from Jon Mckenzie's Perform or Else, From Discipline to Performance
CHAPTER 0. CHALLENGES
1O, 9, 8 ...
Perform or Else initiates a challenge, one that links the performances of artists and activists with those of workers and executives, as well as computers and missile systems. From congressional attacks on performance artists to the performance specs of household appliances, from the iterative training of high performance managers to the performativity of everyday speech, performance so permeates US society that it evokes that mysterious circle of mist which Nietzsche said envelops any living thing and without which life becomes "withered, hard, and barren." "Every people," the philosopher wrote, "even every man, who wants to become ripe needs such an enveloping madness, such a protective and veiling cloud."1
If performance is our mist, our mad atmosphere, it's also capable of becoming stratified, of leaving an historical sediment of effects that we can read in both words and actions. Herbert Marcuse, professor to Angela Davis and other student radicals of the 1960s, argued as early as 1955 that postindustrial societies were ruled by what he called "the performance principle," a historical reality principle founded on economic alienation and repressive desublimation.2 Yet around the same time, researchers in the humanities and social sciences were beginning to use a theatrical concept of performance to understand social rituals and everyday interactions, and this performance concept would later be applied to political demonstrations and experimental art happenings. Today, as we navigate the crack of millennia, work, play, sex, and even resistance-it's all performance to us.
Because performance assembles such a vast network of discourses and practices, because it brings together such diverse forces, anyone trying to map its passages must navigate a long and twisting flight path. The challenge initiated here: to rehearse a general theory of performance.
The possibility that a general theory is called for-and perhaps long overdue-may be gauged by posing Perform or Else as a response, as a reply in dialogue with other performative challenges, the first of which I cite not from a scholarly text, but from a popular business magazine. The 3 January 1994 issue of Forbes magazine published its "Annual Report on American Industry" under the dramatic cover reproduced here:
Let us begin here a patient, if partial, reading of this scene, taking apart its elements-its script, its cast, its props-while also tuning and retooling them with the care of a motorcycle mechanic.
The Forbes challenge: suspended under the name of this well-established magazine is the headline "Perform-or else," printed in a loud caution of yellow. These words and the white Forbes name in turn frame a detail of the image behind them, focusing our eyes on a stilled gesture: a
cane hook wrapped menacingly around the neck of a white-skinned, gray-haired businessman. His eyes peer out between the magazine's title and top banner, staring wearily off in different directions: one straight ahead and slightly down as if to face the music, the other down and off to his left, perhaps sizing up a burly escort, perhaps seizing a line of escape. Below this bifurcating gaze, his almost forgotten nose is pinched between the letters "r" and "b," while lower still, a stiff upper lip and strong jawline prepare to take things on the chin. The cane itself embodies the challenge, brandishing a high-gloss polished gleam; more subtly still, its hook casts a shadow across the executive's red-striped tie. This shadowy adornment gathers the pathos of our tableau, for it ties together the cane's gesture and the words "Perform-or else," knotting them in a fashion that's got this performer by the throat.
What performance is challenged forth by this Forbes cover? And what is its "-or else"? To commence one reading: From the executive figure and the title "Annual Report on American Industry: Ratings on 1,335 Companies," to the publication itself and its namesake founder, the cover directs us to the performance of companies, of business management, of economic power. It directs us to the high performance of US corporate executives-and to their occupational risks. Inside, an introductory article by Dana Wechsler Linden and Nancy Rotenier reprints the cover image and runs this callout which encapsulates the gist of their text: "For too long boards sat passively while chief executive officers blamed below-par performance on all manner of things: recessions, foreign exchange fluctuations, strikes. Chief executives would fire vice presidents in the way that Stalin would shoot commissars, but the boss tended to be sacrosanct. No more."3 This performance is evaluated in terms of profits, stock prices, and organizational efficiency, and the risks to poor performers are occupational and reach high up the US corporate ladder. Linden and Rotenier's article features a chart showing how 1993 was "The year heads rolled," namely, those of GM's Robert Stempel, IBM's John Akers, Apple's John Sculley arid nine other corporate heads axed by their boards of directors.
The Forbes challenge can thus be paraphrased as "Perform-or else: you're fired!" The challenge is that posed by organizational performance. And though it seems directed to a rather small but powerful group-the top brass of 1,335 companies-this challenge affects not only all levels of corporate structure, but also workers in a wide variety of organizations, from businesses to non-profit organizations, from government agencies to educational institutions. As part of their administrative practice, thousands upon thousands of organizations administer "performance reviews," formal
evaluations of the work performed by their employees. These reviews, conducted by immediate supervisors, human resources staff, and/or the employees themselves, occur at regular intervals, in most cases annually, but also semiannually or quarterly. The reviews themselves traditionally take both oral and written form, though increasingly digital technologies also provide numeric calculations of workplace activity. Depending upon the work, performance reviews evaluate such things as productivity, tardiness, motivation, innovation, and the ability to establish and fulfill goals which support the organization's own goals. High performance ratings may produce rewards: salary increases, special bonuses, official recognition, perhaps a promotion. With low ratings comes the "-or else," which may be that of getting fired or "outsourced" (and often later rehired without benefits), though other options include receiving little or no pay increase or bonus, being retrained or transferred to another job, or being presented with such difficult working conditions that one "chooses" to leave the organization. This broader "perform-or else" challenge of organizational performance thus affects not only the group of (primarily) white males who make up the top management of US organizations. Its call addresses all members of a workforce whose ranks, from shop floors to cubicles to office suites, are increasingly composed of women and minorities.
At a more abstract level, the challenge of "perform-or else" also enacts a self-described paradigm shift in the theory and practice of organizational management. The literature of this new management paradigm, which I will read as "Performance Management," describes the displacement in the following terms. Scientific management or "Taylorism" has been the dominant organizational paradigm in the US since early in this century, when it was articulated by Frederick Taylor. Aptly equipped for a manufacturing-based, nationally oriented, and highly industrialized economy, scientific management calls for organizing work upon rational, scientific principles designed to make work more productive from both managerial and labor perspectives. According to contemporary organizational theory, however, the decades-long application of Taylorism produced highly centralized bureaucracies whose rigid, top-down management styles were-and still are-perceived by workers and managers alike as controlling, conformist, and monolithic. Performance Management, in contrast, attunes itself to economic processes that are increasingly service-based, globally oriented, and electronically wired. Since the end of the Second World War, theorists from Herbert Simon to Edwards Deming to Peter Drucker have argued for decentralized structures and flexible management styles, styles that, rather than controlling workers, empower them with information and training so they may contribute to decision-making processes. The principles regularly cited in management are not uniformity, conformity, and rationality, but diversity, innovation, and intuition.
Performance Management doesn't sell itself as scientific management: instead,
it articulates an ars poetica of organizational practice. In the business realm,
this artistic approach can be seen in the 1994 text, Corporate Renaissance:
The Art of Reengineering, in which authors Kelvin F. Cross, John J. Feather,
and Richard L. Lynch detail the mechanics of the paradigm shift using terms
and figures from Renaissance painting. John Kao's Jamming: The Art and Discipline
of Business Creativity (1996) theorizes the displacement with discursive riffs
taken from improvisational jazz music. And in Cultural Diversity in Organizations
(1993), Taylor Cox argues that diversity in the workplace contributes to creativity
and problem-solving. Yet along with its ennobling discourse, high performance
management has also generated practices so distressingly familiar to US workers
that they are lampooned daily in Scott Adams' nationally syndicated Gilbert
comics. These practices include reengineering, restructuring, TQM programs,
downsizing, outsourcing, part-timing, flex-timing, hoteling, and multi-tasking.
While Gilbert has made millions laugh by tapping into the anxiety and cynicism produced by these and other microeconomic practices, we can only begin to imagine the sick jokes which may arise as these practices are connected to broader, macroeconomic developments, such as the rapid flow of capital worldwide, the corresponding decline of organized labor movements, the opening of global consumer and labor markets, and the integration of computer and communication technologies throughout all strata of society, both in the US and abroad. Thus, the Forbes challenge and its hold upon throats around the world: Perform-or else: be fired, redeployed, institutionally marginalized.
If the Forbes challenge of "perform-or else" were readable solely
in the manner just outlined, mounting a response to it here would pose a daunting
enough task. Yet by citing another challenge our path becomes even more twisted.
Close at hand, the Forbes cover can generate another reading of performance,
one that takes the threatening cane as a citation from a different performance
site, that of the vaudeville stage. Here, performers who brought forth boos
and missiles from the crowd were sometimes yanked from the planks by wily stage
managers yielding long wooden hooks. At first blush, this seems to enact the
same "perform-or else" challenge associated with organizational performance,
and in fact the Forbes cover design plays precisely upon this coincidence of
theatrical and managerial performance. That's its hook, as it were, the same
one that gives "show business" its resonance, and here the play between
stage and business crafts produces a stunning headshot and a punning headline.
By following this hook off the cover and back into the wings of the vaudeville
stage and pausing there to learn a few things from the brothers Marx- namely, to strategically mix up the literal and the figurative, the real and the fictive, the serious and the joke-one can gather another sense of performance, one that directs us to a different challenge of "perform-or else."
In contrast to the organizational sense of performance, the activities that once animated the vaudeville stage-music and dance, comedy and melodrama, daring feats of skill-all these can today be read as cultural performances, as the living, embodied expression of cultural traditions and transformations. Today, the most common uses of this performance concept still come in the contexts of theater, film, and television, where acting performances are routinely discussed, reviewed, marketed, and consumed. However, cultural performance extends far beyond those genres often considered "mere" entertainment. Over the past five decades, the presentational forms associated with theatrical performance have been transformed into analytical tools, generalized across disciplinary fields, and reinstalled in diverse locations. Anthropologists and folklorists have studied the rituals of both indigenous and diasporic groups as performance, sociologists and communication researchers have analyzed the performance of social interactions and nonverbal communication, while cultural theorists have researched the everyday workings of race, gender, and sexual politics in terms of performance. Here, Richard Schechner's concept of "restored behavior"-as the living reactualization of socially symbolic systems-has been one of the most widely cited concepts of cultural performance.
The concept of performance as the embodied enactment of cultural forces has not only informed many disciplines of study, it has also given rise to its own paradigm of knowledge, called in the United States and other English-speaking countries "Performance Studies."
The intellectual history of this paradigm has been sketched several times, most notably by John J. MacAloon in his introduction to the 1984 anthology Rite, Drama, Festival, Spectacle: Rehearsals Toward a Theory of Cultural Performance; and by Carol Simpson Stern and Bruce Henderson in the introduction to their 1993 Performance: Texts and Contexts. The first book-length attempt to examine the development of the concept of cultural performance was Marvin Carlson's Performance: A Critical Introduction (1996). In this long-awaited intellectual history, Carlson culminates his text by stressing that the "growing interest in the cultural dynamics embedded in the performance and theatrical representation itself was primarily stimulated by a materialist concern for exposing the power and oppression in society."4 Indeed, within Performance Studies, performance has taken on a particular political significance; with increasing consistency, performance has become defined as a "liminal" process, a reflexive transgression of social structures. Marginal, on the edge, in the interstices of institutions and at their limits, liminal performances are capable of temporarily staging and subverting their normative functions. Through the study of such genres as
demonstrations, political theater, drag, public memorials, performance art,
and everyday gestures of social resistance, performance scholars have sought
to document and theorize the political practices enacted in performances around
the globe. At the same time, scholars in the Departments of Performance Studies
at New York University and Northwestern have used liminal performance as a generative
model for theorizing their own institutional practices of research and teaching.
This cultural understanding of performance is by no means limited to scholars, however. In the early 1990s, performance formed a front line in the highly publicized "culture wars" waged in the US by politicians and journalists, lawyers and judges, artists and grassroot activists from both the right and the left.5 In early 1990, when Senators Alfonse D'Amato, Jesse Helms, and other conservative politicians renewed their calls for defunding the National Endowment for the Arts, they targeted their rhetorical wrath at sexually explicit performance art. Responding to political pressure, NEA chairperson John Frohnmayer vetoed Theater Program grants that had been approved for four performance artists, Karen Finley, John Fleck, Holly Hughes, and Tim Miller, who would later become known as the NEA 4. Though the courts later forced the Endowment to honor their original grants to these artists, the Endowment-and, arguably, performance art and the art world in general-have been under siege ever since.
This cultural sense of performance allows us to cite another challenge. From the perspective of the NEA 4 and those for whom performance means liminality, subversion, and resistance, this challenge reads: Perform-or else: be socially normalized.
In the reading proposed so far, Perform or Else responds to two challenges, one that calls us to perform organizationally, to help improve the efficiency of companies and other institutions; the other calls us to perform culturally, to foreground and resist dominant norms of social control. A general theory of performance must somehow account for these two types of performance staged by Forbes, must respond to their two contrasting challenges.
One might easily construct a table and attempt to draw up the challenge of Perform or Else by extending the fronts of the culture war and declaring them also to mark the border between organizational and cultural performance. A long series of oppositions could then be generated between Performance Management and Performance Studies, starting with their two challenges and then continuing with Establishment/margin, standardization/deviation, and structure/play. Such a table could in turn direct many other readings of performance, and perhaps even a general theory or two. The challenge of Perform or Else, however, involves a slightly different
response, one that sets up tables so they may twist and turn on their own shaky legs. At this particular table, one can already hear Performance Management theorists objecting that they've been recast as neo-Taylorites, that they're as interested in creativity as Performance Studies scholars, though within a different context. For their part, theorists in Performance Studies might point out that sociologists such as Erving Goffman have conducted performance research in corporate and institutional environments. But the more significant twist underlying this table lies in this observation: these two performance paradigms know very little of one another's research, even though their practitioners encounter, and often enact, one another's concept of performance on a daily basis, even as their fields have grown ripe alongside one another.
Where might this twist take us? Rather than stage an oppositional front between the organizational and the cultural, rather than set up shop with just these two senses of performance, let us take another direction. Let's continue reading the cover of Forbes, for another performance unfolds on this magazine cover, a third performance whose script remains plainly on view for us. And though the script is inscribed and even translated on this and nearly every other product we buy, it remains almost totally illegible to us. What is this third performance, what is its script, and who-or rather what-is its performer? We see the script down in the left corner, stuck there like a sinister lapel button marking this performer for executive execution. Yet it rides not the plane of his lapel, but that of the cover itself: printed black on white, the script is a bar code, a cryptic cipher composed of vertical lines and spaces. The bar code contains the magazine's Universal Pricing Code, which is also written in Arabic numerals. Who reads bar code? Nobody, really-few, if any, human bodies read it directly; but many, many machines read it, specifically, laser scanning technologies. Bar codes, when scanned by systems attached to databases and interactive terminals, facilitate the on-site processing of such data as price, inventory, ordering, and other product information.
Bar code is a script of technological performance, a performance embodied in
such items as high performance sports cars, stereos, and missile systems. When
we talk about how a car performs, or when we ask about the performance specifications
of a computer, we are citing a sense of performance used by engineers, technicians,
and computer scientists. Concepts of technological performance help guide the
design, testing, and manufacture of thousands upon thousands of industrial-
and consumer-grade commodities. The performance specs of materials and products
are often regulated by federal and/or state governments and monitored by their
agencies, as well as by industry associations, insurance companies, and consumer
groups. Performance specifications also play an important function in consumer
information literature, such as owner's manuals. Beyond these relatively specialized
discourses, technological performance
is perhaps most familiar to consumers through the use of "performance"
to market brands and products.
What performs? Air fresheners, roofing insulation, bicycles, carpets and rugs, powerboats, wallcoverings, drain panels, cleansing towels, car-stereo equipment, bakeware, aquarium filters, tires, fabric, window film, woodworking knives, automotive timing chains, foil containers, audio antennae, deep-fat fryers, embossing tools, mop handles, music synthesizers, casement windows, and eyeliners-to name just a selection of those products marketed in the US with some form of the word "performance" actually appearing in their names. One industrial giant, Phillips Petroleum, even markets itself as "The Performance Company."
The most profound enactments of technological performance, however, are those cast and produced within the computer, electronics, and telecommunication industries. To cite the range of performing computers and their users: on one end, the Macintosh Performa, a popular line of computers marketed by Apple in the 1990s; toward another end, the Maui High Performance Computing Center, a facility maintained by the University of New Mexico and the United States Air Force that offers state-of-the-art parallel processing for highly select research projects. The Performa is but a single line of computers, the Maui facility but one of dozens of high performance computing centers in the US. The extent of technological performance within the computer industry must be mapped both in terms of its own specific operation there and in light of the computer's function as a virtual metatechnology, a technology used to design, manufacture, and evaluate other technologies. Technologies no longer go back to the drawing board; instead, they go back to the desktop with its CAD or computer assisted design programs. The computer not only performs, it helps produce performances of other products and materials and thereby greatly extends the domain of technological performance, a domain whose reach into our own lives can be grasped in the ubiquity of bar codes.
Despite its massive extension, however, technological performance does not yet have a significant body of critically reflexive research corresponding to Performance Studies and High Performance. That is, although performance functions as a working concept in a number of technical sciences and an array of manufacturing industries, although its application in the computer sciences is so vast that it has been institutionalized in High Performance Computing Centers, and although product information and marketing campaigns have placed this highly technical performance in our garages, kitchens, and living rooms, despite all this, technological performance has largely escaped the critical attention of historians and philosophers of science. Although technologies perform, very few researchers have asked, "What is this performance?" and "How does it function in different scientific and technical fields?"
In an attempt to respond to such questions, I shall call this rigorous yet
amorphic paradigm of research, "Techno-Performance." Despite the absence
of critical literature, I shall also make this hypothesis: like Performance
Studies and Performance Management, the paradigm of Techno-Performance has emerged
in the US since the Second World War. To specify this hypothesis more: the formative
stages of Techno-Performance were engineered within the American Cold War apparatus,
that vast "military-industrial complex" which President Eisenhower
warned the nation about in 1960 and which Senator William Fulbright also called
the "military-industrial-academic complex."6 Concepts of technological
performance developed by this "MIA complex" have been, shall we say,
instrumental to the deployment of successive generations of military systems,
and despite the thaw of the Cold War, the criteria of "high performance"
and "very high performance" still attain their most rigorous formulation
in such fields as aeronautics and computer science.
If the MIA complex guided the first stages of Techno-Performance, its effects are not limited to arms races and the space race, and even in its more modest performances this paradigm stages its own challenges. Posed to a given product or material by its developer, its challenge might read: Perform-or else: you're obsolete, liable to be defunded, junkpiled, or dumped on foreign markets. And we can also imagine a computer displaying this message to a befuddled user: Perform-or else: you're outmoded, undereducated, in other words, you're a dummy!
THE PERFORMATIVITY OF KNOWLEDGE
In articulating the challenge of Perform or Else, I have introduced three performances, organizational, cultural, and technological, each of which poses different kinds of challenges. These performances, paired with their respective research paradigms, form one level of the general theory under construction here. With three, rather than two, performance paradigms on our unstable table, we can perhaps avoid building a reading machine out of binary oppositions while unfolding performance in other ways as well.
The fields of organizational, cultural, and technological performance, when taken together, form an immense performance site, one that potentially encompasses the spheres of human labor and leisure activities and the behaviors of all industrially and electronically produced technologies. As extensive as these combined fields might be, the paradigms of Performance Management, Performance Studies, and Techno-Performance do not exhaust the performance research now operating in the United States. In linguistics and philosophy, the concept of "performative" has been employed to theorize utterances that constitute rather than represent social actions. In the health sciences, performance has emerged as a field
studying the effects of pharmacological and physical therapies on activities such as work, sports, and everyday life. And in the realm of finance, individual stocks and bonds, mutual funds and pension investments, and even entire markets are daily, if not hourly, analyzed in terms of their short- and long-term performance. These and other paradigms deserve study in their own right, and we shall at times draw upon their research, especially that of philosophy. However, detailed readings fall outside our current mission. The general theory rehearsed here is partial, and part of this partiality involves focusing initially on the three paradigms of performance research introduced above and leaving others for later research.
Three paradigms may indeed be challenge enough, but immediately the question arises: what is the relation among these different paradigms, and how have they emerged in the US since the Second World War? I should stress that I am not arguing that the application of performance concepts to objects as diverse as cultural activities, organizational practices, and technologies originated during the past five decades. The Oxford English Dictionary cites related uses of "performance" dating back over several centuries. No, the term "performance" has not been coined in the past half-century. Rather, it has been radically reinscribed, reinstalled, and redeployed in uncanny and powerful ways. What has occurred has been the articulation and rapid extension of performance concepts into formalized systems of discourses and practices, into sociotechnical systems that have themselves become institutionalized first within the United States and then subsequently worldwide. To get some sense of this rapid extension: between 1861 and 1944, only some 127 dissertations were written pertaining to the subject of "performance." Since then, there have been over 100,0007 There has been, in short, an explosion of performance research in the past half-century, one whose expansion includes and exceeds the immense object terrains produced by researchers of organizational, cultural, and technological performance.
Here one could raise the following objection: however impressive this explosion of performance research might be, it is merely indicative of a much more massive expansion in research and teaching over the past half-century. Performance research must be understood as part of an unprecedented growth in new methodologies and specializations, a sudden expansion in disciplines and degrees, in the number of colleges, universities, and graduate institutions in the US and abroad, and in the number of students and faculty involved in primary, secondary, and higher education. Further, this expansion must be situated within the context of a complex and worldwide set of geopolitical, economic, technological, and cultural changes, changes that have come to be called "globalization."
And yet what if this explosion in knowledge was itself "performative"? What if the diversification and proliferation of researchers, projects, and
fields over the past fifty years signal not only a quantitative leap in research initiatives, but also a qualitative mutation in what we call knowledge, the becoming-performative of knowledge itself? With this question, we begin to sense a level of performance quite different from that of the paradigms.
The possibility of such an "event" of knowledge can be cited in what has become a classic text of cultural theory, Jean-Frangois Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Here Lyotard argues that the status of knowledge has radically changed in postindustrial societies and that this change has been underway since at least the end of the 1950s. Modern knowledge fully emerged in industrial societies of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and legitimated itself upon what Lyotard calls "grand narratives," epic stories of history such as "the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth."8 Depending upon their defenders' political commitments, even highly specialized knowledges were socially legitimated by arguments that their truths served the progress of humanity, the revolution of the working class, and/or the liberation of historically oppressed groups. Postmodern knowledge, by contrast, legitimates itself by "optimizing the system's performance-efficiency."9 Its emergence marks the decline of grand narratives within academic and public discourse and the growing hegemony of computer technologies. Significantly, Lyotard names this postmodern legitimation "performativity."
In a certain sense, performativity is the postmodern condition: it demands that all knowledge be evaluated in terms of operational efficiency, that what counts as knowledge must be translatable by and accountable in the "1"s and "0"s of digital matrices. But performativity extends beyond knowledge; it has come to govern the entire realm of social bonds. Because performativity is the mode through which knowledge and social bonds are legitimated in contemporary societies, we must investigate how it conditions-and is conditioned by-the paradigms of Performance Management, Performance Studies, and Techno-Performance. For now, I will only note that Lyotard associates performativity with a certain challenge, "a certain level of terror, whether soft or hard: be operational (that is, commensurable) or disappear."10 In other words, performativity involves its own challenge to perform-or else.
THE PERFORMATIVITY OF POWER
We are assembling the components of a general theory of performance, the rehearsal of which forms the challenge of Perform or Else. At one level, our mission consists in analyzing the connections between the challenges posed by Performance Management, Performance Studies, and Techno-Performance. Studying how their performances embed themselves within
one another, we must also situate their workings at a second level, one characterized by the rise of performative knowledge, and also by the recent installation of performative power circuits.
Modern legitimation operates by opposing knowledge and power, with the latter conceived primarily in negative terms. The asserted objectivity, rationality, and universality of knowledge-not only of its formal truths, but also of its methods of research and teaching, as well as its institutes and universities-purportedly allow it to demystify and master subjective, irrational, and particular forces of power. Performative, postmodern legitimation, however, challenges this opposition and realigns the relation of power and knowledge. It takes as its slogan: knowledge is power, with knowledge increasingly understood to mean information and power conceived in terms of productive potential. But this realignment of knowledge and power, while troubling to some social critics, also allows us to entertain another reading, one that exposes the specific ways in which knowledge always entails questions of power. Lyotard puts the equation this way: "knowledge and power are simply two sides of the same question: who decides what knowledge is, and who knows what needs to be decided?"11
Although The Postmodern Condition has been in translation for well over a decade and is frequently cited by cultural theorists, it is significant that Lyotard's concept of performativity remains strangely uncited, even by those theorizing postmodern cultural performance. We begin to sense that, in contrast to the theories of transgressive performance long articulated by Performance Studies scholars, other theories have emerged which directly concern the normative power of performance. Indeed, Lyotard's performativity stands as but one critical site where performance is analyzed as a regime of normative force.
Another such site can be found in the field of gender studies, where Judith Butler's work has focused on the ways in which discursive practices underlie the social construction of women, gays, and lesbians. To this end and other ends, she has articulated a theory of performativity which draws upon J.L. Austin's concept of performative speech acts, as well as Jacques Derrida's deconstructive reading of Austin. In "Critically Queer," Butler writes, "Performative acts are forms of authoritative speech: most performatives, for instance, are statements which, in the uttering, also perform a certain action and exercise a binding power.... The power of discourse to produce what it names is linked with the question of performativity. The performative is thus one domain in which power acts as discourse."12 Over the past few years, Butler's work on the citationality of performatives has had a very influential effect within Performance Studies, yet the normative valences of her performativity concept were initially passed over-in favor of her incisive analyses of drag performance's subversive potential-and have only of late become fully appreciated by scholars.
One other theory of normative performance must be cited here, or rather, re-cited. It is that of the performance principle, which forms the guiding thread of Herbert Marcuse's Eros and Civilization. Marcuse wrote in English and did so in the United States, the country to which he fled from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Through a critical conjunction of Marx's theory of labor and Freud's theory of drives, he set out to define the historical reality principle, the regime of repressive forces, which he saw as guiding postwar, postindustrial civilization. From this place, in this language, Marcuse called it "the performance principle," for "under its rule society is stratified according to the competitive economic performances of its members. . . . Men do not live their own lives but perform pre-established functions. While they work, they do not fulfill their own needs and faculties but work in alienation."13 Crucial to Marcuse's theory, however, is that individuals not only tolerate performative alienation; through a process of repressive desublimation they can even take pleasure in it. Further, the effects of the performance principle extend throughout society.
Marcuse's theory of the performance principle was published in 1955. That he made this call so long ago is telling, for it indicates that the power of performance was already operational in the US early on in the Cold War, which is also the time when Techno-Performance, Performance Management, and Performance Studies were initializing their reading machines. But Marcuse's call has been on hold for some time; today, the performance principle remains largely unread and uncited, even by cultural theorists trained during the 1960s, when his texts and teachings at the University of California at San Diego became a lightning rod for both student activists and conservative politicians such as then Governor Ronald Reagan. This putting on hold of Marcuse's call, when connected to the strange (non)citation of Lyotard's and Butler's own calls and then to calls held up on the communication lines of the MIA complex-this cumulative holding pattern suggests something other than lax reading practices on the part of individual scholars. It suggests that the (non)citation of different performance concepts across and even within paradigms may itself be generated by the power of performance.
If the power call has been left up in the air, circling or orbiting about us, this is not due to incompetent scholarship here on the ground; on the contrary, it arises from the very competencies which form and inform our fields of research, from the hows and whys and whens and wheres of pointing to and saying that "this-this is performance." If different researchers have known little about one another's performance concepts, if they have remained largely out of the loop with respect to different performances, it is because their reading machines have been programmed by codes and protocols barring them from performing at one another's evaluative sites. The question then becomes: who-or what-decides what performance is, and who-or what-performs that which is decided? And more challenging
still: how to characterize the power/knowledge formation that underlies the different challenges to "perform-or else?"
DISCIPLINE AND PERFORM
Let us circle back toward our point of departure, navigating our way through the mist in hopes of touching down and taking off again, but not before digging in a little. Picking up Forbes, the issue whose cover let us in on Performance Management, Performance Studies, and Techno-Performance, let's now uncover a reading of onto-historic proportions, a reading of power and knowledge. The statement "Perform-or else" and the image of the threatening gesture are gathered together most tightly in the performer's neck tie. Statement and graphic elements form a circuit of power, the binding of word and image by normative forces. Word and image are bound together, but they are not static, for each is a production, an active formation of knowledge, the one an audible discourse, the other a visible practice. Here we see and hear a demonstrating and a commanding, and such normative circuits operate in the showings and tellings of school children, as well as the big pictures and moral callings of the more highly trained and educated. The entire cover calls out to us: "Look, hear, what counts is this-perform-or else-"
In the small text This Is Not a Pipe, Michel Foucault writes of Rene Magritte's famous drawing by the same name, a drawing of a pipe, under which is drawn the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," Of this last element, Foucault writes, "They are words drawing words; at the surface of the image, they form the reflection of a sentence saying that this is not a pipe. The image of a text. But conversely, the represented pipe is drawn by the same hand and with the same pen as the letters of the text; it extends the writing more than it illustrates it or fills its void."14 Foucault's interest in Magritte's works lies in the artist's calligraphic experiments into the relation of word and image, of discourse and practice, or rather, into their relation of nonrelation, their forced cohabitation which makes up our world. If we cite this interest here, it is because Foucault's own writings on statements and visibilities have been operating in the background of our text, guiding from afar our reading of the Forbes cover. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault argues that the power regime of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Western Europe was modeled on a particular arrangement of statements and visibilities, specifically, "the legal register of justice and the extra-legal register of discipline."15 Discipline proper is an onto-historical formation of power, an episteme based upon the juxtaposition of two forms of knowledge: the discursive statements of penal law and the concrete mechanisms of surveillance embodied in Bentham's panoptic prison. To read the extent of disciplinary power and knowledge in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, Foucault documented its normalizing effects within discourses and practices far beyond the prison, such as those of hospitals, factories, and schools. Moreover, he concluded from his research that an understanding of discipline was essential to studying the effects of power and knowledge in contemporary society.
A central argument of Perform or Else is that performance must be understood as an emergent stratum of power and knowledge. More specifically, the performance theories of Butler, Lyotard, and Marcuse, as well as readings of Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, and many others, lead me to make this speculative forecast: performance will be to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries what discipline was to the eighteenth and nineteenth, that is, an onto-historical formation of power and knowledge. This formation is ontological in that it entails a displacement of being that challenges our notion of history; it is nonetheless historical in that this displacement is materially inscribed. Though it obviously draws upon and recombines other knowledge forms and power forces, this "performance stratum" coalesced in the United States in the wake of the Second World War, and its effects have been going global for some time, expanding especially fast with the thaw of the Cold War.
Let me outline the contours of the performance stratum in a few bold strokes, strokes whose details we shall read more closely later on. Like discipline, performance produces a new subject of knowledge, though one quite different from that produced under the regime of panoptic surveillance. Hyphenated identities, transgendered bodies, digital avatars, the Human Genome Project-these suggest that the performative subject is constructed as fragmented rather than unified, decentered rather than centered, virtual as well as actual. Similarly, performative objects are unstable rather than fixed, simulated rather than real. They do not occupy a single, "proper" place in knowledge; there is no such thing as the thing-in-itself. Instead, objects are produced and maintained through a variety of sociotechnical systems, overcoded by many discourses, and situated in numerous sites of practice. While disciplinary institutions and mechanisms forged Western Europe's industrial revolution and its system of colonial empires, those of performance are programming the circuits of our post-industrial, postcolonial world. More profoundly than the alphabet, printed book, and factory, such technologies as digital media and the Internet allow discourses and practices from different geographical and historical situations to be networked and patched together, their traditions to be electronically archived and played back, their forms and processes to become raw materials for other productions. Similarly, research and teaching machines once ruled strictly and linearly by the book are being retooled by a multimedia, hypertextual metatechnology, that of the computer.
The geopolitical, economic, and technological transformations associated with the performance stratum give us insight into the formation of its
fractal subjects. The desire produced by performative power and knowledge is not modeled on repression. Performative desire is not molded by distinct disciplinary mechanisms. It is not a repressive desire; it is instead "excessive," intermittently modulated and pushed across the thresholds of various limits by overlapping and sometimes competing systems. Further, diversity is not simply integrated, for integration is itself becoming diversified. Similarly, deviation is not simply normalized, for norms operate and transform themselves through their own transgression and deviation. We can understand this development better when we realize that the mechanisms of performative power are nomadic and flexible more than sedentary and rigid, that its spaces are networked and digital more than enclosed and physical, that its temporalities are polyrhythmic and non-linear and not simply sequential and linear. On the performance stratum, one shuttles quickly between different evaluative grids, switching back and forth between divergent challenges to perform-or else. "Perform-or else": this is the order-word of the emerging performance stratum.
PERFORMANCES, PERFORMATIVES AND
THE LECTURE MACHINE
The general theory of performance is multilayered. Already it comprises the levels of performance paradigms and performance stratum. In addition, if one wanted a forceful indicator that performance is indeed a contemporary formation of power and knowledge, it might lie in this observation: the stratum's knowledge forms of statements and practices can readily be understood as, respectively, performatives and performances. Discursive performatives and embodied performances are the building blocks of the performance stratum and, thus, they form a third level of the general theory. The performances are multiplying and dividing, and their relationship may be growing a little unclear. The diagram below sketches the general theory's preliminary rehearsal site.
1. Performance Stratum
2. Performance Paradigms
3, Performance-Performative Blocks
Starting with the most abstract level, performance is a stratum of power/knowledge that emerges in the United States after the Second World
War. Its emergence can be traced, in part, through at least three research
paradigms which rest atop it: Performance Management (organizational performance),
Performance Studies (cultural performance), and Techno-Performance (technological
performance). At the most concrete level, the power of performance can be analyzed
in terms of blocks of discursive performatives and embodied performances, audio
and visual knowledge forms bound together by normative forces and unbound by
mutational ones. These blocks make up the paradigms, yet their composition resonates
with that of the stratum itself.
Here I must address another possible objection, namely, that the attempt to outline a general theory of performance is itself outmoded, even anachronistic, and to mount this project in today's critical scene is either misguided or na'i've on my part, for general theories are too abstract, too detached, and too overarching to capture the workings of concrete performances. Yes-perhaps general theories are a bit anachronistic and their generalizations may sometimes risk obliterating the specificity of particular performances. However, something along the lines of a generalized performance is, shall we say, hardwired to our future. For now, it is enough to recognize that it has been at work for some time. Performance theory cannot do without movements of generalization, nor, for that matter, can any theory, whether it be of radical difference, differential equations, or the management of differences in the workplace. To theorize is to create and critique concepts, concepts that bind together- and inevitably disseminate-diverse materialities. To study different activities, to gather up diverse events, behaviors, and processes, to analyze them all as "performance" using a variety of methods and tools, such theorization presupposes the possibility of generalization.
The task of theory is not to dismiss generalization, but to situate its movement within a matrix of sociotechnical and onto-historical forces, while also allowing it to deviate itself into idiosyncratic passages of experience, something that can only be done with immanent partiality and detachment; that is, it can only take place by taking part while simultaneously taking apart one's own part in the unfolding machinations of generalization. Thus, while the challenge lies in rehearsing a general theory of performance, it also relies on performing this theory, in staging its generalizations, its genres, and its genesis in relation to one's current site and situation. To this and other endless ends, I will launch the general theory via an immanent performance, one that I call the lecture machine.
Like the term "performance," "lecture machine" is polyvalent within the passages of our text. It will come to frame and embody a series of case studies introduced later in the book, performances that all involve lectures and scenes of instruction. The term "lecture machine" gathers divergent senses, and I will touch upon a few of the most important here.
First, at a relatively simple level, "lecture machine" designates a lectern, the piece of furniture commonly found standing or, in truncated form, sitting
atop a table in lecture halls and classrooms. As lectern, the lecture machine supports a body and a script, and perhaps such props as a pen, a glass of water, a microphone, a small reading lamp, or the remote control of a projection device. Through its installation within various institutions, the lectern has become an emblem of knowledge and power, a symbol standing upright between lecturer and audience, separating the one presumed to know and thus empowered to speak the truth from those presumed not to know and thus empowered to seek the truth.
We move now to a second, broader sense of lecture machine, one indicated by Derrida, who once lectured that the entire academic institution forms a "une puissante machine de lecture," a powerful reading or lecture machine. "Lecture machine" thus also designates the university itself, with its books, its desks for reading and writing, its libraries and catalogues, its logocentric protocols of research and teaching. Beyond the obvious synec-dochal relation, the lecture has been the dominant performance of modern pedagogics. One might think here of specific lectures that have impacted one's own life, a disciplinary field, or an entire period of intellectual history. I'm thinking of a high-school chemistry lecture, Woolf's lecture on "Oxbridge" which formed the basis of A Room of One's Own, and Kojeve's influential lectures on Hegel, but other readers would certainly cite other lectures-and there are lots to cite. From room to room, institution to institution, nation to nation, in short, from one locality to all corners of the university's universe, lectures are not only a popular and powerful pedagogical performance, they stand as a crucial educational norm. ' There is an even broader sense of lecture machine that I will make use of here. In addition to lectern and university, I will also use "lecture machine" to refer to any system that processes discourses and practices, any assemblage that binds together words and acts or, alternatively, that works to disintegrate their bonds and erode their forms and functions. Pulpits, podiums, indeed any desktop-actual or screenal-operates as a lecture machine, as do the institutions in which they are installed. Schools of thought, research paradigms, and disciplines can likewise be understood as reading machines, as sociotechnical systems that join together and break apart specific practices and discourses. Performance Studies, Performance Management, Techno-Performance-these are all highly specialized, finely tuned machines that connect up specific infrastructures and seek to discover, invent, analyze, measure, interpret, evaluate, and produce certain acts and certain words as performance.
Finally, we can understand the lecture machine in terms of the performance stratum itself, and here its most profound reading occurs. With the emergence of this formation, there has been a radical transformation of our reading machines, an epochal shift in the citational network of discourses and practices: the global emergence of technological media-television, tape recorders, satellites, copy machines, faxes, beepers, and most pro-
foundly, interconnecting and overwriting them all, information technologies such as digital computers and electronic networks. The emergence of this hypermediating media affects all cultures, all organizations, all technologies, for the digitalization of discourses and practices enables them to be recorded, edited, and played back in new and uncanny ways. Highly localized ensembles of words and gestures can now be broken apart, recombined, and hyperlinked to different ensembles in ways unlike anything in the past, at speeds incredible from all perspectives except those of the future.
Perform or Else constitutes a lecture machine itself, one that engages and disengages diverse readers and scanners. Its mission, in part, lies in reading the ways discourses and practices have been joined together to become different kinds of "performance." Because the project is both interdisciplinary and multiparadigmatic, the different performances it theorizes may not be familiar to many readers, and thus we will, to put it mildly, do a bit of reading. The task is to generate some sense of "performance" as it has been invented by different researchers over the past half-century, to trace the ways it has become caught up in different processes of generalization. We shall come to attempt this by studying the performance of Challenger lecture machine.
The text unfolds in three stages.
Part I focuses on the performance paradigms, providing genealogical readings of their respective concepts. My approach to each one is guided in part by the terrains of their practices and discourses, in part by the path of my training and interests. Each of the three chapters of Part I takes a different perspective, while also seeking to get perspectives on these perspectives. I thus seek to distill a sense of "performance" through different sets of eyes and ears, while also examining their inter- and extra-paradigmatic connections.
In Chapter 1, I analyze cultural performance and its challenge of social efficacy. I first trace how the concept of cultural performance arose in the 1960s and 1970s from the convergence of two trends: social scientists using theater as a model to study ritual, everyday life, and other events; and artists and theorists challenging traditional notions of Western theater and other art-making practices. In the wake of this convergence emerged a research paradigm we now call "Performance Studies." I argue that, in the face of civil rights and Vietnam War protests, theater initially served as its formal model of cultural performance and liminal rites of passage as its functional model. Together, theater and ritual gave form and process to the challenge of efficacy. Privilege was given to embodied practices, presence, and live bodies. I go on to argue that in the late 1970s and 1980s,
the study of cultural performance was rocked by a "theory explosion,"
the impact of Continental philosophy on the paradigm's reading machines. In
the context of new struggles-revolving around gender, racial, sexual, ethnic,
and class differences-new modes of social efficacy emerged, modeled on performance
art and critical theory. Liminality becomes rearticulated in terms of discursive
statements, representation, and mediated bodies. I close Chapter 1 by introducing
the concept of the "liminal-norm," asking whether the very focus on
liminal cultural performances has not forestalled an awareness of how performance
functions in other areas of contemporary life.
Chapter 2 focuses on organizational performance and its challenge of efficiency, of maximizing outputs and minimizing inputs. To study some of the most important aspects of organizational performance, I track the concept through several different approaches to management. I start with human relations and its emphasis on developing rather than controlling the performance of workers, on encouraging diversity rather than mandating conformity. This approach, which first came to prominence in the 1940s, found renewed relevance in the 1960s and 1970s with the passage of Affirmative Action laws. Another school of management also sought to counter the machine model of Scientific Management, and did so by drawing on the field of cybernetics or systems theory. Here the focus on individual performance is replaced by attention to the overall performance of a sociotechnical system. The model of feedback emerged from this system's approach to management. I then turn to a school called information-processing and decision-making, which forcefully shifts attention toward managerial performance and the growing impact of information technologies. From this perspective, organizational performance can be defined in terms of managers' abilities to process information and make decentralized decisions. Organizational development is yet another school of performance, one that stresses the need for constant learning and reinvention throughout an organization. Empowering employees, diversifying corporate cultures, and engineering innovation-according to proponents of organizational development, these are key to producing "high" or "peak" performance in the workplace. Because it synthesizes different approaches to organizational performance, I argue that organizational development best exemplifies the paradigm of Performance Management. I conclude Chapter 2 by probing the relation of Performance Studies and Performance Management, beginning with the respective challenges of performative efficacy and efficiency. I argue that as different as these two challenges may be, they should not be seen as opposed to one another, showing that each has already produced effects upon the other.
Concentrating on technological performance and the challenge of effectiveness, Chapter 3 sketches the formation of the Techno-Performance paradigm. I argue that it crystallizes in the military-industrial-academic
complex that emerged in the US after the Second World War. At the cutting edge of this complex was research devoted to high-performance weaponry, especially that of rocket science. Given the importance of this research to both the military and the nation, I contend that the guided missile has served as a metamodel of technological performance. In the wake of the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, the discourse and practice of Techno-Performance spread throughout American science, industry, and education. Because there has been relatively little reflection upon the concept of technological performance, I devote a substantial portion of Chapter 3 to examining the specific ways in which engineers, computer scientists, and other applied scientists employ the term "performance." I demonstrate that performance is central to the design, testing, and evaluation of virtually all types of consumer products and technological systems. Especially crucial has been the emergence of the digital computer. The development of computer-assisted design programs, computer simulation models, and global information networks such as the Internet have helped to extend and consolidate the research of Techno-Performance. Because of its role in designing, testing, and evaluating other technologies and, in addition, marketing, selling, and distributing them, I argue that the computer has come to function as a metatechnology, one that has joined the guided missile as a metamodel of technological performance.
Part II explores the emerging performance stratum. In the course of three chapters, it resituates the paradigms within the worldwide circuits of performative power and knowledge. Part II starts with an encased study of how cultural, organizational, and technological performances become entangled in a specific yet extremely complex event, the NASA Challenger disaster. Part II ends by surveying global performance.
Chapter 4 recounts the case of the Challenger shuttle accident, a disastrous mission on which Teacher-in-Space Christa McAuliffe was to have given two astronautic lectures. Reading Diane Vaughan's sociological study of the disaster, I examine the ways in which cultural, organizational, and technological performances can become embedded in one another. Vaughan explicitly focuses on the "performance pressures" created by cultural, organizational, and technological imperatives, and thus I read her in-depth study as a textbook for conducting multiparadigmatic performance research. At the same time, I examine how challenging operates within the performance of her own text. I come to suggest that performance and challenging are intimately connected and that by exploring this performance-challenge, we can situate the three paradigms' movements of generalization within an even more general movement.
Chapter 5 opens up our theory rehearsal in this direction. I begin by citing a second lecture, a 1955 talk by Martin Heidegger that served as the basis for his essay "The Question Concerning Technology." Reading this essay, I track how Heidegger questions technology in terms of its mode
of truth, which he calls "challenging-forth." While Heidegger traces this mode of truth back to the Cartesian cog/to, I situate it in relation to contemporary readings of performance. Examining Lyotard's "performativity," Marcuse's "performance principle," and Butler's "punitive performatives," I contend that performance is a mode of power, one that underwrites the reading machines of Performance Studies, Performance Management, and Techno-Performance and, beyond them, challenges forth the world to perform-or else.
This global performance-challenge takes center stage in Chapter 6, Engaging yet another Challenger lecture, I introduce Deleuze and Guattari's notion of stratum or onto-historical formation. Performance, I argue, is the stratum of power/knowledge that emerged in the US in the late twentieth century. Discursive performatives and embodied performances are the knowledge-forms of this power. I survey the performance stratum in terms of the subjects and objects it produces, the geopolitics and economics of its history, the media of its educational and citational networks, and the modulations of performative desire and power. Chapter 6 thus produces a geology of global performance.
While Part II addresses the formation of the performance stratum, Part III explores processes of destratification, particularly as they apply to strategies of resistance in an age of global performance. For if this age entails a new and emergent arrangement of power-forces, this arrangement necessarily includes mutant as well as normative potentialities and these deserve our utmost attention.
In Part III, I engage destratification as a resistant force that erodes and breaks up the forms and processes of performative power/knowledge. While performativity stratifies the world with performatives and performances, destratification operates through an atmosphere of forces and intensities, an atmosphere that I call "perfumance." Perfumance is the nonstratified element, the outside of the performance stratum. Perfumative resistance, I argue, destabilizes this formation through pockets of iterability, self-referential holes in which this outside is turned inside. Such pockets are located not only at the limits of social formations but also at their very core.
The reader is here forewarned: beginning in Chapter 7, the reading of performance-challenge repeatedly tests the uncertain limits of theory and practice, generality and specificity, proper and common, gravity and levity. For some, this experiment may border on the excessive; for others, it may read as an instance of performative writing; for others still, it may fundamentally bore. Chapters 8,9, and 10 engage strategies of perfumative resistance on three distinct levels. At the level of performatives and performances, it consists of catachrestic uses of language and catastrophic restorations of behavior. At the level of sociotechnical systems, it gives rise to multiparadigmatic, polytonal research experiments. At the level of
onto-historical formations, perfumative resistance channels "minor" histories and "minor" anachronisms.
To repeat: the challenge of Perform or Else is to rehearse a general theory of performance. The machine that stages this theory here and now takes it apart there and then: it sometimes says one thing and does another, shows this and tells that, all the while emitting a faint sense of its inner workings, an outside that puts everything at risk. Derrida's remarks on Phillipe Seller's Numbers suggest the direction our reading takes: "The text is remarkable in that the reader (here in exemplary fashion) can never choose his own place in it, nor can the spectator. There is at any rate no tenable place for him opposite the text, outside the text, no spot where he might get away with not writing what, in the reading, would seem to him to be given; past; no spot, in other words, where he would stand before an already written text. Because his job is to put things on stage, he is on stage himself, he puts himself on stage. The tale is thereby addressed to the reader's body, which is put by things on stage, itself."16 This, then, is the flight plan of Perform or Else.