File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0108, message 89

Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2001 11:29:45 -0100
Subject: Re: Empire and the "Desires"


We're gettin closer to what this monstrous book is about, however my
intitial interest "stemmed" from the Hardt interview with Charley Rose,
particularly his assertion that it is a communist book, and his replying to
"What is the most important question that can be asked of you?"  with: "How
can we make a revolution"?

In my reading of the book I was much interested in "minds and bodies",
"biopolitics" and
use of the term "life".

As I see it, narratives and legitimations are instruments of human politics,
the allocation of power, and,  like history and other abstractions, exist
only in minds/bodies.

Of course Lyotard, in "Le Differend", in describing the limitations of
language, words, linear expression, sometimes treated language as a mystical
abstract force which determines human actions.  A common viewpoint of
deconstructionists of 20, or 30 years ago when he was writing "Le
Differend".  Of course language is, in a sense, all that and more, but there
seem to be a danger of mistaking metaphor for a physical entitiy - a mirror
of the mind is not the mind.

I will insert some first-sight comments at **.
> Steve/Hugh/all:
> Thanks for the article on EC.  I hope to discuss it further this weekend
> after coming up for air.
> Tonight, however, I'd like to discuss both metanarratives and
> legitimation as they apply to "Empire."  Lyotard, in my reading, didn't
> predict the end of metanarratives as much as he forecasted their
> replacement by new modes of legitimation, specifically, the performative
> and the paralogical.
** As I understand performative it is the language of command; for example,
the activation/application of a rule which is addressor and addressee accept
as previously legitimatized.**

> What I find interesting in Empire is that N&H discuss what they see as a
> new mode of legitimation currently emerging.  "The legitimation of the
> imperial machine is born at least in part of the communications
> industries, that is, of the transformation of the new mode of production
> into a machine.  It is a subject that produces its own image of
> authority.  This is a form of legitimation that rests on nothing outside
> itself and is reproposed ceaselessly by developing its own languages of
> self-validation."
 **An image may mirror authority, but the vast influence of
communication/entertainment/information corporations depends on the actions
of the  stockholders who own and operate them, and the legislators who among
other gifts,transferred to them the public domain of TV channels that
previously belonged to citizen-taxpayers**
> What is striking about this mode of legitimation is that it appears to
> combine the performative and paralogical together into one mode.  The
> performative is no longer geared to an outside.  It has been
> internalized, operating paralogically to complexify itself, as if it
> were a kind of organism.
**Minds/bodies, internalize formal documents.  New generations give them new
readings, interpretations, meanings.**
> Thus, there appears to be both a formal and material aspect to
> legitimation, just as there is to the US Constitution.  The formal
> aspect is the judicial.
**Material and immaterial are words that seem contradictory in this
> As N&H point out, this development took place in the context of the UN
> and the attempt to conceive of the world order by way of a domestic
> analogy, utilizing either a Hobbesian or Lockean model.  Out of this
> movement came the concept of Empire as a unitary power that maintains
> the peace and produces its own ethical truths.  It creates a new order
> that embodies a boundless, universal space and a notion of right that
> encompasses all time in its ethical foundation.  This produces a kind of
> government without government in which just wars keep the peace.
**Wow! - 'tTis a consumation devoutly to be wished".
> As N&H point out: "Empire is not born of its own will but rather it is
> called in being and constituted on the basis of its capacity to resolve
> conflicts." Furthermore, "the first task of Empire, then, is to enlarge
> the realm of consensus that support its own power."
**How about an example?**
> This raises the question whether Lyotard's concept of the differend is
> now superceded by the emergence of empire or whether empire is merely a
> new form of terror to the extent that its provides consensus simply by
> imposing its own rule (which must necessarily be unjust) to the margins
> over which it rules.
**I think of "Empire" as a name, and idea, an abstraction, not an entity, or
Like "differend" it is a concept referring to human thoughts, motives,
acts.involving rights and wrongs and justice"**

> However, N&H emphasize that Empire is not simply power, but a new order
> which can in turn become the embodiment of the multitude, so it seems a
> positive reading of this can be made, although it is not yet clear what
> that might be.
**Assertions about the "multitude" will be murky until we learn who and what
and where it is.**
> Part of the answer seems to appear in the section on biopolitics.  The
> formal US constitution tends towards the static.  For example, it
> historically provided the legal foundation for the continuance of
> slavery.  The material constitution became a response to this as the
> dynamic arena of change. Here the multitude emerges to contest the
> formal arrangements of power.
**New generations re-read, reinterpreted an old document - After a century
came new laws and civil rights.**
> So biopolitics forms the material constitution of empire.  The movement
> is from a disciplinary society to a society of control in which power is
> situated in the production and reproduction of life itself.  This leads
> to the concept of subsumption as the bios itself, as opposed to mere
> economic or cultural subsumption.
**Can we explain in detail the author's concept of "power situated in the
procuction and reproduction of life itself?**
> While this subsumption appears sinister, as though power no longer had
> any outside capable of resisting it, there is also an unanticipated
> aspect, according to N& H:  "the paradox of a power that, while it
> unifies and envelops within itself every element of social life (thus
> losing its capacity effectively to mediate different social forces), at
> that very moment reveals a new context, a new milieu of maximum
> plurality and uncontainable singularization - a milieu of the event."
**Need an example**
> Here the paralogical returns as the face of the multitude that composes
> empire and the way is opened up to a new understanding of the
> postmodern.  The social machine is self-validating and autopoietic,
> capable of new moves.  In other words, complexity opens up rhizomatic
> modes of development that can not be completely controlled and whose
> results cannot be completely foretold.
**In a previous post I wrote of a personal concept of "virtuality".  Also I
think DeBord's concept of the "Spectacle" has relevance.**
> N&H implicitly raise the question whether this complexity must be
> resisted or whether it should be accelerated.
**Depends on capitalist expectations of profitability.**
> Autopoietic legitimation constitutes neither performance nor the
> paralogical alone, but something of both.  As H&N put it: "The
> constitution of Empire is being formed neither on the basis of any
> contractual or treaty-based mechanism nor through any federative source.
> The source of imperial normativity is born of a new machine, a new
> economic-industrial-communicative machine-in short, a globalized
> biopolitical machine."
**Machines without operators are junk Corporations and governments makes
rules, laws, treaties = and violate them. IMHO efforts to replace God. gods,
with reified terms way out there in space will fail.  In his TV appearance,
Hardt seemed under no illusiond that "making a revolution" would just

> Ultimately, this machine is not merely a form of external legitmation,
> but a reconstitution of the multitude: in the form of communication
> networks, symbolic analysis and problem solving, and the labor of the
> production and manipulation of affects.

> The difference between the Postmodern Condition and Empire is, perhaps,
> simply the difference twenty years can make.  When Lyotard wrote TPC,
> the computer was just beginning to make its qualitative restructuring.
> Now, this process has transformed itself a thousand times over.

> However, the issue isn't merely technology alone, but the social
> organization it makes possible.  Immaterial labor, operating
> cooperatively within virtual pools of information in a mode of
> experiment and play is the specter of multitude that haunts the empire.
> More than a cyborg, in our posthumanity, we become as dolphins.
**Let's not insult an intelligent species.**

> Information itself is no longer simply numeric, quantitative data, but
> rather n-dimensional, virtual forms.
** In other forums i have voiced my curiosity about what "is", or what "is
meant" by information and (separate subject) belief.  What I learned was
that others have their special curosities and are more or less deaf to mine,
but we continue the discourse.**
> Information has become a sea full of nomadic swimming monsters.

> The question of legitimation becomes one of whether capitalism will
> continue to control the modes of bioproduction it has unleashed or
> whether evolution will continue to take its course.  Perhaps, complexity
> is no longer something to be feared, but something to be dreamed of.
> Perhaps, the dream is its own legitimation.
 **As in previous posts, I favor a capitalism of the worker-ownership of
non-transferable stock in small local corporations, i.e. the means of
production they use belong to the users, not to remote others.  This is a
utopian dream, but so is fuzzy friendly communism.**
> "At night my lover comes to me and tells me of her dreams with no
> attempt to shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what each one means."
> -dylan
> yours in stem cell research,
**Bioscience has just recently opened new vistas.  Let's hope a metaphorical
biopolitics will do the same.  Then the capitalist shakers and movers will
have at it for fun, profit,
perennial senatorial incumbency (thanks Jeese) will continue to flourish.

> eric


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