Keith Hart on Fri, 4 Jul 2008 14:46:08 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Some reflections on global mapping


I too continue to learn a lot from Brian. His effort to engage with
and understand our world takes him on one of the great journeys.
If I say that it is a romantic quest, this is meant to enhance its
value. After all, when structures break down, it no longer works to
seek to adapt to "the system". All each of us can do is to improve
what is between our ears in the hope of being able to respond to
circumstances more effectively, perhaps even to participate in new
patterns of association. Romantics tell stories because narrative
better captures the movement of life than other forms of thinking. Why
replace the fluidity of story-telling with a map? A map is a static
object, one thing out there, a visualisation of an encompassing idea
like neoliberalism or global capitalism. But of course Brian also
tells wonderful stories.

Edward Said once suggested that life gives us so many cultural
fragments and our task is to make a story out of them. I would say
that we internalize society wherever we have lived and writing (not
only, but mainly) gives us a chance to make a partial object of that
experience that we can reflect on and share with others. For me this
is a religious activity in Durkheim's sense, an endless traffic
between inside and outside, the known and the unknown, conscious
and unconscious, in search of meaningful connection. Brian's travel
programme gives him a great chance to excavate an expanded vision of
society, if he ever gets time to reflect on it. That's my problem too.

"Politics is masked".

The most important and difficult task for all of us is to understand
how we belong to others in society (big Emile again). The aim of
ideology is to make it even more difficult. There is no question that
the ideology driving world economy over the last three decades has
masked the political conditions of that domination. But surely the
current financial meltdown undermines such an operation. I would say
that, just as the pendulum swung quickly from state to market in the
late 70s, the reverse movement is rapidly under way now.

The trick is to figure out where the state is these days or rather
could be: central banks acting alone and together; sovereign funds
bailing out failed banks; the dollar assets held by Asian governments;
regional trading blocs like the EU; the American empire with or
without a new president; countries like France, Iran, Brazil and
China; OPEC; the Bretton Woods institutions or their replacements;
the FT 500 corporations. The multitude or countless social movements
around the world need to come to grips with some or all of these.

Clearly deregulation allowed looting on a massive scale and something
will have to be done to regulate the looters. How or where? That
is what I mean by 'the state'. We are in for turbulent times when
I suspect that politics will become less opaque, often in quite
unpleasant ways. Against fascism and war, a revival of redistributive
politics at appropriate levels of world society would be one strategy.
Promoting the voluntary reciprocity of decentralized groups another.
But we need both. All the economic possibilities are already there to
be built on. Embracing the idea of capitalism as a totality only makes
it harder to see that. Our challenge is to make new institutional
combinations with a new emphasis.

That raises the question of the relationship between politics and
intellectual life, but not for this post.

Keith Hart

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