Society: Society is generally understood in terms of association of individuals with the aim of creating mutually beneficial relationships. These “associations” take the form of ordered communities organized around standards of morality, education, law, science, religion, family, state, etc. These standards, which are defined as a society develops, are often cited as inviolable limits of that society and are taken as given truths of and for all. We should, however, question this myth of inviolability and recognize the dynamics of power that work to preserve and enforce the “laws” that define and delineate societies.
Society is not a transcendental entity, but rather the product of human interaction and negotiation.Though it is a product of organic human development, “society” is often used as an unquestionable justification for varying types of authorial control. At times the standards of society are imposed by recognized governing powers in the form of laws. Alternatively (or additionally), behavior is shaped by the internalization of the laws and standards that are framed as the binding dictates of the society. In this case, society itself becomes the policing body of its own boundaries and truths.
In order to interrogate the hegemonic authority of these dictates of “society,” the concept of society should not be understood as a primordial or archetypal entity like “God,” but rather be read as an organic, material, and ever-changing embodiment of multiplicities and the relationship between multiplicities. This perspective illuminates the presence of multiple societies or multiplicities within societies.
Collective: Collective is a number of individuals acting together for a common goal or purpose. This general definition highlights the essential quality of “action” to the existence of the collective. This action is organized in pursuit of a shared interest, belief, or intent. The common ground on which a collective is founded is one that is critical of the apparatuses of power. Collectives are thus critical bodies (or bodies of critique) that bring individuals together – whether physically, mentally, or ideologically – in solidarity to challenge the status quo. These are dynamic and flexible bodies, born of a critical moment of shared desire. They can dissolve and reform with different actors and goals in the course of struggle. Collectives then exist as temporal embodiments of critical engagement. Because the collective is built on an idea of questioning power structures, it is essential that these structures should not be recreated within the group. Collectives therefore seek to establish an egalitarian, non-hierarchical, and consensus-based solidarity in order to pose counter-politics against hegemony.
Public: Public generally is defined in relation to its perceived opposite – “private.” The pre-accepted dichotomy fails to fully represent the complicated and shifting relationship between “public” and “private.” This flawed dichotomy raises the questions – whose public? Who is included in the public? Who is excluded? And how do we then define those excluded? These questions underscore the degree to which notions of “public” are bound to structures of power. Although it derives from the Latin term “the populi”, which means “the people”, our contemporary use of “public” is less inclusive. For example, when a politician says that he speaks for the public good, he invokes the “public” to legitimize his position and power, thus obfuscating that he in fact represents only a fraction of the whole (and protects the interests of only a limited and specific “public”). His public then is not an inclusionary public, but rather one built on the voices of a privileged group. Those who think that they are not being represented and whose interests are not the same as this so-called “public” find themselves at the “margins.” The existence of these marginalized groups challenges the idea of a “monolithic” public and problematizes the pseudo-dichotomy of public and private. And understanding who and what the public is must therefore include an interrogation of the notion of “the private” and of the agencies that define “the public.”
Instead of letting the power mechanisms define the public for us or posing an understanding of “public” opposed to “private,” we should read “public” as a critical agency that includes all types of the oppressed within the society. It defines a common ground that is accessible to all classes, genders, and so-called marginalized of the society. Such an understanding frames “public” as a sphere, place, space, or something inclusive rather than a tool of exclusion. Based on this idea of inclusiveness, it should be noted that no one can represent public other than itself. The public embodies the potentiality of revolution through its body and performs revolutionary politics through space. That is why, as discussed by Henri Lefebvre, “public space” has always become the arena of struggle between the oppressed and the oppressor.(1) Public does not perform its fight against social injustice within the institutions of government such as “national assembly” – a closed or “striated space” of power as defined by Deleuze and Guattari – in which it is partially represented; rather, it performs via “streets” – open or “smooth space” as defined Deleuze and Guattari – in which it fully participates.(2) Therefore, as it was experienced in 1871 Paris Commune or 1968 urban revolts, and lastly in Buenos Aires (2001), El Alto (2003), London (2011), Cairo (2011), Madrid (2011-12), Athens (2010-12), New York (2011) or Istanbul and Ankara (2013), public is the one – the only one – who has the capability of defining its own fate, its own body, its “right to the city,”(3) and its tools of emancipation.
(1) Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson Smith (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1991).
(2) Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateau: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 474-501.
(3) Henri Lefebvre, “The Right to The City,” in Writings on Cities, trans. and ed. Eleonore Kofman and Elizabeth Lebas (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), 63-177.
By Alena Aniskiewicz and Secil Binboga