12 May 2012

Recorded Lecture: Nina Power, "The Spectre of the 'Public': The Ideology of Law and Order"

The Backdoor Broadcasting Company has archived a probing, half-hour talk by Nina Power, presented as part of the Ideology Now Conference at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities in London on 28 April 2012. Getting messy in the heavy topics of law and the public in the "creative empiricism" of Britain's politico-legal environment, Power casts an analytical eye upon the legal and lingusitic formulation of the public and the legal subject in light of Britain's past year of riots, protests and "public disturbance".

Her discursive, engaging and conversational presentation begins from the question: "Why don't we know anything about the law?" Reassessing Louis Althusser's descriptions of the law as belonging to both the repressive state apparatus and ideological state apparatuses, and of the figure of the individual as the bourgeois ideological subject, Power examines what happens when the law confronts (or refuses to confront) collective subjects and group activity.

Power's talk teases out two kinds of legally-recognised publics, a disruptive "bad public" and an always silent and absent "good public". It is on behalf of this good public, constantly terrified of the potentially misbehaving mass of the self-organised mob, that the law and judiciary is "endlessly aggrieved". It is also on behalf of this "good public" that the law is obliged to carve out each component individual from the unsanctioned "bad public",  so as to persecute every member as representatives of an unacceptable collective. Power states:

"With the ongoing and perhaps almost complete destruction of the public sphere in the name of privatisation, individualism and competition, we are at the same time confronted with the necessary ghost of the acceptable public, the one invoked by the state in the name of the preservation of order. This is the mute, static public used against the mobile, protesting public."

No comments: