File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0108, message 42

Date: Mon, 06 Aug 2001 22:48:03 -0500
Subject: Re: What is Empire about?

hbone wrote:
> It's just that we're sometimes cynical about different things. Do you think campaign contributions improve democracy? or that election of a
President by Supreme Court majority gave us what the Constitution


Maybe we can use "Empire" to explore this very problem.  One of the
things I find interesting about "Empire" is that N&H able able to speak
about American history in a positive way without being caught up in the
imperialistic notions of manifest destiny while at the same time not
fall into the trap of merely denigrating it.

In a previous post, I mentioned the way Negri links Machiavelli to the
American republic. Following the political theory inspired by ancient
Rome, America was able to constitute itself as an open space in which
expansion was favored over limits.  This creates a certain dynamic in
American history. N&G go on to distinguish between the constitution as a
written document and the material, social constitution that has indeed
changed radically since the founding of the republic.

The classic instance of this is slavery which was enshrined in the
written constitution (remember the 3/5 rule!) but overcome historically.

N&G periodize American history into four phases.  In the current fourth
phase, with the cold war over, America assumes a role of policing the
new world order.  In that sense, the "terrorism" of its own citizenry
becomes no different in kind than the "terrorism" of the Middle East or
Northern Africa; the drug trafficing of South American parallels the
dealers in the inner American city.  It is not for nothing that the
incarceration rate is the highest today in the United States or that we
are the chief supplier of weoponry to the rest of the world. 

Buying elections and privatizing government services is part of the
attempt at the containment of the multitude. It is the return of
transcendence, the attempt of constituted power to maintain itself.  

N&H develop a theory to show how this situation emerges in the first
place and what the counter tendencies are that may tend to limit this
power in the future.

For many Americans, the electorial process already lacks legitimacy and
the attempts at privatization are seen for what they are - attempts by
elites to create a gated republic, which limit liberty to those who can
afford it. This gilded gated age is already running into problems
because despite its ownship of the media, its control of the government
and its pinhold on the economy, the multitudes still elude it and cannot
be completely controlled.

These tendencies of the transcendental, of constitued power, need to be
understood, however, in order to continue to find ways to resist them.
N&H provide us a model. The question is - "Does this model work?"

This is what their text must provide, regardless of the various contexts
through which it emerged. In that sense, you are flight, the forces that
attended to its birth are secondary.


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005