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<nettime> Virtuosity, Processual Democracy and Organised Networks
Ned Rossiter on Tue, 28 Sep 2004 19:07:58 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Virtuosity, Processual Democracy and Organised Networks

The Italian Effect: Radical Thought, Biopolitics and Cultural Subversion
Sydney University, September 9-11, 2004.

Ned Rossiter

'Virtuosity, Processual Democracy and Organised Networks' [short version]

I am a Stalinist - everyone should do as I say and think; I have no
idea what I am - I don't exist... The contradiction between these two
statements signals a tension between identity politics and the
politics of desubjectification.  Identity operates within a regime of
coding; desubjectification is a process of subjectivisation and
transversality in which 'relations are external to their terms'
(Deleuze-Hume).  There is nothing intrinsic about the relationship
between the object, subject or thing that determines some essential
attribute or identity.  The identity of the Stalinist emerges from a
milieu of radical contingencies.  The Stalinist is thus a
potentiality that subsists within the plane of immanence.  The logic
of coding is part and parcel of the unforseen capacities that define
the externality of immanence.

The relationship between the overcoded subject and the process of
desubjectivisation is one of movement. The movement between the two
comprises the force of processuality, and a politics of contingency
and potentiality.  Stalinist subjects are everywhere -  we are all
Stalinists, and we also don't exist.  The force of relations external
to their terms operate in a manner that continuously destabilises the
authoritarianism of the Stalinist subject.  The process of
desubjectification corresponds with the plane of immanence.  This is
the common from which exodus, flight, and exit subsist as
potentialities - potentialities that can also be found in the
co-operation that is common to the surplus value of labour-power. The
analysis of these relations is a practice of radical empiricism.

Surplus value is based on excess - an excess of labour-power.  With a
surplus of labour-power (unemployment), the cost of production
decreases, profit rises.  Labour-power, however, is predicated on
co-operation, and herein lies the potential for transformation, since
co-operation subsists in the plane of immanence, the common.  The
capacity for the articulation of other values, and the mobilisation
of other affects is immanent to the surplus value of labour-power.
Surplus value can also be understood as an individuation transduced
from the pre-individuality of co-operation, of the "general
intellect".  This is what Negri (2004) identifies as the 'ontology of
the multitudes'.  The co-operation peculiar to the surplus value of
labour-power grants what Hardt and Negri identify, and had previously
dismissed, as the class dimension to the emergent socio-technical
form of the multitudes, since exploitation conditions the possibility
of co-operation (Hardt and Negri, 2004; Negri, 2004).

Through techniques of co-operation, collaboration and a distribution
of capacities, the multitudes are showing signs of becoming
organised.  The problems of scale and sustainability are being
addressed.  The at times self-valorising movements of "tactical
media" are beginning to adopt a strategic outlook on how to situate
their activities within socio-technical systems in more secure ways.
Indeed, the organised network is composing itself as a new
institutional form.  This transformation is not something to be
suspicious of.  There is no return here to institutions that
subordinate what Paolo Virno calls the "pure potential" of
labour-power to the conformist unity of "effective labour", "the
people" or "the citizen".  Institutions (coded formations) consist of
practices and affects, techniques and sensations.  Institutions
emerge within the interplay between the plane of immanence and the
plan of organisation.  Within the  co-operation common to surplus
value's exploitation of labour-power resides the potential for new
relations, new institutions, new socialities.

The organised network is a potentiality coextensive with the process
of becoming instituted.  Virtuosity, as the absence of an "extrinsic
product" (Virno, 2004: 52), institutes the political potential of
organised networks.  The virtuosos 'activity without an end product'
is at once ordinary and exceptional: ordinary in the sense that 'the
affinity between a pianist and a waiter', as anticipated by Marx,
comprises the common of wage labour insofar as 'the product is
inseparable from the act of producing' (68); exceptional in the sense
of the potential that subsists within performances with no
end-product holds the capacity of individuation - of transformation
of the common - into singularities with their own distinct universes
of sensibility, logics of sensation, regimes of codification.

Virno suggests that the communicative performance of the multitudes
constitutes 'the feasibility of a *non-representational democracy*'
(2004: 79).  Virno is elusive when it comes to developing that
proposition.  A non- or post-representational democracy is one that
no longer operates within the constitutive framework of the nation-state
and its associated institutions and civil society organisations.
This is something Mouffe's (2000) "agonistic democracy" is not able
to confront.  While Mouffe correctly wishes to go beyond rational
consensus, deliberative models of liberal democracy, her proposition
that agonistic democracies negotiate the antagonisms that underpin
sociality is nevertheless one that is predicated on the maintenance
of the state as a modern complex of institutions.  Mouffe has not made
the passage into the post-Fordist state and its connection with
capital's flexible modes of production and accumulation.  The
informatisation of social relations is nowhere to be found in
Mouffe's thesis on agonistic democracy.  As such, Mouffe is unable to
describe the new modes of sociality, labour, and politics as they are
organised within network societies and information economies.  Even
so, her notion of an agonistic democracy - like Virno's
non-representational democracy - can be retained, but only, I would
suggest, when they are recast in terms of what I call a *processual

=46irst of all, the potential of processual democracies are underpinned
by the informatisation of social relations.  Franco "Bifo" Beradi's
model of the Infosphere and the Psychosphere is a useful one to
describe the complex settings within which new polities may emerge.
Bifo's conception of the Infosphere as a technical, digital coding of
data whose unilinear flows "intermingle" with the unstable,
recombinatory filter of the Psychosphere is, however, only partially
right.  The Infosphere is of course much more complex.  Think of the
uneven geography of information, the political economy of root
servers and domain names, the competing interests surrounding
Internet governance debates and policy making, etc.  The Infosphere
thus not only "intermingles" with the Psychosphere, it is inseparable
from it: put it in different terms, the Real is always inscribed or
present within the Symbolic as an antagonism or trauma.  The
Infosphere is shaped by background noise, which Serres defines as the
'absence of code'.  Processuality - the relationship between coding
and conditions of possibility - incorporates background noise as a
constitutive outside.

Organised networks, as they subsist within the material and
immaterial dimensions of new communications media such as the
Internet, activate the possibility of processual democracy.  Such a
political formation de-ontologises the media of communication,
creating media-information systems that are conditioned by the
empirics, labour and affects of "trans-individual collectives"
(Deleuze, 2004: 89).  A processual democracy is one that unleashes
the unforseen potential of affects as they resonate from the common
of labour-power.  A processual democracy is one that goes beyond the
state-civil society relation. That relation is one that no longer
exists.  Processual democracies necessarily involve institutions,
since institutions function to organise social relations.

Processual democracies also continue to negotiate the ineradicability
of antagonisms.  Their difference lies in the affirmation of values
that are internal to the formation of new socialities, new technics
of relations.  Certainly, they go beyond the limits of resistance and
opposition - the primary activity of tactical media and the
"anti-corporatisation" movements.  This is not to dispense with
tactics of resistance and opposition.  Indeed, such activities have
in many ways shaped the emergence of civil society values into the
domain of supranational institutions and governance, as witnessed in
the recent WSIS debates. A radical adaptation of the rules of the
game is a helpful way of thinking the strategic dimension of
processual democracies.

Ultimately, what is at stake is the ethico-aesthetic potential of the
multitudes to engage with the antagonistic foundations of "the
political".  A processual democracy institutes a socio-technical
network with the capacity to create conditions that sustain needs,
interests and passions.


Deleuze, Gilles (2004) 'On Gilbert Simondon', in Desert Islands and
Other Texts, 1953-1974, trans. Michael Taormina, ed. David Lapoujade,
New York: Semiotext(e), pp. 86-89.

Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio (2004) Multitude: War and Democracy
in the Age of Empire, New York: Penguin Press.

Mouffe, Chantal (2000) The Democratic Paradox, London: Verso.

Negri, Antonio (2004) 'Towards an Ontological Definition of the
Multitudes', trans. Arianna Bove, Makeworlds Paper #4,

Virno, Paolo (2004) A Grammar of the Multitude, trans. James Cascaito
Isabella Bertoletti, and Andrea Casson, forward by Sylv=E8re Lotringer,
New York: Semiotext(e).

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