Mark Blasini

Thoughts & Outlooks

Some remarks on discrimination


  1. A society is made up of a set of heterogeneous institutions – that is, historically, culturally, and socially established games. Regardless of how heterogeneous these institutions are, however, each of them are driven towards the same thing: to perpetuate its own existence within the given dynamics of power.
  2. With many institutions, there are positions of power, which certain individuals are allowed, due to the investment of desire of the players within the institution, to enter into or establish. These positions of power afford the individual a certain amount of control or influence over the moves of others inside and/or outside of the institution. These positions of power directly relate to the fundamental goal of the institution itself (i.e. its will towards self-perpetuation, as discussed in point 1).
  3. In our society, individuals within a given institution often rely on aesthetics to help them decide whom they will allow to hold or establish a position of power. Thus, an individual who appeals to this aesthetics – an often subconscious criteria for power, produced and develop due to the various socio-economic struggles throughout our society’s history – has a greater likelihood of establishing or holding a position of power within that institution. This aesthetics is what I call the aesthetics of power.
  4. In our society, we have developed a specific aesthetic for allowing us to decide whom we will allow to enter into or hold positions of power. This aesthetic involves an evaluation of an individual on the basis of his or her relation to certain “identifying” features: sex, race, class, education, lineage, accomplishments, ideology/beliefs, personality, etc. This aesthetic is what I call the aesthetic of identity.
  5. The identifying features on which the aesthetic of identity is based are inherited and developed throughout history and serve to establish or enforce a certain set of power relations between individuals who possess these features and individuals who do not.
  6. Throughout our American culture, the aesthetic we use typically takes up relation towards certain specific markers: male, Caucasian, wealthy, well-educated, commendable/free of any criminal past, ideologically consistent, and charismatic (in other cultures, lineage plays a more prominent role).
  7. The particulars of these features carry little import when it comes to the person entering a position of power, although these features are certainly inherited by a long history. It is not necessarily the possession of these features that influences whether a person will hold power, but rather the relation one takes towards a certain number of them. It is in expressing a clear relation, in addressing this relation, in turning and drawing attention towards these features, that one becomes bound up in keeping this aesthetic alive. That is where the power of the aesthetic comes from —the strength of attention, whether positive or negative, that one is prodded to give to it.
  8. Sexism, racism, ethnocentrism, classism, etc. – all discriminatory systems – are thus the product of institutional normalization. The function of these systems is not simply to produce violence against another sex, race, ethnicity, culture, class, etc., but to enforce a certain set of power relations between individuals of different markers. To create tension between the different markers, or at least between the markers that fit the ideal and the markers that fall outside of it. But as I said in point 4, it is the fact of this tension that keeps the aesthetic alive.