In the interview, Stiegler argues (as he has elsewhere) that we are increasingly under pressure to ‘synchronise’ – to conform to particular patterns of thought and behaviour—especially consumerism – in the ongoing struggle of capitalism to find ever-more profit. This synchronisation, he says, is led by the ‘programme industries’ – mass media and so on – that want us to mindlessly submit to consumerism and commodification (through systems like Facebook). What is engendered is a form of ‘programming’, as an exercise of ‘psychopower’, which is something like the forms of ‘control’ envisaged by Deleuze (and drawn upon by Stiegler previously).

Stiegler’s answer to this is to identify the need to ‘deprogram’, using techniques of the self (following Foucault). He goes on to provide an example of what he does on holiday—which sounds suspiciously like work to me, but then its all about the otium, the pursuit of knowledge while free from the pressures of subsistence.

PM. How do you deprogram yourself?

Bernard Stiegler. To deprogram oneself necessitates keeping to very specific schedules, which are what Foucault, once again, described as techniques of the self, echoing Seneca. Holidays are a moment to practice such programmes. Myself, I use relaxation as a form of deprogramming. When I go on holiday, I work early and write all morning. Then, I swim, a lot, until that state when physical exertion stimulates a rush—because the brain produces a lot of endorphins. Swimming thus becomes a journey within oneself, during the course of which I run back through my memory of everything I wrote several hours earlier. Then I lie in the sun, drained, and I let my mind empty, since this is how unlikely thoughts can arise: a programming emerges from all of this. Then I return to writing: I note all that has arisen — first in the water, then in the sun — all through rereading and annotating what I wrote in the morning.

Under the sun, I sense that this mass of hydrogen that has been combusting for several billion years is a cosmic programme that intervenes in my physiological programmes — muscles, brain, various organs — and which, in this intervention, produces a difference, a change of programme which allows me to write another kind of programme: a book in which I comment generally on other books.

Books, when they are good, are thus deprogramming programmes, unlikely programmes, like poems, in which there must be, wrote Paul Claudel, “a number that prevents counting”.


Doktor Mabuse

It’s the place where my mother lives, with the room with my books.
It’s a kind of Norman Bates’ mother house.
I won’t allow anyone to enter.


Not because I’m hiding something, but because, what I want to have, for me, for my work, is precisely nothing, a nothing, an empty place where nobody is allowed to enter.
That’s the point, there is nothing secret in there and it’s basically an empty place.
Of course there are books inside, but these are books known by everyone, the point is that the books are in that place.
The whole point is, that it’s half prohibited even to me, I don’t like to work there.
And now…

Why should I believe that there are books inside?

Ahh, yes, this is my point.
If you do not believe it, it’s even better, because you are then full of doubt.
For me the true master, is not a public person in to whom you believe, the true master is like Doktor Mabuse, you don’t know if he exists or not and for that reason, he is even more horrible.

The room is very secret; actually nobody is allowed to enter it.
The more someone is close to me, the more I resent them entering the room, just so they won’t disturb anything.
The more he or she is friendly, the more I detest it.
I wouldn’t mind a total stranger to enter though.

How about your wife?

Uhm… yes and no, I mean, of course I cannot… as you know, we are in the so-called enlightened twentieth century; I cannot prohibit it.
She enters and then I quickly try to follow her and ask what she wants and give it to her myself, so she won’t disturb my perfect order.
It’s the kind of ideal neurotic constellation.
It look’s confused, it is confused, but for example… I don’t remember if it was my so or my wife, one of them did look into some books, and thought I wouldn’t notice; I noticed it immediately.
In a Sherlock Holmes like way, I reconstructed the exact order of what they did there.