Language and power
Through language we make sense of strange things, yet the strangest thing perhaps is language itself. Do we even agree on the meaning of this one term: language? Is language about words, notions and concepts, or is there a more concrete and primordial language of images? How about the language of the subconscious, the so-called ‘discourse of the other’, whose work is to dissolve any attempt to fix meaning? Does technology, the language of machines and computers, have a philology of their own? Does nature somehow speak to us, even guide us in life? Can we say that our bodies express themselves in the language of symptoms, sings of illness and health?
Our attempt to enter the thinking about language is through three problematizations, all opening up from the perspective of power:
Problematization: Secret? One problem of language is about the secrets hidden in, by and behind language. Perhaps true reality is better kept away from people’s awareness and language is made use of for that purpose: it exists to keep the secret. Pretending to bring things clear to the mind, language perhaps rather disguises, misrepresents and withholds what might cause unrest, anxiety and disturbance in the orderly functioning of society.
Problematization: Poetics? Another problem of language is the world of words that it endlessly continues to create. Maybe language has a living, poetic reality of its own. Some would say that language is ‘the house of being’, the home for humans to dwell, but what if there are different discursive ‘houses’, in whose confrontations and shifting alliances language gets constituted as a field of eternal becoming: nothing is constant but alterations, variations and substitutions.
Problematization: How to dwell in that which is secret? A third problem of language is that of how to use it, not in order to come closer to what it hides and keeps secret, which would be to desecrate the house which it is, but to give full power to its essential qualities in ways that enhance ourselves, collectively and individually; which is to ask, also, how might language be the source of a politics which no longer proceeds from the real but from the imaginary.
Finally, how did one, in the West and elsewhere, develop this sort of critical view, suspicion and distrust towards language, or was it there from the beginning? In short, how did language become a problem for us?