File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0108, message 97

Date: Sun, 26 Aug 2001 20:27:03 +0100
Subject: Re: Empire and the "Desires"


Hope you enjoyed the EC ... I very much enjoyed reading your email, much
food for thought... since i am already pretty close to being a cyborg and
want like Lyotard to reject 'the haste', makes me think of M. Duras
wonderful 'Sailor from Gibraltor...'

Firstly I'm not convinced by your reading of Lyotard on Metanarratives (GN)
- the clearest reading that can be made is that Lyotard believed the shift
from modernity to post-modernity occurs with the change in legitimation
strategies that occurs with the shift to an information society.  The GN
were the legitimating forces that signify modernity and the redundency of
the GN  results in the PM condition. PM for Lyotard is relaxed, comfortable
even, with difference, it does not dictate the universal standards to which
the social actants must subscribe, rather it accepts incommensuability of
standpoints.... see pp 31-7 the section entitled Narratives of the
legitmation of knowledge. In this section Lyotard writes of two 'major
versions of the narrative of legitimation', the words implicat that all, yes
all the modernist narratives of legitimation are represented in the two
Lyotard discusses, 'one is political and the other is philosophical'... (I
won't go much further into this rather wonderful piece of writing)... The
text suggests that all the modernist narratives of legitimation are included
within the scope of the text...

In which case two things to say - that the 'Empire' text which is founded on
a re-write of the marxist version of the narrative of human emancipation,
which I believe is a fine starting point for any human being wanting to
understand this capitalist society, but which Lyotard refuses because of the
specific problems that marxists as despots created for themselves - except
that from a western marxist perspective there are none left - the wall came
down, the stalinists faded away and the GN of globalisation has been used to
justify the actions of 'development' as Lyotard describes it in 'The Inhuman
(p7 1988). What 'Empire' attempts is to create a position, a politics which
develops beyond the perspective that suggests that a "politics which 'we'
have inherited from revolutionary modes of thought and actions now turns out
to be redundent..." Lyotard suggested that perhaps nothing remained to
politics except the resistence to the 'the inhuman'. Empire suggests that
there is something else - ironically it does this by constructing the
marxist-deleuzianist tendency as Eric called it previously... - based on the
resurrection of the marxist critique of capital. Is the legitimation of the
imperial machine proposed in the Empire text accurate - however the question
to be answered is whether the legitimation of the text itself is correct -
the GN it uses is a post-cold war version of  the revolutionary modes of
thought that Lyotard assumed were redundent.

I differ from you on the criticality of the bio-political, or rather I agree
that it is a critical section. But beyond this the central sections are
those that refer to migration and economics. I tend towards the analysis
that proposes Empire/Globalisation as the state of things that emerges with
the end of the pax-americana in the 1970s and the resultant shifts in
economic activity that we think of as the post-modern capitalist economy.

Where the "concept of Empire as a unitary power that maintains peace and
produces its own ethical truths. It creates a new other that embodies a
boundless, universal space..." is referred to,  it is not clear that the
grand claim can be maintained because the discourses and political actions
that constitute the 'universal' are certainly not universal and appear to be
based on the demands of the local cultures - consider the globalisation
theorists belief that in a global economic culture welfare is not
sustainable - the evidence is that this is incorrect and that if a given
nation state requires it then it can be devoloped and fought for. (Welfare
policies are collective consumption not a tax burden). Interestingly it is
remarkably similar to the concept of  'development' briefly referred to
above - except that "development is the very thing that takes away the hope
of an alternative to the system...."  The reactionary discourses that argue
for the success of globalisation, the end of history, universality are the
very things which Empire is attacking.

Lyotard refers to consensus as impossible, the differend testifies to his
belief in inncommensurable difference. Consensus as referred to in the
"first task of empire...." is not possible. Even in the questionable success
of the transformation of culture into an industry, it's not clear how
successful this has been as the post-modern collapse in broadcast media
consensus programming - where the media was initially considered as being a
way of constructing a 'national consensus'. Where Lyotard's work is critical
is in the production of another way of understanding the theories of
globalisation as fundementally impossible, born in internal conflict and
contradiction - the differend is too great. As such there is space here to
attack the theorists and practitioners of globalisation.

The issue not yet discussed is the validity of the Empire concept itself.

I disagree that the difference between E and PMC, between Negri/Hardt and
Lyotard is 20 years - it is the relationship to marxism...In addition the
concept of the inhuman is directly, his rejection of the inhumanisation of
humanity, broadly speaking he seeks to refuse the science-technicist
discourses that surround information... The cyborg extension of the body...

yours in anti-specist wonderment


Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:

> 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.
> 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."
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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."
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.
> 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."
> 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.
> N&H implicitly raise the question whether this complexity must be
> resisted or whether it should be accelerated.
> 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."
> 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.
> Information itself is no longer simply numeric, quantitative data, but
> rather n-dimensional, virtual forms.
> 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.
> "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,
> eric


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