empire ain’t a thing

“An international ecumenical org does not process from an imperial center that imposes itself upon and homogenizes an exterior milieu; neither is it reducible to relations between St8s, for example (the League of nations, the United Nations).  On the contrary, it constitutes an intermediate milieu between the different coexistent orders. Therefore it is not exclusively commercial or economic, but is also religious, artistic, etc.  From this standpoint we shall call an international organization anything that has the capacity to move through diverse social formations simultaneously: States, towns, deserts, war machines, primitive societies. “ (435, my emph)

Deleuze and Guattari’s formulation of “international ecumenical organizations” is a form that Michael Hardt names ‘Empire’. See Michael’s Duke lectures on A Thousand Plateaus for more.

The curious formation of ‘international ecumenical organizations’ is the way in which D&G expand on Braudel’s rigorously historical analysis of the early development of capitalism in feudal europe. A contemporary example would be Manuel De Landa’s ambitious but partial undertaking of an economic history of the nation-state in “A thousand years of non-linear history.”

The curious problem – of course, is what to do when you confront a process, or even a general environment, and not a thing. Things can be attacked, destroyed, banished, contained. But processes or environments? Then we have a much more serious problem on our hands. Imagine the radioactive plume coming toward us from Japan (Delillo’s ‘airborne toxic event’ from white noise, anybody?). How does it get contained? It doesn’t – the characters wade through it in a generalized state of panic, fear, complacency, and stupidity.

How does one strike against such an environment? Let’s take a cue from Tiqqun…

Interference is the prime vector of revolt.  Transplanted into the cybernetic world, the metaphor also makes reference to the resistance to the tyranny of transparency which control imposes.   Haze disrupts all the typical coordinates of perception.  It makes it indiscernible what is visible and what is invisible, what is information and what is an event.  This is why it represents one of the conditions for the possibility of events taking place. Fog makes revolt possible. In a novel called “Love is Blind,” Boris Vian imagined what the effects of a real fog in existing relations.  The inhabitants of a metropolis wake up one morning filled by a “tidal wave of opacity” that progressively modifies all their behaviors.  The needs imposed by appearances quickly become useless and the city is taken over by collective experimentation.  Love becomes free, facilitated by a permanent nudity of all bodies.  Orgies spread everywhere.  Skin, hands, flesh; all regain their prerogative, since “the domain of the possible is extended when one is no longer afraid that the light might be turned on.”  Incapable of prolonging a fog that they did not contribute to the formation of, they are relieved when “the radio says that experts have noted that the phenomenon will be returning regularly.”  In light of this everyone decides to put out their own eyes so that life can go on happily.

5 thoughts on “empire ain’t a thing

  1. An additional quote —

    “The point of departure for ecumenical org is not a St8, even an imperial one; the imperial St8 is only one part of it, and it constitutes a part of it in its own mode, according to its own order, which consists in capturing everything it can. It does not proceed by progressive homogenization, or by totalization, but by the taking on of consistency or the consolidation of the diverse as such.”

    1. A2: Homogenization:
      Axiomatic = isomorphic (more on this later)
      –it would be wrong to confuse isomorphy with hetero-homo/geneity [CAP IS NOT TRANS-CONSISTENCY]
      –isomorphism “centers” heterogeneous states on the world market (“exo-consistency”?)

      –even more: “each process can switch over to other powers, but also subordinate other processes to its own power” (437)
      (“there is not only an external coexstience of formations but also an intrinsic coexistence of machinic processes”)
      (1)capture’s “power of appropriation” captures phylum, but also war machines, and anticipation-prevention
      (2) anticipation-prevention = ‘high power of transference” – st8s ward off cap, cap wards/repels own limits, etc
      (3) war machines’ power of metamorphosis – cap by st8s, but resist that capture, change, objects not war (rev?)

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