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“The fact that some things are forgotten and others reminded is what gives human History a kind of normativity: ordinary lives are not inscribed in History. Exemplar existences and deeds are, and this filtering of the ‘real’ through human memory and historical inscription is how humans transmit normative evaluations from one generation to the other. Individual and collective human memory are of course not objective, but that lack of objectivity has proved absolutely necessary for the functioning of individuals, and for the organization of societies. What all this suggests is that an intensive replacement of human observation, evaluation and prediction by autonomic processes might well deprive us, in part at least, of our abilities to make normative judgements, and, more fundamentally even, to set new norms” (Rouvroy, 16)

 

I chose this passage from the Rouvroy reading/lecture because I find it compelling but also not entirely convincing. On the one hand, I think that his notion that pre-emptive dispositives pose certain dangers in their effective employment, insofar as norms would be enforced in a way that bypasses contestation, rendering impotent our capacity to dissent, resist, or construct “counter-conducts” to governmental/corporate/mass cultural rule is a really important point. On the other hand though I’m having trouble conceiving of a world in which individual and collective human memory is replaced by automatic processes entirely. Moreover, I don’t necessarily vibe with the idea that the normative functions of the remembering/forgetting dichotomy are so entirely indispensible to humanity. Yes, “norms” in an abstract sense have their utility, but I hesitate to applaud any discussion of the merits of silencing voices of the past—those condemned to obsolescence for not embodying the normative values of their epoch/proceeding epochs—without at least passing reference to the incredible dangers involved in the writing of history. Mostly though, I just think that the point is overstated. I can’t conceive of a world in which historicism and memory are substantially replaced by autonomic processes; no matter how much human observation, evaluation and prediction will be subsumed by autonomic process, there will remain a human consciousness there to observe the resulting conditions of this shift—and so if it leads to an outcome that is negative, that negativity, though not constituting an awareness of the methods of observation, evaluation and prediction that were formerly conscious, will constitute an imperative to rediscover the conscious means of human observation, evaluation and prediction.