File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0112, message 7

Date: Mon, 03 Dec 2001 22:12:19 -0600
Subject: Re: the state and violence

steve.devos wrote:
> All
> When I was very young we essentially believed that its was time for the state to be held accountable for the violence it committed and
> contained. At some point we accepted that the issue was not simply the
> state, but the socio-economic system as a whole, but not withstanding
> this it was not possible or sensible to retreat from the former position.


One of the points that N&H made in Empire concerned the the need to
struggle for universal citizenship.  In his interview at the end of
Ethics, Badiou also talks about his own political work regarding the
"sans-papiers" and makes the following comment.

"I would say of the abolition of frontiers what I said a moment ago
about the withering away of the state.  I'm for it, I'm absolutely for
it!  But to be for something yields no active political principle in the
situation.  The question of knowing what happens to people who are in
France is already a huge question. To refer this question back to a
debate about the opening or the closing of borders, to the question of
whether labour belongs to a global market or not, seems to forbid
thinking about the situation itself and intervening in it so as to
transform it."

I disagree with much that Badiou says in his Ethics, but find what he
says here about ethics seems true and right on target. I would also say,
echoing Hugh's various points about the need to tranform the state for
its current state that I am for them all, absolutely for them, but they
also seem merely like distant possibilities today.

In the wake of 911, one of the consequences was that the possibility of
the closing of borders is even more remote than it was before. The short
term result is that the powers of the state to intrude into the lives of
individuals and minorities in the name of public protection has already
become greatly intensified. The Patriot Act in America seems like an
omnious strange first fruit of this new situation which will further
strengthen the state's innate capacity for violence. That is the grim
reality of the situation today.  

The question becomes how to deal with all this. What are the moral and
political responses that can be made when the withering of the state is
a remote possibility that seems almost dreamlike?  

In his essay on the Zone, Lyotard remarks that a defensive politics
consumes less far energy that an offensive one.  Hia point was that 
progressive politics in the early nineties appeared to be very much in
the defensive mode. This seems even more true today.

I feel that what was valuable for me in the Baudrillard essay was that
he expressed perfectly this ambivalence I feel. The horror of the state
in its mode of violent perfection, its arrogance of power juxtaposed
against the weakness and impotence of all those human/inhuman forces who
attempt in vain to resist it. 

Then one fine morning out of the blue the perfection of this power is
forever shattered. Even those of us who were Americans felt a deep dark
feeling no flag waving patriotism could hope to hide. 

It happened in a way that was like a horrible dream; and those who
survived the event must continue to ask themselves - have I awakened or
am I dreaming still? 

looking for a light switch...



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