Hyper Obedience – NYC Cycling

In Security, Territory, Population Foucault provides an analysis of a number of themes of counter-conduct in relation to the Christian pastorate in the Middle Ages that “redistribute, reverse, nullify, and partially or totally discredit pastoral power in the systems of salvation, obedience, and truth”.

Foucault suggests that as a pastoral counter-conduct asceticism functions as an “exaggerated and exorbitant element” of obedience. Rather than disobedience against an authority, asceticism is an intimate work of the self on the self that excludes the pastor; “a sort of close combat of the individual with himself in which the authority, presence, and gaze of someone else is, if not impossible, at least unnecessary.” Through a hyper-obedience the ascetic is able to counter the conduct affected by the pastor. Ascetic produces a different conduct that “stifles obedience through the excess of prescriptions and challenges that the individual addresses to himself.”

see Foucault, Michel. Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège De France 1977-78. Translated by Graham Burchell. Edited by Arnold I. Davidson. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. (p. 200 – 201)

Here is a contemporary example:

Words of Waits

Tom Waits on New York City

When you see a leg come out of a cab with a $150 stocking and a $700 shoe and step in a pool of blood, piss, and beer left by a guy who died a half hour before and is now lying cold somewhere on a slab, you just take it all in. But it doesn’t really apply anywhere else. It’s like being in a very bizarre branch of the service. “I was in for four years.” I read that there’s a barge that goes out into the Atlantic with all the limbs from all the hospitals, and it got into a storm and capsized, and all the limbs washed up on Jones Beach. People were swimming and all of a sudden things got a little odd, a little dark. You’ve got to love it here, though.

Perhaps if Tom had written Sex and the City it would have been interesting.