Byung-Chul Han (Transparency Society)

Transparent language is a formal, indeed, a purely machinic, operational language that harbors no ambivalence. Wilhelm von Humboldt already pointed to the fundamental intransparency that inhabits human language:

Nobody means by a word precisely and exactly what his neighbour does, and the difference, be it ever so small, vibrates, like a ripple in water, throughout the entire language. Thus all understanding is always at the same time a not-understanding, all concurrence in thought and feeling at the same time a divergence.

A world consisting only of information, where communication meant circulation without interference, would amount to a machine. The society of positivity is dominated by the “transparency and obscenity of information in a universe emptied of event.” Compulsion for transparency flattens out the human being itself, making it a functional element within a system. Therein lies the violence of transparency.

6 thoughts on “Byung-Chul Han (Transparency Society)

  1. shinichi Post author

    The Transparency Society

    by Byung-Chul Han

    Transparency is the order of the day. It is a term, a slogan, that dominates public discourse about corruption and freedom of information. Considered crucial to democracy, it touches our political and economic lives as well as our private lives. Anyone can obtain information about anything. Everything―and everyone―has become transparent: unveiled or exposed by the apparatuses that exert a kind of collective control over the post-capitalist world.

    Yet, transparency has a dark side that, ironically, has everything to do with a lack of mystery, shadow, and nuance. Behind the apparent accessibility of knowledge lies the disappearance of privacy, homogenization, and the collapse of trust. The anxiety to accumulate ever more information does not necessarily produce more knowledge or faith. Technology creates the illusion of total containment and the constant monitoring of information, but what we lack is adequate interpretation of the information. In this manifesto, Byung-Chul Han denounces transparency as a false ideal, the strongest and most pernicious of our contemporary mythologies.

     The Society of Positivity
     The Society of Exhibition
     The Society of Evidence
     The Society of Pornography
     The Society of Acceleration
     The Society of Intimacy
     The Society of Information
     The Society of Unveiling
     The Society of Control

  2. shinichi Post author

    by ビョンチョル・ハン



  3. shinichi Post author


  4. shinichi Post author


    Today the word “transparency” is haunting all spheres of life—not just politics but economics, too. More democracy, more freedom of information, and more efficiency are expected of transparency. Transparency creates trust, the new dogma affirms. What is forgotten thereby is that such insistence on transparency is occurring in a society where the meaning of “trust” has been massively compromised.

    Wherever information is very easy to obtain, as is the case today, the social system switches from trust to control. The society of transparency is not a society of trust, but a society of control.

    If everything becomes public right away, politics invariably grows short of breath; it becomes short term and thins out into mere chatter. Total transparency imposes a temporality on political communication that makes slow, long-term planning impossible. A vision directed toward the future proves more and more difficult to obtain. And things that take time to mature receive less and less attention.

    As total communication and total networking run their course, it proves harder than ever to be an outsider, to hold a different opinion. Transparent communication is communication that has a smoothing and leveling effect. It leads to synchronization and uniformity. It eliminates Otherness. Compulsive conformity proceeds from transparency. In this way, transparency stabilizes the dominant system.

    Transparency is a neoliberal dispositive. It forces everything inward in order to transform it into information. Under today’s immaterial relations of production, more information and communication mean more productivity and acceleration. In contrast, secrecy, foreignness, and otherness represent obstacles for communication without borders. They are to be dismantled in the name of transparency. Transparency makes the human being glassy. Therein lies its violence. Unrestricted freedom and communication switch into total control and surveillance. Social media are also coming to resemble, more and more, digital panoptica that discipline and exploit the social.

    In disciplinary society, the occupants of the panopticon were isolated from each other for more thorough surveillance, and they were not permitted to speak. The inhabitants of the digital panopticon, on the other hand, engage in lively communication and bare themselves of their own free will. In this way, they actively collaborate in the digital panopticon.

    The digital society of control makes intensive use of freedom. It is only possible thanks to voluntary self-illumination and selfexposure. It exploits freedom. The society of control achieves perfection when its inhabitants do not communicate because of external constraint but out of inner need—that is, when the fear of giving up a private and intimate sphere yields to the need to put oneself on display shamelessly.

    Transparency is an ideology. Like all ideologies, it has a positive core that has been mystified and made absolute. The danger of transparency lies in such ideologization. If totalized, it yields terror.

  5. shinichi Post author


    The society of transparency is hostile to pleasure. Within the economy of human desire, pleasure and transparency do not fit together. Transparency is foreign to libidinal economy. Precisely the negativity of the secret, the veil, and concealment incite desire and make pleasure more intense. That is why the seducer plays with masks, illusion, and appearances. Compulsive transparency annihilates room for the play [Spiel-Räume] of pleasure and desire [Lust]. Evidence admits deduction, not seduction. The seducer takes paths that proceed by detour, digression, and indirection. The art employs equivocal signs:

    Seduction often uses ambiguous codes, which make the prototypical seducers of Western culture exemplary of a certain form of freedom from morality because ambivalence and ambiguity are essentially ways of maintaining uncertainty with regard to the intention of the speaker. They enable both power and freedom: that is, the capacity to say something without meaning it, the capacity to imply several meanings at once. Seducers use ambiguous speech because they do not feel accountable to norms of sincerity and symmetry. So-called “politically correct” practices, by contrast, request a form of transparency and lack of ambiguity—so as to ensure maximum contractual freedom and equality, and thus neutralize the traditional rhetorical and emotional halo of seduction.
    Playing with equivocation and ambivalence, with mystery and enigma, heightens erotic tension. Transparency or straightforwardness would be the end of eros—that is, pornography. Thus it is no accident that our contemporary society of transparency is at the same time a porno-society as well. Also, the practice of “postprivacy,” which demands an unrestricted mutual uncovering in the name of transparency, proves detrimental to pleasure and desire.
    According to Simmel, we are “simply so constituted that we . . . need not only a certain proportion of truth and error as the basis for our life, but also as much clarity and ambiguity in the pattern of our life’s elements.”2 It follows that transparency deprives things of all “appeal” [Reiz] and “prohibits fantasy from incorporating its possibilities; no reality can compensate us for their loss, because fantasy is self-activity that cannot be replaced in the long run by obtaining and enjoying.” Simmel continues, “a part even of the persons closest to us must be offered in the form of ambiguity and opacity for their attraction to remain elevated for us.”3 Fantasy is essential for the economy of pleasure. An object offered bare turns it off. Only the withdrawal and concealment of the object kindles it. Not enjoyment in real time, but imaginative preludes and postludes, temporal deferrals, deepen pleasure and desire. Unmediated enjoyment, which admits no imaginative or narrative detour, is pornographic. What is more, the hyperreal over-focus and obviousness of media images paralyzes and suffocates fantasy. According to Kant, the imagination [Einbildungskraft] is based on play. It presumes room for play, where nothing is clearly defined or drawn. It requires a certain fuzziness and indistinctness. It is not transparent to itself, whereas understanding [Verstand] is marked by self-transparency. For this reason, understanding also does not engage in play. It works with unambiguous concepts.
    In The Coming Community, Giorgio Agamben relates a parable about the Kingdom of the Messiah, which Ernst Bloch told Benjamin one evening:
    A rabbi, a real cabalist, once said that in order to establish the Kingdom of Peace it is not enough to destroy everything nor to begin a completely new world. It is sufficient to displace this cup or this bush or this stone just a little, and thus everything. But this small displacement is so difficult to achieve and its measure is so difficult to find that, with regard to the world, humans are incapable of it and it is necessary that the Messiah come.

    To bring about the Kingdom of Peace, things are displaced only slightly. As Agamben remarks, the minimal change does not occur in the things themselves, but at their “periphery.” Mysteriously, it makes them “more brilliant” (clarior). A “halo” arises through “vibration,” through a “glow at the edges.” Taking Agamben’s line of thinking further, the subtle vibration causes indistinctness to emerge; starting from their borders, it envelops things in a mysterious radiance. The holy is not transparent. Indeed, a mysterious lack of definition defines it. The coming Kingdom of Peace will not be called a society of transparency. Transparency is not a state of peace.

    Not just the space of the holy but also that of desire offers no transparency. It is “bent”; “the only way to reach the Object-Lady is indirectly, in a devious, meandering way.” The Lady [frouwe]— the object of desire in courtly love—provides a “black hole” around which desire thickens. According to Jacques Lacan, desire is “introduced oddly enough through the door of privation or of inaccessibility.” He likens the matter to the “indecipherable form” of anamorphosis, wherein the image appears only in a distorted, warped state. In other words, it is anything but evident (in Latin, videre means “to see”). Courtly love, according to Lacan, is “anamorphic.” In temporal terms, too, its object is an anamorphosis, for the object can be achieved “only as the endless repeating of an interrupted gesture.” Lacan refers to it in German, das Ding; its impenetrability and hiddenness prohibit its image to be fashioned. It defies representation: “What one finds in das Ding is the true secret.”

    Transparency represents a condition of symmetry. Accordingly, the society of transparency endeavors to eliminate all asymmetrical relations. The latter include power. In itself, power is not diabolical. In many cases, it proves productive and generative. It creates a space of leeway and free play for the political shaping of society. Power also plays a significant role in the production of pleasure and desire. Libidinal economy follows the logic of the economy of power. When asked why human beings seek to exercise power, Foucault answered by pointing to the economy of pleasure. The freer people are in their relations, the greater the desire to determine the behavior of others. The more open play is—the more varied the modes in which one guides others’ actions—the greater the pleasure. Intransparency and incalculability play a key role in games of strategy. Power involves strategic play, too. Therefore, it unfolds in an open space:

    Power consists of strategic games. We know very well indeed that power is not an evil. Take, for example, sexual relationships or love relationships. To exercise power over another, in a sort of open strategic game, where things could be reversed, that is not evil. That is part of love, passion, of sexual pleasure.

    The Nietzschean desire [Lust] that seeks “eternity” springs from midnight. Nietzsche would say that we have not abolished God so long as we believe in transparency. Against the intrusive gaze, against general making-visible, Nietzsche defends appearance, masks, mystery, enigmas, ruse, and play:

    Whatever is profound loves masks; what is most profound even hates image and parable. . . . There are actions of love and extravagant generosity after which nothing is more advisable than to take a stick and give any eyewitness a sound thrashing. . . . There is not only guile behind a mask—there is so much graciousness in cunning. . . . Every profound spirit needs a mask; even more, around every profound spirit a mask is growing continually.

    The profound spirit emerges under the protection of a mask, which grows around it like a protective skin. The entirely Other— the New—thrives only behind a mask that protects it from the Same. Nor does cunning equal malice. It is more efficient and less violent than action steered by the categorical imperative. In this sense, Nietzsche writes, “Ruse, better than force [List besser als Gewalt].” It proves suppler, more flexible insofar as it observes its surroundings and makes full use of the potential given at hand. It sees more than the categorical imperative, which, thanks to its rigidity, is self-transparent. Violence stands closer to truth than cunning. Thus it generates more “evidence.” Here Nietzsche invokes a freer mode of living—one that would not be possible in a society of full illumination and control. It is also free in the sense that its course cannot be determined by contractual thinking that insists on equality, or by the economy of exchange.

    Secrecy and darkness often exude fascination. According to Augustine, God has deployed metaphors and obscured Holy Writ intentionally, in order to fan desire:

    These things are covered as it were in figural garb . . . to exercise the pious inquirer’s senses, lest they appear cheap by lying bare [nuda] and exposed [prompta]. The same holds for things we have learned elsewhere, where they were spoken openly and plainly [manifeste]. When they are brought out of hiding, our discovery of them in some way renews them, so they taste sweet [dulcescunt]. Their being hidden [obscurantur] in this manner represents no ill will toward those who wish to learn; rather, it adds further emphasis, so that one may desire them all the more ardently for their being withheld—so one may take even greater pleasure in finding what one longs for.

    Figural garb eroticizes the Word. It raises it to an object of desire. The Word exercises a more seductive effect when disguised figurally. The negativity of concealment transforms hermeneutics into erotics. Discovering and deciphering occur as pleasurable layingbare. In contrast, information stands naked. The nudity of the Word strips it of all appeal. It flattens it. The hermetics of mystery does not equal diabolism to be eliminated at all costs in favor of transparency. It creates symbolism—indeed, it represents a singular cultural technique—which generates depth (even if it may prove illusory).

  6. shinichi Post author

    エビデンス社会(Google Translation




    ジンメルによれば、私たちは「私たちが。 。私たちの生活の基礎として、一定の割合の真実と誤りだけでなく、私たちの生活の要素のパターンの明確さと曖昧さも必要です。」2したがって、透明性はすべての「魅力」[Reiz]と「ファンタジーがその可能性を組み込むことを禁止します。ファンタジーは自己活動であり、長期的には手に入れて楽しむことで置き換えることはできないため、現実は私たちの喪失を補うことはできません。」ジンメルは続けます。「私たちに最も近い人の一部でさえ、彼らの魅力が私たちのために高められたままであるためには、曖昧さと不透明さの形で提供されなければなりません。」3ファンタジーは喜びの経済にとって不可欠です。裸で提供されたオブジェクトはそれをオフにします。オブジェクトの撤退と隠蔽だけがそれを燃やします。リアルタイムで楽しむのではなく、想像力に富んだ前奏曲と後奏曲、一時的な延期が、喜びと欲望を深めます。想像力や物語の迂回を認めない、仲介されていない楽しみはポルノです。さらに、メディア画像の超現実的な過度の焦点と自明性は、ファンタジーを麻痺させ、窒息させます。カントによると、想像力[Einbildungskraft]は遊びに基づいています。それは、明確に定義されたり描かれたりするものが何もない、遊びの余地を前提としています。それには、ある程度のあいまいさと不明瞭さが必要です。それ自体は透過的ではありませんが、[Verstand]を理解することは自己透明性によって特徴付けられます。このため、理解も遊びにはなりません。明確な概念で動作します。



    平和の王国をもたらすために、物事はほんの少しだけ置き換えられます。アガンベンが述べているように、最小限の変化は物自体ではなく、それらの「周辺」で起こります。不思議なことに、それは彼らを「より輝かしく」(より明確に)します。 「ハロー」は、「振動」、「端の輝き」によって発生します。アガンベンの考え方をさらに進めると、微妙な振動が不明瞭さを浮かび上がらせます。彼らの国境から始まり、それは神秘的な輝きで物事を包み込みます。聖なるものは透明ではありません。確かに、定義の不思議な欠如がそれを定義しています。来るべき平和の王国は、透明性のある社会とは呼ばれません。透明性は平和の状態ではありません。

    聖なる空間だけでなく、欲望の空間も透明性を提供しません。それは「曲がっている」です。 「Object-Ladyに到達する唯一の方法は、間接的に、不正な、曲がりくねった方法です。」宮廷愛の欲望の対象であるレディ[frouwe]は、欲望が厚くなる「ブラックホール」を提供します。ジャック・ラカンによれば、欲望は「貧困やアクセス不能の扉から奇妙なことに導入された」とのことです。彼はこの問題をアナモルフォーシスの「判読不能な形」に例えています。アナモルフォーシスでは、画像は歪んだ、歪んだ状態でのみ表示されます。言い換えれば、それは明白ではありません(ラテン語では、videreは「見る」を意味します)。ラカンによれば、宮廷愛は「アナモルフィック」です。時間的にも、そのオブジェクトはアナモルフォーシスです。オブジェクトは、「中断されたジェスチャの無限の繰り返しとしてのみ」達成できるためです。ラカンはドイツ語でそれを参照しています、das Ding;その不可侵性と隠蔽性は、そのイメージを形作ることを禁じています。それは表現に逆らいます:「dasDingで見つけたものは本当の秘密です。」




    深遠なものは何でもマスクが大好きです。最も深遠なものは、イメージとたとえ話さえ嫌います。 。 。 。愛と贅沢な寛大さの行動があり、その後、棒を取り、目撃者に音をたたく音を与えることほど賢明なことはありません。 。 。 。マスクの後ろには罪悪感があるだけでなく、狡猾さには非常に優雅さがあります。 。 。 。すべての深遠な精神にはマスクが必要です。さらに、すべての深遠な精神の周りにマスクが絶えず成長しています。



    これらのものは、比喩的な衣服のように覆われています。 。 。敬虔な探求者の感覚を行使するために、裸の[nuda]と露出した[prompta]で安っぽく見えないようにします。同じことが、私たちが他の場所で学んだことにも当てはまります。そこでは、それらは公然と明白に話されました[マニフェスト]。それらが隠れている状態から解放されると、何らかの方法でそれらを発見したことでそれらが更新されるので、それらは甘い[dulcescunt]を味わいます。このように彼らが隠されていることは、学びたい人たちに対する悪意を表すものではありません。むしろ、それはさらに強調を加えるので、彼らが差し控えられることをもっと熱心に望むことができるので、自分が望んでいるものを見つけることにさらに大きな喜びを感じるかもしれません。

    比喩的な服装は言葉をエロティックにします。 それはそれを欲望の対象に引き上げます。 言葉は、比喩的に偽装すると、より魅惑的な効果を発揮します。 隠蔽の否定性は解釈学をエロティックに変えます。 発見と解読は、楽しい敷設の裸として行われます。 対照的に、情報は裸になっています。 みことばのヌードはそれをすべての魅力から取り除きます。 それはそれを平らにします。 謎の気密性は、透明性を支持して、どんな犠牲を払っても排除されるべき悪魔主義と同等ではありません。 それは象徴性を生み出します—実際、それは特異な文化的技法を表します—それは深さを生み出します(たとえそれが幻想であると証明されたとしても)。


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