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Re: <nettime> Re: markets, states, associations (was: reverse engineered
Brian Holmes on Tue, 30 Sep 2003 21:46:24 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Re: markets, states, associations (was: reverse engineered freedom...)


Just to continue this dialogue with Ryan on the idea of concieving 
society as a force field between three poles:

>the US New Deal policies could be seen as restrictive
>on markets or as a tactic of preservation of them by
>the state.

Those policies did both: and don't forget the threat posed to markets 
by the Soviet revolution at exactly that time. The state effectively 
saw restriction as preservation. Ultimately that would develop into 
the general picture of Keynesianism, which only took holdin Europe 
after the war.
One of the founding analyses of Italian autonomism says that the 
Keynesian notion of "effective demand" (meaning that better wages 
should be paid so that worker demand can fuel the economy) is a 
recognition - and integration - of the working class into state 
capitalism. That gives you the consumer society. The whole point of 
autonomia in the sixties was to exit from this system of 
co-management. Which was an attempt to reassert some kind of 
existence for a pole outside both market and state.

>but that example only holds for the
>historical and ideological conditions of the US.

Not at all: Nazism itself was also considered a "third way" between 
capitalism and communism. All the retreats to national management of 
the economy, after the breakdown of the late-nineteenth century form 
of globalization, were attempts to put the lid back on the 
detabilizing, innovating, atomizing forces of free markets and 
recover some kind of national, territorial cohesion. Even Stalin set 
out for "socialism in one country." This is a kind of territorial 
imperative that emerges in reaction to the deterritorialization of 
the earlier period. I believe it lets you see a state function of 
solidarity (or redistribution, if you prefer) that is not reducible 
to the notion of the state as "executive committee of the 
bourgeoisie" (Marx).
The point is that solidarity is not always pretty, even if it is 
sometimes very necessary. Responding to a world market crisis that is 
overdetermined by the extreme alienation of large parts of the 
world-system, Bush and the neocons are attempting to generate a new 
form of national cohesion and discipline on the basis of a 
more-or-less fascist rhetoric and division into us and them. The 
deterritorialization of the market-driven nineties has wreaked 
tremendous effects.
Democratic politics is essentially the different kinds of responses 
that can be brought to the need for some kind of solidarity, and then 
the responses to the more-or-less repressive functioning of that 
solidarity, once it's established. But as Rancière has observed, 
politics in this sense is rare.

Please note: I'm not saying all these things because I'm either 
"pro-state" or "anti-market". It's like being for or against a 
hurricane. These processes are beyond us. We have to try to inflect 
them within the range of our capacities (generally very small).

>And with the commercial interests invested in military
>ventures in the US, which pole is dominant there?

In these reactionary moments, there seems to emerge a perfect synergy 
betwen the private arms industry and the state's attempt to acheive 
national cohesion by emphasizing the role of the military. Hard to 
tell who's leading who: the industrialists see war as a chance to 
jump start the economy, the state power brokers see it as a chance to 
get hold of society again. But it's a dead-end synergy: after all, it 
was Hitler's recipe too.

Today, with less intensity than in the 20s-30s, you also see the 
assertion of the forces outside state and market, perceived as 
dangerous by both. Seattle or S-11 anyone? There again, no guarantee 
that the autonomous demands are going to be the right ones. One of 
the more somber things that you can perceive with historical goggles 
is that the assertion of free association has in the past led to a 
new pact between market and state in order to just wipe out the 
destabilizing demands emanating from citizens (Spartacus rebellion, 
Spanish anarchists, the entire Western European left in the 30s, the 
Italian movements of the 70s, etc.).

>don't many of the desires shaping all of the poles transgress
>those boundaries?

Probably it would be more clear and intuitive if you imagined the 
situation as a kind of love-and-death mating ritual between two 
armored dinosaurs, capitalism and the state, applauded, advised, 
hissed and booed and cheered by ecstatic and terrified citizens about 
the size of contemporary mice, who are constantly in danger of being 
crushed by either or both. If you invented coalitions of hardy 
spectators daring to climb up the tyranosaurus-like backbone of one 
of these raging monsters so as to point its head in a particular 
direction, or at least blinker an eyeball, then you could inject the 
dimension of free association into the picture. And if you revealed 
that the dinosaurs were actually mechanical robots, then you include 
the revolving-door phenomenon of all the work teams and engineers 
constantly shuttling between one and the other. You want 
international dynamics? Imagine all the orgiastic alliances of 
cooperation and rivalry that are conceivably possible between 
differently sized and variously armored species of dinos...

But then you would also have to somehow integrate the complex pacts 
established between the prehistoric furies and a whole range of grass 
eaters, from the gigantic Brontosaurus that would today be a European 
farmers union, to the lowly trilobite networker trying to get away 
from it all under the cover of a reticular ocean. Petrodactyl 
activists, NGOs and human rights lawyers are only a detail in this 
picture, but an important one. Who can truly believe, as the latter 
claim to or feign to, that T. Rex has really agreed not to go 
rampaging in that corner of the continent where all the eggs are 
gestating in the warm sand? It seems unlikely that Rex's pea brain 
can be concerned with such things. And yet the intricate forest of 
social movements, human rights initiatives and philosophical ideals 
has helped fashion the very terrain in which the struggle of the 
dim-witted giants takes place. And whenever the eggs do get wantonly 
trampled (think of the World Wars) then the whole conditions of the 
free-for-all between the states and the markets is renegotiated with 
extra attention to the desires of the plant eaters.

So all of this does, yes, form a kind of overarching ecology.

>i'm thinking of how the model is useful for tactical
>activist organizing and production, how are those
>desires figured?

In my view, the idea of the Bureau d'Etudes maps that have been 
referred to in some other posts is that if we can grasp and widely 
convey the networks of power between capitalist, state and 
civil-society actors, then we can more effectively set off designer 
battles between them. Becoming collectively intelligent enough to 
chose specific issues for the kinds of effects they will produce. 
Like hacking a video game. I think you know the one I mean: Jurrasic 
Park, of course...

best, Brian

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