Rosalind Cooper introduces the article ‘Pastoral Power and Algorithmic Governmentality’
This paper contributes to inquiries into the genealogy of governmentality and the nature of secularization by arguing that pastoralism continues to operate in the algorithmic register. Drawing on Agamben’s notion of signature, I elucidate a pair of historically distant yet archaeologically proximate affinities: the first between the pastorate and algorithmic control, and the second between the absconded God of late medieval nominalism and the authority of algorithms in the cybernetic age. I support my hypothesis by attending to the signaturial kinships between, on the one hand, temporality and authority in our contemporary conjuncture, and, on the other, obedience and submission in Christian thought from late antiquity and the late Middle Ages. I thereby illustrate the hidden genealogical continuities between theological-pastoral technologies of power and technocratic-algorithmic modalities of governance. I conclude by suggesting that medieval counter-conducts may be redeployed in our present circumstances for emancipatory ends.