The body is the body.
Alone it stands.
And in no need of organs.
Organism it never is.
Organisms are the enemies of the body.
-Antonin Artaud, ‘The Body is a Body’
a. “The BwO howls: “They’ve made me an organism! They’ve wrongfully folded me! They’ve stolen my body!’” (ATP: 159)
As an image of thought, the idea of society or the world functioning as an organism is well sedimented. In its stupidest form, it posits resemblance between the human body and society. Just as various organisms interact to from an organism as a functional whole, it states, society is a totality stitched together by the cooperation of social institutions.
What is remarkable about the organismic approach is its prevalence, with a history that spans from Ancient and Classical thought, through the Middle Ages, and the modern period, to today. In contemporary sociology, for instance, a complex version of the organismic metaphor still predominates. Rather than simple resemblance, it poses a general theory of relationality, positing that relations of interiority between parts form an organic whole. It is only by virtue of being part of a whole that any part exists. And if that part were to be separated from the whole, it would lose its value and function. While avoiding brute functionalism and an inability to understand conflict or difference, it still assumes crucial categories as givens (the social, the state, social classes, and individuals to name a few). The result? Social institutions are granted a miraculous existence, put on Earth by the grace of God. And the idea of directing them away from contributing to the whole or ending their existence altogether is not only at the limit of thought, but offensive.