This essay serves as an overview of Bernard Stiegler’s project by offering a critical examination of “(de)proletarianization” and the pharmakon as refracted through his writings on technics (tekhnē), and his commitment to associations such as Ars Industrialis.
I argue that in approaching the relation between society and the technical system as the very question of the pharmakon (that which is both poisonous and curative), Stiegler’s work allows ethical questions to eschew sites of transcendental judgment as well as ethical absolutes in order to instead become questions of art—of ars and of tekhnē. I then proceed with the assertion that Stiegler recognizes in our postglobal society what he calls a state of generalized proletarianization, a state in which there is a loss of knowledge on the part of individuals and collectives in terms of both savoir-faire (know-how) and savoir-vivre (knowing how to live). I then establish that his work gestures toward a “system of care” intended to cultivate new modes of individual and collective existence through what he calls “nootechnologies,” or technologies of the spirit and mind. These technologies, however, bear within them the question of the pharmakon insofar as they are made manifest through hypomnemata, or pharmacological artificial memory supports. In order to better situate the political and ethical stakes of Stiegler’s thought of (de)proletarianization, the remainder of the essay reads several of Stiegler’s models (individuation, citizenship, memory, disorientation) alongside the work of his interlocuters including Derrida, Plato, Marx, Heidegger, and Blanchot.