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<nettime> no (america|europe) digest [holmes, terranova, .__.]
nettime's_synthesist on Wed, 12 Mar 2003 20:30:07 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> no (america|europe) digest [holmes, terranova, .__.]


Re: There is no America and Europe
     Brian Holmes <brian.holmes {AT} wanadoo.fr>
     tiziana <tterra {AT} btopenworld.com>
     ". __ ." <mail_box {AT} gmx.net>

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Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 13:16:54 +0100
From: Brian Holmes <brian.holmes {AT} wanadoo.fr>
Subject: Re: There is no America and Europe

Ken Wark writes:

>The vectoralization of power produces a split in the powers of empire.
>Empire is not unitary. It is a dual power.

Well, I'd say it's at least a triple power, to the extent that 
corporate interests, state interests, and popular protagonism can all 
be contradictory. But if we're talking about geopolitics, which the 
word "empire" seems to connote in just about any way you use it, then 
there are other factors too: interstate alliances, conflicts between 
different regional regulations of capital, the play of popular 
opinions within and between states. And I'm not entirely sure that 
conceiving all this as being produced or driven by "vectoralization" 
really adds that much. It's certainly a networked world, but that 
single aspect doesn't cover everything.

>On the one hand, the vectoral
>class has its (neo)liberal wing. It is committed to the accelerated
>vectoralization of world trade, and the consolidation of its own power
>through a global regime of intellectual property, aided and abetted by the
>monopolization of the means of the realization of information as value --
>media and communication.

Yeah. Here the word "vectoral" at least gives an idea that we're 
talking about people with transnational interests. Negri and Hardt 
say "the aristocracy," which is funnier, and I say "the transnational 
capitalist class" 'cause that's basically what it is. It wants all 
what MacKenzie says. But its committments are not always realizable. 
Look at the stock market. Yesterday the Dow closed at 7,568 - down 
9.27% since January 1. Same trend for the European stock markets, 
dramatically worse for the Nikkei, which hit its lowest in 20 years. 
The Dow, which was above 11,000 three years ago, still has a ways to 
fall before the pre-bubble level, around 5,000. The falls translate 
as a lack of agency for businessmen: they no longer have the power to 
move people around that they did when money was easy to raise on the 
stock market. The financial press is full of businessmen proclaiming 
that uncertainty and war are bad for business. 'Twas ever thus, Mr. 
Natural used to say. Businessmen like nice little wars where they can 
safely sell rockets; they really dislike big nasty wars that affect 
the fundamental balances on which the whole economy is based. But the 
downward slide of the markets began long ago, before Sept. 11, and it 
hasn't been redressed by anything. The basic reason is that 
individual investors, non-institutional investors who can chose where 
to place their capital, have not chosen the stock market since tech 
stocks fell, then since Enron, WorldCom, etc. Why? Because they 
preceive real problems. When Davos took the theme of confidence this 
year, there was a reason. The transnational capitalist class is 
sitting on a huge failure of the financial globalization model that 
was promoted, and in fact, is still being promoted, by the Wall 
Street-Treasury complex (you have to realize that the IMF is 
basically controlled by its largest contributor, the US Treasury). So 
the businessmen, the people who respond best, in my opinion, to the 
word "vectoral", are fucked right now.

>But the vectoral class has another faction, more dependent on the national
>state, not least in its capacity as military procurer.

Traditional Marxists call the state a collective capitalist. Well, 
maybe that's a bit simplistic. States are always attempts to bind 
contrary interests together, and each attempt looks distorted to 
those who are cut out. In the Clinton years, when the Treasury was a 
key department in the government, the US pursued a more-or-less 
multilateralist approach to foreign policy, with big steps forward 
both in terms of trade (the WTO, NAFTA, work on the FTAA) and in 
terms of military cooperation (the UN and NATO in the Kosovo war). So 
that was "vectorialist," if you want, or "Imperial" in the Negri and 
Hardt sense. The businessmen were cut in, the military too. 
Meanwhile, the domestic economy took care of itself during the boom, 
and despite the fact that terrible processes of exclusion took place 
all over the world, Americans who owned stock, or dreamed of doing 
so, increasingly acted like arrogant, short-sighted, fatuous idiots, 
which probably has some long-term effects on the personality, but 
whatever. Let's say that the Clintonian compromise looked distorted 
to those who were cut out of the way it managed the world economy. 
The problem is, you can't win on all these levels at once, and at 
everyone else's expense.  The root of the globalization model's 
failure is that in a wide-open, free-market world-economy, everybody 
competes like madmen against everybody else, and after an untenable 
upward spiral in the realm of accumulation - the new-economy boom - 
the result is a downward spiral in terms of the real economy, i.e. 
deflation. In the meantime, confidence, solidarity and reciprocity 
collapse, while all the non-market forms of social reproduction fall 
apart. In the end, the businessmen and stockholders get what they 
deserve, but unfortunately, the rest of us get it too, because 
society just can't survive on purely market calculations. And at this 
exact point, whadda ya know? There is a change in the way that the 
American state seeks to bind together contrary interests. Exit the 
people who think that multilateralism and world trade are the way to 
go. Exit the people who want a balanced budget and a strong dollar. 
Exit the Secretary Rubins and the Labor Secretary Robert Reichs who 
wanted to educate the American population into high-class 
symbolic-analyst jobs in an infinitely expanding and peaceful world 
economy where Americans run all the businesses, just naturally, 
'cause they're clean-shaven and they like pop music. Enter the people 
who think they can hold onto power by asserting direct state control 
over society, through military mobilization, intense propaganda, 
serious policing and censorship, all paid for by a new round of 
deficit spending that working people will eventually reimburse. The 
fact that culturally, these new ruling elites are, in part, Christian 
fundamentalists is quite coherent with their disciplinary approach. 
The perceived need to make this statist turn is based, unfortunately, 
on an historical understanding of how the US faced the crisis of the 
1930s and of WW II. So US policy now bears some strange resemblance 
to the model of what Karl Polanyi calls "the crustacean nation." It 
tries to pull into a shell when the outside world becomes 
uncontrollable. That's the gut reaction we're looking at. The 
difference is that, since the situation has changed since the 1930s, 
the US now thinks it must extend its shell to cover large parts of 
the earth. Including sandy countries way out there in the Middle East.

OK, so if we agree to call the above changes in the form of the 
American state "vectoral," just as we call the developments in the 
realm of transnational capitalism "vectoral" (and this is basically 
the condition for talking with Ken, who is quite brilliant in all 
other respects), then we get to this:

>Now, what is significant is that these two forms of vectoral power are not
>necessarily in agreement. And neither are they synonymous with 'America'.
>They are, if anything, what is tearing the United States apart. They are
>the forces that prevent it from becoming a 'normal' state.

Yeah. Because a "normal" state tries to control the conditions for 
economic and social development within its "shell," i.e. its 
territory. But when the conditions of social and economic development 
depend largely on extraterritorial activity, you no longer have 
"normal" states. (Historians would point out that Victorian England, 
a world-girdling empire, was also not a "normal" state.) Instead, you 
have situations where states have to pursue a regulatory model beyond 
their frontiers. And they have to do so, in order to achieve the 
effects they are looking for *inside* their frontiers. This, by the 
way, is the case for all the major states right now, which are all 
involved in bloc-formation or other complex alliances, the most 
obvious case being the European states, which are certainly not 
"normal" if normal means territorial. The difference is that the 
shape of the consensus in the US right now - the balance of interests 
that the state binds together - is pushing it toward the option of 
regualting the social and economic conditions of its existence by 
military power. Set up a command economy, impose a military 
discipline on the population, go out and take control of a primary 
resource, and while doing all that, strike fear into the heart of any 
potential enemy whom you can't murder outright: that's US policy 
under the Bush crowd. It's one helluva' vector, that's for sure.

>And so there is an additional reason to think the argument Franco Berardi
>makes is pertinent. In his terms, not only is there no 'Europe', there is
>no 'United States'. One might rather speak of the Untied States.

Indeed, and on a world level. As I said, in agreement with Berardi, 
we're looking at a rift in Empire. But it's not the businessmen who 
are actually doing it, even if, in my reading, they are distantly 
responsible for it. They're just moaning and trying to keep a low 
profile since, shall we say, their credit is not so good. The rift is 
happening at two levels. One one hand, the alliance systems are 
coming unglued (UN, NATO, British-US special relationship, enlarged 
neoliberal EU). On the other hand, the current system of 
representative media-democracy, where "leaders" can make any decision 
they want once they engineer their elections, is being challenged by 
the protagonism of people engaging in non-formal politics (what 
Ulrich Beck calls "subpolitics," because it comes from below). My 
belief is that the subpolitics is one of the forces driving the rift 
at the level of the alliance system. The leaders are actually afraid 
of being held accountable by the populations on this issue. This is 
new, because even if the counter-globalization movement foreshadowed 
and laid the groundwork for this development, it didn't get near so 
far because the movement was never so big. Now the 
counterglobalization movement is the peace movement, it's the 
thinking, political core of the peace movement. And now I think "we" 
can, to a certain extent, chose the shape we want the rift to take, 
and thus, the future shape of a new alliance system which will emerge 
in one way or another, because the world can't do without it. "We" do 
this to the extent that we engage in collective thinking, which 
actually happens, as you can see by the forms of networked 
co-ordination across the world that are producing the peace movement. 
Vectors everywhere!

>Rather than imagine that the new movements confront "the dynamics of a
>profiteering world system", as Brian Holmes suggests, what might be more
>to the point is to realize that this too is a totalizing, dialectical
>figure. It too can blind us to the internal dissonance within the regime
>of empire itself.

Maybe. It's true that for me to uphold that specific phrase, I have 
to make an argument which is not a sound-bite or a logo, 'cause it 
has two ideas, followed by a third. It says that the model of world 
development via global finance in the 80s-90s led to the military 
crisis that opens the 21st century. In other words, it says that the 
agressive, statist form of empire results from the failure of the 
transnational capitalist form of empire. And then the argument brings 
in a third term, popular protagonism, in order to say this: that many 
many people realize the world is potentially headed to a kind of 
living hell, because after all, some of them lived through the 30s 
and 40s, they saw what it was like, and the rest of us have got the 
picture. The point now is to try to halt the military response to 
economic and social crisis. That's the crucial point. That's also 
where Europe can intervene in some way. But the danger that Franco 
Berardi alias "Bifo" points out, is that a new nationalism of the 
continental bloc could arise in Europe, instead of a truly viable 
internationalism that would take into account the inequalities and 
failures of human development that are at the root of the military 
conflicts. The point here is not to be "anti-EU." The point is to try 
to inflect certain developments in the EU which would make it either 
into a free-trade bloc (basically the English position), or into a 
free-trade bloc with special privileges for some (the German-French 
position)... We can imagine something better - and maybe even realize 
it.

In this situation where the collective co-ordination is so important, 
I guess it's up to intellectuals (means: people who think, people who 
write) to make clear arguments which try to place recognizable names 
on recognizable things, and try to show where those things are going. 
Cause in the end, that's about all you can do with words.

>It may be time to look for ways to leverage a whole series of
>contradictions. Between the two aspects of the vectoral empire, for a
>start. Between the vectoral class in either of its guises and the
>interests of the American people. Between the vectoral class and other
>states. Between these other states and their peoples...
>

Happy 21st century! Vectors ahoy!

Brian

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Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 12:48:16 +0000
Subject: Re: <nettime> Re: There is no America and Europe
From: tiziana <tterra {AT} btopenworld.com>

Like many others, and possibly more than most as I have been working from
home for a few months, I have been following the Iraq crisis in a kind of
multimedia mode. While working at the computer, I am listening to radio talk
shows in london quite a lot, following the BBC and Channel 4 coverage,
reading italian newspapers online and commentary and news on mailing lists
and websites from all over the world.

What emerges out of this cacophony of information is really the two levels
that Brian and Bifo describe, which repropose at a non-geographically bound
level the disagreements that are being proposed at a molar level as a old
Europe/Wild West kind of opposition. If at one level, everything is about
geo-political blocks, old scores to settle between the China/Russia/Europe
and UK/USA axis with the body of the Middle East as battleground, at another
level it is about constituted and constituent power. In all of this, I have
never witnessed such a wide open display of the whole process whereby these
decisions are taken. I do not think that any other decision concerning the
fate of millions (certainly not the two world wars of the twentieth century,
but not even the first Gulf war, the Afghani war or Kosovo) has been so
openly scrutinised. As Virilio would put it, this is global politics in real
time. Every bribe of minor countries in the security council, every
microscopic fluctuations of the moods of ministers in Labour's cabinet,
every flight and meeting held by foreign ministers and UN representatives,
every report by weapons inspectors, the tensions crossing the resigned faces
in the Iraqui capital is just out somewhere in the global information matrix
and  in real time.

Underlying this whole really formal debate about resolutions and vetoes,
behind all the propaganda thriving on fake resemblances between Hitler and
Saddam (why do they keep calling him by his first name? It is as if they
called Hitler Adolf, indulging in analogies myself now, sorry...), some
pretty big questions about global democracy and governmentality are being
asked. In this context the EU/USA opposition does not cut it really, not on
the metaphysical and identitarian lines that Bifo is rightly eager to
dismiss.

The question is: if we are living in one world, if economic and cultural
globalisation is a reality, and everything is connected and touches on
everything else, and still such world is not immune to heavy imbalances of
power, how do you deal with conflict? Is it enough to hand to the most
powerful countries in the world the role of policeman, without no control
over the law that police forces everywhere are bound to obey? Even according
to the old divisions of powers that is the basis on which the West is trying
to import democracy by way of a combination of bribes and bombs, the police
function must obey the law. But the globalisation of political economy has
led us to a position where Montesquieu's division of powers (legislative,
executive, judiciary) is exploding all over the place. In this sense, we are
glimpsing the beginning of a new conception and practice of democracy out of
the implosion of the modern division of powers that was the European
invention and that European states such as France are trying to uphold in
the face of a new reality.

In this context I am reminded of the preference that Gilles Deleuze thought
we should accord to jurisprudence (as opposed to the Moral Law which is all
about holding a high ground while hiding the dirty linen under the
pedestal). Jurisprudence for Deleuze signaled a completely immanent
conception of political power and production, which is about traversing the
field of conflict and antagonisms between unequal forces in ways that adhere
rather than overdetermine and transcend the eventual resolution of the
crisis. That would not go down to well with the fundamentalists of all the
three monotheistic religions that are running the world right now I bet.

let's hope that this bifurcation leads us somewhere better....

greetings to the nettimers

tiziana

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Date: Wed, 12 Mar 2003 12:39:00 +0100
From: ". __ ." <mail_box {AT} gmx.net>
Subject: Re: There is no America and Europe

My two cents on this topic...

Cheers,

G

At 16:59 11.03.03 +0100, Brian Holmes wrote:

>But a rift does not necessarily mean a division into two blocs, with
>a European bloc emerging to claim a kind of social-democratic
>legitimacy,

I would call it eco-social-capitalism

>The European bloc has no legitimacy. It is in desperate lack of
>legitimacy. Bifo asks: "Can we consider the great Europe [I think
>that means "greater Europe," after enlargement], the Europe of the
>national states and of the powerful financial capital, as a force
>that is capable of imposing respect for human rights?" The answer is
>no. The Europe that has been planned from the top down over the last
>20 years, and increasingly since Maastricht, has become a distorted
>reflection of NAFTA, a figure shaped by the kind of corporate
>cooperation-in-rivalry which has been the very definition of
>globalization as a state-capitalist project.
>Even if the current
>assertion of European difference by France and Germany were to
>succeed in recomposing Europe around these two strategically
>partnered nations and their "vision of the world," what would that
>bring? A European hierarchy in which the established social lobbies
>within the large core states (I mean, the big corporations, major
>trade unions and state and military bureaucrats) impose their
>priorities on the whole, creating a semblance of social democracy for
>a limited sector of the working population, and a control regime of
>exploitation and exclusion for the majority, especially those on the
>European fringes (but you have to realize that the same kind of
>inclusion/exclusion hierarchy gets reiterated in the centers too -
>'cause that's where it's invented). The racism that Are Flanagan
>describes in his post (The Race for War) is the natural extreme of
>the inclusion/exclusion logic, which is at the very center of
>capitalism. And this is obviously a dead-end future, because it will
>lead further down the road of inequality and violence that has
>brought us to the present moment.

I just cannot agree with this. The EU, as the green Cohn-Bendit said in a 
recent article, is Europe's utopia. And it is definitely an emancipation 
of the USA. But does this lead to the conclusions above, no human rights, 
corporation-led decisions and capitalism in an extreme form?

I would argue, no. Why?

First, it is just too soon to see the direction this project will take. 
There are roads in a variety of directions, some of which might lead to the 
above mentioned directions. I would define three big phases which are 
necessary in the development of a common Europe, first the political, then 
the economical and third the phase where we are in right now,  the 
democratic phase. We do have a basic political agreement, we do have a 
common voice in economic dealings but we still do not have a fully 
democratic structure with a constitution (work in progress) and basic 
rights(to full extent). We will have to see (not without taking all 
possible influence on the process) before we can judge.

Second, the problem of legitimacy. Amongst scholars, this is a question 
long discussed. I will not try to recapitulate the various theories (and 
approaches) but instead only try to write about my personal experiences. As 
far as I can see, hear and feel, people start feeling more like Europeans. 
They feel, that this continent should work together and be a common entity, 
should overcome the problems of the past, they distictly feel like 
citiziens of Europe while they remain proud of their national country and 
sadly but rightly, they feel, that only a unification can help them to be 
respected as a parter to the US and have a say in the developments, more 
economic, than politic, which are threatening their way of life. To achieve 
this you need again some balance on the international stage, which has been 
lost after the fall of the CCCP. I know that this is not legitimation in 
the classical sense, but these are the driving motivations behind this 
process...  and if one wants a historic connection, one can find it, 
easily, if one wants to do it. While the USA's legitimacy is basically 
defined through the lack of common history and the distinction between the 
US and Europe, the legitimacy of a EU is on the opposite IN the common 
history of the nations involved and the distinction (the search for) 
between the EU and the US... not so far apart, what do you think?!

Third, the problem with capitalism: for me it is at the heart of the 
european movement. It is necessary to find a response to the 
US-Turbo-Capitalism in order to defend our standard of living, our approach 
to social problems and our duty to help those who cannot help themselves - 
It is the US-EU interdependence which drives the economy of the EU towards 
a faster, harder pace - against the will of many involved... That is the 
basic reason, why I called it eco-social capitalism, a vocabulary from the 
80 which for me best describes the distinction between the EU and the US 
system of capitalism...

Fourth, the problem with the fringes... logically, there are those who 
profit from this development. Countries, such as France, see the EU as the 
only possibility and a weapon to counter the US. Multis, see this 
development as an easier approach towards "their" favourite laws, where 
they have to lobby only once instead of in each of the countries... but one 
should not forget, that incidentially, their interests are also the 
interest of the EU. Why? Because the plan, as far as I see it, is to beat 
the US on their own field: Education, Mergers, State-Business Alliances on 
an European Scale and finally Military Independence as a last resort... It 
is certainly ironic, that, to compete, the EU is trying to be "more 
American than the US", thereby becoming what they fear... but if this 
process will be balanced against the other interests (eco and social) than 
this could be a great alternative and addition towards the system as it is 
now - if not, than this EU may well be a construct which ultimately will 
devour its children...

Fifth, the EU Institutions: NEVER, ever underestimate the power of EU 
law... the ECJ eg has angered a lot of politics by deciding in a European 
spirit, therefore changing the course intended by politicians, with them 
helpless to do something about it. It is basically like the International 
COurt of Justice, just with real enforcement power: The recent ICJ case 
about Oil Platforms (US & Iran), where it seems, that the US will loose is 
based upon another case, where the treaty in question (Friendship, Commerce 
etc Treaty) has been used by the US as the legal basis for winning a case 
(Nicaragua, Iran Embassy). In the end, this will not change a thing, no 
reparations will be paid, the US will just ignore this judgement. But if it 
were the ECJ who would pronounce a similar judgement, then, after their own 
national law, countries would be oblieged to accept the judgement... and 
this changes everything... I would say, it is a quiet revolution ;-) this 
time, one for the people...

Six, the People as the driving force: It was through the rivalty between 
the UE and the US, that NGOs could establish themselves as a power on the 
international stage, which traditionally is dominated only by nations... 
this offers some interesting possibilities... perhaps transnational NGOs 
and NPOs could sometimes in the future be the balance to nations - but not 
now... the process has just started and one needs this rivalty to continue 
so that it can develop at all...

As one can see, there are a lot of problems, developments and forces at 
play. But the Eu, which is still a baby, can learn from each of the 
problems - and it has shown, that it sometimes can do exactly this...

And never forget a basic truth: one can only live together in  a lasting 
relationship, if there is a balance of power (will etc just insert the 
vocabulary in question) - some of these developments just try to do that - 
and this will make it easier to work together towards a multipolar world, 
where there is still room for freedom and people...

Puh, this just went out this way... it may be overly romantic and not 
always consistent - and concerning the EU, it is, after all a dream for 
some of us ;-)

Cheers again,

g


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