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From gender to control

It is not the usual gender differences (or #MeToo) discussed in What Helmer could say to Nora – and other essays, written by Dag Østerberg – now published posthumously at Gyldendal.


Most of the essays were newly written for this book, and five of them are about gender and women – including Ibsen's Nora, Sigrid Undset and Simone de Beauvoir. This is in contrast to almost exclusively male references in Østerberg's previous book From Marx to recent capital criticism, which I interviewed him about a few months before he died in February, 78 years old (see the recent video interview at the bottom).

Østerberg mentions that Ibsen's Nora was assigned the role of "doll" and "toy", but also gives Helmer a different role. De Beauvoir understood man's situational freedom, but also emphasized "the individual's full and full responsibility for their actions". And Østerberg writes that Undset "does not accept the claim that women have been oppressed by men for thousands of years". Undset wrote in 1918: "Female sensualism is profoundly different from men's materialism." Østerberg asks with her whether women's liberation is a liberation on men's terms, and emphasizes her work for those at the bottom of the ranking – both men and women.

According to editor Håvard Friis Nilsen's editor, Østerberg said that man is faced with two important tasks: first one must find oneself, be sure of what one is, and then lose oneself – and then be with the others and give to the community.

What about equality or equality? Østerberg is quick to point out that “equality is not the only desirable or obvious goal. Diversity is also important for our perception of everything in the world. ” diversity as opposites that both attract and complement each other.

The book's theme is, in addition to the themes around gender, also the individual's liberation and what new forms of control do with us humans. Østerberg deals with French Michel Foucaults The Will of Knowledge (1977) – the first book in his series The History of Sexuality. Here, Foucault criticizes excessive sexual liberation. And the point is not conservative, on the contrary.

I remember Østerberg teaching us about Foucault in small seminar groups in the late 80's at the University of Oslo. It was about penetrating deeper into the forces of society that shape us and "produce" us as oppressed. But does the bourgeois mode of production – as Østerberg writes now – deprive the general enjoyment of the human body with a desire for salvation through strict living? Exactly what Max Weber once wrote about capitalism and Protestantism? Well, some would argue that we Norwegians today are freer than ever. However, it cannot be underestimated that the forces that shape us also conform to the "accounting nature of capitalism", which is characterized by calculation, planning and self-control – something that government bureaucracy and modern technology drive. Østerberg also argues, via Wilhelm Reich, that when the revolution ran aground in Germany, this was due to the strong and oppressive position of the typical family institution or nuclear family – one was taught to obey leaders. Another argument is from Herbert Marcuse – here we see the level of Østerberg – about the «repressive sublimation»: Our late capitalist human body is now «transsexualised in a superficial, aggressive, nervous way». Attempts have long been made to control sexuality (especially female). But Foucault points out that even in Victorian times it was «spoken very much about sexuality ». Everything talked, this ongoing discourse, though perhaps not then at school and in the newspapers, became, with new forms of control and confession, a theme for medical practitioners, educators, and church people.

Micro-politics is to produce certain ways of feeling, sensing and thinking.

Do you think sexuality mainly comes from a natural urge? Foucault and others' point is rather that desire has a greater basis in it produced sexual discourse. In other words, with societal devices or devices that "are controlled, regulated, forced into specific patterns of behavior". We're talking about micropolitical instruments – a kind of "biopolitics" on a scientific and cultural level to produce specific ways of feeling, sensing and thinking. The sexual is something that is shaped culturally – we are already conditioned from infancy.

In his latest book, Østerberg reiterates his earlier concerns for the emerging control community, which "stimulate, empower, control, monitor and organize the subjects and their performance".

Further on in this reading of Østerberg's book, I want to mention a new essay on the late Georg Johannesen. Both may well be suggested to have been communists in a positive sense.

Johannesen wrote in Ny Tids' predecessor Orientering circa 1960: "To NATO supporters, our position is clear: We must confront them with their own crimes and expose latent fascism." Østerberg mentions such extensive torture and abuse in a number of countries as Greece (military dictatorship), the United Kingdom (Malta), France (Algeria), Spain (dictatorship), the United States (McCarthyism and more), Cuba (Batista) and Brazil (guerrilla governments), as well as Norway's illegal surveillance. The West's abuses have lasted for centuries. In addition, Østerberg criticizes NATO for too long forcing the impoverished Soviet to arm itself – as it was "surrounded by hostile Western countries, not least Norway (...) which is a sound empire under the United States, militarily and culturally". When it comes to human rights, he concludes that the Eastern Bloc was probably safeguarding these better than "the free world" in 1955-1990.

Østerberg and Johannesen went together to Cuba in 1968, to a world congress for revolutionary intellectuals. There they saw how the population with few resources painstakingly built up the country, despite the US illegal trade blockade (which Norway also participated in). With binoculars, they could see looming American warships on the horizon. But here they also met cheerful people – despite what was read in Norwegian newspapers about the life behind the iron curtain.

The Norwegian liberal public described them as false, and both chose to participate sub-publicities (compare Habermas). Well, Johannesen could also act in mass media with bizarre language acts and claims, as according to Østerberg he realized that communication in mass media was not possible under the prevailing conditions.

As Østerberg writes, our high culture was weakened by entertainment, pornography and advertising – "the art of fooling and deceiving one's fellow human beings […] and creating an enchanting world of skin, evoking false daydreams". The public discourse has not improved over the years: "A high level of discussion would mean that argument was met with counter-argument, which in turn was taken into account […] This is how it is extremely rarely discussed". Østerberg's observations over a number of years are that many tend to doubt their views, and that the "liberal, bourgeois public has become a caricature of itself". The hegemonic public has been given clear feudal features with "sports heroes, rock legends, crime, shooter and pop queens, financial nobility, patriarchal and midwife politicians […] the art of whipping is the right form of indictment and publicity".

Such an oppressive public is either representative than liberal and discursive – even if it pretends to be the latter. We refer here to this autumn's reaction to Ny Tid's articles on the dubious and deficient American public NIST report on 11 September. Parts of especially the "masculine" Norwegian mass media public (including NRK's ​​Dagsnytt Atten) attacked the man in front of the ball with stamping and ridicule. People doubted their old views. It produced the public is as it is, and individuals can be ripped off by headlines. Others seek truth by making themselves more open to insight and clarity.

An unpublished fictional text was found on Østerberg's desk after his death. In the book's short story In my time on earth says three people: One suffered and froze through a life he did not understand. Another was mostly intoxicated, vulgar, and littered the whole thing – life was over. And the third one tells: "The clarity was almost impossible to endure, as was the beauty. Everything took place in a single moment, and gave and told me everything. "

See Sartre in Norwegian
and that previously interviewed in MODERN TIMES with Østerberg.

(The interview was conducted in the fall of 2016, but cut in November 2017.)

Truls Lie
Truls Liehttp: /www.moderntimes.review/truls-lie
Editor-in-chief in MODERN TIMES. See previous articles by Lie i Le Monde diplomatique (2003–2013) and Morgenbladet (1993-2003) See also part video work by Lie here.

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