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RE: <nettime> France, Germany Irrelevant; Switzerland Useless
Kermit Snelson on Fri, 31 Jan 2003 08:41:27 +0100 (CET)


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RE: <nettime> France, Germany Irrelevant; Switzerland Useless


Bruce Sterling is probably correct to defend "homo economicus" against
Stratfor's preference for geopolitical explanations.  After all, didn't
nettime just go nuts because somebody asked for five dollars?  Who cares if
World War Three is about to erupt?  We're talking FIVE DOLLARS, man!

That said, the geopolitical predilections of Stratfor can't be dismissed so
easily, especially not on this list.  Isn't nettime itself a hotbed of
culturalism and geopolitical thinking?  A community of belief that humanity
is a thing of culture, psychology and connection to the land, and that
artists and Aboriginals are therefore the true legislators of the world?

On the other hand, Stratfor's article says that the World Economic Forum is
a society of transnational progressives, dedicated to the proposition that
building the ideal society is a matter of the correct application of modern
science, economics and management techniques.  And that the Davos crowd is
now lashing out in resentment because culturalists (and reality itself,
according to Stratfor) have proven them wrong.  But apart from Bruce, who
here would really disagree with that assessment?  Doesn't almost any given
post to this list amount to a culturalist attack on modern technology and
economics?  And after all, can the "rational expectations" model so beloved
of the neoliberal economists really explain the era of the suicide bomber?

The interesting thing, however, is that the "unilateralists" who convinced
Bush to pull the trigger on Iraq are also culturalists.  Their fondness for
modern science and commercial society is on a par with the Black Bloc's or
al-Qaeda's, as is their faith in violence as the means to a better world.
If you don't believe me, carefully read what the "unilateralists" themselves
swear by:  the books of Leo Strauss, Samuel P. Huntington and Eric Voegelin.
Or keep on reading what you're probably already reading:  Ernesto Laclau,
Chantal Mouffe, etc.  Same product, different brand.  And Davos is under
siege from each of the corresponding demographics respectively:  the Black
Bloc and the White House.

Culturalism is founded on perpetual conflict (or "agonistic democracy", if
you prefer to call it that), just as the economic view of man is founded on
perpetual peace.  Culturalists believe that politics and law are about
exceptions.  Economists believe that politics and law are about rules.
Stratfor is right about what happened at Davos last week.  The real conflict
wasn't between Europe and the United States, but between the culturalist and
economic-scientific views of humanity.  And ultimately, that's also the
conflict behind the impending war itself.

As Bruce Sterling suggests, however, Stratfor may have been wrong in the
long term to side with the culturalists against the economists.  For proof,
look no further than present company.  After all, what evoked the bigger
reaction on nettime this week?  A US president declaring a world religious
and geopolitical war, or a Web site hitting up its users for five bucks?  No
wonder Bruce is trying to improve the threads here by waving money around.

Kermit Snelson

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