“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
– Thomas Jefferson, 1816
I will come to Deleuze in this essay, but first we need to clear a path toward his work. I find it interesting that even a government sponsored study by NASA (see Guardian) is discovering the inevitability of collapse coming our way. As they describe it the gap between rich and poor or – the “Elite and Commoners”, will be the ultimate driver that brings about the demise of global civilization. Of course that bring in as well all the usual suspects Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy. The key to the aforegoing is resource depletion on all fronts, along with the accumulation in the hands of the elite of those resources at the expense of the poor. Because of this they project a great extinction of the poor workers of the world overtime that will eventually lead to this apocalypse of civilization. As Nasa remarks: “… accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels.”1
Over and over we see in most of these types of full blown apocalyptic modeling scenarios and studies the accusation against the Elite, the Oligarchs of the Planet. The problem I’ve always seen with this metaphor of the “elites” is that it reduces and lumps a whole segment of society into a fictional scenario that does nothing to fix the situation. We can all point our fingers at the bad boys of the rich nations of the world and admonition them of their dastardly deeds in melodramatic fashion. But what does this do to change things? They remain in power. Why? I mean they are not the enemy per se: they are part of a larger issue which is the systemic and machinic acceleration of capitalism itself that is on a feeding frenzy of the planetary resources. In the 20th Century most of the rich nations controlled all technology and kept the industrial machine based in a monopoly of centralized command and control structure in the hands of banks, government, corporations bounded by a rational and efficient system of technique.
In our new postmodern century we have seen the neoliberal world view replace the older monopolies through a process documented so well by Barry C. Lynn in two books End of the Line: The Rise and Fall of the Global Corporation, and Cornored: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction. One need only remember what Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis’ once stated to get the drift, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we can’t have both.” Lynn tells us it has come to that, that in our time “our political economy is run by a compact elite that is able to fuse the power of our public government with the power of private corporate governments in ways that enable members of the elite (to freely decide) who wins, who loses, and who pays.” Consolidated corporate power and the political complicity behind it means monopolists run the country and the world, justifying it as free-market fundamentalism – a corrupted deception masking predatory dominance that destroys democratic freedoms.
One need not bring out all the other books on this vast subject of the elite to prove the point: Zombie Economics (John Quiggin), Predator Nation (Charles H. Ferguson), The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Naomi Klein), Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste (Philip Mirowski)… the list could go on. Lynn tells us that our system’s single biggest problem is having ceded “almost complete power over these institutions (to) a class of people whose interests (aren’t) served….by building things but by breaking” them. Capitalism lets some people “use the power in concentrated capital to harness free citizens” and crush democratic freedoms.
As a result, these new oligarchies run the Global System. Lynn deals only with the largest of these regional culprits: the American Corporate oligarchies. Antitrust enforcement is null and void, and according to Lynn: “It will take more than a lawsuit or two to overthrow America’s corporatist oligarchy and restore a model of capitalism that protects our rights as property holders and citizens.” But what of the planet itself? Lynn seems only worried about the citizens of this rich nation, but has nothing to say about the larger issue of the planet wide systemic corruption itself.
In Does Capitalism Have a Future? Immanuel Wallerstein, Randall; Collins, Michael Mann, Georgi Derluguian, and Craig Calhoun discuss many of these issues in depth. In their intro they tell us that over the next three or four decades capitalists of the world, overcrowding the global markets and hard pressed on all sides by the social and ecological costs of doing business, may find it simply impossible to make their usual investment decisions. In the last five centuries capitalism has been the cosmopolitan and explicitly hierarchical world-market economy where the elite operators, favorably located at its geographical core, were in a position to reap large and reasonably secure profits. But, Wallerstein argues, this historical situation, however dynamic, will ultimately reach its systemic limitations, as do all historical systems. In this hypothesis, capitalism would end in the frustration of capitalists themselves.2
One almost remembers the echo of the Hollow Men in T.S. Elliot’s poem in which the world ends: “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.” What I’ve always found sad in reading the wisdom of tired grey old men like these is that they offer the bad news but never challenge us to change, to challenge the status quo, to overcome our own innate lethargic and complicit passivity and actually topple the system, bring it to its knees. We seem stuck in some endless repetition of critique and dialogue going nowhere. Is this really the way we’re all going to go in to what Dylan Thomas once called “that good night”? Remember that he qualified this by actually saying: “Do not go gentle into that good night”. But such poetry didn’t help Thomas, either. So where shall we turn for more hopeful answers?
Slavoj Žižek in his short interview book Demanding the Impossible in one little vignette tells us that he’d like to see a common struggle for freedom: “The common good is a common struggle for freedom: not exclusionary struggle, not violent in the sense of shooting or killing, but breaking the hold of those in power.” He goes on to remind us that in today’s world the big problem is not that we are too passive, but that we seem bent on and endless parade of activity and intervention that goes nowhere and does nothing. Instead we should step back, take a deep breath, withdraw from endless academic arguments and debates about what to do and break the interpassive chatter box. We should just become truly passive, refuse to participate in the mindless mindedness of academic and political debate. That he tells us would be a truly revolutionary first step that would clear the ground for “true activity, for an act that will effectively change the coordinates of the constellation” (138).
In The Uprising Bifo Berardi tells us that the new revolutions of 2011 against power can be seen as a mantra: “…as an attempt to reactivate the conjunctive body, as a form of therapy on the disempathetic pathologies crossing the social skin and social soul” (132).2 Berardi warns the new Left to beware of following the pathological violence of former ages, that those in power will use everything at their command to stamp out such obvious and open anarchic tactics. I think he remembers the 1968 world that lost its revolutionary spirit not due to inaction but due to the power of those authoritarian governments to literally enforce power in the form of force and imprisonment upon those who dared to be militants. Yet, he realizes that violence is coming, and that we should not condemn those that use it but should realize that violence against the elite will become in our age a form of healing, of therapy, of a collective struggle not to save the earth or the poor but to redress wrongs that have disempowered the greater portion humanity itself from participating in its own struggle for freedom. Yet, even this is not enough.
This great struggle for freedom will not save us from the catastrophe of civilization itself. Even if the Left broke the power of the elite, what would happen then? What new form of collective would replace the failed neoliberal global system? I look around at the intelligentsia and find nothing. Nada. No answer. Even as I admire Žižek I see in him one of the great failures of our times. With all his vast Hegelian/Lacanian erudition he has stated time and again that he has no answers, that all he has ever had is “questions” and more questions. When will we ever come to an end of questions and begin to build a new sense of purpose and meaning for this fragile realm of planetary existence?
At the extreme end of things we have such thoughts from Fred Guterl telling us that our dependence on technology is leading toward our destruction:
Climate change has put the planet in a precarious position, balanced on the edge— what could push it over? … The food web that sustains our system of agriculture is out of whack, making our food supply vulnerable to disease and disruption. Our biotechnological prowess has made us vulnerable to horrific designer diseases. And we have built our global economy on a technology— the Internet —that is unreliable and ridiculously vulnerable. And now we are developing machines that can mimic the thoughts and deeds of humans, creating the possibility that they could turn on us, or be turned against us.(5)4
Another activist Elizabeth Kolbert remarks that no creature has ever altered life on the planet like we have. In the distant past, the planet has undergone changes so wrenching that the diversity of life has plummeted. Five of these ancient events were catastrophic enough that they’re put in their own category: the so-called Big Five Extinction Events. In what seems like a fantastic coincidence, but is probably no coincidence at all, the history of these events is recovered just as people come to realize that they are causing another one. When it is still too early to say whether it will reach the proportions of the Big Five, it becomes known as the Sixth Extinction.5 As another scientist Guy McPherson noted:
Until recently I believed complete collapse of the world’s industrial economy would prevent runaway greenhouse and therefore allow our species to persist a few more generations. But in June 2012 the ocean of evidence on climate change overwhelmed me, and I no longer subscribe to the notion that habitat for humans will exist on Earth beyond the 2030s. We’ve triggered too many self-reinforcing feedback loops to prevent near-term extinction at our own hand.6
What was unique about McPherson’s life story is that in 2006 he left a prestigious academic position and decided to withdraw (much like the Autonomist proposals) from Empire, to create an autonomous zone nestled in the mountains of New Mexico. As he tells it he left the easy life as (1) an act of resistance against the dominant paradigm (the dominant paradigm and those within it failed to notice); (2) an example of alternative living, in my case promoting a gift economy within agrarian anarchy (my example has failed to inspire a significant number of others to live differently); (3) a way to provide more time for speaking and writing about important topics, actions that were discouraged at the university (I have enjoyed limited success in this arena, although time freed up not battling administrative dragons has been largely consumed with rigorous physical work); (4) a refuge for the youngster, the son of the couple with whom my wife and I share this property, as well as his generation (due to ongoing, accelerating climate change, the youngster’s future in this location probably will be notably short), and (5) a way to extend my own life, and that of my wife (due to ongoing, accelerating climate change, our future in this location is likely to be quite short).(McPherson, Kindle 34-44)
Yet, by 2012 he realized the impossibility of escaping the empire: “My project of abandoning empire and moving off grid to a shared property in New Mexico has failed catastrophically.” (McPherson, KL 35) As he admits “leaving the life I loved as an academic to move to this location made sense at the time, long before the climate-change news grew so dire and when collapse appeared imminent, I now view the major personal transition as infinitely regrettable. I have come to see it as the worst mistake of my life, so far. I’m not dead, though, so I suspect I can yet outdo myself.” The biggest issue he discovered is that one cannot escape the reach of the global system anymore. We are all so interconnected in legal, political, cultural, social, religious, etc. systems that there is no place to vanish off the grid, not place to hide out while civilization dies. We are for better or worse all implicated in what is coming at us from the future, and it is coming at us faster than most people realize. In one passage he gives us the bad news:
An increasing number of scientists agree that warming of 4 to 6 C causes a dead planet. And, they go on to say, we’ll be there by 2060. Earth-system scientist Clive Hamilton concludes in his April 2013 book Earthmasters that “without [atmospheric sulphates associated with industrial activity]…Earth would be an extra 1.1 C warmer.” In other words, collapse takes us directly to 2 C above baseline within a matter of weeks. Several other academic scientists have concluded, in the refereed journal literature no less, that the 2 C mark is essentially impossible (for example, see the review paper by Mark New and colleagues published in the 29 November 2010 issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A). The German Institute for International and Security Affairs concluded 2 June 2013 that a 2 C rise in global-average temperature is no longer feasible (and Spiegel agrees, finally, in their 7 June 2013 issue), while the ultra-conservative International Energy Agency concludes that, “coal will nearly overtake oil as the dominant energy source by 2017…without a major shift away from coal, average global temperatures could rise by 6 degrees Celsius by 2050, leading to devastating climate change.” In an October 2012 interview, climate scientist Paul Beckwith indicated Earth could warm by 6 C within a decade. If you think his view is extreme, consider the reconstruction of regional and global temperature for the past 11,300 years published in Science in March 2013. It indicates an extremely rapid increase in global-average temperature is under way, with no end in sight.(McPherson, KL 1134-1145)
But this is the least of it. Now we have the military-industrial complex riding hard and heavy under the state of fear of what is coming. The Pentagon is bracing for public dissent over climate and energy shocks, as reported by Nafeez Ahmed in the 14 June 2013 issue of the Guardian. According to Ahmed’s article: “Top secret US National Security Agency (NSA) documents disclosed by the Guardian have shocked the world with revelations of a comprehensive US-based surveillance system with direct access to Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants. New Zealand court records suggest that data harvested by the NSA’s Prism system has been fed into the Five Eyes intelligence alliance whose members also include the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.” In short, the “Pentagon knows that environmental, economic and other crises could provoke widespread public anger toward government and corporations” and is planning accordingly. Such “activity is linked to the last decade of US defence planning, which has been increasingly concerned by the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic crisis—or all three.” The global police state has arrived, and just in time to keep the blinders firmly on the majority of “first-world” humans.(McPherson, KL 1146-1154)
Dark days ahead. But how does all this help? McPherson himself tells us that it’s too late to worry, the sixth extinction is well underway and all the carbon-taxation, and/or long-term geoengineering projects (which want work anyway, he says, and will probably do more harm than good and leave the planet even worse off) will not save us. What does he offer instead? Human wisdom, platitudes, a return to each other, love, comfort, hedonism: whatever you want to do while Rome burns… so much for science. As he sums it up: “As a result of ongoing, accelerating climate change, I’m letting go of the notion that Homo sapiens will inhabit this planet beyond 2030 or so. I’m letting go of the notion that Homo sapiens will inhabit this verdant little valley at the edge of American Empire after it turns to dust within a very few years. I’m letting go of the notion that, within a few short years, there will remain any habitat for humans in the interior of any large continent in the northern hemisphere. I’m letting go of the notion we’ll retain even a fraction of one percent of the species currently on Earth beyond 2050. But I’m not letting go of the notion of resistance, which is a moral imperative.”(McPherson, KL 1613-1617)
Ah, the key word: Resistence!!! Instead of blindly accepting our fate, going into the cold night willinginly (passively), he tells us we should resist the system to the end. But where to start? How to begin? I mean we all bellow to our heart’s content on blogs, academic journals, left-wing media, etc. But that all tends toward one thing: silence, chattering to the choir who already agree with us. How do we get anything out to the majority of people on this planet who need to hear our message? We know that the main media outlets are controlled by the elite, the powers that be, the neoliberal world. And, on the other side, the same process of control takes place in those former Communist countries that are for the most part become capitalist dictatorships, etc. So no place there to truly get the message out.
As Robert McChesney tells us first we need democracy, but to get that we need three things: (1) a people informed by the issues; (2) political equality; and, (3) the third thing necessary for democracy to work-really, for any society to work-is a belief that your happiness, your fate, your lot in the world is dependent on your neighbors’.7 But that doesn’t give us much hope, either. We have only a controlled, corporate media to reach the great majority (even at best the free presses, and other left oriented journals have large distribution and monetary issues to solve). Political equality? America is a far cry from that, much less the rest of the planet. Unless one proposes to overcome the survival factor happiness is usually the last thing people come to worry about in their day to day lives. Let’s face it most humans are not only overworked, underpaid, but in their home lives – at least under the neoliberal machines, are offered only the escape valves of beer, liquor, sex, and the neoliberal info-tainment machine as palliatives. The younger generation is for the most part caught up in mindless online games, and even those who do try to escape the basic neoliberal fair for youth are for the most part isolated from others of their own kind. Even the touted internet is less that one might imagine of a place to develop real and lasting, open relationships, or friendships. Most people even in the blogosphere remain uncommitted, silent, offering neither feedback nor opinions, never even asking questions, or chattering. Most forums where such debates on politics, climate, religion, philosophy, etc. go on turn into trolling sessions rather than worthwhile projects. I’m not saying that here and there a good blog, or forum, etc. doesn’t actually form positive feedback and potential longterm activity and relations. I’m just going by my own obviously subjective interaction over the years since the mid nineties. In the nineties things did seem more open and empowered, and people did carry on more intelligent conversations, etc. But things have changed, and with the vast commercialization of the net and the influx of a different generation that for the most part grew up with this technology the world of cyberspace has naturalized itself in most young peoples minds. The net has truly become a blip culture, where inattention rules and the momentary pondering of deep knowledge gives way to the metal surfers modulated wave dynamics of a slip stream thought world. People cannot bare to think too long. They like everything in flashes and prisms of color. Excitement rather than solitary adventures of the mind.
Christopher Lasch’s work The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations is a little dated now, but his basic insights are not and still hold true. The basic premise of his work was never about selfishness per se, but was rather “an attempt to analyze those repercussions [of elites power}— to explore the psychological dimension of long-term shifts in the structure of cultural authority.”8 It’s how the elite control the global media, the propaganda systems, the discursive infosphere across all avenues of culture and society that is at issue here:
If these observations were to be taken seriously, the upshot, it seemed to me, was not that American society was “sick” or that Americans were all candidates for a mental asylum but that normal people now displayed many of the same personality traits that appeared, in more extreme form, in pathological narcissism . Freud always stressed the continuity between the normal and the abnormal, and it therefore seemed reasonable, to a Freudian, to expect that clinical descriptions of narcissistic disorders would tell us something about the typical personality structure in a society dominated by large bureaucratic organizations and mass media, in which families no longer played an important role in the transmission of culture and people accordingly had little sense of connection to the past. I was struck by evidence, presented in several studies of business corporations, to the effect that professional advancement had come to depend less on craftsmanship or loyalty to the firm than on “visibility,”“momentum,” personal charm, and impression management. The dense interpersonal environment of modern bureaucracy appeared to elicit and reward a narcissistic response— an anxious concern with the impression one made on others, a tendency to treat others as a mirror of the self.(Lasch, KL 3872-3881)
What Lasch had uncovered was the beginnings of a neoliberal critique that was not obvious. What he discovered was that in this American society things had changed, something had happened to reshape the vast majority of humans into almost pathological narcissists. As he notes it our growing dependence on technologies no one seems to understand or control has given rise to feelings of powerlessness and victimization. We find it more and more difficult to achieve a sense of continuity, permanence, or connection with the world around us. Relationships with others are notably fragile; goods are made to be used up and discarded; reality is experienced as an unstable environment of flickering images. Everything conspires to encourage escapist solutions to the psychological problems of dependence, separation, and individuation, and to discourage the moral realism that makes it possible for human beings to come to terms with existential constraints on their power and freedom.(Lasch, 4041-4045)
None of this is new, and in fact social philosophers like Foucault would have recognized this within a new form of panoptic gaze. As we remember panopticism relies on an awareness on the part of subjects that they are being observed or are likely to be observed, as well as a notion in which panopticism relies on subjects being aware of the model toward which they have to adjust their behavior, otherwise any punishment or reward is pointless. A third factor situates subjects in such a way that they actually have to care about being observed. Finally, there has to be a gratification-punishment mechanism in place. In the context of this new form of observation, with its focus on pattern recognition and simulations, the majority of these requirements are not and cannot be met.(see David Savat, 24-25)9
But beyond such panoptic enterprises Gilles Deleuze shifted this older form of domination as it was situated in 19th Century technologies toward the information age and what he termed “control” technologies. In our time it is not so much the behavior of bodies in space as it is about the virtual body, the “dividual” (Deleuze). Deleuze in The Fold (1993 ) refers to the dividual as an objectile. This objectile has no form and is continually changing. In short, it is a process rather than an object. It is in a very significant sense a flow of information or code. It continues to be important to stress in that regard that modulation should not be seen as replacing discipline, as some are inclined to. In the context of databases, we need to recognize that different modes of power operate in one and the same moment yet can produce very different, and at times antagonistic, effects. One of those effects is the construction of the dividual. The first-person singular form of individuality is central to the construct of the political in the industrialized mechanical ensemble. With the digital ensemble, however, a new construction of subjectivity is expressed that many have characterized as fluid or liquid (Baumann). The construction of the political subject is very different from that of the individual so central to modern political thought. This new dividual is at core an interface technology at the nexus of a new paradigm of human-machine assemblage in which very different sense of the political emerges – one in which flow is critical. (Savat, 7)
As we enter the posthuman age we are beginning to see strange new transformations and metamorphoses taking place. Fragmentation refers to breaking up an originally whole object, and can only be done to entities that have form, that is, are solid. In the context of pattern recognition, however, one deals with many concurrently existing identities that cannot be situated within a fractured ensemble. This ‘subject’ is not cellular but is composed of code. This code consists of the ongoing production of a variety of patterns, and has no clear beginning or end, apart from the switch that either connects or disconnects, though even disconnection is part of the generation of a pattern. What this also suggests is that unlike the mechanism of the composition of forces, which is genetic, the programming of flows is antithetic. It is this product that Deleuze (1992) termed dividuality.(Savat, 34-35)
Like Foucault’s notions of discipline , the Deleuze’s notions of modulation and the modulatory mode of power uses a number of different instruments . The first of these is simulation, or computer modeling. Discipline’s first instrument, in contrast, is hierarchical observation. Hierarchical observation is coercive and its structure is that of a pyramid. This means that it has a center and operates by way of relays. Observation in the context of modulation, however, has no center and, in one respect, is composed of nothing but relays. However, these relays are of a different materiality than the instrument of hierarchical observation, which, after all, operates in perspectival space. In a digital environment, however, everything a person does is simultaneously an action, a recording, a coding, and a sorting. It is acted upon in one and the same moment, and at times even before the event ever occurs, all of which is automated. In other words, all the actions one performs in the context of digital technologies are open to anticipation. In that respect, any observation is always a simulation. Yet, one must heed the warning of Philip Mirowski who in his book on the whole history of cybernetic sciences Machine Dreams warns us that the father of simulation algorithms Herbert Simon and his minions never did learn the deep lesson that simulations divorced from actual physical manifestations and practices form a black box theory of control and command which leads to tyrannical formulations.(Mirowski, 531-532)10
David Savat breaks down these new forms of modulatory power into four mechanism and as many instruments. First, modulation is inscribed as a technique of pattern recognition: the anticipation of activity, the organization of antitheses , and the programming of code. Its three main instruments are simulation , sorting, and sampling.(Savat, 36) The dividual or objectile is inscribed within this system of techniques as constituted code. It is not a fixed or substantive subjectivity, but is rather a constructed subject dispersed in the liquid flows of the cyberlanes. Antithetical and programmable it flows among revisionary algorithms in a never-ending, shifting dataset that is modulated continuously and updated through anticipatory flows. Even though the actual individual seems to be erased under this new methodology, this would be an error. The individual as Hardt and Negri point out, saying the “society of control might . . . be characterized by an intensification and generalization of the normalizing apparatuses of disciplinarity.”(Savat, 37) So both the older forms documented by Foucault on discipline still hold water for the physical system we know of as the individual, while the newer command and control structures take over and work on the digital data body of the dividual within the discursive nexus of cyberspace. In fact as David Savat remarks:
Modulation and discipline in that respect often operate simultaneously, producing effects that are at times complementary and, at other times, can be very antagonistic to one another. It is precisely this simultaneous and antagonistic production, operating through the same database and working with the same body, that constitutes dividuality. Dividuality, in short, is not only the product of the modulatory mode of power. It is this dividuality that is at the core of the question of how we exist in a digital or so-called control society.(37)
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun in her Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics offer another picture of this new world of the dividual. As she tells it moving “from utopian narratives about cyberspace to the underlying hardware the Internet seeks to obscure (and about which we often forget), it traces the structuring paradox of information and communications: without control technologies, no freedom (of choice or movement).” She goes on, saying:
But the linkage is not an identity: freedom is not the same thing as control. Their conflation is a response to the failures of both liberty and discipline and marks a significant shift in the apparatuses of power: it is a response to the end of the Cold War and to the successes and failures of containment (in Paul Edwards’s words, its “closed world”). This conflation of freedom with control also produces and is produced by paranoia, a paranoia that stems from the attempt to solve political problems technologically. To be paranoid is to think like a machine.11
The conflation of human and machine crops over and over in both neoliberal and leftist modes of thought as if both are in agreement that we are becoming as humans something else – or, even becoming machine. As Wendy comments: “In a realm in which mental disorders are treated as chemical imbalances and the human body treated as a decodable control system, …freedom is experienced as a freedom from discipline.” But how to attain such freedom from control and discipline? How do we escape the neoliberal world? Or do we?
In MULTITUDE, Hardt and Negri (2004) argue that modes of repression always follow innovations in resistance, not the other way around; and suggest that dissenters are innovators, creating from necessity new ways to resist and challenge the status quo. The state then follows, implementing new forms of control to mitigate challenges to its power.12 Fernandaz documents Foucault’s notions on control and technique and reduces it to two forms. The first dealt with such beings as Lepers who were treated by the powers that be with banishment and isolation; and, the second group, plague victims (contagious) were “the state developed what Foucault calls disciplinary diagrams: it portioned spaced into a grid and used surveillance and regular inspectio. Once a case was identified, a city magistrate would isolate or quarantine an individual house, thus suppressing the spread of the disease. (Fernandez, KL 1715-1716) ” Fernandez sees a similar form of control being used against the anti-globalist movement and Occupy movement. In his studies the authorities used the leprosy and plague models, the former model in rural zones and the latter in cities. As he states it:
For instance, in Calgary and Cancun, the police were able to use geography to their advantage, isolating protesters in areas far from the meetings, much as lepers were isolated on islands. In New York City, Washington, D.C., and Miami, the police resorted to plague-control methods. Before the FTAA protest, officers in Miami asked residents to remain at home, emptying the downtown of regular citizens. They mapped out the urban setting and placed heavy surveillance on all downtown streets, and they assembled a centralized system of information and employed small mobile police units to target protesters conducting actions at the affinity-group level. Once captured, protesters were banished to holding pens for the remainder of the protest.(Fernandez, KL 1718-1721)
In the Hardt and Negri model of resistance there is a sense of following the fluidic and liquid element of the neoliberal project tooth to nail infiltrating its networks like mimed viruses, hacking its code and splicing it with negative feedback loops to rewire the mindset toward other ends, other pathways. “It is a dance between those who challenge authority, speak truth to power, and hope for a more just world and those who wish to extend their privilege and power. As Hardt and Negri suggest, the cycle starts with innovation, new forms of organizing, and waves of challenge to the state. The state follows with countermoves, analysis, and the application of the logic of control. But we most not forget that this is only half the story.”(Fernandez, 1725-1728)
But all this seems more of a cat and mouse game that could go on endlessly without producing the results needed for global change. I may be all wet but such activities which are perceived on the neoliberal circuit of media junkets as little more than hooliganism if not downright stupidity. The controlled media for the most part left the Occupy Wall Street movement in a realm of exclusion and isolation, silenced from a real voice that could impact the rest of the nation much less a global civilization. What little got out was in youtube.com portraits, blogs, texting, etc. In other words it was coopted within the very structures of power and knowledge that control and dominion use themselves.
Even such harbingers of the network society as Manuel Castells tells us in his Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age in our time making.”13 He continues:
This is because effective, democratic governance is a prerequisite for the fulfillment of all demands and projects. Because if citizens do not have the ways and means of their self-government, the best designed policies , the most sophisticated strategies, the more well-wishing programs may be ineffective or perverted in their implementation. The instrument determines the function. Only a democratic polity can ensure an economy that works as if people mattered, and a society at the service of human values and the pursuit of personal happiness. Again and again, networked social movements around the world have called for a new form of democracy, not necessarily identifying its procedures but exploring its principles in the practice of the movement. … These networked social movements are new forms of democratic movements, movements that are reconstructing the public sphere in the space of autonomy built around the interaction between local places and Internet networks, movements that are experimenting with assembly-based decision-making and reconstructing trust as a foundation for human interaction. …The legacy of networked social movements will have been to raise the possibility of re-learning how to live together. In real democracy.(Castells, 245)13
Yet, how can we hope to reconstruct the public sphere in a space of autonomy, etc. when as Deleuze foretold we are living in a fully maxed control society? A control society, according to Deleuze, is characterized by the disappearance of gaps, of open spaces and times. Mechanisms of command and effects of normalization penetrate almost everywhere and at all times, and they became internalized in a more comprehensive, micrological way than the disciplinary power of the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century. Deleuze leaves no doubt that the emergence of this regime of control corresponds to transformations in the world-system of capitalism, to the shift from production to financialization. He also states that any recent technological transformations are only symptomatic, that they are a manifestation of “a mutation in capitalism.”14 Yet, as Crary points out Deleuze at the time of his essay on control could not have forseen the power of the neoliberal front and the globalist power structures would come to use even harsher forms of physical panoptic confinement that would become part of an invisible network of terror prisons outside of the normal territorial legal systems of nation states. He also did not foresee the brutal deployment of walled borders and closed frontiers, both of which strategically target specific populations and regions.(Crary, 72)
Another facet that Crary points out is social media hype surrounding current activism. One must be wary of using these new technologies as if they were free of the control mechanisms that seek to denigrate. Google, Twitter, FaceBook, etc. all have drawbacks. As Crary states it “police agencies of the global order can only be gratified by the willingness of activists to concentrate their organizing around internet strategies, by which they voluntarily kettle themselves in cyberspace, where state surveillance, sabotage, and manipulation are far easier than in lived communities and localities where actual encounters occur.”(Crary, 121) Yet, he does see it as a tool, just not in the way that many media-activists present it:
If one’s goal is radical social transformation, electronic media in their current forms of mass availability are not useless— but only when they are subordinate to struggles and encounters taking place elsewhere. If networks are not in the service of already existing relationships forged out of shared experience and proximity, they will always reproduce and reinforce the separations, the opacity, the dissimulations, and the self-interestedness inherent in their use. Any social turbulence whose primary sources are in the use of social media will inevitably be historically ephemeral and inconsequential. (Crary, 121)
James C. Scott in The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia remarks that we live in an era in which virtually the entire globe is “administered space” and the periphery is not much more than a folkloric remnant.15 In this work Scott began by trying to understand the global history of populations trying to avoid, or having been extruded by, the state. What he discovered in this one specific zone of freedom in Upland Southeast Asia was a people who seem to have assembled a fairly comprehensive cultural portfolio of techniques for evading state incorporation while availing themselves of the economic and cultural opportunities its proximity presented.(Scott, 329) Scott in studying the resilience of these mountain people something that Fernand Braudel once notices, too, that their “history is to have none, to remain always on the fringes of the great waves of civilization.”(Scott, 329) He tells us that what is crucial to understand that what is being evaded is not a relationship per se with the state but an evasion of subject status. What hill peoples on the periphery of states have been evading is the hard power of the fiscal state, its capacity to extract direct taxes and labor from a subject population. They have, however, actually sought, sometimes quite eagerly, relationships with valley states that are compatible with a large degree of political autonomy.(Scott, 330) He brings up another important point in that what is most striking is how closely the ideal of a civilized landscape and demography coincides with a landscape and demography most suitable for state-making and how closely a landscape unsuitable for state appropriation, as well as the people who inhabit it, is understood as uncivilized and barbaric. The effective coordinates, from this perspective, for figuring out who is civilized and who is not, turn out to be not much more than an agro-ecological code for state appropriation.(Scott, 336)
This division on the part of the authorities of the power of States to demarcate or make the distinction between civilized and barbaric is the seedbed of defining the limits of territory and the power of the State itself or sovereignty. To withdraw from the State would be to become barbaric in the states eyes. Are we who resist becoming barbarians? Are the new barbarians arising within the State itself? Derrick Jensen and Aric Mcbay in What We Leave Behind that in leaving civilization behind we don’t have the time or patience to immerse ourselves in a fantasy world of critique and reform, where corporations and governments act in ways that contradict their own fundamental imperatives and immediate self-interest because we send them politely worded and well-researched letters. And we aren’t going to blindly swallow the premise that you are a mere consumer, taxpayer, or even citizen. Your identity, your being, is not limited to your economic function in relation to some vast bureaucracy. You are a human being, an animal: whether you recognize it or not, you are a living creature embedded in a network of trillions and trillions of other living creatures, all interdependent. We all in this boat together. The earth is our home and our environment. Ultimately the earth is our survival system, and if we abuse it ultimately it will abuse us in return. It’s not some living entity, but it is a system of complexity of interacting physical forces that we have barely begun to even understand much less to grasp in our cubby hold of human ‘medial neglect’.
But what do we need for resistance? As Jensen quoting Lierre Keith tells us: “What any movement needs is an effective strategy. That means identifying two things: where is power weak and where are you strong? The overlap is where you strike. One problem with nonviolence is that it depends on huge numbers of people to be effective. Rosa Parks on her own ended up in jail. Rosa Parks plus the whole Black community of Montgomery ended segregation on the public transportation system. Without a mass movement, the technique doesn’t work.”16 The point here is that we need an effective strategy, and an effective strategy that’s actually “congruent with the numbers of people we have, the resources we have, and the time we have” (Jensen-Mcbay, KL 7012-7013) . Yet, as he admits:
Though a wholly nonviolent mass movement bent on systematically uprooting the fundamental causes of human exploitation and ecocide would be wonderful, it falls short in our case as a valid strategy. Currently, there simply aren’t enough people willing to address the issue. And worse, there isn’t enough time to build that movement—each day that passes means hundreds of species wiped out forever, means more land-based cultures destroyed by the industrial onslaught, means global fossil energy consumption brings us closer and closer to a runaway greenhouse effect, means more plastic and fewer fish in the oceans, means fewer amphibians, and so on, ad omnicidium.(Jensen-Mcbay, KL 7013-7018)
A third issue is that we truly do need to bring together a realistic appraisal of the global issues of climate change that is at the systemic heart of the coming collapse of civilization. With the bickering between Left and Right and the wars of sciences being conducted as if in endless discursive combat we have yet to come to any substantial agreement as to the state of our planet and what we might do about it. Oh yes there are plenty of individual voices but for each of these voices in the wilderness there are hundreds of neoliberal enforced counter-attacks by paid think tanks, academics, etc. who are paid to keep the world confused and ignorant of the pressing truth.
Yet, as in all things, governments know that resistance is dangerous so they have already in place organized systems to ferret out and squash such resistance movements. They constantly try to undermine group solidarity and a diversity of tactics to split movements and quash actions that might prove effective. s Counter Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO, is an example of a highly effective program designed to destroy cultures of resistance. As Jensen-Mcbay remind us, the author Brian Glick in his War at Home: Covert Action Against US Activists and What We Can Do About It developed four explicit ways to combat activism: (1) through infiltration agents and informers would not only spy on a resistance group, but would continuously expose, discredit, and disrupt its aims and strategies; (2) the use of psychological warfare outside in: the FBI and its dirty tricks squads would plant false media, leaflets, and other propaganda on targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials, and others to cause trouble for activists. (3) the notion of harassment by way of the legal systems in place: FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, ‘investigative’ interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters. (4) and, finally extralegal force and violence: the FBI and police threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism, assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists (and later Native Americans), these attacks—including political assassinations—were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can accurately be termed a form of official ‘terrorism.’”(Jensen-Mcbay, KL 7063-7079)
“Successful resistance movements of all times have recognized that one extremely effective way to counter state reprisals is that each time the state raises the stakes against the resistance, the resistance raises the stakes back against state repression. Many successful resistance movements have recognized that not only does the state not have a monopoly on violence,319 but that it also does not have a monopoly on either reprisals or upping the stakes.”(Jensen-Mcbay, KL 7096-7100)
The above brings us to the touch point of this post: Violence on Non-Violent resistance. This one is a personal choice moment, and one that every human would have to decide for him/her self. There are no easy answers for violence, nor whether it is effective or brings with it more harm than good. I’m not about to weigh in on that topic in this short post but will only leave the opinions of others.
As Jensen and Mcbay sum up their work they ask a series of questions: What are the risks if you take action? (Loss of status? State reprisals? Prison? Torture? Murder by the state?) What are the risks if you don’t? (A freefall slide into fascist dystopia? Runaway global warming? The collapse of the biosphere? Loss of self-respect?) What would you need from yourself, from your friends, your family, your community, your institutions to make action more possible? (Moral support? Material support? Familial support? Collaboration?) Where do your loyalties lie? Where do you end, and other creatures begin? What will be your legacy? What do you want to leave behind? What do you need, and what do you have to give up, to make that happen? And if you don’t do it, who will? Knowing the answers to those questions, having discarded the paralyzing mythologies of those in power, choose your future, and fight for it.
1. Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. (Guardian, 2014) Read article: Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?
2. Wallerstein, Immanuel; Collins, Randall; Mann, Michael; Derluguian, Georgi; Calhoun, Craig (2013-10-21). Does Capitalism Have a Future? (p. 2). Oxford University Press, USA.
3. Franco (Bifo) Berardi. The Uprising On Poetry and Finace. (semiotest(e) 2013)
4. Guterl, Fred (2012-05-22). The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It (p. 5). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
5. Kolbert, Elizabeth (2014-02-11). The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (pp. 2-3). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.
6. McPherson, Guy R. (2013-09-30). Going Dark (Kindle Locations 25-28). PublishAmerica. Kindle Edition.
7. Derrick Jensen. Resistance Against Empire (Kindle Locations 2392-2393). Kindle Edition.
8. Lasch, Christopher (1991-05-17). The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (Kindle Locations 3859-3860). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
9. Savat, David (2012-11-27). Uncoding the Digital: Technology, Subjectivity and Action in the Control Society (pp. 24-25). Palgrave Macmillan. Kindle Edition.
10. Philip Mirowski. Machine Dreams Economics Becomes Cyborg Science (Cambridge, 2002)
11. Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (Kindle Locations 21-26). Kindle Edition.
12. Luis Alberto Fernandez. Policing Dissent: Social Control and the Anti-Globalization Movement (Kindle Locations 1664-1665). Kindle Edition.
13. Castells, Manuel (2013-05-20). Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age (p. 245). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
14. Crary, Jonathan (2013-06-04). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (p. 71). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
15. Professor James C. Scott. The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (p. 324). Kindle Edition.
16. Jensen, Derrick; Mcbay, Aric (2011-01-04). What We Leave Behind (Kindle Locations 7008-7011). Seven Stories Press. Kindle Edition.