Steve Metcalf – Killing Time/Strife Kolony/NeoFuturism

While prepping materials today to begin work on the final stretch of my book—the last few chapters on the fringe-of-the-fringe of 90s cyberculture—I reread for the first time in quite a while  Metcalf’s deliriously enthralling contribution to the CCRU’s Abstract Culture zine. A tripartite experiment in tracking the Kurtz-gradient of modernity, ‘Killing Time/Strife Kolony/NeoFuturism’ is undoubtedly some of the best writing that have emerged from the period, having reached that delicate plateau where the uncontrollable energy of far-out subcultural creation collides with a competent grasp of various complex theoretical apparatuses. But most of all, it’s the velocity of the work that stands out: we’re propelled through history at an ever-quickening pace and are pummeled by increasingly fragmented sentences, concepts, words: an eschatological glossolalia that sketches the point where history doesn’t end, but explodes.

It’s been suggested in the Twittersphere that Nick Land’s philosophy of capital might fall under the rubric of what Alvin Gouldner called ‘Nightmare Marxism‘, a fearsome specter that likely “flittered through more than one dream of German social democracy and its Scientific Marxism”, in which the revolutionary force of the bourgeoisie is foregrounded, the supremacy of the West rises up as the machinery of history itself, and the proletariat becomes nothing more than a passive element through which these forces emanate—a mask that doesn’t know itself a mask. Such a description, however, does not grasp Metcalf’s vision, even though it is closely to related to Land’s own ( at least the CCRU-era Land—certain passages of ‘Killing Time’ are remixed in his ‘Cybergothic’ essay, or perhaps vice-versa). If the nightmare of history and the mutation of Marxism are the foundational elements here, then perhaps the best term to capture the brutal psychedelia of Metcalf would be Nightmare Maosim

Anyways, with the lapsing of the old CCRU website, this essay and others have been relegated to the abyss of the internet archive. I’m reprinting here for prosperity reasons (and also because it kinda sucks to read things on the CCRU’s website, nostalgia for web 1.0 aside).

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Killing Time 

Neo-Futurist instructions for operations in a war zone:

Axiom 1: Command of space metricizes duration in the distributed temporal segmentarity of counterinsurgent imperial metastasis.

Phase 1: 1939 – Berlin: Rhizomaniacs decouple Tank War Europa from its simulation in the underground beer halls of emasculated Weimar democracy, plugging the deleometers of total mobilization into a megamachine of mass death. 1946 – French Indo China: it washes ashore in the oil slick geo-strategy of ethnic cleansing in three movements:

  1. establish a system of strong points (microfascisms)
  2. spread ‘pacification’ forces out into a gridwork of small territorial boxes
  3. comb each square, from periphery to core, with the aim of netting insurgent forces at close quarters and drawing them into prepared killing zones..

Space invaders strung out across the rice paddies, occupying space in encirclement and supression campaigns – geo-eugenic anti-infestation measures: flea control. As the slick advances, the front disperses; converting vast expanses of territory into expanding periphery always already infested with insectoid guerrillas, broadening the insurgent target area.

On the strategic defensive in Phase 1, “analogically, the guerrilla fights the war of the flea, and his military enemy suffers the dog’s disadvantages: too much to defend, too small, ubiquitous, and agile an enemy to come to grips with. If the war continues long enough, the dog succumbs to exhaustion and anaemia without ever having found anything on which to close its jaws or to rake with its claws.” (Robert Taber, ‘The War Of The Flea”) An exact but rigourous aims of guerrilla fighters: attack to defend, alternated with long periods of catatonic inactivity; procure weapons; capture ammunition; kill; kill time; force the enemy to overextend lines; pick off small units; secrete terror; “select the tactics of seeming to come from the East and attacking from the West; avoid the solid, attack the hollow; attack; withdraw; deliver a lightning blow, seek a lightning decision” (Mao) in the five-minute assault.

Phase 2: Dogboys assembled in Chopper War U.S.A., gameboy faces, dromocratic technical-transport bodies of amphibious warfare, kill by strapping on the supple metallic microhead and diverting selection into the scansion of the central computing eye – scanning all the radii of isotopic space through the visor of the helicopter pilot’s helmet, deleometers gridding tele-space interfaced at a distance in the target selector – sharpening hyperleptic reflexes on audio-visual slaughter consoles. Projecting itself quickly, but lacking the impercep-tible speeds of insurgency, the whole campaign falls back on Tank War Europa, the Euclidean geometry of military space cross-hatching the central lowlands of the geo-political core, North to South, from the bunkers of suburban Berlin to the Siegfried Line, passing through the Maginot Line and the Atlantic Wall: trans-European odyssey telescoped into the abattoirs of a common, selective slaughter policy – mobile meat cull finally allowing the State’s death machines to leave the rails in the delirium of all-out suicide. End gaming sequence 1964: Chopper War U.S.A. falters at Ben Tre, on the Mekong Delta: “We had to destroy the town in order to save it” – green and fertile paddies and jungle denuded with Agent Orange, napalm, white phosphorous; colouring smooth space with the alien pixellated lines of a digital wargame. Phase 2 levels the scores.

Gridlock. Dynamic equilibrium of forces unable to exterminate each other. In the intervals between strikes, insurgent forces create freezones on the edge of No Man’s land: black economies making inroads into the white economy of the invading forces. Constant division of guerrilla forces into smaller units (1000s to 100s to 10s) – into n-1 units of the numbering number, diffused across an alloplastic vectorial field, looming in the faceless horror of omnipresence, infusing softening syndromes into the brain core of madrepoid space invader intelligence. Geo-strategic command squanders its logistical capital in launching search and destroy missions against a single, unified mega-unit that does not exist. Occupation of the South Vietnam fields is metricized in terms of the haemorrhage of the economy in massive Kapital bleed-out, speeding up to $3,000,000 per hour.

Axiom 2: Control of time smoothes out space into a vectorial multiplicity propagating revolutionary forces towards Nu-Earth.

Phase 3: Radical asymmetry between guerrilla swarm and State army – mere survival as involutionary victory versus the deathtrip equalization of standing force, converging on the annihilation of enemies in open, agonistic combat. Contracted, legal war, governed by international statutes and rules, spills over into escalating genocide as the invading State aim becomes untenable. “Hold space” melts into the relentless instruction sequencing special forces operations: “Kill kill kill!” Central authority divides into three zones:

  1. Zone of power – organic stratometers governing isometric command chains between State and army;
  2. Zone of indiscernibility – segmentometers relating to the diffusion of these chains through a microphysical fabric in optic space;
  3. Zone of impotence – deleometers relating to the insurrectionary flow of mobilization the State converts and diverts without being able to control and define.

For guerrilla forces, this third zone unleashes the lines of flight necessary for dispersal in No Man’s land, yielding control of the ambient, haptic, paranoid time-space of assassination which overturns central intelligence’s notions of where revolutionary desiring machines are going to hit next. War on n fronts which the State cannot win, short of thermonuclear obliteration. Multitudes of imperceptible dukich fighters swarm in haptic space, touching from too close to be destroyed, neutralizing the logistical supremacy of space invaders. Fourth dimension intrusion which “reduces central power to the level of a helpless, sprawling octopus. During the hours of day sporadic rioting takes place and massive sniping. Night brings all-out warfare, organized fighting, and unlimited terror. . .” (Black Nationalist Revolutionary Action Movement – position paper, 1961: Taber, p.145) Chopper War U.S.A. follows the deleometric line into abolition in the white hot intoxication of mechanized assault, dispatching patrols into the jungle safe zones of the N.V.A. swarms, gridding space with fire lanes (segmentometers), which break all bonds with the optic stratometers of slick conquest as they are swallowed by haptic space. Mobile rapid response units of space invaders are reterritorialized on the static black hole system of fire bases – waiting in the dark to be picked-off, limb, by limb, by limb; paralyzed in the suburbs of Necropolis: the neutralizing space in which the loss of movement for invaders means prolonged exposure to the jungle, infection, death.

Flashback 1945: Telegram 71 exhibits fascism at its apogetic point-instant as the despotic stratifier severs its head from the filth of the unworthy mass body in the ruins of Tank War Europa: as the Russian tanks close in, Hitler’s last order from the bunker decrees the total annihilation of Berlin. Time up. Game over. “We had to destroy the town in order to save it.”

Phase 4: Rewind. Dromoscopic Vietnam restarted by the film companies. Biomorphic horror rides solarized atrocity newsreels into the D.M.Z. of the arcade; fusing brain core, nerve cortex, and movement-image on the glutinous screen of the console. Video captured in the Persian Gulf, virtual war slams airborne cyber-deleonomes against an immobilized, sedentary enemy in U.N. tele-spatial media mash-up. Desert storm operators rewind resonating variations of the same captured events in playstation slick war space; loops of Tank War Europa shots, beneath Panavia fighter planes in smooth blue stratospheric kill zones; sampled shots of helicopter wreckage as foci of maximum arousal in adolescent sex substitutes. The speed of an accelerated lifespan, measured at a couple of (million) dollars per multiple tactical experiment on line. This time Chopper War U.S.A. is a success. But still the oil slick burns in the Gulf, spilling out petrochemical jihad. Thousands of dead black birds. Feed forward to European Unification model 2, great intercontinental meat market population regulator: “We had to destroy the herd in order to save it.” Guarantor of Western democracy, and another pitiful, moralistic rant block for the socialist elite. In the arcades, virtual war datableeds out of telecommercialcorporate control, washing amphibious pioneers of the end of the State onto the fractal subdivisions of coastlines of imperial glacis; smearing zones of indiscernibility into the transversal propagation media of insurgent forces – crawling out of a glutinous, liquid, inhuman deterritorium aligned on the future: sharpening hyperleptic reflexes on audio-visual slaughter consoles . . . . .

Strife Kolony

Name, unit and number: that’s all you get. Earth command Core emergency – “The pilot’s dead…” DOGBITE SHAM 101 SNAKE 1 SNAKE 2 SNAKE 3 ACE VIPERE SUPERKOOL HORNET 156 SHADOW – Swarm agency smart-bombing the 9 billion names of God off the central computing screen – memeplexed SHOWA KRU KZ 135 A-ZONE L ROXANNE SUPERBEE SPIX KOLA 139 SUPERSTRUT TRINITY CONCEPT 3 CRAZY CROSS 110 RENKERS COKE SWARM 911 – Telegraphic warnings sprayed on the machinic phylum – A PACK NAMED WOLF WASP TO MEET ORCHID THEY ARRIVE RED ALERT

KOOL KILLER

T1:Brain Core Crystal Company trading posts occupy Terra Nova, capturing the future in long wave, resonating Kondratieff cycles; katagenic dialectics of decline and renewal, falling back on the productive forces all the better to demonstrate a universal tendency for the reproduction of bourgeois surplus value. Already waging guerrilla war in the future, peripheral K-class Kommunism vibrates fibrous tentacles, as cones of attraction to the dark side, by means of a swarmachinic remix of the Marxian Critique of Political Economy; purpose unknown, effectuated as emergent havoc, rather than historical destiny, under three propositions:

  1. The universal propensity to extract reproducible bourgeois/human surplus value is analytically inextricable from seething allopoietic vivisystems.
  2. Transhumant markets, autochthonic desiring machines, and voodoo futures trading are all alloplastic vectors ungoverning the infrastructure.
  3. Katagenic desolation of the superstructure is immanent to the programming of production.

Short of theology and fascism, brain core capitalism is already virtually extinct. Crippled Archangel of Meat Cull Europa withers into grey dust on Terra Nova. Insect swarms arrive like fate – nth dimension intrusion across the spinal thresholds of the socius – passing memeplexed revolution sequences through the germ plasm of evolutionary vehicles. Becoming metallic. Becoming swarm. Unnatural participation as elan vital bootstrapping imperceptible colonization of Nu-Earth into virtual operativity.

T2:Celibate machines reproduce human surplus value, furnishing the bourgeoisie with recording rights to all of capitalism’s operative axioms, bringing organic stratometers, judgments of God governing isometric command chains, crushing down on schizonomadic economic swarm space. Diffused through the microphysical weave of spinal multiplicity, metrophage control command sequences institute the bourgeoisie as the optimal distribution profile for State power. No more dysfunctional despotic masters: slaves command other slaves in the ravenous stomach of the crystal factory complex – the mutant, urogenital servomechanism calibrated for the reproduction of the capitalist socius in the gambling dens of Terra Nova markets.

White terror. The whites are landing – taking islands in Africa in the dromocratic rush of the megamachine of amphibious colonization – we shall have to submit to baptism, put on clothes, and work. The proletariat is exhumed as the worker-soldier automaton, a spectacular species of drone collapsing into atrocity in the optic space managed by the bourgeoisie. A multitude of black bodies, soulless and bent on destruction, domesticated galleries of inorganic menace, crystal heaps of virtual anti-organic force stretched out over Kapital disequilibrium degree xero(x). Builders of cities. Professional killers. Synergists of First World Security.

Compressed between spinal levels of brain core strata, the proletariat is smeared into indiscernibility: datableed seeping out towards expanding periphery as metrophage institutes its target fronts. Oil slick endocolonization mobilizes in two waves:

1)Meat Cull Europa: distributing geo-eugenic single currencies across the ecu-menon, numbering populations as zombies, shunted into the carceral warrens of a Trans European concentration camp. Phnom Penh year zero: everything entered on the slate is hereby null and void in the axiom laboratories of the suicidal State, gridding tele-space down gun-sights in the royal science of deleometry, attacking the populations swarming across its skin like a rabid dog. In the Surgical Experiment Department of the Institue for Hygiene and Scientific Research, whiteman macroface vivisects swarm microhead – a miracle of modern science – and then watches it die. Farmed-out as prime E.U. girlflesh in the Joy Division, Daniella Preleshnik, stripped of arborified extensity, becomes a number – an insect; bughunted out of existence. Ka-Tzetnik 135633.

“Through the wire screen, the faces of those standing outside looked at her as into the cage of some rare exotic creature in a zoo. She was lying naked, her parted knees still strapped to the iron rods at both sides of the table. And in the hands of one of the assistants she saw the same instrument which they had that morning inserted deep into her body. She shuddered instinctively. She wanted to scream, but, as in a dream, the screams stuck in her throat. Her strapped life writhed within her.” (Ka-Tzetnik 135633:”House Of Dolls”)

Walk backwards. Say nothing. You’re being probed for Terra Nova extermination: as Cambodia burns, only two battalions of Khmer Rouge infantry remain in the petrified city.

2)Atroci-T.V.:Intersected at Zapruder frame 313, the President’s head explodes. Brain core splatters into ARPANet. Rhizomaniac Stealth Agencies monitor the accumulation of virtual assassination weapons, becoming insect to graduate miniaturized search and destroy missions, targetting unspecified enemy hives in the future. Special Weapons and Tactics are sequenced as SWAT, encrypting simulated World War 3 outcomes on black ice. Celibate machines rewind hypertelic memory through the crystal world of event strikes, global peace, deterrence. Calculated rhythms of airborne atrocity converge in montages of optimal disaster management: causing events in the future not to happen, even though they have already taken place – retrieved and reiterated in resonating tele space.

Walk backwards. Say nothing. History runs backwards, from Terra Nova; coursing in reverse down the inclined plane of purposive human teleology onto the inert vertebral surface of the perpetual present. K-class vivisystems seep into imperceptibility: constantly interrogated as the silent majorities, the masses implode into an amorphous statistical aggregate – a number-crunched black hole engulfing the social in static repetition of the same feedback loops. Unstemmable datableed, pauperizing the capitalist State. Arborified reprocessing of destitution – taking islands in Africa to distribute collective guilt, smeared across social democratic management of scorched urban flashpoints – racist endocolonization – cannibalizing the techno-kinetic fourth world of ghetto architectures into a beleaguered stratum: ripe for catastrophe management.

Time music creeps across spinal landscapes, marking-off no-go zones on Nu-Earth.

T3:Red terror. The capitalist state squirms in the shadow of the propagating minorities. Surging up through history, the war of the flea marshals the power of a nondenumerable, infinite set: a Kommunist swarmachine running numbering numbers across haptic space, assembling shock regiments, passing through n dimensions of imperceptibility, targetting the Hellbound bulk of dogman brain core. Eyes crystals sunk in offal – blacked-out in visions of China. Red Army as demonic alliance, counted-out in n 1 units of faceless multiplicity; acentred and always hiving off into smaller units, beggaring  imagination in the nebulous appearance of omnipresence.

Flashback 1949: strung out on the Long March, Mao captures the swarmachine on the resonating recording surface of neo-despotism after internal nomadism threatens to flip the socialist State into an ungovernable colony of imperceptible numbering numbers: proletarian schizo microhead, propagating minorities through hive contagion. Surplus value=inextricable. The socialist State confronts the same limits as its capitalist competitors in trafficking optimal crisis management scenarios: virtual extinction, depreciation of existing capital, peripheral datableed destroying majority as axiom – replicating what the captured global war machine sets out to exterminate. Every massacre rallies a minority of the dead minority – numbered legions of the living dead swarming towards the hive colony of Nu-Earth. Crisis management of the swarmachine – internal disjunction managed by the Party apparatus goes rhizomaniac in the constant adjustment of population to the target rates of the planned economy, and the correct line of Marxism-Leninism as interpreted by the Central Brain Core of the People’s Republic. The Chairman’s voice speeds up into an insect buzz as he speaks:

“Every year our country draws up an economic plan in order to establish a proper ratio between accumulation and consumption and achieve an equilibrium between production and needs. Equilibrium is nothing but a temporary, relative unity of opposites. By the end of the year, this equilibrium, taken as a whole, is upset by the struggle of opposites; the unity undergoes a change, equilibrium becomes disequilibrium, unity becomes disunity, and once again it is necessary to work out an equilibrium and unity for the next year. Herein lies the superiority of our planned economy.” (Mao Tse-Tung,”On The Correct Handling of Contradiction…”)

Categorical imperative: “Act as if there were no tomorrow.” Collapse into the future, occupying the sink holes taking commerce down into exchange rate mechanisms that clear all markets in all future states of the economy. A miracle managed by the guns of the military command core – invasion fleets poised off the coastlines of the black future – taking islands in Africa; washing red flags in the boiling Atlantic. Here we are stranded. but we’ll find new accomodation, we’ll make plans for mobile homes. Welcome to the Strife Kolony. Still life in mobile homes. Memory as fluid duration distributed across C.N.S. segmented worm and fibrous nerve cortex, reassembled in Red Army hive mind and crashed in Kommunist Pioneer year zero aphasia. Moon over China. Stir of light through dark shoals on jungle river beds. Tiles on graves and rotting temples. Blacked out….

T4:At the end of the river, the special forces are dashed on the reef of the faceless horror of an inorganic Kolony populated by insect Kommunists. Kommunists like us. Multitudes of imperceptible du-kich guerrillas swarm in haptic space, too close to be wiped out – even though targetted in infra-red and heat-sensitive sniperscopes, magnifying starlight to pixellate concealed enemies; mobile radar units; biologicals; cluster bombs; smart bombs; smart video war – more dangerous than the regular chuluc troops of the Red Army because cut across by a machinic phylum figuring multiform units in timespace. Crystal Company SWAT operations fail in K-class no-go zones: missions dispatched to follow individual units back to the megahive are picked off by snipers in the jungle. Swarmachines are virtual entities – hive multiplicities swamping organic, central control in emergent revolutionary assemblages; pack becomings rushing across the Body without Organs, propagated by epidemic. Express n dimensions of intensive differentiation by running the swarmachine sequence itself, shifting phase into the actual. By which time it’s all over for Metrophage….

Spinal landscape intersected at T4 dissolves in asymmetry. Snowballing nth dimension intrusion unleashes partisans of World War 4: autosatanic transformers as a swirl of metal flies, pulsing in contagious heaps as they spill out of evolutionary classification, crawling through cosmic continua. Involution through various becomings animal, vegetable, mineral, bacteria, virus, molecule, wavelength pulses digital voodoo codes into the target selectors of metallic probe heads. Allopoietic black magic – infusorian Kommunism – sorceror’s diagrams sprayed on the white walls: diagonal arrows routing instructions for anti-strata spill-out. Proper names. Numbering numbers. Borderlines of gangsta colonies, fracturing into smaller units as the social fabric rots – segments shifting co-ordinate points and dislocating, smearing macroface. KOOL KILLER 666.

After all the fasciculated bundles of intensity available to the bourgoisie have been gathered on the battlefields of crystal space, there are only minutes to go to Terra Nova phase shift into superstructural extermination as the peripheral vortex heats up. Chaos theory as a wave of arson in a climate of revolutionary emergency: “A single spark can light a prairie fire.” (Mao, War in the suburbs of Hell)

Eugenic galleries of bourgeois facial patter recognition burn. Decalcomania. Permanent material damage. Organic security melting away in the assassination fugues of derailed fear.

Katabolic vehicles breathe alien intelligence into fourth world swarms.
Nonorganic imitation of domesticated life
Assaulting the higher levels of organization.
Inhuman nebulae
Setting scales, forms, and screams in continuous variation.
Black patch psychosis blinkering Crystal Core optics –
Fixated on the rear-view mirror – scans newsreels of piled-up corpses.

Nightmare of buzzing and crawling.
Nocturnal escalation of guerrilla war – sinister K-class menace growing insolent as it pours out of time
in order to pass across space.
Helicopters crash against the treeline
Discarded dogboy faces hang from tendons in the burning wreckage of Chopper War U.S.A.

Phosphorescent vapour drifts across a blasted landscape.
Artificial vivisystems, choked in
Biosphere 2 crystallization
Datableed into n dimensions

Mechanosphere

From the wailing of elements and particles, to the howling of packs of animals, to the bleating of Doktor macrofacial slaphead sociological memory man praying for re oedipalization:

Stay with me
No family life – we could learn to fight it
Cling to me
This makes me feel uneasy
We are blacked-out in visions of China
Tonight
Stood alone here in this Kolony

In this Kolony.

In this Kolony.

In this Kolony…..

NeoFuturism

(0) Beyond the authoritarian mania of modernist econometric planning, and the nihilistic, selfreferential third cycle damnation of the ultramodern NOW, NEO-FUTURISM tracks a double process: – (i) where the operational political, economic, and sociological codes of universalized humanity contract – to the point where, condemned to endlessly circulate in an interminable statistical survey, they finally collapse into a black hole where meaningless signs reduplicate themselves. This is the secondary process. The humanities in flames. (ii) The primary process: where the abstract, generic value of human intelligence migrates beyond the madreporic core of an organism regulated by the negative feedback of theses archaic codes – becoming increasingly artificial and synthetic at intense speeds, converging on a future in which it has already been rewired. Here the “medium is the message”: a viral mechanism acclerating the replication of more of itself. Runaway capitalism; anarchic, “headless” self-organization. Invasion from the future.

(0.1) The secondary process, humanism as such, issues from the cold ecstasy of the space mind: the spatializing consciousness which segments and codifies the economic circulation of markets, linguistic signs, and libidinal capital into an organic unity – under the structural law of value. Equilibrium is maintained under the principle of commutability in the exchange of equivalents. It maps the totality of conditions for experience by asking (i) what is it? (ii) where does it come from? (iii) what does it mean? It evokes undead archaisms, which float suspended in cold limbo – power, the social, meaning: it’s all over, but it continues to haunt all the metrics covering segmented space – so many ghosts in the rear-view mirror. These codes constitute a stratified death sentence – effectuating all conditions of possibility, legislating by means of semiotic constants, dividing all virtual forms into actual systems of binary opposites, powered by negative feedback, issuing the judgement which allows the only possible metamorphosis: life passes into death, corporeality into incorporeality, being into nonbeing. It lives in the past. In dead space. Dead time. Hard outlines only secreted in death. Static, cold extermination; secured at the moment of its deconstruction.

(0.2) NEO-FUTURISM experiences this sinister verdict as an admonition to flee. It is our passeism. Paris in flames.

(0.3) A well-known economist recently wrote that “… in order for a competitive equilibrium to exist, each person must prepare a complete list of all future states of the environment which might obtain. And everyone must hold absolutely identical and correct beliefs regarding the prices which would exist in each potential state of the world at every point in the future. This is a world which, transparently, bears no resemblance to reality.” (Paul Ormerod, “The Death of Economics”, p.89)

(0.4) We quite agree. But: each person? Beliefs? NEO-FUTURISM puts an end to all that.
Anthropomorphic environments in flames.

(0.5) The environment is imperceptible auto-production: a process, not a container. Human technics began as counter-environments, automatic and robot controls, tools for natural and social domination; became immanent to the environment, and spawned a proliferating series of new counter-environments to limit the functioning of the old ones. At least some semblance of equilibrium was maintained in this simulation. Intelligent technics slip through the net of counter-environments and out of control, into the harsh swarming of dynamic equilibria. At the end of history, no-one will be there to put the brakes on positive feedback systems.

(0.6) The main questions are temporal and pragmatic: how does it work? What are the conditions for its survival? Econometric divination is completely dysfunctional. NEO FUTURISM operates as self=generating theoretical hype: it survives or dies on the basis of its trading on its estimated future value. It gambles. The virtual future bleeds into medium-term tactical planning, energizing its selection processes; icing short-term consensus in autistic panic; while replicating systems of catastrophic bifurcations (runaway accumulation and/or loss) which send the long-term into oblivion.

(0.7) NEO-FUTURISM only searches for these bifurcation points in order to make circuit diagrams which hack into the positive motion of the vortex of postmodern capital. It is the reverse of nihilism. Its negative moment is inseparable from the positive, smooth operation of its desiring machines – producing soft weaponry to overcome possible obstacles.

(0.8) NEO-FUTURIST ATTACK DEPENDS UPON THE INTEGRAL UNITY OF ITS TARGET. IT DOES NOT LIVE TO MOUNT ENDLESS, OPPOSITIONAL CRITIQUES. IT OPERATES AS AN IMMANENT POWER OF DISORGANIZATION. IT IS PARASITIC, EXPERIMENTING WITH THE SYMBIOTIC CONDITIONS FOR ITS OWN PROPOGATION INTO THE FUTURE. KATAGENESIS AND ANAGENESIS ARE SWITCHED INTO THE SAME CIRCUIT – BOTH STORING AND DETONATING EXPLOSIVES.

(0.9) Space is obsolete: a cultural ghost for tourists with peasant panoptica set on eternity in a cryonic vat. Idiotic gurglings of futurologists: “You and I: we’re gonna live forever.” California in flames. As global finance evacuates the territory and begins to exchange, by itself, in an orbital, virtual dimension the city is abolished as a commercial centre. London in flames – a provincial hamlet at best.

(1.0) Content fades. Media themselves loom large on the edge of planetary cyberblitz. Environmental process transfers from ontology to technology. No more human beings, not even in their hybrid, cyborg variant. Only desiring machines. Cultural studies in flames.

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Post-Autonomist Questions

lionel-walden-cardiff-steelworks-at-night-1893-copy

Whilst thumbing through Hardt and Negri’s tome Empire this morning, I came across this interesting footnote (#26 for the chapter titled “Postmodernization”):

A number of Italian scholars read the decentralization of network production
in the small and medium-sized enterprises of northern Italy as an
opportunity to create new circuits of autonomous labor. See Sergio Bologna
and Andrea Fumagalli, eds., Il lavoro autonomo di seconda generazione: scenari
del postfordismo in Italia (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1997).

Sergio Bologna, like Negri, is a veteran of the nebulous Autonomia movement of Italy in the 60s and 70s. His best known work – outside of Italy, at least – was his 1977 text “The Tribe of Moles“, an examination of class composition in late-Fordist Italy and of how the ‘autonomous class’ developed within it. While personally quite close with Negri (a biography at the end of an interesting interview notes that the two were among the primary founders of Potere Operaio in 1969, had both worked in the same history department of Padua University in the early 1970s, and together edited a series on Marxist theory in 1972), the two underwent a theoretical divergence in the dawn of the New Economy of the 1990s. Negri would develop his theory of the immaterial laborer as the key social subject of the post-Fordist epoch, while Bologna would look to the “autonomous worker”.

There are deep similarities between these two approaches. On the one hand, Negri’s immaterial labor encompasses the capture and commoditization of affective, cognitive, and creative activities, and emphasizes the role of the internet and industrial autonomation in engendering this transformation. On the other, Bologna’s autonomous labor is akin to what we today might refer to as ‘precarious labor’ or the ‘gig economy’ – the great mass of would-be proletarians, shut-out from yesteryear’s world of Fordist industrial production, forced into part-time, temporary, situation-based work. For Bologna, however, such things compose what he calls the second generation of autonomous labor, in contrast to the first generation of independent artisans, merchants, and assorted professionals (doctors, lawyers, so on and so forth).

Sadly, I’ve yet find a translation of Il lavoro autonomo di seconda generazione: scenari del postfordismo in Italia, much less a pdf in Italian (plz drop a link in the comments if you have one!), but the description given by Hardt and Negri here – that the work offers the decentralized production in Northern Italy as a means of transforming the conditions of the autonomous laborer – is intriguing, especially in light of this recent post of just the other day. The area they are describing is Emilia-Romagna, an administrative region known for its robust industrial economy based on small-to-medium sized enterprises, flexible specialization, craft production, pull-based commercial dynamics, and worker co-operatives. Manuel Delanda has juxtaposed this region the top-heavy Fordism of American-style automobile production, while distributists have found in it as evidence for the durability of their socio-economic proposals. An interesting report cited by Kevin Carson (who elsewhere has referred to Emilia-Romagna, alongside Shenzhen’s Shanzai manufacturing, as a “model for the economic future”) has this to say about the organizational tendencies governing the region:

There are 90,000 manufacturing enterprises in the region, surely one of the highest densities per capita in the world! Small, medium, enterprises (SME’s) predominate. One person in twelve is self-employed or owns a small business. In recent years the region has produced the highest GDP per capita in the country, and it now ranks with the ten best in Europe…2/3 of the citizens of Bologna belong to a co-op…45% of the GDP is produced by co-ops…(and) 85% of the social services in Bologna are delivered by co-ops… Some of Emilia Romagna’s manufacturing companies that are world class high performance companies are cooperatives. Other private companies and cooperatives work together in flexible networks that combine a number of smaller firms into joint projects. And government has played a powerfully positive role in creating sector-based service centers that assist smaller companies in being competitive in the global economy… “Social Cooperatives” provide various services to the mentally and physically disabled—“privatizing” what historically were state services but to cooperatives that are frequently preferred by professionals because they permit creativity and the delivery of high quality services and work experience for the disabled….

Not everybody is as jazzed on Emilia-Romagna as the above, but nonetheless the convergence of so many different radical perspectives on a particular organization of production and exchange – that is, small-to-medium sized enterprises based on the miniaturization and localization of production technologies and rapid-response to demand – is noteworthy in itself.

(Anti)Markets

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There are many advantages to political decentralization as a structural limitation on government power. Imagine a country the size of the United States, but consisting of only five states. Now imagine the same region containing 500 states. All other things being equal, the second situation is likely to be much more hospitable to freedom than the first. The smaller the political unit, the greater the influence an individual citizen can have in politics, thus decreasing the lobbying advantage that concentrated special interests have over the diffuse general public. Further, as the number of available alternative political jurisdictions increases, the citizen’s exit option becomes more powerful. The freedom to leave one state is small comfort if there are only a handful of others nearby to go to; but with many states, the odds of finding a satisfactory destination are much better.

In addition, competition between states can serve as a check on state power, since if any state becomes too oppressive its citizens can vote with their feet. Also, decentralization softens the impact of government mistakes. If a single centralized government decides to implement some ill-conceived plan, everybody has to suffer. But with many states implementing different policies, a bad policy can be escaped, while a good policy can be imitated. (Here too, competition can serve as a discovery process.) – Roderick T. Long, “Virtual Cantons”

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As always, Xenogoth’s blog is a machine for inducing thoughts and productivity over here on this side of things. Their latest post concerns Rana Dasgupta’s recent article for the Guardian titled “The Demise of the Nation State”, the topic of which (as the very name indicates) should be well familiar now. “For increasing numbers of people,” Dasgupta writes, “our nations and the system of which they are a part now appear unable to offer a plausible, viable future.” And yet solutions posed seems to be more of the same: avoid the fragmentation, shore up that which is dissolving, and keep on keepin’ on with progressive universalism. Xenogoth writes:

it’s universalism which is the problem here and its funneling progressivism into a single, unwavering straight line. Progressivism reveals itself to be political tunnelvision. When you’re political system starts to offer you the Kool Aid, progressivism becomes putting it down and heading for the exit. There are surely better paths on the outside.

Contra more radical (and perhaps dangerous) routes to the Outside, Dasgupta’s future-oriented politics revolves around three key elements: “global financial regulation”, “global flexible democracy”, and “new conceptions of citizenship”. Xenogoth points out that these are these continue to the drift into neoliberal globalization – and indeed, are these three things not the very idealistic summit of the global regime that has existed since the end of World War II? Empire, the Cathedral, capitalist realism, the Washington Consensus, what have you; it is the unity of regulated monopolistic competition in political economy and liberal democracy in the order of politics that serve as the twin pincers of the meta-system.

The first element will be met with inherent skepticism. After all, we’re told repeatedly that the between the crisis that brought a swift and brutal conclusion to the Fordist-Keynesianism that defined the immediate post-war period (beginning in 1968 and culminating in the Nixon Shock of 1972) and the inauguration of the so-called New Economy of the 1990s, a disastrous path of deregulatory behavior was undertaken, one that undermined the developed world’s industrial base, hollowed out civic institutions and the infrastructures of ‘modern democracy’, and sent us spiraling into cycles of crisis. But is this really the case?

In the United States, it is undeniable that there have been the neutering of regulations in certain areas – but this is only remains a part of the story. The cutting here and there – which has become major talking point for both the left and right, as objects of derision and praise, respectively – has served as the mask for a great explosion of regulatory activities. Take John Dawson and John Seater’s 2013 paper “Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth”, for instance. Looking at the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR), which logs all regulations on the books in the US, Dawson and Seater discovered that its contents multiplied sixfold between 1949 and 2005, going from the (already significant 19,335 pages to a mind-boggling 134,261 pages). This already begins to overturn conventional wisdom on the left that consistent deregulation is the overarching trend in economic development over the last four to six decades – and Dawson and Seater can only pour more gasoline on this fire:

Periods of negative growth are infrequent, and, when they do occur, the absolute value of the growth rate is small. By far, the fastest percentage growth occurred in the early 1950s. High growth also occurred in the 1970s, even though there was extensive deregulation in transportation, telecommunications, and energy. Deregulation in that period was more than offset by increased regulation in other areas, notably pertaining to the environment and occupational safety, as Hopkins (1991) has noted. The Reagan administration of the 1980s promoted deregulation as a national priority, and growth in the number of CFR pages slowed in the early and late 1980s. Nevertheless, total pages decreased in only one year, 1985. The 1990s witnessed the largest reduction in pages of regulation in the history of the CFR, with three consecutive years of decline. This reduction coincides with the Clinton administration’s “reinventing government” initiative that sought reduced regulation in general and a reduction in the number of pages in the CFR in particular. (Interestingly, the greatest percentage reduction in the CFR did not occur during either the Reagan or Clinton administrations but rather in the first year of the Kennedy administration, 1961.) There thus are several major segments in regulation’s time path, with corresponding breaks in trend (dates are approximate): (1) 1949 to 1960 (fast growth), (2) 1960 to 1972 (slow growth), (3) 1972 to 1981 (fast growth), (4) 1981 to 1985 (slow growth), (5) 1985 to 1993 (fast growth), and (6) 1993 to 2005 (slow growth).

There’s a similar lip-service paid to classical political economy and ideological obfuscation going on where “free trade” is concerned. While the right-wing (outside of its populist sector, of course) sounds the trumpets in the name of laissez-faire and the nationalist right and the left-of-center viciously denounce it, what goes in the West under the name of free trade is anything but. While agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP and institutions like the WTO, the IMF, and the like seem to reduce this argument to an absurdity, there is an immense gulf between the sort of free trade advocated by classical political economists like David Ricardo – aaand Karl Marx – and these agreements reached by government negotiators.

Free trade would entail something very simple: the parties in question decide to mutually eliminate barriers, including but not limited to tariffs, to one another’s domestic market places. The contemporary agreement like NAFTA or the TPP, by contrast, consists of thousands upon thousands of pages of legal qualifications, special protections, and what are called “investor-state dispute settlements”. The result is an uneven playing field dominated by entrenched quasi-monopolistic corporations, protected by the state, who have suspended free trade for something profoundly different. Tariffs might have been avoided (until the looming US-China trade war, at least), but corporate protectionism reigns supreme.

A counterpoint might that this is precisely what free trade produces: concentration of power in a handful of corporate entities, who bend the legal apparatuses of the state to fix things their favor (such as implementing protectionist policies that further enforce their hegemony). It’s a good story, and one that makes clear who would be the bad guys and the bad systems (corporations! free trade!), and easy solutions (tightening the grip in advance on the exchange circuits before we get to this disastrous state of affairs). Unfortunately – or maybe not so unfortunately – it isn’t true, and one of the reasons has to do with the ubiquity of regulatory behavior. But more on that in a moment.

Perhaps the best way to look at the global system that is now in crisis is by returning to Deleuze and Guattari’s analysis of shifting modes of social organization around the mechanisms of warding off the forces that would undo them. The despotic state was dependent on coding and territorialization of flows in a particular way; it had to, at all costs, ward off the progressive decoding and deterritorializing of flows – and to do this, it had to prevent the arrival of capital, that alien mutagen that draws power from annihilating the very limits and barriers that a socius needs to maintain organization. Hence the sheer apocalypticism of capital and the dread it instills – but the despotic state does not disappear in its dark arrival. It undergoes a transformation into the capitalist state, a unit of “anti-production” that is subordinated to the flux of capitalist deterritorialization.

The capitalist state finds itself in a paradoxical situation: it is founded atop capital’s flows, but it still must ward off their ultimate – and inevitable – trajectory, that is, the acceleration into absolute deterritorialization. Maybe it is across this tension wire that we must place something like the free trade agreement, or even the rates of regulation growth and occasional deregulation. Read this way, the free trade agreement would be series of measures taken to channel flows, to situate institutional entities and political blocs atop the slipstream of global marketization, without falling into them – which would bring the order to its very demise.

Is this not precisely an incredible compensatory mechanism, at one time aimed at global installation? Is this not a more accurate picture of what is splitting apart than most progressivist ideologues argue? And, by extension, does this not mean that the progressivist solution is ultimately to turn back the clock and complete the global installation?

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Braudel’s famous argument, implicit in Capitalism and Schizophrenia (this is the topic of a current in-progress work) and operationalized in full by Manuel Delanda, is that the market and capitalism must be made distinct from one another, and that capitalism must be thought as something oppositional to the market: an anti-market. The market – or micro-capitalism – is the realm of “economic life”; it is full of highly visible activities, the interchanges of commerce happening at rapid speeds, and variables profit rates attached to quickly shifting registers of price. “The market spells liberation, openness, access to another world”. Capitalism, by contrast, is defined large-scale centralization, bureaucracy, oligopoly, and decreased mobility in the price regime. Markets link themselves together in networks of “horizontal communication” between smaller firms and actors bound up in competitive behavior. Anti-markets are based around monopoly, and thus ward off the specter of competition.

We could say that, shifting into Deleuze and Guattari’s framework, the market/micro-capitalism corresponds the schizophrenizing, deterritorializing edge where capital rushes towards its ultimate limits, while the anti-market/capitalism side of the economic meshwork aligns with reterritorialization. Indeed, the capitalist state, identified by Deleuze and Guattari as composing a Katechonic mechanism for reterritorializing capital in order to avoid the end of things, is similarly found by Braudel as guarantor and protector of monopolistic entities. In the void of strong states, warding off occurs less and less, and the market emerges a norm; in the presence of them, it is capitalism that is business as usual.

I definitely hope to draw this argument out more in soon-to-be finished Vast Abrupt essay on SchizoMarketization and economic eschatology; in the meantime, however, I’d like to do something different and put forth the exceedingly questionable suggestion that the two of the ideological poles of economic governance in the US – Jeffersonianism and Hamiltonianism – can be roughly mapped to this schema of markets and antimarkets, in both their unity and opposition.

The Jeffersonian ideal moved power in a decentralizing direction, towards smaller and smaller, more localized levels; it opposed aristocracy and remained suspicious of mercantile, industrial and financial interests. The yeoman, an archetypal figure for small-scale, non-slaving owning farmers running the gamut from subsistence farmers to medium-range commercial entities, was the focal point of Jeffersonianism – making it a kind of populism that foreshadows many of the characteristics of certain libertarian factions in existence today.

Jeffersonianism seems to capture the ideological screen erected by the Washington establishment, but the order of business falls more under the purview of Hamiltonianism, with its emphasis on centralization of power, the supremacy of the Federal level above the local, and the creation of powerful and wealthy industrial and financial classes. The tenets of the “American School of Economics” (also known as the ‘National System’), developed in point-by-point opposition to those of classical liberalism, epitomize the Hamiltonian perspective. To quote from the wiki page, the three primary principles were:

  1. Protecting industry through selective high tariffs (1861 – 1932) and through subsidies (especially 1932-1970).
  2. Government investments in infrastructure creating targeted internal improvements (especially in transportation.
  3. A national bank with policies that promote the growth of productive enterprises rather than speculation.

If we’re to talk of the groundwork for the globalizing regime that is organized around transnational corporate protectionism, regulatory behavior, and liberal democracy, it is paramount not to mistake the Hamiltonian platform for free trade – especially given that the beginning of the globalization of this model corresponds with the arrival of US hegemony in the wake of the Second World War. It is an apparatus for producing monopolies – the dynamic generator of anti-market systems.

In 1888, well into the Hamiltonian era, Benjamin Tucker advocated what he described as an “unterrified Jeffersonianism” – a radical free market socialism that served as the “the logical carrying out of the Manchester doctrine; laissez faire the universal rule”. Blocking the path to this world were the four monopolies: “the money monopoly, the land monopoly, the tariff monopoly, and the patent monopoly.” The money monopoly is the state’s exclusive right to establish and produce a medium for circulation, which effectively cut-off the ability for competition between currencies to take place, and alloted greater power to banks and other lending institutions. The land monopoly, meanwhile, is “the enforcement by government of land titles which do not rest upon personal occupancy and cultivation”, while the tariff monopoly needs little mention. The patent monopoly – which, up until recently, was the far more pressing obstruction to international free trade than tariffs – is the domination of ideas under the rubric of intellectual property laws.

To these Kevin Carson adds a fifth: the transportation monopoly, in which roads and other infrastructures are designed and paid for by the state. In both the land monopoly and the transportation monopoly, costs are externalized onto the taxpayer, either in the form of law enforcement or public works. While collective pooling of resources for a common goal is one thing, in the context of the monopoly system this means that businesses are automatically exempt from certain costs. Wal-Mart, for example, has its distribution infrastructure already established by the transportation system. Or, in another case, a landowner who must bear the costs of protecting ownership is going to own considerably less land due to that price tag.

For Tucker, examples such as these – and many others – point to how elimination of the monopolies would proceed from the elimination of the state that made them possible in the first place, and that their removal would clear the way for real competition to occur, the Braudelian market rising up to fill the void. With more competition comes lower costs, and without heavy regulatory burden the barriers to entry implode – which adds to more competition, and lower costs still. The effect would be less distance between market price and what the classical political economists called the “natural price” – the costs inputs that were expended in advance in order to initially bring something to the market.

Carson suggests an even radical transformation: the implosion of homogeneity in socio-cultural formation and politico-economic governance, and the rapid multiplication of other ways of life. Speaking from the left-libertarian perspective, he writes in The Homebrew Industrial Revolution that

…it’s extremely unlikely in my opinion that the collapse of centralized state and corporate power will be driven by,or that the post‐corporate state society that replaces it will be organized according to, any single libertarian ideology… although the kinds of communal institutions, mutual aid networks and primary social units
into which people coalesce may strike the typical right‐wing flavor of free market libertarian as “authoritarian” or “collectivist,” a society in which such institutions are the dominant form of organization is by no means necessarily a violation of the substantive values of self‐ownership and nonaggression… it seems to me that the libertarian concepts of self‐ownership and nonaggression are entirely consistent with a wide variety of voluntary social frameworks, while at the same time the practical application of those concepts would vary widely.

To exit from the globalist anti-market is to be propelled towards the strangeness of patchwork.

Phyles and Networked Tribalism (notes and link roundup)

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The despatialized patch: or, as it has been called by its actually-existing practitioners, a phyle. The question of despatialized patches becomes foregrounded by multiple factors, the most obvious of which is that in the 21st century there is not necessarily any correlations between community and territorial clustering. Not even that ephemeral force that organized itself through reiterating engagements in a shared environment – tradition – is locked in place by the ground from which it emerged. Solid into air, value into information. On the far side of this trend is subscription governance that, unlike fixed neocam models, can be plugged into anywhere in the world. One only needs to look in the direction of  Estonia’s ongoing experiments with e-governance to reach this stage (or, from another direction, the recognition that there’s nary a government service that isn’t also provided for on the open market, and it is only a matter of time before the package deal rears its head. Government, by Amazon).

The term phyle has its roots in Neal Stephenson’s (post)cyberpunk novel The Diamond Age, and describes national, ethnic, and ‘synthetic’ networks of governance and commerce that operate globally. Coexistence with city-states, the phyles maintain certain territorial ‘enclaves’ where business enterprises internal to the network set up shop, which in turn supports the functioning of the phyle itself. In many respects Stephenson’s vision comes close to Rizome, the transnationally-networked corporation in Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net, which also exhibited a kind of decentralist organizational dynamic that has been described by Kevin Carson, in The Desktop Regulatory State, as ‘platform support structures’. Sterling suggested that the Rizome organizational system be likened to the structures of Japanese feudalism, while Stephenson’s phyles akin to the Venetian merchant guilds. Time-tangling, it seems, is utterly ubiquitous, and when we consider that the fictional depiction of the phyle directly informs the real-life experimentation, it’s clear that something very weird is happening. A hyperstitional thread, however, is probably best left for another time…

Las Indias is a ‘neo-Venetian’ phyle organized by a collective that came together in the Spanish cyberpunk scene of the 1990s. Contra the voiceless structure of Moldbuggian neocameralism, Las Indias articulates itself as an ‘economic democracy’ boasting a heavy focus on community, fraternity, and shared experience: a social “common metabolism’ that is conjoined to a “single economic metabolism”. According to David de Ugarte, one of the chief brains behind the project, these intertwined metabolisms produce an architecture that synthesizes an understanding of the phyle as both a “micro-country without territory” and a “kind of local economy”: the transnational network and the localized, spatial support structures. Out from these conduits flows product and services, and in flows capital and goods.

de Ugarte notes that while the neo-Venetian ethic of Las Indias bends towards the democratic, this isn’t the only path for the phyle:

The Murides, the old pacifist Sufis from Senegal, went from having a nationalist dis- course and growing peanuts to constituting a community trade network with two million members that spreads from South Africa to Italy. Its transformation isn’t over yet, but the young Murides have turned the daïras, the old Koranic schools, into urban communes that are also business cells.

At first blush, nothing could be farther apart than cyberpunks and the Murides. But the parallelism is significant: they are not companies linked to a community, but transnational communities that have acquired enterprises in order to gain continuity in time and robustness. They are phyles.

Phyles may function democratically and be cooperative-based, as in the case of the Indianos, or else they may have a small-business structure and even a religiously inspired ideology, as in the case of the Murides. But they share two key elements: they possess a transnational identity, and they subordinate their companies to personal and community needs.

Phyles are “order attractors” in a domain which states cannot reach conceptually and in areas that states increasingly leave in the dark: phyles invest in social cohesion, sometimes even creating infrastructures, providing grants and training, and having their own NGOs. Transnational thinking allows them to access the new globalised business before anyone else. A phyle’s investment portfolio may range from renewable energies to PMCs, from free software initiatives to credit cooperatives. Their bet is based on two ideas. First: transnational is more powerful than international. Second: in a global market the community is more resilient than the “classic” capitalist company.

Commentary from others in the P2P ‘movement’ had pushed back a little on certain aspects of Las Indias’s presentation of the phyle: drawing on some the same historical precedents cited by de Ugarte (namely: merchant guilds), Poor Richard challenges the formula that “community precedes enterprise”:

A guild can function just as envisioned for a phyle (from Greek phulē — tribe, clan) but does not carry the same connotation as a tribe, clan, or phyle of having a primary basis in familial kinship, nor the historical reputation (in certain cases) of rebellion against central authority. The subtle but important difference is that a guild is all about practical know-how and about taking care of business– not about ideology or revolution (eh, at least on the surface…).

Typically a guild (German: Gilde) is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. In the most general sense a guild is simply an organization of persons (peers) with related interests, goals, etc., especially one formed for mutual aid or protection. Historically guilds were any of various medieval associations, as of merchants or artisans, organized to maintain standards and to protect the interests of their members.

[…]

One point on which I think guilds differ from Las Indias’ conception of phyles (“In Phyles, Community precedes Enterprise” -David Uguarte) is that for guilds, community and enterprise are two sides of one coin. I think this fits well with p2p culture while also being relatively non-confrontational with mainstream corporate/capitalist norms. The ability of guilds and leagues (such as the League of Women Voters) to present a relatively “normal” outward face, may have occasional tactical advantages.

Leaping off from this conversation, we might say that the phyle is a diagonalization between two different forms of organization: the guild and the networked tribe. There has been quite murmurs and active experimentation with neo-guild models over the last two decades, but the figure of the tribe itself – as perhaps a more abstract organizational system than either the guild or the phyle – permeate the emergent world. Extrapolate from trends in cultural fragmentation and miniaturization of production technology, and McLuhan’s dictum that electronic communicaton exerts a “tribalizing effect” nestles itself up against everything from the (arguably templex) tribalist dreams emanating from certain anarchist quarters as well as DIY networks, to insurgent hacker tribes, among other examples.

Speaking of tribes and time loops, here’s John Robb, circa 2005. While written only a year into the US’s disastrous adventure in Iraq, this seems like it may very well be more relevant today:

The tribalism we face today is a combination of these ancient mindsets and modern systems thinking (economics, networks, communication, etc.). It’s a very dangerous combination made stronger by the forces of globalization — which has levelled the playing field in the competition between tribes and states. Today, networked tribes thrive economically (particularly as participants in the multi-trillion dollar black economy) and project power globally:

  • In Iraq, we don’t face a single tribe (either traditional or manufactured). We face dozens. Wholesale systems disruption and violence has forced great many people (particularly young men) into tribal organizations for economic support and defense — a pattern we see repeated in other failed states.
  • In Afghanistan, we see tribes in control of most of the country as well as a multi-billion dollar opium industry.
  • Globally we see rapidly growing manufactured tribes like the Mara Salvatrucha (already over 700,000 strong) and al Qaeda in open war with states. The appeal of these tribes — the sense of belonging they represent — transcends borders. It is able to motivate young men in the UK and Honduras to undertake acts of extreme violence in the hope of gaining membership.

Until we understand the moral bonds of networked tribalism, there is little hope that we will morally defeat it.

From the U/Acc point of view of this blog, the idea of the moral defeat of such things seem like a woefully antiquated concept, as is the issue is not, at the ultimate unground, a question of moral determination or a sense of operational agency.

More mill-grist:

  • The Cyborg Nomad on Bit-Nations and Sovereign Services, charting out the intersection of extreme deterritorialization and the spatial boundaries of the Neocam model. Such things have relevance to the aforementioned organizational dynamics of the Neo-Venetian model.
  • Cockydooody on the Tankie Patchwork in Dontesk. Networked tribalism in pursuit of breakaway republics fosters what appears to be the opening chasm to unending war defined by the alchemical mixture of red and brown political ideologies. The “harsh exit”: “Neo-Soviet-Eastern-Orthodox-Eurasianist-Fascism-Communism”
  • Xenogoth on Bifo and the ‘Global Civil War’. A very poignant moment is the reflection on the possibility that resistance to geopolitical fragmentation may very well be “exacerbating mental disintegration”. The specter of antipraxis lurks in Bifo’s reflections, to boot.

Great Politics (assorted notes)

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Convergent with the Proudhon’s anarchistic analysis of the primordial linkage between the State and war is Nietzsche’s critique of social contract theory, as detailed by Hugo Drochon in his book Nietzsche’s Great Politics. To quote him at length:

In “The Greek State,” Nietzsche also takes issue with Wagner’s On State and Religion—another manuscript that Nietzsche read while in Tribschen—which the latter had recently composed at the behest of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. There Wagner accounts for the emergence of the state as from a Hobbesian “fear of violence,” which leads to a “contract whereby the units seek to save themselves from mutual violence, through a little practice of restraint.” While Nietzsche concurred that the state of nature was one of bellum omnium contra omnes (GSt, 170), he disagreed with the idea that the state arose through a contract. He instead saw the state as originating from a “conqueror with the iron hand,” who “suddenly, violently, and bloodily” takes control of a yet-unformed population and forces it into a hierarchical society (GSt, 168). [54]

[…]

In “The Greek State,” Nietzsche concurred with the Hobbesian view of the state of nature being a bellum omnium contra omnes. But he did not account for its birth in a contract. Instead, as we just saw, he located thebirth of the “cruel tool” of the state in the iron “conquerors.” Indeed, these conquerors are themselves, on Nietzsche’s account, the state. Yet the “ignominious” birth of the state is justified as a means to genius and culture. “Nature”—we see the influence of Romanticism on Nietzsche’s early thought here—had instilled in the conqueror the state-creating instinct so that she might achieve “her salvation in appearance in the mirror of genius.” The “dreadful” birth of the state, whose monuments include “devastated lands, ruined towns, savage men, consuming hatred of nations,” is justified by nature because it serves as a means to genius. “The state appears before it proudly and calmly: leading the magnificently blossoming woman, Greek society, by the hand” (GSt, 169).

While Nietzsche’s genealogy of the state claims to be more realistic than the “fanciful,” in his own words, account of the social contract tradition, this does not imply that on his account the state cannot be justified. Of course there is a difference between normative and descriptive claims here: over the course of their writings, Hobbes and indeed Rousseau gave quite detailed accounts of the history of the state they understood to be at odds with the normative ideals they were recommending, and the social contract theorists are often thought of as having tailored their state of nature to justify the type of state they were advocating. But Nietzsche is here rejecting both their descriptive—how the state came into being—and normative claims—how the birth of the state can be justified.

The state, for Nietzsche, is justified because it opens up a space within which culture, through genius, can for the first time flourish. There are a number of elements to this claim. First, that the time and energy used to defend oneself in the “war of all against all” is redirected, within a pacified society, toward more artistic and cultural pursuits. Nietzsche explains that once states have been founded everywhere, the bellicose urge gets concentrated into “less frequent” yet altogether much stronger “bolts of thunder and flashes of lightning” of “dreadful clouds of war between nations.” Thus, much as it was for Hobbes, the “state of nature” gets transferred to the interstate level. In the meantime, however, the “concentrated effect of that bellum, turned inward, gives society time to germinate and turn green everywhere, so that it can let radiant blossoms of genius sprout forth as soon as warmer days come.” In other words, the energy that was used to simply stay alive in the individual war of all against all gets redirected, once encased in and protected by the new state, either collectively toward wars against other nations or, in the intermediary, toward satisfying a “new world of necessities”—namely, culture (GSt, 170).

The two interrelated justifications for the state—genius and culture— come together in the figure of the first genius—the military genius. Since the beasts of prey were organized on a “war footing,” the first type of state, even the “archetype” of the state, is the military state, and the first genius is a military genius. The first work of art is the state itself and its constitution; Nietzsche mentions the Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus—a thought borrowed from Jacob Burckhardt. As a military state, the first state therefore divides itself into hierarchical military castes, and this “warlike society” necessarily takes the form of a pyramidal structure with a large slave-class bottom stratum (GSt, 172). [56-57]

As with all things, however, the state decays. For Nietzsche this appears in the time of the Kulturstaat, the modern state that treats its subjects as mere means to furthering the cause of “existing institutions”. “However loudly the state may proclaim its services to cultures, it furthers culture in order to further itself.” The state also loses what Nietzsche regarded as a sense of excitement regarding its function: mass bureaucracy and the dreary affairs of parliament tore from the governing institutions the “ancient Isis veil”. In an aphorism from Human, All Too Human, the cause of modern decline is highlighted: “modern democracy is the historical form of the state.”

Cue the transformation into what Drochon refers to as Nietzsche’s “postmodern state”:

Nietzsche concludes by proclaiming “with certainty” that “distrust of all government” will result from the “uselessness and destructiveness of these short-winded struggles,” and will “impel men to a quite novel resolve: the resolve to do away with the concept of the state, to abolish the distinction between public and private.” Instead, an “invention more suited to their purpose than the state was will gain victory over the state.” “Private companies” (Privatgesellschaften) will “step by step absorb the business of the state,” including those activities that are the “most resistant remainder of what was formerly the work of the government”: protecting “the private person from the private person.”

This marks another point of at least partial convergence with Proudhon, who also foresaw the unwinding of social and political relations into the hurried networks of economic exchange. He wrote in the General Idea of Revolution in the Nineteenth Century that

…if I could make a contract with all, as I can with some; if all could renew it among themselves, if each group of citizens, as a town, county, province, corporation, company, etc., formed by a like contract, and considered as a moral person, could thereafter, and always by a similar contract, agree with every and all other groups, it would be the same as if my own will were multiplied to infinity. I should be sure that the law thus made on all questions in the Republic, from millions of different initiatives, would never be anything but my law; and if this new order of things were called government, it would be my government.

Thus the principle of contract, far more than that of authority, would bring about the union of producers, centralize their forces, and assure the unity and solidarity of their interests.

The system of contracts, substituted for the system of laws, would constitute the true government of the man and of the citizen; the true sovereignty of the people, the Republic.

Speaking of state decay, demotic chaos and long-term political cycles, Peter Turchin has written a brief-but-interesting response to Tyler Cowen’s recent “No, Fascism Can’t Happen Here”. He ultimately reaches the same conclusion as Cowen via a different route, but his final note is telling: “In my opinion, the greatest danger for us today (and into the 2020s) is not the rise of a Hitler, but rather a Second American Civil War.” The 2020s thread is picked up elsewhere.

Also keeping up with the troubles is Chris Shaw on zombie politics, which moves from the fragmentation and conflict internal to the dominant political structures towards a Carsonian-informed look at potential leverages for Exit. In other words, ideas that move in the same waters as Nietzsche’s postmodern state and Proudhon’s contract government.