The Passivity of Institution in Merleau Ponty: Pandemic Thinking
This paper examines the relationship between Merleau-Ponty's lectures on institution and his lectures on passivity. I argue that the relationship depends on Merleau-Ponty's internal critique of institution as outlined in Husserl's ouevre. That is, institution is not only human institution, which rests on temporality and time-consciousness (and so concerns memory, history, culture, etc), but also animal, biological and even virological, which rests on a certain, non-euclidian space of the body. Merleau-Ponty's focus in the course is animal institution: animal morphology, menstruation, puberty, etc. These are what tie institution and passivity together, and especially the passivity that Merleau-Ponty calls the "symbolic matrix," the touchstone of which is the "implex." While the paper discusses, Merleau-Ponty's critique of Husserl and the consequent understanding of a passivity in institution, it opens the possibility that the virological may be yet another kind of passivity that has instituted a new trajectory in human institution. This is highlighted in the very word "pandemic."
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