This is the introduction to my paper, “The State as a Virtual Object,” which I will be presenting on Sunday at the Rethinking Marxism conference. Rather than posting the paper in full, I’ll release easily-readable excerpts now and the full paper next week.
Japanese director Nagisa Oshima’s 1968 film “Death by Hanging” begins with the execution of an ethnic Korean man, R. Miraculously, the hanging does not kill him; in fact, its only effect is that it erases his memory (08:23). Taken by surprise, officials debate the law and decide that execution is only just if a person realizes the guilt for which they are being punished (10:55). In an effort to make R admit his guilt for a crime he has no memory of committing, the officials simulate his crimes, which only leads to an absurd comedy of errors that exposes the racist, violent dimension of the nationalist law and history.