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<nettime> Re: Geopolitics of Chaos (Book Review)
Alain Kessi on Thu, 22 Apr 1999 17:56:51 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Re: Geopolitics of Chaos (Book Review)


Felix Stalder wrote:
> Geopolitics of Chaos (Book Review)
[...]
>  But the most
> problematic aspects is that Ramonet seem entrenched in a backwards
> nostalgia of strong but rational and benevolent state institutions
> upholding purified national cultures, moral values and the utopia of
> prosperity for everyone.

I completely agree that this is a very problematic aspect of Ramonet's
writings. I have not read the book itself, but have followed Ramonet's
editorials in Le Monde Diplomatique. I am surprised however that you do
not pick up on the fact that Ramonet's vision is fundamentally blind
towards colonialism and world-wide division of labor (his position
surprised me at first, given that he is the chief editor of a newspaper
that covers colonialist relations better than most). The "prosperity for
everyone" (did I hear "everyone"?) he feels nostalgic about did not come
about on the entire planet, and could never do so in a capitalist
division of labor (colonial or neo-colonial - or have you heard of a
welfare state in Belgian Kongo? or in French-ruled Algeria?). If the
attacks on people's "prosperity" (and autonomy!) have reached Western
Europe and North America, this is closely linked to the fact that the
exploitation of the periphery is not sufficient any longer for covering
the accumulation needs, and expectations, of capital.

In the anti-MAI campaign, for instance, Ramonet plays into the hands of
the extreme right and of repressive/racist state bodies (as do most of
the big NGOs) by seeing the alternative to globalization in a strong
nation-state. The nation-state is weakened, so their story goes.
Transnational corporations are becoming more powerful than states, they
whine. No analysis whatsoever of how it was the nation-states'
governments which paved the way in GATT and other negotiations and
authorized the transnational corporations to globalize the relations of
production and the financial markets. At the very least, there is thus
some synergy between nation-states and transnational corporations. It is
also a myth that the state is disappearing. On the contrary, a
globalized system of exploitation needs strong nation-states, including
nationalism and racism to legitimize exclusion (as in colonial times -
how could you exploit someone who is your equal?), and quite
importantly, with a strong police (and for some tasks military - as when
a state does not sufficiently comply to IMF and other policies; see
Yugoslavia) to impose "peace and order" at the service of a coopted
majority (in the metropoles) and of transnational monopolies. This
analysis (sorry if I'm only sketching it and simplifying too much) has
been popularized in Germany by Joachim Hirsch and others, against the
nationalist tendencies of mainstream anti-MAI campaigners.

I think that whether we discuss "globalization" in its various aspects,
or concretely the destruction of Yugoslavia (both by Milosevic who chose
to build his power on nationalism - very effectively but with
devastating consequences to others - and by NATO/US/Germany whose aim it
is to destroy a country that's in the way of their economic and
strategic hegemony), I think the only way to formulate a position which
does not serve the interests of one or another of the big players, and
leaves room for people to think and develop their own approach to their
life and surrounding, is to be consistently anti-nationalist (and
anti-nation-state/anti-state) and to root our analysis in an
understanding of concrete material and power interests rather than howl
with the wolves about so-called "ethnic conflicts", recently constructed
cover-ups of those economic and social struggles - whether this be in
Germany where "Jobs for Germans first" divides the society along
"ethnic" lines, or in Yugoslavia where the attention was diverted from
the central government's exploitation of people (to service the debt
under IMF plans - even if never strictly enough to please the IMF and
creditors) by constructing "ethnic" conflicts.

Alain

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