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<nettime> Toshiya Ueno: Pirates and Capitalism 2

From: VYC04344@niftyserve.or.jp
Date: Sun, 04 May 1997 17:50:00 +0900

In Japan, pirates and whalers had a close relationship each other. In
the late the 16th century, Hideyoshi Toyotomi persuaded the political
and military hegemony in Japan to forced people to disarm in order to
keep peace. In those times pirate operations were also forbidden by
Hideyoshi. Since pirates in Japan in the 16th century were a special
military group dedicated to fighting on the sea, the pirates who lost
their jobs as soldiers began to proceed with whaling. Consequently in
Japan, the origin of whalers existed in piracy.

>From 1606 the technology for whaling was invented by Yolimoto Wada in
Kumano Taich in the west of Japan. Yolimoto also was a Samurai
(soldier) andpirate, so he appropriated the war-technology of the sea
for whaling. He organized his village and community as a war machine
for whalers. Actually, it was one of the first models of manufacture
in Japan and so set the stage for the rise of capitalism. Because
there are so many procedures, rituals, and technology for whale
catching, the Japanese model of primitive capitalism originated in the
whalers' communities. This interpretation was elaborated by Shinichi
Nakazawa who is an influential post-structuralist in Japan. But this
organization and mobilization in the whalers' communities did not
depend on European-type rationality. For them the whale is not a
simple object of enlightenment and exploitation. The competition and
fighting with whales served as a technology to discover the physis and
God, invisible forces in nature.

If piracy only concerned the exchange of material and merchandise,
then whaling concerned the symbolic gift economy via nature. Is this
vision very particular to Japanese thought? I don't think necessarily.
Certainly, there are some peculiar cosmologies in Japanese whalers.
They desperately tried to distinguish between nature and the artifact,
the physis and nomos, mutual exchange and exploitation...

These dichotomies are often easily reduced to the character of the
oriental and the eastern. And even a cultural singularity of whale
catching could be projected on the geographical positions. But I'm
very skeptical about such analysis. Probably more or less one could
suppose the cultural singularity in the technology of Japanese
whalers. However, what should be avoided for our thinking is any form
of reductionism into real geography. Instead it is possible to extend
and appropriate the singularity of whalers' technology and cosmology
toward other contexts.

For that purpose, it is worth noting German political philosopher Carl
Schmitt's works. Though he has been very notorious with his
involvement in and commitment to Nazi politics, after the World War
II, he tried to grasp and define human history as the opposition
between nation-states based on land and nation-states based on the

Particularly, in his work _The Land and The Sea: On a Historical
Analysis_published after the war, he emphasized the important meaning
of the sea as a more fundamental element than others (air, fire, and
land) from the point ofview of his political theory. For him history
meant the endless fight between Behemoth, the monster on land, and
Leviathan, the monster in the sea.

What is interesting for us is that Scmiit repeatedly mentioned
Melville's _Moby Dick_ to explain the political meaning of navigation,
sea-power politics, and the peculiar technology of whalers. As he
says, this novel is "the epic about the sea as a fundamental element
for a human world."

And one anecdote could be added. Schmitt remarked that in another of
Melville's novels _Benito Cereno_, Schmitt compared himself with
Captain Cereno. In this novel Captain Cereno was forced to be a pirate
because his ship was seized by an insurrection of black slaves. Given
that all the sailors in this ship were killed by them, he reluctantly
committed pirate activities. This story reminded him of his own
unwilling collaboration with the Nazis. Of course, it is only a

In fact, in Schmitt's theory after the war, the term pirate was not
used as a mere metaphor. From _The Land and The Sea_ (1947) to _The
Partisan Theory_ (1962), the pirate was located in an important
position in relation to the concept of "the political. Moreover, it
could be said that the concept of the pirate was extended to all the
travelers on the sea. 

The pirates, provided with the official mission paper, the "lettre of
marque," took the sea as their main field, just as the early
bourgeoisie in England made enclosures in order to develop the wool
industry. For them the sea became the field for the primitive
accumulation of wealth in addition to the land. Schmitt says "
thousands of English people became the corsairs of capitalism."
Schmitt has already acknowledged pirate capitalism. This development
via the sea through pirate activity carried Protestantism as well as
Capitalism. In addition, the missionaries were also sea passengers and
the agents of colonialism and Capitalism, not only those of

Then why Schmitt is interested _Moby Dick_ and whalers? What meaning
did he associate with whalers? According to him , the whalers are not
merely the catchers or the slaughters but the true hunters. As Schmitt
says, "Through fighting with the creature in the sea, humans were
seduced to going into the deep element in the sea." Schmitt thought
that from Columbus or Captain Cook and those navigators prior to them,
whales and whalers effectively founded the globe. Whales liberated
humans from the land as whalers, and through the traveling of whales,
the tidal currents in the sea were found. Also in this context, the
whales are the vehicles of unknown information.

For Schmitt's theory, the essence of the political consists in the
distinction between the friend and the enemy. He remarks in this
distinction that the relationship between the friend and enemy
sometimes becomes ambiguous. The main characters in this novel, Ahab,
Starback, Quqeeg,Ishmael, etc, all have such relationships with the
big white whale. Of course they are not pirates, but what should not
be neglected is that they are always castaways in the sea and
drop-outs from ordinary society. At least ,Schmitt found pirates to be
outlaws as well as in whalers. In his political theory, he defined
such kind of outlaws or drop-outs as partisans. As far as the activity
of the partisan is always insurrectionary and establishes an
anti-social hierarchy, the partisan's behavior is concerned with the
gesture of the "renegadoes."

In his _The Partisan Theory_ published in 1962, the concept partisan
meant those who were out of the framework (Hegung) of ordinary
warfare. The partisan has the tendency to go out from conventional
warfare and social mobilization and attempts to move toward another,
alternative warfare and political relationship. In that sense, the
pirate is a kind of partisan. The pirate has the pleasure-mind in his
activity and therefore is capable of conducting guerrilla war and
realizing unconventional (or battle) situations. According to his
definitions, the partisan unfolds and invents new spaces and whose
formation of spaces has strongly depended on the technology and the
industry of each age. One can think about the invention of
war-machines that have provided and added new space for war.

Both the pirate frigate ship in the 17th century and the submarine in
the 20th century unfolded new war spaces. If the principal of the
partisan consists of maneuver to force one's own enemy to go into
another unknown zone, then the whales and the whalers are opposing
parties of partisans. And whales, ships, and submarines are also kinds
of Leviathan.The transformation of space by the partisan has extended
to a global scale in 20c, and the invention of mechanisms to secure
the advantage in the struggle for outer space could be developed. But
it should be noted that Schmitt thought these transformations and
extentions in pre-Apollo or Space Shuttle age. In his book, Schmitt
already suggested the possibility of "space pirates" and "space
partisans." Now, one could imagine and suppose the extension and
explosion/implosion of wire and optical fiber into the information sea
beyond physical spaces. (Also in the information age, the whale was a
very important creature for several researchers like Timothy Lerary,
John C.Lilly .) 

I'm not sure whether or not it is true that Robinson's desert island
is Tobago. From Tobago one can see Trinidad. I want to add another
name in the theoretical constellation or archipelago in my lecture. As
you may know, C.L.R. James was born in Trinidad and worked in England.
He wrote about cricket, popular culture, and literature as well as
being a Trotskyist and political activist. He was also interested in
Melville's works, including__Moby Dick_. The title of his book, _The
Sailors, the Renegades, and the Castaways_ which deals with the work
of Melville and Shakespeare, is derived from passages in _Moby Dick_.
The keyword, renegade, is also used in Peter Lamborn Wilson's book. 

In one chapter in his book _American Civilization_, (Blackwell,1993) ,
C.L.R. James analyzed _Moby Dick_ and defined the story as that for
American society itself. Through his interpretation, Moby Dick should
be seen not as an allegory but as a symbol. He says, "This legitimate
activity symbolizes the perpetual relation of civilized man with
Nature. The whale was the most striking of living things which man had
to subdue in order to have civilized lives. The whale is not a mere
fish. The conquest of the air, the mastery of atomic energy, all these
are symbolized by the whale." _Moby Dick_ is not the allegory of
undomesticated and violent nature, but rather it symbolizes the
industrialization, the colonialization, the imperialism and the class
struggle to the density of hyper-space that is beyond ordinary space.
But the meanings of this symbol are not only singular. It functions as
a meta-symbol which spins out thousands of references and

That is why for James, the whales and the sea were very secular
materials and subjects, and, consequently, he based his strategy of
analysis on politics, not on rhetoric. He saw in the fighting within
_Moby Dick_ the real struggles within society. He writes: "Melville
knows and says repeatedly that the conflict is between man and Nature,
the demonism that is in Nature. Melville knows also, however, that
struggle with the demonism in Nature involves a certain relation
between man and man." The human desire to go beyond the limit is
overlapped to the constant border crossing between the sea and land.
On the one hand, Moby Dick is an active element of the sea, itself,
and unknown nature, which is set in an endless struggle with human
being. On the other hand, this struggle simultaneously means the
conflicts among humans. The fighting with the whale is a model of
human history like Hegelian philosophy.

The explanations and interpretations of this novel and its narrative
of the fight with the whale suggest an awful, sublime nature but are,
in fact , the inverted image of social relations. Because the fight
with the whale here does not mean the struggle over the nature. In
other words, the ship "Pequod" is already a sort of industrial factory
populated by Ahab, the human-type of modern man in industrial society,
and Ishmael, the narrator as the model of modern intellectuals. James
concluded that Ahab is very close to Hitler because of his ability to
mobilize people and a mass unique will and power. _Moby Dick_ was the
Leviathan in the 19th or 20th centuries.

You might be aware of the coincidence between the activity or
community of pirates and the culture and movement of the black
diaspora. In turn, do not the theoreticians concerning the black
diaspora have interest in pirate culture? It is best to see the
argument elaborated by Paul Gilroy. He is the author of _Black
Atlantic_ (Verso,1993) and has been inspired by C.L.R. James.
Actually, Gilroy has often used the metaphor of the ship; "The image
of the ship--a living, micro-cultural, micro-political system in
motions--is especially important for historical and theoretical

Ships immediately focus attention on the middle passage, on the
various projects for redemptive return to African homeland, on the
circulation of ideas and activists as well as the movement of key
cultural and political artifacts: tracts, books, gramophone records,
and choirs."(Ibid,p4)

According to him, the ship is a medium and living means connecting
nodes in the Black Atlantic world and is one of the moving elements in
cultural exchanges and traveling. He regards books, texts, music
tapes, and records as such a tools, much like the "cut'n mix" and
sampling technology developed from dub and reggae music. 

This music organized particular chronotopes and virtual public spaces.
Without saying, we are now faced with broader cyber spaces through
networks technology. Not only due to computers but also due to radio
or telephone have the field and sea of information been expanding.

It is possible to discover many TAZ in the activity of pirates. From
pirates in the 16th century to radio pirates to data pirates in cyber
space. Though these media sometimes are commercialized and
commodified, we could invent and act another style of pirates, because
pirates and Capitalism have always been two sides of the same coin.
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