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Re: <nettime> joxe's empire of disorder (etc)
McKenzie Wark on Tue, 3 Dec 2002 20:38:48 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> joxe's empire of disorder (etc)

Douglass describes the state as a 'strange attractor', and I think that's
an apt image for it, if you think about it as a center. Or, you can think
of it from the edges, as an envelope, a semi-permeable membrane that
maintains some consistency in its internal space -- at the price of
exporting turbulence to the space outside it.

Keith, as i read him, sees the state as a holdover from an agrarian phase
of development. He argues that the bourgeois-liberal revolution puts the
brakes on and failed to become a full, liberal democratic revolution when
the working class gained a significant voice in the movement. It turned
instead to the agrarian power and formed an historic compromise.

As Keith points out, this movement is far from over, and the struggle
between what i would call the pastoralist and capitalist interests is
still the dominant class struggle in the world. It is what is going on in
India, China, much of South America. We get little fragments of this in
the west in the form of news about Gujurat dam or the Zapatistas, or the
Brazilian landless movement.

I disagree with Keith on the question of the state. I think there are
tactical choices to be made, to be both for and against the state
depending on what is at stake. The worker's movement won its partial
socialization of the commodity economy within the space of the state.
Those gains need defending. On the other hand, the labor movement tends to
support forms of protectionism that are antithetical to the interests of
workers and farmers in the underdeveloped world.

I think all classes have found the state useful for their purposes, to the
extent that they have been able to force it to express some part of their
interests. This goes for the subordinated as well as the dominating

The state, in my view, is not declining in significance at all, merely
changing its functions. It may be less involved in some areas of the
eocnomy, for example, but more involved in others. It seems to me much
more involved in the management of what Foucault called 'biopower', for
example. And much more involved in creating the framework for information
as property.

But where i am approaching these issues differently is in insisting that
there are *three* phases to the commodity economy, not two, and hence
three ruling classes, often in alliance. There is a pastoralist class,
which owns land as property and extracts rent from it. There is a
capitalist class, which owns fungible means of production as property and
extracts profit from it. There is a vectoralist class that owns
information as property and the vectors for realising its storage and
distribution, and extracts a margin from it. For the same reasons that
Ricardo thought of profit as different from rent, I distinguish 'margin',
the return on intellectual property. There is a continuum from rent to
profit to margin in the extent to which demand stimulates additional
productive capacity and hence a falling rate of return.

All three ruling classes have an interest in the state. To look just at
the military component of the state, I think it significant that we have
shifted from the pastorialist territorial war machine to the capitalist
mechanised war machine to the vectoralist information war machine. When
the Pentagon can dispatch an unmaned drone to 'take out' an alleged Al
Queda operative in Sudan, using surveillance and intelligence gathering,
cordinated as never before, one is in a very different battlespace.

When Brian proposes opposition to the war as a potential locus for
trans-national organising, i have some qualms. I'm not nefcessarily
opposed to multilateral wars of liberation against fascist states. But in
pointing to militarism, Brian opens the question of the transformation of
military-state power in our time. Joxe and Virilio will get you so far in
thinking abut this, but without connecting the military state apparatus to
changes in class composition and interest, i think it is a partial
picture. Likewise for attempts to understand empire without really
addressing its military dimension, but viewing it as a trans-national
constitutionalism. The 'strange attractor'' of the state is exporting
turbulence outside of its space as never before.


                   ... we no longer have roots, we have aerials ...

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