File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0108, message 66

Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 18:17:15 -0500
Subject: Re: Sublime Empire - First section


You have raised a number of questions regarding direct democracy versus
global democracy; Who is the multitude?  Where and how, does it live? 
What does it produce? and the distinction between  "Virtuality" and
"Possibility" made in "Empire"

I don't think these questions can really be answered until the argument
N&H are making is understood and rendered more explicit.  While I can't
claim to have achieved that comprehension yet myself, I want to begin to
discuss the argument more fully here. Writing, perhaps, as a way to
understand more completely what I have already read. 

In my reading of "Empire" the book is making an elaborate argument with
regard to what is actually a fairly straightforward thesis.  "Our basic
hypothesis is that sovereignty has taken a new form, composed of a
series of national and supranational organisms united under a single
logic of rule. This new global form of sovereignty is what we call

One can certainly question whether or not this new form of sovereignty
is actually emerging and what if anything would constitute its single
logic of rule. As the authors point out, one interpretation has been
that the present order somehow rises spontaneously out of radically
heterogeneous global forces.  

Although he is not mentioned directly, this appears to be a reference to
Hayek and his conception of economics as a kind of spontaneous order. 
This is the basic argument neoliberalism is currently making.  No one
can really control this economy. It should simply be let unfettered in
order to work its magic and accomplish the most good for all.  The
miracle of capitalism supercedes any local government. All attempts at
intervention merely create unforeseen and disastrous effects.  The world
is simply better off without them. The market is the true democracy
because the people vote through the choices they make as consumers.

Of course, this rhetoric tends to be contradicted by the various
politics actually utilized by neoliberal groups in order to accomplish
their agenda. The role of government is not eliminated, but merely
altered to achieve elitist ends in a more global context.  Certainly, it
can be argued that the unilateralism of George W. Bush and the
Republican Party constitutes its own form of anti-globalism opposed to
the emerging order as much as anything represented by the protesters at
Genoa. The fact that only the latter have been targeted in this way is
simply a reflection of the underlying bias of the media and its own
implicit political ideology.

One of great rewards "Empire" has already given me is that it thoroughly
demolishes the premises of this kind of argument and show how its basic
metaphysical assumptions are merely ridiculous.  

At the same time, however, the conventional positions of the Left hardly
remain unscathed.  The doctrines of imperialism, conspiracy theory and
the cynical attribution of power politics are shown to be at best myopic
and at worst completely paranoid. 

The radical potential alternative "Empire" offers is this. If its thesis
about the new form of sovereignty is true, then the current politics of
both Left and Right become suspect. It opens the way for the emergence
of a new politics that would reflect the new realities.  

This gives rise to another question that I will simply leave you with
for now.  Is this new sovereignty a juridical formulation, a
biopolitical machine or some monstrous hybrid of both? That is something
I'd like to discuss further with you in another post



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