The Politics of Exclusion: Disappearances, Prohibitions, and Expulsions

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People continue reverting to identitarian politics as if it were even relevant in our global world and context, when what’s happening on all fronts and everywhere in the social, cultural, and economic realms is the very hidden and less obvious truth of disappearances, prohibitions, and exclusions. The Neoliberal Apollonian culture of the eye lives in a false world of deco-punk chrome and glamour, while the poor, the excluded, and prohibited live in the dystopian tin hovels on the outskirts… of the Global Cities of Light. We’ve become used to a global culture of violence: World Wide Wrestling, Soccer, Football, UFC… the neoliberal panoply of the spectacle of violence coarsens us to its real and actual impact at street level, while glorifying it in our media-tainment systems.

Romanticizing the spectacle of violence of our cartoon superheroes, Hollywood icons, and Sports superstars, while swiping the real violence of Third-World degradation and corruption under the carpet of invisibility. Even in the First-World we live under the tutelage of enslavement to austerity and bank-bailouts. It’s as if in our neo-feudalisms of Oligarchy and Plutocracy we are once again reenacting the oldest forms of enslavement known to the human animal on a more devious and sinister scale than throughout history. Ours is the age when people have become invisible, living in the dark interstices of our global societies. Bound to the cage of economic austerity they live on the margins of our worlds, dreaming through our electronic haze of better days; when in truth their night of nights is a rejection slip from reality. When they suddenly rebel or seek to find a way into our world of light we turn on them and mark them with a new Mark of Cain. As if their nightmare wasn’t already a bitter pill, they are enslaved to another one that not only deprives them of the light, but excludes them from the night as well. Caught in the non-worlds of disappearance, exclusion, and prohibition they huddle in the shadows of our bright towers waiting for a chance to revolt. This is the present future of our termination zones…

In books like Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective , Enslaved: True Stories of Modern Day Slavery, Expulsions  … just to name a few books we discover the sordid details of Global governance, greed, subterfuge; national and international corporate slavery, abuse, trafficking… we’ve become infused with the violence of the spectacle as Henry Giroux reports:

The spectacle of violence represents more than the public enactment and witnessing of human violation. It points to a highly mediated regime of suffering and misery, which brings together the discursive and the aesthetic such that the performativity nature of the imagery functions in a politically contrived way. In the process of occluding and depoliticizing complex narratives of any given situation, it assaults our senses in order to hide things in plain sight. The spectacle works by turning human suffering into a spectacle, framing and editing the realities of violence, and in doing so renders some lives meaningful while dismissing others as disposable. It operates through a hidden structure of politics that colonizes the imagination, denies critical engagement, and preemptively represses alternative narratives. The spectacle harvests and sells our attention, while denying us the ability for properly engaged political reflection. It engages agency as a pedagogical practice in order to destroy its capacity for self-determination, autonomy, and self-reflection. It works precisely at the level of subjectivity by manipulating our desires such that we become cultured to consume and enjoy productions of violence, becoming entertained by the ways in which it is packaged, which divorce domination and suffering from ethical considerations, historical understanding and political contextualization. The spectacle immerses us, encouraging us to experience violence as pleasure such that we become positively invested in its occurrence, while attempting to render us incapable of either challenging the actual atrocities being perpetrated by the same system or steering our collective future in a different direction.1

Even in the First World workers have become mere machinic desire in a endless circulation of goods. As Frederic Lordon, will tell us in Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire :

The capitalist adoption of the fantasy of liquidity, the quest for the perfect, instantaneous adjustment of others to one’s requisites as master-desire, combines with the endless upward trend in productivity targets to put an unprecedented strain on enlistees, in a context where the backdrop of mass unemployment and the weakening of the strictures on lay-offs render the threat to material reproduction permanent. What the capitalist master-desire in the neoliberal era seeks is nothing less than the liquefaction of labour-power, making the overall size of the workforce into something fluid, reversible, and as easily adjustable as the components of a portfolio of financial assets, with the inevitable effect of creating a world of extreme uncertainty for enlistees.2

In her work on Logistics, Deborah Cowen in The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade  will report on the Neoliberal agenda:

The threat of disruption to the circulation of stuff has become such a profound concern to governments and corporations in recent years that it has prompted the creation of an entire architecture of security that aims to govern global spaces of flow. This new framework of security— supply chain security— relies on a range of new forms of transnational regulation, border management, data collection, surveillance, and labor discipline, as well as naval missions and aerial bombing. In fact, to meaningfully capture the social life of circulation, we would have to consider not only disruption to the system but the assembly of infrastructure and architecture achieved through land grabs, military actions, and dispossessions that are often the literal and figurative grounds for new logistics spaces.3

One of the sad aspects of Leftist thought is that it has become irrelevant and obsolesced in such a world as our global liquid economies, our substantial formalisms of Marxist ideology and thought-forms deal with substantial industrial realities that no longer exist. Even those of the Italian Autonomist and Operaist movements have difficulty truly encompassing this new economic world of flows. Deleuze & Guattari stopped at the entry point of such a critique, gave us a few pointers; yet, their thought was only a opening of the gate. We will need to revisit the whole Marxian tradition and see what remains and what must be challenged in our era of accelerating reality (Virilio). Until we can do that we will be building critiques of strawmen, rather than challenging the truth of our dark technocratic civilization.

Saskia Sassen asks the appropriate question when she says, “What are the spaces of the expelled?

These are invisible to the standard measures of our modern states and economies. But they should be made conceptually visible. When dynamics of expulsion proliferate, whether in the shape of the shrunken economy of Greece, the predatory elites of Angola, or the growth of the long-term unemployed or the incarcerated in for-profit prisons in the United States, the space of the expelled expands and becomes increasingly differentiated. It is not simply a dark hole. It is present. Also the spaces of the expelled need to be conceptualized. I make a similar argument about the proliferation of stretches of dead land and dead water due to our toxic modes of development. These are also present. Thus, in a conceptual move aimed at making dead land present, I argue it should be conceived of as an informal jurisdiction. More generally, the spaces of the expelled cry out for conceptual recognition. They are many, they are growing, and they are diversifying. They are conceptually subterranean conditions that need to be brought aboveground. They are, potentially, the new spaces for making— making local economies, new histories, and new modes of membership.”4

We need a politics of exclusion: of the expelled, the dispossessed, the excluded, and the disposed and unwanted people who live in the shadows of our neo-feudalistic global empire and society of cultural and economic degradation. To bring to visibility and conceptuality the subterranean and neglected peoples of the earth, their conditions of servitude and enslavement, trafficking, and toxic habitations. Without recognizing and actively seeking an end to exclusion and expulsion how can we continue to defend our inclusion?


  1.  Giroux, Henry A.; Evans, Brad (2015-06-22). Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle (City Lights Open Media) (Kindle Locations 624-636). City Lights Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  2. Lordon, Frederic (2014-06-03). Willing Slaves Of Capital: Spinoza And Marx On Desire (pp. 46-47). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
  3. Cowen, Deborah (2014-09-01). The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade (Kindle Locations 169-175). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Sassen, Saskia (2014-05-05). Expulsions (Kindle Locations 3021-3029). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.

3 thoughts on “The Politics of Exclusion: Disappearances, Prohibitions, and Expulsions

  1. There is always a ‘Yes but what about’ question implicit in my reading of most things. Here it is what about my complicity in the performances referred to? I am nota passive vessel awaiting data input_ I am an allegedly sentient being with a supposed capacity to select; to choose.

    It is / may be nearly impossible to articulate my complicity in the re-enactments of individual sovereign transgression, but keeping that discursive site in sight and alive in the analytic lens surely has the potential to let me see more of the phenomenon than if I place it outside myself and ‘over there’ right away from my relationship to it.

    Methodologically, it seems appropriate to have an active ‘me’ involved in the lens. What do you think?
    Thomas KK

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    • I think we would consider that implicit, as in Nietzsche’s notions of active and passive nihilism: one in which a person is either a passive victim of extrinsic/intrinsic forces; or, one is an active participant in his/her elaboration and involvement in these forces. So, yes, it always comes down to certain tendencies within one’s potentials…

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