The Androcratic Imperative: Capitalism and the Rule of Men

…a social group cannot be formed without ‘fictioning’ (that is, dreaming) its past and future unity, and given that the passage from fact to law is indeed that from existence to consistence. It is in and from this primordial artefactuality and from the resulting fact of the inherently organological (and not just organic) character of human organizations – a fatum that constitutes the tragic ground of Presocratic Greece – that, politically and in law, a justice must be affirmed in the name of the criterion of truth, and affirmed as the differentiation of law from fact that is historically formed in the apodictic experience of geometry.

—Bernard. Stiegler,  Automatic Society: The Future of Work

It is a terrible fact that atrocity is not the perversion, but the very motor of such struggles: the language of inexorable political will. A revolutionary war against a modern metropolitan state can only be fought in hell.

—Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

Ever since Michael Foucault first attacked the grand narratives of historians and cultural theorists from the 19th to 20th Century the so called Postmodern Era presumed that all past cultural work was part of a pure fictionalization of the past. But something he left out was that the simplification of his own microhistories were just as fictional and small narrative structures as those others like, let’s say, Spengler and Toynbee and their strangely organic theories couched in Nineteenth Century organic thought (Idealisms).

We all remember that sudden moment when Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest says,


Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

—The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158ℹ

This all pervasive sense that life is a dream, that we are mere semblances woven of insubstantial stuff, that reality is a façade and that underneath it is something else, some other realm supporting and engendering this dreamworld of our universe. This is the metaphysical narrative that has been central to Western Metaphysics since Plato. Nietzsche in his early The Birth of Tragedy, before he’d awaken from his stupor and renounce the strange metaphysical world of the ancients and the moderns, would voice his own version of this, saying,

Every human being is fully an artist when creating the worlds of dream, and the lovely semblance of dream is the precondition of all the arts of image-making, including, as we shall see, an important half of poetry. We take pleasure in dreaming, understanding its figures without mediation; all forms speak to us; nothing is indifferent or unnecessary. Yet even while this dream-reality is most alive, we nevertheless retain a pervasive sense that it is semblance…  Philosophical natures even have a presentiment that hidden beneath the reality in which we live and have our being there also lies a second, quite different reality; in other words, this reality too is a semblance. Indeed Schopenhauer actually states that the mark of a person’s capacity for philosophy is the gift for feeling occasionally as if people and all things were mere phantoms or dream-images.1

In a later work The Gay Science he would render his relation to this epistemic insight this way,

The consciousness of appearance. – How wonderful and new and yet how fearful and ironic my new insight makes me feel towards all of existence! I have discovered for myself that the ancient humanity and animality, indeed the whole prehistory and past of all sentient being, continues within me to fabulate, to love, to hate, and to infer – I suddenly awoke in the middle of this dream, but only to the consciousness that I am dreaming and that I must go on dreaming lest I perish – as the sleepwalker has to go on dreaming in order to avoid falling down. What is ‘appearance’ to me now! Certainly not the opposite of some essence – what could I say about any essence except name the predicates of its appearance! Certainly not a dead mask that one could put on an unknown x and probably also take off x! To me, appearance is the active and living itself, which goes so far in its self-mockery that it makes me feel that here there is appearance and a will-o’-the-wisp and a dance of spirits and nothing else – that among all these dreamers, even I, the ‘knower’, am dancing my dance; that the one who comes to know is a means of prolonging the earthly dance and thus is one of the masters of ceremony of existence, and that the sublime consistency and interrelatedness of all knowledge may be and will be the highest means to sustain the universality of dreaming, the mutual comprehension of all dreamers, and thereby also the duration of the dream.2

This notion that knowledge and our intellectual or epistemic relation to it are part of a process of collective dreaming and fictionalization of which culture, civilization, and our daily life are intertwined and sustained through time (duration) is central to this and the age old metaphysical truth of the philosophers. The postmoderns would undermine the fabulations of the philosophers, storytellers, historians, and all the grand narratives that have sustained and shaped Western Culture and Civilization. For Nietzsche awakening from the madness of this dreamworld began a process of cultural hermeneutics or interpretation that would begin to undermine the very fabric of those worlds that had sustained Western Civilization during the – shall we call it – Religious and Philosophical Age. For Western Civilization (which of course is itself a label, category, myth, figuration, trope, etc., there being no actual monolithic thing behind the mask of this metaphor) has been steeped in local and universal images and dreamworlds that have molded its singular and collective customs, habits, drives (Triebe), etc. for millennia. Later thinkers would try to find a pattern within the maze of historical reflection on this past, try to encompass it and turn a critical gaze upon every facet of its dream images: art, music, philosophy, politics, economics, culture, religions, etc.

In our own moment of contemporary letters we’ve seen this same grand narrative tradition arise in such popular works as the humanist Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow which couch the past and possible trajectories of the future in a layman’s guide to the Anthropocene or Era of Humans, etc.. One could list a dozen works that weave the past into narratives of one sort or another all providing a specific viewpoint, moral, message, etc.. Humans seem to feel comforted if they can wrap their minds around the past, make it human, humanize it and reduce it to a secure, known, and manageable construction kit of theory and practice that we can learn from and help us on our way into some unknown future. The age old need for stories and storytelling, shamans, witches, and travelers into the unknown dreamworlds of the unknown is well documented. This process of taking up facts and making of them certain givens, of producing regulated laws and concepts that can reduce the welter of complexity to something human and manageable is a core feature of how humans create, maintain, and shape their cultures and civilizations: how they secure and guard the perimeters of their world-views and exclude what is foreign and unknown from the light of their knowledge. Immanuel Kant would go so far as to exclude the unknown and unthinkable (noumenal) realms beyond human thought from philosophy so that under his heritage we’ve been regulated and reduced to the known worlds of phenomenal reality.  Humans would be boxed in and bound by a well-tuned matrix of ideas and concepts that would enclose them in a governable and manageable modern bourgeois state where Law would regulate every aspect of their lives in minutiae.

The Origins of Algorithmic Society: Androcratic Domination and the Global World Order of Males

 Despite inadequacies in Marx’s grasp of the nation state in its colonial and neo-colonial functioning, his account of ‘so-called primitive accumulation’ clearly demonstrates that the origin of wage labour relations is not itself economic, but lies in an overt war against the people, or their forced removal from previous conditions of subsistence.3

We’ve all studied it, that is – the emergence of capitalism and the modern nation states out of Feudalistic Society and Civilization. One need not be an expert or informed by the magisterial grand sweep of Fernand Braudel’s Civilization & Capitalism, 15th-18th Century to know that we’ve all been enclosed in a global network of economics that shapes our daily lives for better or worse. Yet, the notion that “Capital has always sought to distance itself in reality – i.e. geographically – from this brutal political infrastructure.” (FN) Or that “the ideal of bourgeois politics is the absence of politics, since capital is nothing other than the consistent displacement of social decision-making into the marketplace.” (FN) We now live in a global marketplace run by Oligarchs for profit in which all resistance against the exigencies of this vast system of techno-commerce is futile. Even in its fragility it has no competitors, no Outside force to resist it and shape us to another vision. As Land remarks,

But this ideal of total de-politicization, or the absolute annihilation of resistance to market relations, is an impossible megalomaniac fantasy, and Marx’s contention that labour trading at its natural price in an undistorted market (equal to the cost of its reproduction) will tend strongly to express an equally ‘natural’ political refusal of the market, continues to haunt the global bourgeoisie.(FN, KL 803)

This antagonistic relation between politics and economics, market and state has been with us for two hundred years at least. Yet, at the core of this relation is a non-relation, one that will expose democracy as a lie invented by the Oligarchs to maintain the façade of a genial world for the masses, and another separate world for the rich and powerful to enclose the commons and accumulate vast resources and wealth from the excluded Third World. As Land argues it is in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant that Western cultural history culminates in a self-reflecting bourgeois civilization, because his thought of synthesis (or relation to alterity – the Other, the Excluded), and also the strangulation of this thought within his system, captures modernity as a problem. But the modernity thus symptomized by its philosophical exposition is not primarily the penultimate phase of a dialectic of society and production, it is rather the necessity that historically itself – expansionary social and economic development, or ‘synthesis’ – compromises with a profound continuity whose basic aspects are on the one hand patrilineal descent, and on the other a formal logic of identity that was already concluded in its essentials by Aristotle.

This notion that Marxian dialectical thought couched as it is in a reversal of Idealism does not apprehend the continuities of an androcratic dominator social relation as well as the conceptual logic of Identity-of-the-Same that has stabilized and structured these very relations for millennia. Early Land influenced by ultra-feminist thought would align his critique of Apartheid South African as a singular microcosm of our Western Civilization of Capital.  In fact this whole androcratic regime of male rule or in feminist parlance, Patriarchy has dominated life on earth since the rise of the major monotheistic religions (and before). As Land surmises this “tradition is thus rooted in a communication between culture and population, whose medium is the stability (‘identity’) of the male line.” (FN) Going on to say,

Modernity is not merely a compromise between novel forms of commercially driven social organization and this archaic cultural pattern of patrilineal exogamy, but more fundamentally, a deepening of the compromise already integral to any exogamy that is able to remain patrilineal. It is only by understanding the inhibitive function of patriarchies in relation to exogamic dissipation (an inhibition that is supremely logical in that it conserves identity, and which is for this reason violently xenophobic) that we can make sense of capital production and its tendency towards the peculiar cultural mutation that was baptised by Mussolini as ‘fascism’. (FN, KL 829)

Fascist male rule under a centralized hierarchy of corporatism is at the core of modern capitalism. Riane Eisler in her watershed book, The Chalice and the Blade would term it the dominator model which is popularly termed either patriarchy or matriarchy— the ranking of one half of humanity over the other. The second model, in which social relations are primarily based on the principle of linking rather than ranking, may best be described as the partnership model. In this model— beginning with the most fundamental difference in our species, between male and female— diversity is not equated with either inferiority or superiority.4

In our own moment there is a struggle that has yet to rise to the political level because politics has been stripped of its public forums in any meaningful way. This notion of two worlds, the one based of fascist corporatism and the other on the network effect of linking rather than ranking (or hierarchical domination from above, etc.) is being waged. That the factions of both the Left and Right seem deluded in their models of reality is apparent in the multifarious thousands of essays, articles, books, speeches, conferences, and its meted out and milk-down versions spouted by talking heads of media blip culture everywhere. That no one human has put their stamp on our era, not a Badiou, Zizkek, or any other philosophical, scientific, or scholar with a conceptual framework worthy of theorizing our world is apparent. We are in a stasis, a sink hole of cultural malaise, a milieu of self-defeat in which the very pundits we look too for answers offer us only more questions. We’ve had questions galore, what we need is a few answers and a path forward out of this cycle of androcratic rule in State and Corporation. Global Capitalism is a machinic system bound by mindless algorithmic and datacentric code, scripts, rules, regulatory systems all bent toward one goal: profit. There is no other goal to capitalism than this death driven speed world of endless capital accumulation at the expense of the humans who serve it.

If an alien visitor were to come and observe our society she would assume we were all mad serving such a God as Mammon. That profit and wealth accumulation as goals for a global civilization was not only suicidal but psych and socio -pathic. We are a global civilization in love with war and death, rather than peace and life. The competitive spirit and drive toward excellence from the Trump Towers to the Olympic Stadium rules our minds like an iron fist. We drive ourselves to succeed and overcome, to become the best, to produce and serve our wealth driven utopian goals like mindless fools who know no tomorrow. From the age of Homer till now War has been idealized. This notion that life is automatically associated with masculine warriors and the rule of males in State, Religion, and Economics intertwined in a non-ending competitive society of violence and dominance where men rule over women exists everywhere in our global world.

For example, from a conventional perspective, Hitler’s Germany, Khomeini’s Iran, the Japan of the Samurai, and the Aztecs of Meso-America are radically different societies of different races, ethnic origins, technological development, and geographic location. But each of these social configurations has one defining characteristic: that of a rigidly male-dominated society where hierarchic and authoritarian male priests, politicians, or social leaders order a social structure based on a high degree of social violence, and social warfare systems that enslave the excluded and poor in a world of self-defeat. (CB)

And, yet, as Land will remark against a too subtle an alignment with feminist fantasies, the “disaster of world history is that capitalism was never the progressive unwinding of patrilineage through a series of generalized exploitative relations associated with a trans-cultural exogamy, leading to an uncontrollable eruption of feminine (i.e. migrant) alterity into the father’s heartland, and thus to the emergence of a radical – or ethnically disruptive and post-patriarchal – synthesis. Instead, kinship and trade were systematically isolated from each other, so that the internationalization of the economy was coupled with an entrenchment of xenophobic (nationalistic) kinship practices, maintaining a concentration of political and economic power within an isolated and geographically sedentary ethnic stock. Thus, when we discuss capital in its historical concreteness, we are simultaneously discussing a frustration of the cultural tendency of human societies towards expansive exogamy. Capital is the point at which a culture refuses the possibility – which it has itself engendered – of pushing the prohibition of incest towards its limit. (FN)

This notion that capital divides kinship from trade while culture and society have tended to bring these together has brought certain frictions and underlying problems that have for the most part never been well diagnosed nor even thought (at least in this authors view – even in the vast psychoanalytical literature, etc.). That incest is the blocking agent in modern civilization of capitalism may seem to the common reader as far fetched. But what is this beast: incest. And, I’m not just speaking of genetics prohibitions against blood relations and hygiene of a group, etc. I mean the political and socio-cultural role of it in our modern political economies (so called)?

(below on Claude Lévi-Strauss from Wikipedia)

Claude Lévi-Strauss would argue in his oeuvre that the incest taboo is in effect a prohibition against endogamy, and the effect is to encourage exogamy. Through exogamy, otherwise unrelated households or lineages will form relationships through marriage, thus strengthening social solidarity. That is, Lévi-Strauss views marriage as an exchange of women between two social groups. This theory is based in part on Marcel Mauss‘s theory of The Gift, which (in Lévi-Strauss’ words) argued:

that exchange in primitive societies consists not so much in economic transactions as in reciprocal gifts, that these reciprocal gifts have a far more important function than in our own, and that this primitive form of exchange is not merely nor essentially of an economic nature but is what he aptly calls “a total social fact”, that is, an event which has a significance that is at once social and religious, magic and economic, utilitarian and sentimental, jural and moral.5

It is also based on Lévi-Strauss’s analysis of data on different kinship systems and marriage practices documented by anthropologists and historians. Lévi-Strauss called attention specifically to data collected by Margaret Mead during her research among the Arapesh. When she asked if a man ever sleeps with his sister, Arapesh replied: “No we don’t sleep with our sisters. We give our sisters to other men, and other men give us their sisters.” Mead pressed the question repeatedly, asking what would happen if a brother and sister did have sex with one another. Lévi-Strauss quotes the Arapesh response:

What, you would like to marry your sister? What is the matter with you anyway? Don’t you want a brother-in-law? Don’t you realize that if you marry another man’s sister and another man marries your sister, you will have at least two brothers-in-law, while if you marry your own sister you will have none? With whom will you hunt, with whom will you garden, who will you visit?

By applying Mauss’s theory to data such as Mead’s, Lévi-Strauss proposed what he called alliance theory. He argued that, in “primitive” societies, marriage is not fundamentally a relationship between a man and a woman, but a transaction involving a woman that forges a relationship—an alliance—between two men. His Elementary Structures of Kinship takes this as a starting point and uses it to analyze kinship systems of increasing complexity found in so-called primitive societies (that is, those not based on agriculture, class inequalities, and centralized government).

This theory was debated intensely by anthropologists in the 1950s. It appealed to many because it used the study of incest taboos and marriage to answer more fundamental research interests of anthropologists at the time: how can an anthropologist map out the social relationships within a given community, and how do these relationships promote or endanger social solidarity? Nevertheless, anthropologists never reached a consensus, and with the Vietnam War and the process of decolonization in Africa, Asia, and Oceania, anthropological interests shifted away from mapping local social relationships.

While Lévi-Strauss generally discounted the relevance of alliance theory in Africa, a particularly strong concern for incest is a fundamental issue among the age systems of East Africa. Here, the avoidance between men of an age-set and their daughters is altogether more intense than in any other sexual avoidance. Paraphrasing Lévi-Strauss’s argument, without this avoidance, the rivalries for power between age-sets, coupled with the close bonds of sharing between age-mates, could lead to a sharing of daughters as spouses. Young men entering the age system would then find a dire shortage of marriageable girls, and extended families would be in danger of dying out. Thus, by parading this avoidance of their daughters, senior men make these girls available for younger age-sets and their marriages form alliances that mitigate the rivalries for power.

What we see in this is a generational prohibition that is central to the continuity of male rule, which through the prohibition of incest guarantees the continued generation of the male population through marriage and these systems of male social solidarity and cohesion. In one of his petulant yet concise passages Land hits home, saying,

Where the European ancien régime was parochial and insular, modernity is appropriate. It lives in a profound but uneasy relation to an outside that both attracts and repels it, a relation that it precariously resolves within itself on the basis of exploitation, or interaction from a position of unilateral mastery. I think it is likely that the volatile mixture of hatred and desire that typifies an exploitative culture bears comparison with the psychology of rape.

One of the oldest tales on record is that of the powerful Sumerian god Enlil in Middle Eastern mythology is associated with the rape of the Goddess Ninlil. Such tales served a very important social purpose. They both symbolized and justified the imposition of male dominance.

Even in the Bible one discovers such a male oriented tribal mindset of rape and rapine. In the Book of Judges, chapter 19, the priests who wrote the Bible tell us of a father who offers his virgin daughter to a drunken mob. He has a male guest in his house, a man from the high-caste tribe of Levites. A bunch of rowdies from the tribe of Benjamin demand to see him outside, apparently with the intention of beating him up.

“Behold,” the father says to them, “here is my daughter, a maiden, and his [the guest’s] concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you, but unto this man do not so vile a thing.”

We are told this casually, as a matter of littie importance. Then, as the story unfolds, we are further told how “the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them, and they knew her, and abused her all night until the morning”; how she crawled back to the threshold of the house where “her lord” was sleeping; how when he woke up “and opened the door of the house, and went out to go his way” he stumbled on her and commanded, “Up, and let us be going” and how finally, finding that she was dead, he loaded her body on his ass, and went home.

Nowhere in the telling of this brutal story of the betrayal of a daughter’s and a mistress’s trust and the gang rape and killing of a helpless woman is there even a hint of compassion, much less moral indignation or outrage. But more significant— and mind-boggling— is that the father’s offer to sacrifice what in that day was his own daughter’s most precious attribute, her virginity, and possibly also, her life violated no law. Even more mind-boggling is that the actions that predictably led to the gang rape, torture, and ultimately murder of a woman who was essentially the Levite’s wife likewise violated no law— and this in a book full of seemingly endless prescriptions and proscriptions about what is morally and legally right and wrong.

As Riane Eisler will comment:  “so stunted is the morality of this sacred text ostensibly setting forth divine law that here we may read that one half of humanity could legally be handed over by their own fathers and husbands to be raped, beaten, tortured, or killed without any fear of punishment— or even moral disapproval”. (CB)

One could pull passages from all three of the world’s monotheistic religions, as well as from many other cultures and civilizations. I’ll not continue berating and cataloguing such a world of male rule and rapine.

Modernity and Kant’s Legacy

Kant would bring together two tendencies which had up to his time divided philosophical speculation: empiricism and rationalism. As Land will summarize:

He took the basic argument of the empiricists to be that knowledge is synthetic and a posteriori, meaning that it takes the form of an addition to what is inherent to reason, and thus follows from experience (or an encounter with what is outside ourselves). In contrast to this, he saw the rationalists to be arguing that knowledge is characteristically analytic and a priori, meaning that it is derived from what is already inherent to reason, and thus anticipates experience by constructing systems of logical deduction from basic axioms.(FN)

Kant’s answer to the dilemmas of both empiricism and rationalism was to bring about what he’d term a Copernican Revolution in Knowledge. As Land suggests Kant would instigate a shift from the question ‘what must the mind be like in order to know?’ to the question ‘what must objects be like in order to be known?’ The answers to this latter question would provide a body of synthetic a priori knowledge, telling us about experience without being derived from experience. It would justify the emergence of knowledge that was both new and timelessly certain, grounding the enlightenment culture of a civilization confronting an ambiguous dependence upon novelty. (FN)

Binding a Progressive world of continuous improvement to a timeless world of certainty and security of thought and knowledge. In fact Kant’s ‘transcendental synthesis’ would ground all thinking on appearance and exclude that which remains outside the phenomenal – the alterity. As Land comments: “Kant’s ‘object’ is thus the universal form of the relation to alterity; that which must of necessity be the same in the other in order for it to appear to us. This universal form is that which is necessary for anything to be ‘on offer’ for experience, it is the ‘exchange value’ that first allows a thing to be marketed to the enlightenment mind.” (FN)

The whole thrust of contemporary speculative realist notions of Kant’s “correlational circle” of the for us is bound with this concept of the Same and Identical in which anything Outside the periphery of appearance is rejected tout court. So that we live in a known world, a world tidied up for us where everything has its place in the order of reason under the auspices of the House of Enlightened Minds. I spoof, but this is partially true of the past two hundred years of thought. “Between medieval scholasticism and Kant Western reason moves from a parochial economy to a system in which, abandoning the project of repressing the traffic with alterity, one resolves instead to control the system of trade. With the overthrow of the ancien regime it became impossible to simply exclude novelty; it could only be appropriated, stamped with a constant form, and integrated into an immutable formal system.” (FN)

What you see is the hyperintensive system of appropriation and paranoia that would tend the borders of the noumenal and automate the continuous influx of anomalies and curtail their impact through a system of border police (philosophers, scientists, sociologists, etc.). Allowing what was normalized and acceptable for the customs, habits, and policing of the minds and bodies of the masses to be stamped by the authorities before distribution into the marketplace.  The mechanics of the incest and rape scenario is analyzed by Land through an ‘economy of knowledge’:

The primordial anthropological bond between marriage and trade is dissolved, in order that capital can ethnically and geographically quarantine its consequences from itself. The question of racism, which arises under patriarchal capital as the default of a global trade in women (a parochialism in the system of misogynistic violence; the non-emergence of a trans-cultural exogamy), is thus more complex than it might seem, and is bound in profound but often paradoxical ways to the functioning of patriarchy and capital. Systematic racism is a sign that class positions within the general (trans-national) economy are being distributed on a racial basis, which implies an effective, if not a juridical, apartheid.(FN)

That capital has a blind spot, that it has hidden form itself the very outside – the alterity in what we might term as ‘zones of exclusion’ is central to this system of knowledge. Which as in the above statement aligns androcratic power and knowledge to a system of exclusion based on incest and rape, ethno-racial and female domination. This exclusion of certain peoples, races, and genders in a world wide apartheid in a prion system without borders (i.e., one that allows the local policing and borders of nations, rather than the global economic system divorced from politics and nations). The contradictions at the heart of Kant are as well at the heart of our modern political economy world wide.

For Kant the break with the ancient regiemes of religious and feudal elitism in which Judaic, Christian, and Islamic moral codes served as legitimations of imperial projects in their periods of ascendency, are under Kantian morality, inversely, legitimated by the position of imperial or universal jurisdiction. This new codification of Law under Imperial notions of morality and Kant’s ‘categorical imperative’, “which means a law stemming solely from the purity of the concept, and thus dictated by the absolute monologue of colonial reason” (FN). Land will comment as follows:

 In the purity of categorical morality the incestuous blood-line of the pharaohs is still detectable, but sublimated into an impersonal administration. The law is that which cannot be legitimately discussed, and which is therefore an unresponsive or unilateral imposition. It is not difficult to see that the second critique distills the xenophobic violence of the first and elevates it to the most extreme possible fanaticism. Where theoretical knowledge is open to a limited negotiation with alterity, practical or moral certainty is forbidden from entering into relation with anything outside itself, except to issue commands. Kant’s practical subject already prefigures a deaf führer, barking impossible orders that seem to come from another world.(FN)

For Land Kant’s final critique The Critique of Judgment provides an almost Machiavellian notebook for the Capitalist Warlords of our Global Corporate Fascism:

Kant’s advice to the imperial war-machine in his third critique can be summarized as: ‘treat all resistance as if it were less than you might justifiably fear’. The Critique of Judgment thus projects the global victory of capitalized reason as pure and exuberant ambition.

For Land the ultimate goal of our Automatic Society (Stiegler, no Land) is the genocide of the major peoples of the earth in a slow movement of exclusion through war, enslavement, and resource depletion. The capitalist Oligarchy seek to develop assemblages of Global Cities for their deemed elites while at the same time excluding all others beyond the periphery as if they were Kant’s noumenal things no longer to be appropriated or thought within the borders of the purity of the fascist city states. As Land states it,

The only possible politics of purity is fascism, or a militant activism rooted in the inhibitory and exclusive dimensions of a metropolitanism. Racism, as a regulated, automatic, and indefinitely suspended process of genocide (as opposed to the hysterical and unsustainable genocide of the Nazis) is the real condition of persistence for a global economic system that is dependent upon an aggregate price of labour approximating to the cost of its bare subsistence, and therefore upon an expanding pool of labour power which must be constantly ‘stimulated’ into this market by an annihilating poverty. (FN)

This is Riane Eisler’s Androcratic regime of male rule and exclusion. In fact as if siding with all the ultra-feminists of that era Land will give us his most stringent critique:

A radical international socialism would not be a socialist ideology generalized beyond its culture of origin, but a programme of collectivity or unrestrained synthesis that springs from the theoretical and libidinal dissolution of national totality. To get to a world without nations would in itself guarantee the achievement of all immediately post-capitalist social and economic goals. It is this revolutionary requirement for a spontaneously homeless subversion that gives an urgency to certain possibilities of feminist politics, since the erasure of matrilineal genealogy within the patriarchal machine means that fascisizing valorizations of ancestry have no final purchase on the feminine ‘subject’. The patronymic has irrecoverably divested all the women who fall under it of any recourse to an ethno-geographical identity; only the twin powers of father and husband suppress the nomadism of the anonymous female fluxes that patriarchy oppressively manipulates, violates, and psychiatrizes. By allowing women some access to wealth and social prestige the liberalization of patriarchy has sought to defuse the explosive force of this anonymity, just as capital has tended to reduce the voluptuous excess of exogamic conjugation to the stability of nationally segmented trading circuits.(FN)

In other words all so called modern democracies mask the dimension of both the political and economic rule of men and the patriarchal or androcratic regimes of power and knowledge. For Land only a new shift and transformation of feminist thought, a complete break with the conceptual frameworks of the West, the ultimate and decisive invention of an alterity, a force of invention and creativity that both destroys and brings with it a revolution in Knowledge and Epistemic relations, and wells from the ontic and ontological heart of the world will suffice in the overthrow of these fascists systems of male dominance.

In his disgruntlement and disgust of the liberal progressive West and its academy of compromise Land would offer a solution,

The left tends to be evasive about the numbing violence intrinsic to revolutionary war, and feminism is often particularly fastidious in this respect, even reverting to absurd mystical and Ghandian ideologies. If feminist struggles have been constantly deprioritized in theory and practice it is surely because of their idealistic recoil from the currency of violence, which is to say, from the only definitive ‘matter’ of politics. The state apparatus of an advanced industrial society can certainly not be defeated without a willingness to escalate the cycle of violence without limit. It is a terrible fact that atrocity is not the perversion, but the very motor of such struggles: the language of inexorable political will. A revolutionary war against a modern metropolitan state can only be fought in hell. It is this harsh truth that has deflected Western politics into an increasingly servile reformism, whilst transforming nationalist struggles into the sole arena of vigorous contention against particular configurations of capital.(FN)

  1. Nietzsche, Fredrich. The Birth of Tragedy. (Cambridge University Press 1999)
  2. Nietzsche, Fredrich. The Gay Science. (Cambridge University Press 1999)
  3. Land, Nick. Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987 – 2007 (Kindle Locations 803-807). Urbanomic/Sequence Press. Kindle Edition.
  4. Eisler, Riane. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future—Updated With a New Epilogue (Kindle Locations 141-144). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
  5. Claude Lévi-Strauss, 1969 The Elementary Structures of Kinship revised edition, translated from the French by James Harle Bell and John Richard von Sturmer. Boston: Beacon Press. 52

The Digital Leviathan: Global Power and the Telecommunications Empire

Nature (the art whereby God hath made and governes the world) is by the art of man, as in many other things, so in this also imitated, that it can make an Artificial Animal. For seeing life is but a motion of Limbs, the begining whereof is in some principall part within; why may we not say, that all Automata (Engines that move themselves by springs and wheeles as doth a watch) have an artificiall life?

—Thomas Hobbes,  Leviathan

In the human sciences, culture and language have also been progressively engulfed by the universe of technics: the artificial realm of institutions, rituals, knowledges, symbol systems and practices that makes humans functional, speaking, meaning-making creatures; that is, what makes humans human. The essence of the human, it seems, is the technical; which is paradoxically the other of the human: the non-human, the manufactured, unnatural, artificial; the inhuman even.

—Bernard Stiegler, Technics and Time:

Every aspect of our lives is live Online 24/7 whether we ever connect to these vast global networks or not. We are all prisoners of an invisible network of systems that guide, modulate, and shape our lives in ways we have barely begun to question much less understand. For the most part we believe we are flesh-and-blood animals with (some say) a soul that can rise above such worldly concerns. Others that we are native and indigenous creatures of the universe, that there is no escape, no exterior realm beyond to which we can exit this universal prison. For better or worse we are a muddle to ourselves and in the eyes of the Universe unthought and unknown. We are a puzzle. And, yet, we’ve allowed ourselves much like the ancient Egyptians who built a civilization around the Great Pharaohs to work wonders in stone out of the wastelands of this desert planet. We dream of trips to Mars, we dream of Intelligent Cities, of thinking machines (AI’s) that will alleviate the data glut and excess of information that is now so large that no singular human or even assemblage of humans could encompass. We are perplexed by war, famine, disease, corrupt politicians and dark secret surveillance of our lives from the very people we have put in charge to govern us. Democracy? Does is exist now? Did it ever? Was it a mere mask for something much more malign and nefarious? Are we even now bound to social, political, and economic forces that are in excess of our laws to challenge and secure? Haven’t we begun to see the threads of the modern dream of a Universal Enlightenment going up in smoke as the world at large says they do not need Western Civilization or the – shall we say it, the White Man’s Dreams of Utopia?

Bernard Stigler in his new book Automatic Society: The Future of Work been developing a theory of our Big Data Economy and how it is based within the cultural milieu of a computational society. At the heart of his diagnosis is that secular society through its networking effects of speed and high-performance computing bound all of human life in a world of ‘crowd sourcing’ algorithmic governmentality. One in which “the digital stage of grammatization is leading psychic individuals throughout the world to grammatize their own behaviour by interacting with computer systems operating in real time.”1 As he suggests these systems produce an automatic performativity that channels, diverts and short-circuits individual and collective protentions by outstripping and overtaking the noetic capacities of individuals precisely insofar as they are protentional capacities – that is, oneiric capacities – and at the same time by short-circuiting the collective production of circuits of transindividuation. He goes on to say that

Every form of noesis is thereby overtaken through this incitement of protentions operating by remote control. These protentions are continuously being redefined and are always already being erased by new protentions that are even more dis-integrated, that is, dividual. This is an obstacle to dreaming, wanting, reflecting and deciding, that is, the collective realization of dreams, and it forms the basis of algorithmic governmentality inasmuch as it is the power of fully computational 24/7 capitalism.

The individual has been separated from his data-self or dividual and computationally incorporated as data in a world wide economy in which his actual flesh-and-blood life is but a shadow of the lightstream worlds of his digital life online. As Stiegler remarks, if ‘our statistical double is too detached from us’, it is because the data industry, as the automatized production and exploitation of traces, dispossesses us of the possibility of interpreting our retentions and protentions – both psychic and collective.” (AS, 5453) To move from this hard fact to Law is part of Stiglers negethropic effect to overcome the inertia and entropic decay of this data world. As he says,

 To change this state of fact and open up the possibility of a new state of law, we must invent an organology based on the potentials contained in the digital technical system. And we must do so even though currently this system does indeed give every appearance of being a gigantic technical individual, a digital Leviathan exerting its power over the entire earth through its ability to continually outstrip and overtake, and to do so on behalf of a decadent, uncultivated and self-destructive oligarchy – an oligarchy that is absolutely venal, that is, perfectly nihilistic. This contemporary Leviathan is global, and it is the result of the reticular and interactive traceability of 24/7 capitalism, which has now become a part of common awareness. (AS, KL 5438)

Stiegler influenced by Edmund Husserl’s notions of retention and protention will develop a complete theoretical organological approach based on this. These terms are defined as follows:

Retention is the process whereby a phase of a perceptual act is retained in our consciousness. It is a presentation of that which is no longer before us and is distinct from immediate experience. A simple example might be that of watching a ball being thrown. We retain where the ball was in our minds to understand the momentum of the ball as we perceive it in the immediate present. Retention is not a representation or memory but a presentation of a temporally extended present. That is, a present that extends beyond the few short milliseconds that are registered in a moment of sense perception.

Protention is our anticipation of the next moment. The moment that has yet to be perceived. Again, using the example of a ball, our focus shifts along the expected path the ball will take.

For Stiegler it is not that this traceability operates ‘behind the back of consciousness’, as Hegel said about the phenomenology of spirit (of its epiphany as exteriorization), but rather that it operates by outstripping and overtaking the protentions that produce this consciousness, that is, by proposing and substituting prefabricated protentions (artificial decisions, thoughts, replacements) – even if they are also ‘individualized’ or ‘personalized’.

All this represents a radical and unprecedented rupture with Husserl’s description of the temporal activity of any noetic consciousness. The latter is constituted by primary retentions that consciousness selects (without being conscious of doing so) at the time the experience occurs, selections made on the basis of the secondary retentions this consciousness contains – and that thereby constitute the criteria for these selections. The primary retentions resulting from this selection encode individually lived experience, and are formed through the accumulation of past experience – becoming in their turn secondary retentions. See also: Transindividuation.  As Stiegler explicates,

The play between primary and secondary retentions generates protentions that are themselves primary and secondary (though Husserl did not himself employ this distinction). Primary protentions are tied to the object of lived experience, so that, through habit, reasoning, physiological automatisms, or through the knowledge that the perceiving subject accumulates about the object of perception, such ‘primarily retained’ traits result in ‘primarily protended’ traits, that is, expected and anticipated traits – whether consciously or otherwise. These primary and secondary retentions and protentions are composed of mnesic traces, which, like the ‘neurones’ in Freud’s ‘Project for a Scientific Psychology’, are ‘charged’ with and ‘tend’ towards protentions, through circuits and facilitations formed between these mnesic traces that Freud called ‘contact-barriers’, as potentials for action and as expectations that constitute the lived experience of these potentials. This play of retentional and protentional mnesic traces is conditioned and overdetermined by the play of those hypomnesic traces that tertiary retentions form. In the case of digital and reticulated tertiary retention, that is, arrangements of psychic retentions and protentions via automatisms operating at near-light speed, the retentional selections through which experience occurs as the production of primary retentions and protentions are outstripped and overtaken by prefabricated tertiary retentions and protentions that are ‘made to measure’ through user profiling and auto-completion technologies, and through all the possibilities afforded by real-time processing and associated network effects – and augmented by this performativity.

To explain this Stiegler offers this (and I quote in full):

It should be noted here that, if the average speed of a nervous impulse circulating between the brain and the hand is around metres per second, reticulated digital tertiary retentions can circulate at 200 million metres per second on fibre-optic networks – four million times faster. Such considerations call for an organology and a pharmacology of speed and will. It is indeed will in all its most elementary forms that is emptied of all content, outstripped and overtaken by traceability. When noetic individuals live the time of an experience in which they select traits as primary retentions on the basis of secondary retentions, they at the same time and in return interpret these secondary retentions insofar as they form ensembles. These ensembles are charged with protentions derived from previous experiences. Some of these protentions are transindividuated and transformed into a common rule, that is, into habits and conventions of all kinds, metastabilized between the psychic individuals and the collective individuals associated with these experiences (a con-vention being what con-venes a plurality of individuals: it is what gathers their coming together).

Others, however, continue to await transindividuation, that is, expressions and inscriptions that continue the development of already-existing circuits of transindividuation. For a psychic individual to interpret, during a present experience, the ensembles of secondary retentions that constitute his or her past experience is to make actual the protentions that these ensembles contain as potential. By short-circuiting the protentional projections of psychic and collective noetic individuals, by phagocytically absorbing the milieus associated with them, and by sterilizing the circuits of transindividuation woven between them through their individual and collective experiences, algorithmic governmentality annihilates those traumatypical potentials in which consist protentions that bear the possibility of neganthropological upheavals. When noetic experience is fulfilled in actuality and ‘fully’ (in the plenitude of actuality that constitutes what Aristotle called entelechy), it constitutes a support for the expression of traumatypes that participate in the inscription of noetic singularity into circuits of transindividuation. It is these circuits through which knowledge is woven as the accumulation of previous experiences insofar as they are original and yet recognized and identified, thereby forming factors conducive of neganthropic bifurcations.

If it is a question of re-establishing a genuine process of transindividuation with reticulated digital tertiary retentions, and of establishing a digital age of psychic and collective individuation, then the challenge is to generate tertiary retentions with all the polysemic and plurivocal thickness of which the hypomnesic trace is capable, reflecting the hermeneutic play of the improbable and of singularity that pertains to the protentions woven between psychic and collective retentions. To do this, systems must be built and implemented that are dedicated to the individual and collective interpretation of traces – including by using automated systems that enable analytical transformations to be optimized, and by supplying new materials for synthetic activity. (ibid., KL 5437-5454)

Reading the above one gets a sense that the diagnosis has become a new technical disease. Stiegler in his elaboration of a cure for our current social malaise seems almost to joint the technical world and its datacentric and computational complexity with all these abstruse and bewildering array of terms and processes that seem more oriented toward the development not of humans but of some artificial race of hyperminds capable of performing these counter-measures for the great mass of humans. What bothers me is that it sounds more like such a cure will need a strike force of super-intellects and advanced elite thinkers (in Stiegler’s mind) to perform such a feat. And, even, shall we admit that for such a thing to transpire it looks more like Stiegler is hinting at the use of the very AI’s themselves as part of this massive program since it would be almost impossible for even our best minds to enact such a world wide system of transindividuation. Is Stiegler partially mad? Has he entertained such an elaborate system of thought that it has become an obsession in which he alone seems to have the key? Does he read in all these earlier thinkers a new Synthesis for the human? As he says in that last statement: “To do this, systems must be built and implemented that are dedicated to the individual and collective interpretation of traces – including by using automated systems that enable analytical transformations to be optimized, and by supplying new materials for synthetic activity.” (ibid., KL 5437-5454) Does this not itself sound like the great AI based datacentric systems being used by the techno-commercial sectors like Google, but revised by an elite strike force of counter-insurgents to reroute and analyze the traces of Big Data for a counterrevolutionary prognosis? It’s as if he has in some ways gone over to the dark side, joined forces with the very artificial systems he critiques, knowing that we need their fast, speed based, and performativity to counter the Oligarchic systems used by the techno-commercial sector to accumulate profit and enslave humans in a profit machine.

Yet, as he says, there is a supple difference between the two systems:

A supplementary invention, necessary in order to complete the system that produces reticulated digital tertiary retentions, must enable transindividual, rather than transdividuated, reticulation. That is, it must enable noetic and not just algorithmic reticulation, synthetically formative and not analytically deforming: synthetic in the Kantian sense, as the life of reason, and not just analytical, as automated understanding.(AS, KL 5573)

It’s this difference between noetic (of or related to intellect) and algorithmic reticulations that is the key: the difference between automated code and its synthetic systems, as compared to the life of Reason or Intellect in a human leading to synthetic understanding and wisdom.

More tomorrow….

  1. Stiegler, Bernard. Automatic Society: The Future of Work (Kindle Locations 5437-5454). Wiley. Kindle Edition.