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<nettime> Violent Agreement
Kermit Snelson on Fri, 5 Oct 2001 09:02:24 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Violent Agreement


"Still, we should be wary of interpreting the violent confrontation at Genoa
as the clash of incompatible ideologies."  This observation, from today's
London Review of Books with respect to Hardt and Negri's book "Empire" [1],
deserves careful consideration.

Any member of a profession based on conflict, whether general, lawyer or
activist, has a vested interest in having an opponent.  As they teach in
economics, "If there's only one lawyer in a small town, she'll be poor.  But
if the same town has two lawyers, they'll both be rich."  A clash it truly
is, but not one of ideology.  In fact, it's rather a necessity that both
sides of the conflict be of the same fraternity.  Lawyers fight lawyers, not
plumbers.

In the sphere of statecraft, in which the tools of conflict are war and
terror, this fraternity is that of fascism.  And fascism is not a matter of
ideology; ideologies are merely fuel for the fire.  There can be, and have
been, fascisms of both the right and the left.  There is currently in
circulation even a fascism based on classical liberal humanism.  Like
"terrorism", "fascism" is a term that describes style, not substance.  Real
political theory is, and must be, a seamless garment, a constellation, that
reflects all the seemingly contradictory aspects and needs of humanity.  It
is only in aesthetic or professional attachments to any one aspect that true
danger arises: the danger of fascism.  For those who love freedom and hate
war, fascism is the only strategic adversary.  Any others, as Foucault says
in his preface to Deleuze and Guattari's "Anti-Oedipus," are merely
tactical.

Walter Benjamin wrote in "The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological
Reproducability": "The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of
aesthetics into political life ... All efforts to render politics aesthetic
culminate in one thing:  war."  Aesthetic politics relies on mythmaking.
Hobbes's "Leviathan."  Georges Sorel's "myth of the general strike."  The
"Permanent Revolution."  The "Decline of the West."  The "clash of
civilizations."  The "end of history."  And now "Empire."  It is through awe
that we are ruled.  Or to sanitize a saying of James Joyce, there are only
two kinds of true love in the world: our love for our children, and our love
of lies.

Given the nature of the "Great Game", is it any wonder that our latest enemy
has been located in Afghanistan, that strategic prize that has eluded all
empire-builders since Alexander the Great?  It is the last unconquered
summit of professional imperial statecraft.  Had the Taliban there not
existed, our own Taliban would have had to invent it.  And in fact, it did.
A lawyer cannot survive without other lawyers.  A conflict cannot exist
except against a member of the same fraternity.  So it should not surprise
us that the very people that originally financed, armed and trained militant
Islam in Afghanistan are now arguing for world war by deploying tropes
indistinguishable from those of the enemy they themselves created:  those of
theocracy, of a world moral imperium, of exterminating the decadence
inherent in America's traditionally liberal ethos.  Any more than it should
surprise us that Negri's followers are battling in the streets against a
doctrine that is nearly indistinguishable from their own, which shares both
a political muse (Spinoza) and a publisher (Harvard) with fellow political
mythmakers whom they would supposedly detest.  Have we already forgotten
Georges Sorel, the "Marxist" who begat Mussolini?

Link:

[1] http://www.lrb.co.uk/v23/n19/bull2319.htm

Kermit Snelson

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