also have their own remote realms, their own knowledge, their own capabilities, just as the police set up their own archives and files and develop their special techniques of control. They are differentiated into various classes, just as the police begin to be assigned to different departments. And although they may be regarded as incorporeal, the fact that they are usually not seen is due more to being translucent, so that they fade into their surroundings, just like the spies beginning to disperse in the cafes and parks took care not to be different from their surroundings.[11]

But that is not all: the police can also produce events, specifically political events. This is something that they will learn, in any case, over the course of time, specifically on the basis of their special knowledge: Joseph Fouché, whose political career began during the period of the Revolution and who later succeeded in holding the office of Minister of Police both during the period of the Napoleonic empire and in the subsequent restoration[12], gave the expression “high police” (haute police) this sense. The expression was first in contrast with that of “lower police” (basse police), who were only concerned with maintaining order. As Hélène L’Heuillet describes the term: “The high police is […] initially the shadow police, thwarting coalitions and conspiracies.”[13] However, due to the knowledge that the police had at their disposal or acquired through their activity, it finally became one of their functions to instruct even political decision-makers, to collaborate with them directly at the political level or even install their own candidates – in short: to produce corresponding political events by uncovering conspiracies, feeding their knowledge into political decisions or even directly boosting political actors.[14] In this sense, the “high police” cannot be regarded simply as a section of the police. “The entire police,” notes L’Heuillet, “can be regarded as high, depending on the perspective. The high police is not the only political police, but rather the police as political.”[15]

The broad meanings of the police concept, which have been discussed in recent years following from Foucault and Rancière, for instance, in reference to historical police science as a technique for steering subjects or in terms of governmental self-steering, can probably not be entirely detached from this specific institutional field of action, which applies to the “low police” as well as the “high police” building upon the activity of the former. They all form various developments originating from the problem of order. Yet far removed from only maintaining order or restoring it as divine order, they produce new orders.

Multitude and Monster

But what about the counterpart of the police that Fontenelle calls “an immense and tumultuous multitude” – using the term that has long since entered the standard repertoire of political theory terms through the work of Negri/Hardt, Paolo Virno and others (usually taking recourse to Spinoza)? As in the case of Thomas Hobbes’ early modern political theory, in the context of Fontenelle’s description of the function of the police the multitude also appears initially as a mere negative of the promoted notion of order: as the urban population that forms “only the object of dominant ordering by the police”[16]. Yet at the same time, there is a certain dangerousness that adheres to this multitude, for which French also has other names such as menu peuple (little people), populace (common people) or foule (crowd, mob), because it involves people who “are driven by very loose and often badly understood interests, who are accustomed to putting nonsensical noise in the place of speech (discours)” (Fontenelle).

However, these kinds of reservations about the diffuse crowd not only permeate the debates about the functions, manifestations and tasks of the police, they are also continued in all possible discourses and movements of the 18th and 19th century in particular, including those that presented themselves as being emancipatory or even revolutionary. Karl Marx recognized this as a discursive governmental strategy, when he characterized Louis Bonaparte’s government in “Civil War in France”[17] as one of not only “avowed class terrorism”, but also of the “deliberate insult of the ‘vile multitude’”. Yet most Marxist ideas of the organization of the working class presume, on the one hand, the image of a “class in itself”, which must first become conscious of itself through planned education and organization, but on the other hand the completely disordered assemblage that as “lumpen proletariat” is not simply below the proletariat, but ranges all across the social classes, allowing no hope of transformation or transformability through any ordering hand at all. Finally, the “giant proletariat” is also to be interpreted more as a mutation of the image of Hobbes’ Leviathan, by no means formless and monstrous, but instead orderly and organized, almost just as the police would wish it to be. Here too, there is a certain tendency to be an invisibly moving and halting ordering soul or hand.[18]

A second aspect of the discursive manner of dealing with that which was supposed to represent the problem of the “dangerous classes” in the 19th century relates to the distinction between those capable of speech and those who are speechless: on one side rational dialogue or conflict, on the other nonsensical noise, tumult, nothing but disturbance, from which no articulation may be perceived. If one accepts this kind of valuation of articulation, one can understand the movement from speechlessness to the power of speech – as Jacques Rancière does, for instance, in La Mésentente[19] – as an emancipatory process, in which specifically the part of those without a part is articulated, becomes articulate. If the accent, however, is shifted only slightly away from the intelligibility and comprehensibility of the statements towards a plurality of forms of expression, then the valuation of the noises and the disturbance of the multitude is also shifted to a considerable extent.

Thirdly, it is conspicuous that Fontenelle sketches the body of the multitude as pure corporeality, a corporeality that at first remains incomplete and needs the implementation of a soul. Walter Benjamin’s police ghost also seems to circulate in the figure of the police as a soul without essence or form, in the estimation of the police institution as being shapeless and intangible, the observation of which encounters “nothing essential”. The indistinguishable, invisible, unformed police soul, as it is in Fontenelle’s image, forms the body of the multitude – yet only by haunting it as a ghost.

Having to let informers seep into the police soul as ghosts and moles in the body of the multitude, this kind of phantasm of the necessary penetration into the ungovernable, presupposes a not inconsiderable scenario of danger; this is obviously an especially frightening phenomenon.[20] In relation to the soul-ghost of the police, the disparate multitude could perhaps be understood in comparison as a kind of monster: virtually by definition, the monster deviates from the norm, at least from a dominant perspective. Unlike the shapelessness of ghosts, it is misshapen instead. Unlike the apparent incorporeality of the former, what most distinguishes monsters is that they are corporeal in a special way, partly because body parts are missing, partly because they have too many of these, or because they are heterogeneously put together.

Classical monsters are familiar from antiquity; they may be composed, for instance of animal and human bodies. And similar monsters inhabit the travel phantasms of colonial and even pre-colonial literature. Yet all of these are descriptions that remain more or less faithful to the standpoint of the norm. A different perspective results when “monsters”, in free association with the etymological connection with the Latin monstrare (“to show”)[21], are considered not only in their appearance as deviating from a norm, but also in their own logic of appearance, so to speak. Jacques Derrida, whose work dealt again and again with ghosts and monsters, not only clearly described the ambiguity of monsters, but also related this to writing itself. Here a longer passage:

“A monster may obviously be a composite figure of heterogeneous organisms that are grafted on to each other. This graft, this hybridization, this composition that puts heterogeneous bodies together may be called a monster. This fact happens in certain kinds of writing. At that moment, monstrosity may reveal or make one aware of what normality is. Faced with a monster, one may become aware of what the norm is and when this norm has a history – which is the case with discursive norms, philosophical norms, socio-cultural norms, they have a history – any appearance of monstrosity in this domain allows an analysis of the history of norms. But to do that one must conduct not only a theoretical analysis; one must produce what in fact looks like a discursive monster so that the analysis will be a practical effect, so that people will be forced to become aware of the history of normality. But a monster is not just that, it is not just this chimerical figure that in some way grafts one animal onto another, one living being onto another. A monster is always alive, let us not forget. Monsters are living beings. The monster is also that which appears for the first time and, consequently, is not yet recognized. A monster is a species for which we do not yet have a name, which does not mean that the species is abnormal, namely the composition or hybridization of already known species. Simply, it shows itself [elle se montre] – that is what the word monster means – it shows itself in something that is not yet shown and that therefore looks like a hallucination, it strikes the eye, it frightens precisely because no anticipation had prepared one to identify this figure.”[22]

What would this kind of monster be that stands opposite the ghost of the police? First of all, a certain caution must be formulated: on the one hand because of the warning Derrida states immediately following the quoted passage, that every identification of a monster as monster is already the first step to its domestication. This is not simply about the problem of classifying and thus uncovering a monster that has just appeared, like the movement of uncovering political clandestinity, for instance, but also and especially about determining every currently appearing or coming monster. Not only the authoritarian practice of identification belongs here, but also, for instance, precipitately fixing on certain forms of organization in social movements. On the other hand, however, there is also a reason to be cautious, because the largest portion of information about monsters that have gotten mixed up with the police is necessarily taken from police archives. This also applies to the monster story that we nevertheless refer to in the following, which the historian Robert Darnton has reconstructed in his study “Public Opinion and Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris”[23]:

In July 1749, somewhere in the transition that is vaguely to be located between the pinnacle of absolutist power and the newly emerging formations of forces prior to the Revolution, the Paris police arrested fourteen young men. They were guilty of the crime of having copied, circulated and read aloud on various occasions satirical poems and lampoons directed against the court in Versailles. The first arrest occurred when a spy denounced the medical student François Bonis. Bonis had kept a poem that began with the verse “Monstre dont la noire furie …” (“Monster, whose black fury”). The text of this poem has not been preserved, but it is probable that the “monster” here referred to none other than the king, Louis XV. Yet what was later to emerge from the Affaire des Quatorze, as the affair came to be called due to the number of those arrested, was a completely different, less identifiable monster.

The prisoner Bonis stated for the interrogation transcript that he had only made a copy of the poem himself, which had been brought to his attention by a young priest, and that he had further circulated it for his part in readings. However, the police were less interested in the process of further circulation than in finding the “head of the gang”, in other words the author – not least of all because satirical verses that had circulated earlier in Paris had partly originated in the court of Versailles itself (namely from the minister Maurepas, who was finally dismissed and banned in April 1749). The police tried to be quick, and within only a few weeks fourteen associates were locked up in the Bastille: students, priests and seminarians, a philosophy professor, attorney’s clerks and notary’s clerks. The traces were initially followed back in a straight line, but this line became lost when one of the suspects escaped. In the meantime, however, branches had become evident, along with – even worse for the police – new poems as well. What became increasingly evident was a manifold cluster of poems, meetings, circulation processes, relays and reproduction using memory techniques and copies, to which there seemed to be no end. Several of the poems were arranged so that additional new verses could be improvised at any time, and on top of that, many of the copies were often enough actually revisions of the texts. What did not become evident was – an author. The search for the “head” resembled battling a hydra, one of the classical monsters of Greek mythology. With each head that was seized, several more grew in its place, but in this case they were not even heads in the sense that the police were looking for.

Darnton expressly emphasizes that the Quatorze, who ultimately formed only a seizable segment of an impenetrable cluster, were by no means harbingers of the Revolution. The poems, of which only the text of the first one is lost, did not involve republican ideals. Instead, their contents attacked Maurepas’ dismissal, the peace accord that was disadvantageous to France at the end of the Austrian War of Succession that was actually won, the expulsion from Paris of the exiled British pretender to the throne Prince Edward, the increase in taxation, and the king’s affair with Madame de Pompadour. What was new and indicated innovation, on the other hand, was the diversified communication network that made itself heard quite sharply. It was a non-state public sphere that had little to do with the frequently invoked press public and the debating circles of the Enlightenment and yet attacked the foundation of the throne’s power; a multitude of speaking, memorizing, listening and continuing bodies, who might conjoin “loose interests” (Fontenelle), but into which the “soul” of the police was not able to penetrate.

The fact that the social milieu of the Quatorze seemed to be composed of certain educated circles in a relatively homogeneous way has to do with the circumstances that the fourteen arrested represented only a small segment of incomparably larger networks.

Apart from the Affaire des Quatorze, in the same year of 1749 there was a wave of arrests especially of Jansenists, whose originally theological dissidence had long since taken on decidedly political dimensions. They circulated insurrectionist poems in the milieus of merchants and craftsmen as well. As Darnton summarizes: “The links among the Quatorze formed only a small segment of that larger entity – a huge communication system that extended everywhere from the palace of Versailles to the furnished rooms of the Parisian poor.”[24]

Of course this does not mean that the satirical poetry communications networks moved entirely outside of the political institutional authorities. On the contrary, as mentioned above, poems could also originate from among the members of court themselves, whereby there was nothing to prevent them being revised along the way, some verses left out, others added. Not least of all, they could also play a not insubstantial role in court intrigues. However, it seems that what was decisive was that their significance was not entirely subsumed in this and that a “poem could therefore function simultaneously as an element in a power-play by courtiers and as an expression of another kind of power, the undefined but undeniably influential authority known as ‘la voix publique’”[25].

Monster Institutions

The undefinable difference of “another kind of power” is that in which it appears as a living monstrosity. The fraying network around the Quatorze shows that this monstrosity consists, not least of all, in a certain correlation between the production and distribution of texts on the one hand and the engagement of social struggles on the other. There are also much more recent examples that could be given here. Gilles Deleuze, who is also not otherwise averse to the particulation of the monstrous, wrote in this respect about the development of his friend Félix Guattari’s constellation of concepts in the 1960s and early 1970s, which first emerged in the psychiatric practice of the clinic La Borde and was intended to intervene particularly, but not only there:

“[…] these terms have a targeted practical orientation: they are intended to introduce a militant political function into the institution, a kind of ‘monster’ that is neither psychoanalysis nor the clinic practice and certainly not group dynamics – a machine for producing and expressing desire, which claims to be applicable everywhere, in the hospital, in the school, in political struggles.”[26]

In other words, these are monster-concepts that are to be introduced into the institution as a “political function” against the structuralization, the (en-) closure of/in the institution, but that are conversely to open themselves up to transversal concatenations with every possible component of the outside of the institution. Here transversality becomes a term that refers to a larger and yet molecular context composed of many micro-politics, a term that draws out a line from all identitary limitations and conceptual and practical confinements and exclusions. And as Guattari explained in his first essay on transversality, written in 1964, this concept is the opposite of “verticality, such as is found in the illustration of the structure of a pyramid (manager, vice-manager, etc.)”, but also the opposite of “horizontality such as that which can prevail in the court of a hospital, in the department of the restless or the bed-wetters, in other words in a state where people adapt as well as they can to the situation in which they find themselves”[27].

At a surprisingly early point, Guattari is already able to recognize two paradigms that mark today’s situation of neoliberal governmentality in an interwoven way: not only the verticality of the pyramid of command, the mode of social subjugation determines the world inside and outside the clinic, but also a second, horizontal form of governing and self-governing, thus of self-adapting simultaneously of collaborating in the adaptation, which Guattari would later continue to develop into the concept of machinic enslavement. Here he proposes transversality as a monstrous line of flight from this twofold governing; it “should overcome both dead-ends: that of pure verticality and that of simple horizontality”[28].

Guattari emphasizes that only a higher coefficient of transversality, a higher degree of transversality can set in motion the process of group or institutional analysis. And in the course of the following years, this coefficient of transversality was indeed raised, not only in the institutional laboratory of La Borde, but also increasingly in other areas as well. Transversal practices emerged in the battle against the state and de Gaulle’s government as well as against the left-wing state apparatuses of the unions and the French communist party, against prisons and against reactionary educational institutions. The introduction of countless monsters into the institutions finally exploded in 1968 in a wild concatenation of singularities far beyond France.

What was and is at stake, however, is not only the implementation of monsters in existing institutions, but also the creation of new institutions that have a monstrous quality. Returning to Derrida’s designations and ready to leap into the present at the same time, in conclusion we would like to refer to the reflections of the Spanish Universidad nómada in this issue of transversal about new dispositives and institutions of social movements. As the text by Universidad nómada describes, these dispositives are both – monstrous and hybrid:

hybrid, because right from the start they make it necessary to create networks out of resources and initiatives that are very different and contradictory in nature, that appear strange and even seemingly incongruent among themselves […] monstrous, because they initially appear to be pre-political or simply non-political in form, but their acceleration and accumulation as described above must generate a density and a series of possibilities for intellectual creativity and collective political action that will contribute to inventing another politics.”[29]

In this issue, another kind of politics like this refers concretely to forms of institutionality that are engendered by transnational networks, but also by the “new generation” of centri sociali in various parts of Europe, which attempt to flee from, interrupt, sabotage metropolitan governance that has recently been increasingly overflowing. Here hybridization also implies a strange process of the falling apart, tearing and cutting off of components, but also their new composition, concatenation and networking. Naturally these monsters have also invented something for themselves that was not on the menu, and the little souls of the police are already gathering and starting again with their ghostly haunting. Yet it is not in vain that these monsters form a “new generation”: they do not function according to the logic of hermetic autonomy, they do not oppose the police (following the confrontative pattern that has marked a large portion of the political battles of modernity), whether as unformed ghost souls or the concrete exercise of domination, but instead avoid this kind of dichotomous confrontation.

Whereas the recalcitrance of the Parisians of the 17th and 18th century, which was by no means hermetic, perhaps also had something to do with having to learn the nature of the police, whereas Michaux’ Plume, on the other hand, had perhaps already learned that so well that he did not stop apologizing for himself as soon as his transgression was registered, this may possibly be a process of unlearning, which casts off the internalized police gaze to affirm the heterogeneous manifestations of the monstrous. If police means, according to Delamare and even still today, the “public order of every city”, then this “new generation” is much more likely to evacuate the metropolitan order that consists of inserting a beneficial police soul into the ungovernable bodies unremittingly, without exception, without refuge. And while these mechanisms of “ensouling” and identifying attempt to bring a ghostly order into the ungovernable mass, the monster meanwhile implements itself in the existing institutions, just as it gives birth to new forms of institution: monster institutions.


[1]    Henri Michaux, “A Certain Plume”, in: ibid., Selected Writings, New Directions Publishing, 1990 (trans. Richard Ellman), p. 83ff.

[2]    Cf. (also for the following quotations): Walter Benjamin, “Critique of Violence”, in: One Way Street and Other Writings, New Left Books 1979, pp. 132-154 (translation modified: the English translation of the term in question in the above-quoted passage reads “ghostly presence”; Benjamin’s expression, however, is “gespenstische Erscheinung”, which is more accurately translated by “ghostly appearance”).

[3]    Nicolas Delamare, Traité de la police. Où l’on trouvera l’histoire de son etablissement, les fonctions et les prérogatives des ses magistrats, toutes les loix et tous les règlemens qui la concernent, Amsterdam 1729 (second édition augmentée), “Au roy” [English translations here and in the following are based on translations from French into German by Stefan Nowotny].

[4]    Ibid., p. 1 (“Livre premier: De la Police en général, & de ses Magistrats & Officiers”).

[5]    Ibid., p. 2.

[6]    Cf. ibid., p. 4.

[7]    Ibid., p. 249 (“Livre second: De la réligion”). Delamare concludes this with a description of how all the problems in other fields of responsibility of the police could be solved through the observance of religion. As could hardly be otherwise expected, this means the “true”, i.e. Catholic-Christian religion; however, since this was not only insufficiently observed even by the Catholics themselves, but also not accepted by others at all, the police consequently had specific areas of responsibility, for instance in relation to “pagans”, “Jews” and “heretics”, to which Delamare’s treatise devotes separate sections each.

[8]    Cf. ibid., p. 4.

[9]    Cf. ibid., p. 50.

[10]  The quoted excerpts are taken from Gerhard Sälter, Polizei und soziale Ordnung in Paris. Zur Entstehung und Durchsetzung von Normen im städtischen Alltag des Ancien Régime (1697–1715), Frankfurt/M.: Klostermann 2004, p. 1 f. (quoted there in the original French).

[11]  On the development of the fields of police activity, cf. especially the chapter “Genese und Tätigkeitsfelder einer eigenständigen Polizeiorganisation” in the book quoted above by Gerhard Sälter (p. 283-322).

[12]  Stefan Zweig wrote a portrait of Joseph Fouché, describing him as the prototype of the political turncoat and survival artist: Joseph Fouché. Bildnis eines politischen Menschen, Frankfurt/M.: S. Fischer 21982.

[13]  Hélène L’Heuillet, Basse politique, haute police. Une approche historique et philosophique de la police, Paris: Fayard 2001, p. 16.

[14]  See also: C. Agricola, “Joseph Fouché et l’insurrection française”, in: Nouvelle Solidarité, 11 February 2005, p. 6–9 (online:

[15]  H. L’Heuillet, Basse politique, haute police, p. 16.

[16]  Gerhard Sälter, Polizei und soziale Ordnung in Paris, p. 1 f.

[17]  In: Marx-Engels-Werke, Vol. 8, Berlin: Dietz 1960, p. 111–207 [in English:]

[18]  For a more precise analysis of the differences between Marxist differentiations from an outside of the proletariat and the monstrosity of this outside, cf. Gerald Raunig, “The Monster Precariat”, trans. by Aileen Derieg,, and ibid., Tausend Maschinen. Eine kleine Philosophie der Maschine als sozialer Bewegung, Vienna: Turia + Kant 2008, especially the last chapter “Abstrakte Maschinen”.

[19]  Jacques Rancière, La Mésentente. Politique et philosophie, Paris: Galilée 1995.

[20]  On the issue of frightening subject, cf. Vassilis Tsianos / Dimitris Papadopoulos, “Precarity: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Embodied Capitalism” in: transversal 11/06, “machines and subjectivation”,

[21]  Like all etymological connections, this one also leads less to unambiguous origins, but rather to historical constellations of meaning. Most etymological information on the Latin word monstrum rightly points to its origin from moneo (“warn”, “exhort”). However, this does not exclude a connection with monstrare (usually translated with “to show”). Emile Benveniste, for instance, considers it probable that monstrare is a denominal derivation of monstrum, which is in turn derived from moneo. Unlike ostendo (“to show”, “to reveal”), monstrare thus initially means “less ‘to show’ an object than to ‘teach a behavior’, to ‘prescribe a path that is to be followed’’” (cf. E. Benveniste, Le Vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes: 2. Pouvoir, droit religion, Paris: Les Editions de Minuit 1969, p. 255-258, here: p. 257). The monster consequently forms a kind of in-between figure or a figuration of the in-between emerging in a linguistic history process, which occupies a transition between an order of (initially given by the gods) exhortative instruction and an order of appearance.

[22]  Jacques Derrida, “Passages – From Traumatism to Promise” (Interview with Elisabeth Weber), in: Jacques Derrida, Elisabeth Weber, Peggy Kamuf: Points .. Interviews, 1974-1994, trans. by Elisabeth Weber, Peggy Kamuf, Stanford University Press, 1995, p. 372-395, here p. 385-386.

[23]  See (17-10-2008).

[24]; the magnitude of these links is evident in the extent of the so-called chansonniers, in which contemporary critical poems and songs were compiled into collections; the largest of these chansonniers comprised 44 and 58 volumes respectively (cf.


[26]  Gilles Deleuze, “Vorwort. Drei Gruppenprobleme”, in: Félix Guattari, Psychotherapie, Politik und die Aufgaben der institutionellen Analyse, trans. by Grete Oswald, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp 1976, p. 7–22, here: p. 19.

[27]  Félix Guattari, “Transversalität”, in: ibid., Psychotherapie, Politik und die Aufgaben der institutionellen Analyse, p. 39–55, here: p. 48.

[28]  Ibid., p. 49.

[29]  Universidad nómada, “Mental Prototypes and Monster Institutions. Some Notes by Way of an Introduction”, trans. by Nuria Rodriguez, in transversal 05/08, “Monster Institutions”,