6. Legitimacy and Control
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6 Legitimacy and Control We have seen that administration is not illegitimate vis-à-vis law insofar as law itself was shown not to be a source of legitimacy per se but an instrument of rule. Furthermore, administration’s contemporary legitimacy problem cannot, therefore, be a function of professional competency or the production of the “right” kind of “useful” knowledge (be it normative or technical) precisely because the very idea of professional competence emerged as a technology for ameliorating the breakdown of the efficacy of law and fostering the production of a common sense; administration and professional neutrality emerged as supplements to the failure of law as an instrument of rule and “management” of the exclusion. The contemporary crisis of governmental and administrative legitimacy needs to be viewed within the movement of this logic of exclusion and the biopolitical project of the People. As we will see more clearly later, both normative and scientific approaches to public administration misrecognize the origin of the legitimacy problem. The legitimacy question in public administration is an effect of the political ontology of representation and the relationships it establishes and the divisions it posits between domains of human interaction. This is not to say that legitimacy is not a “real” problem. Rather, it is a problem without a real solution insofar as it is produced by specific underlying conditions and assumptions that sustain its problematic status. The only “solution ” to the problem is to displace these conditions and assumptions. As we will see, contemporary conditions may be making such a displacement plausible.1 However, the desirability of displacing these conditions lies not in legitimizing the administrative state but in changing the underlying relation of representation. I will approach the dimensions of the contemporary legitimacy problem of the administrative state in three steps. The first step will be to argue that the political ontology of the People in fact makes the legitimacy question 156 / Chapter 6 irresolvable because the presuppositions of the People render any government always already suspect on account of the particular divisions and relations it establishes among its posited objects. Second, even though leeriness toward government is a necessary consequence of the structure of the People, it is essential to understand more precisely our contemporary conditions and the apparent escalation of antigovernmental sentiment. To this point, I will consider the particular dimensions of contemporary antigovernmentalism in order to clarify the thesis that it is the efficacy of representation and not simply one particular political technology that is now failing. I will consider the biopolitical breakdown of the disciplinary regime of reproduction that precipitated the contemporary legitimacy crisis of the administrative state and outline the broad changes in social relations and social space that characterize the current period. Following Gilles Deleuze (1995/1990), we can call this postdisciplinary order the society of control. The general attitude toward the exclusion in the society of control creates a general state of exception (Agamben, 1998/1995) that abandons the project of fabrication and inaugurates a new mode of social regulation through disorder and disintegration against the lingering commitment to the One. In the third section I consider the general problem of government in this order of disintegration. I will contend that government itself has shifted into the position of the constitutive exclusion. While fantasy1 is still operative , the diagnosis of fantasy2 has shifted government itself into the position of the pathogen and the cause of social disorder. In many ways the current period resembles the constitutional order of the nineteenth century and so rightly earns the designation “neoliberal.” The uniqueness of the contemporary moment, however, is that, as a result of the dimensions of the biopolitical breakdown, fantasy1 , the notion of a People-as-One, is becoming increasingly untenable, as evidenced by the fact that conducting of conduct now occurs through disintegration and separation. Integrated differences are recognized but set against one another. In this shift, politics effectively loses its referent. Neither a stable object of political representation nor the capacity to recognize a representation as Ours is being fabricated. It is as if we now look into the mirror and rather than seeing an integrated image of Ourselves, we see undirected flows of fragments, parts, and intensities. The consequence of the fragmentation of this image is the perception of a governmental apparatus that appears captured, incompetent, biased, and Legitimacy and Control / 157 authoritarian in the exercise of authority. With government as the materialized exclusion, government turns on itself, reducing to its “core...


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Subject Headings

  • Legitimacy of governments -- United States -- Public opinion.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 2001-2009.
  • Political leadership -- United States -- Public opinion.
  • Public opinion -- United States.
  • Public administration -- United States -- Public opinion.
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