The conspiracy against this world will be known through its war machines. A war machine is itself “a pure form of exteriority” that “explains nothing,” but there are plenty of stories to tell about them. They are the heroes of A Thousand Plateaus – Kleist’s skull-crushing war machine; the migratory war machine that the Vandals used to sack Rome; the gun that Black Panther George Jackson grabs on the run, and the queer war machine that excretes a thousand tiny sexes. “Each time there is an operation against the state – insubordination, rioting, guerilla warfare, or revolution as an act – it can be said that a war machine has revived.” War machines are also the greatest villains of the book, making all other dangers “pale by comparison” – there is the constant state appropriation of the war machine that subordinates war to its own aims, the folly of the commercial war machine, the paranoia of the fascist war machine (not the state army of totalitarianism), and worst of them all, the “worldwide war machine” of capitalism “whose organization exceeds the State apparatus and passes into energy, military-industrial, and multinational complexes” that wages peace on the whole world. Continue reading “Task: Destroy Worlds (Not Create Conceptions)”
From Chapter 4 of Jonathan Crary’s 24/7, which I just taught:
Chantal Akerman’s film D’Est (From the East), made in 1 992 and early 1993, carries a heightened self-consciousness about the circumstances of this weighty historical moment. Shot mainly  in Poland and Russia in the year and a half following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it discloses a world in suspension, on the edge of an undetermined future, yet still weighed down by long-standing patterns and habits. Using very long takes, it is an extended portrayal of certain textures of everyday life, sometimes suggesting a Sartrean seriality. In her essay on D’Est, Akerman famously declared that she felt the need to make the film “while there’s still time” (“tant qu’il en est encore temps”).11 In one sense, she meant that she had to finish the project before it was too late, before cultural and economic forces transformed the subject of her work into something different, even unrecognizable. But, given the choices she made ofwhat to record, “while there’s still time” is also a way of saying: while there is still a world of time-in common, a world sustained by a collective inhabiting and sharing of time and its rhythms, in the older sense of the word “quotidian.” Continue reading “The Time of Waiting”
Leaning back as I took another puff on my cigarette, things went in and out of focus as the whiskey worked its way through my body. Still unable to shake a lingering desire for clarity, I jotted down some notes while playing it back in my head like a movie reel.
Disorientation. Most people’s initial experience of the Metropolis is disorientation. When you first hit the streets, you settle into the strangeness of it as if it was all just a dream. And while you are trapped in its dreamlike embrace, the Metropolis slowly reveals its erotic and morally ambiguous nature, a tempting but repulsive allure set against a background of violence.
Most of the smart ones leave. I hope they’re happy back on the farm. Others try to be good Samaritans. I gave up being a white knight a long time ago. There are some tall tales that shovel the regular bullshit about good detectives. But I’ve never seen one. And if I did, I’d probably hate their guts. Asking someone to get their hands dirty doesn’t work when they think they’re already helping. I don’t want to be a role model, I want to win. “By any means necessary.”
“Step one: ditch the false piety of doing good and start using your feet.”
A lot of red herrings had been thrown my way. The Metropolis makes it hard to trust anyone or anything. There are no longer any good guys, only con men looking for dupes unable to see through their whole nice-guy act. Everyone here has the potential to do bad, and more importantly, everyone has an angle. Nobody is innocent. Neutrality is the sure sign that someone is either playing it close to the chest or too clueless to figure out whose bidding they are unwittingly doing.
The last people to have faith in are the authorities. They lost control of the streets a long time ago. And whatever power they still exercise always plays into the hands of some higher power. Yet knowing the phone numbers of a few bureaucrats and cops is never a bad idea, as long as you don’t get too close – mistaking them for a friend or a confidant makes you worse than a singing jailbird. Information is their greatest weapon; it gives them leverage. It therefore isn’t wise to feed them even a breadcrumb because that’s how people like you and me end up in trouble to begin with. The bottom line: authorities are to be used, never trusted.
“Step two: track down the leads before the trail goes cold.”
The spoils of my stakeout were lying out on my desk like stolen loot. The killer had left a path of dead bodies in his wake. And in my search to find out whodunnit, I had uncovered every one of them. It all started when I stumbled across what remained of the once-terrifying king of the Archaic State after some of his slaves had gotten to him. My hunt continued when I spotted His Benevolence of the Priestly State after his blackmail and extortion racket went south. The Police and Publicity gave away the Modern State next, but the threads only started to unravel. I knew I was close when I spotted what remained of the Social State, broken and half-crazy, having fallen into a crowd of marginals, undesirables, and illegalists.
Just when I thought the trail went cold, I got the call. The anonymous caller told me to meet at an abandoned lot in a rather seedy part of downtown. But when I got there, I was too late. The killer had struck again. This time, however, I knew that the body would give me all I needed to know. But this operation would have to be a full-blown autopsy, for the answer was stuck deep in the veins of the Metropolis.
“Step three: disembowel the Metropolis.”
The Metropolis is the ground on which Empire operates. It exists on its own accord as a material reality, although it is improbable that the Metropolis would last long without Empire to govern it. Despite its material existence, the Metropolis is more a process, the process of composition that brings together material according to a specific set of rules. In particular, the Metropolis operates according to inclusive disjunction. Inclusive disjunction allows the Metropolis to connect otherwise incommensurate subjects, flows, temporalities, and visibilities without suppressing their differences. In assembling them, the Metropolis does not leave those incommensurate things unperturbed. Rather, Empire introduces things into the Metropolis by producing a plane of positivities that unfolds secured elements, exposes them to risk, and eliminates their futurity. Continue reading “Chapter 3 – Disemboweling the Metropolis”