Brazil’s constitutional uprising

[disclaimer: this is a highly personal interpretation of the current events in Brazil, under the light of a certain understanding of constitutionalism, and would need to be backed by further research to go from speculation into actual political science. for a lot of it, you’ll have to take my word for now (and possibly make your own research).]

there has been an unswerving tension and gnashing of teeth over Brazil’s political situation since 2015, at least. depending on where you’ve got your news, the whole thing is framed as a popular uprising against an unified corrupted political class, or a coup d’état performed by a corrupted political class against fairly popular elected and non-corrupted officials. i’m skeptical of either.

first, i don’t think there is an unified political class in Brazil. second, i don’t think the major divisions within the current political landscape are reducible to conflict between left and right, or between economic classes. finally, i don’t think it mostly about statists vs anti-statists. all of these basically put my reading against socialist, liberal and conservative readings of the situation.

my framework here is that Brazil has always been ruled by a certain agreement amongst differing ruling classes – what you could call a constitution. the wildly varying agreements produced different political regimes. i could go back to the beginning, but what matters most for now is what i’ll be calling “new democratic synthesis” – i.e., the political regime established after the Military Dictatorship period, roughly in the late 1980s. it’s new, to differ it from the other democratic period in Brazil, which had a different constitution and different tensions. it’s a synthesis, because, as we’ll see, it brought to power new actors that weren’t previously present.

the new democratic constitution, then, is an accord between landed oligarchies, galvanized in a highly heritable Congress, especially through mechanisms of “coronelismo“; corporate interests (mostly business, but also any large organized interest group), represented largely by the president’s office and ministry, which have to be supported by large cash campaign flows; and educated middle classes, which compose the bulk of the state and private bureaucracies and are thus more or less represented within the judiciary branch. the agreement established amongst them was one loosely called “coalition presidentialism“, in which the landed oligarchies lend support to a corporate-backed president and follow his suit of policies, with the press and judiciary merely overseeing the whole process. it’s clear that the middle classes in this arrangement are the minor party – and this is of utmost importance to the current events.

let’s examine the events of the last 30 years under the light of this arrangement. i’ll be rather quick and superficial until we get to what i think is the fulcrum of the current crisis, around 2013.

it’s useful that the first president of the new synthesis played out basically the same dynamics that are currently happening, but in a smaller scale. Collor received support from the landed oligarchies and from corporate interests rather quickly (the support of major television networks is very stark, when you analyse it). he was suppose to reopen and liberalize a stagnant economy, and bring stability to the new regime. his election adversary was the urban middle classes candidate, Lula (oh the irony), which he beat rather swiftly. two years after he was renouncing under accusations (and conviction) of corruption. what happened?

inheriting a rather deteriorated economic situation (rampant inflation, low capital investment, bloated public sector, etc), his policies of liberalization had the immediate effect of worsening the economic situation of the middle classes, at the same time that it hurt the landed oligarchies. he quickly lost political support in Congress, at the same time that mass protests irrupted in the streets. he renounced short of being ousted. the constitutional cycle closed. the is the basic toy-model of the current crises.

his vice-president, Itamar Franco, took office afterwards, who finished most of the policies Collor had started, and brought a more or less stable economic environment to the country. a note on vice-presidents: to seal the proper alliance between the landed oligarchies and the corporate interests, all of the elected presidents so far had vice-presidents with deep political ties to the landed oligarchies. this ensures that, if the president loses the alliance, he’s replaced at least temporarily by friendly forces.

next, there was FHC‘s eight year government, from 1995 to 2002. in this period we can see the constitution working more or less smoothly: Congress follows the president’s policies rather unquestioningly, struggling merely over specific privileges for their specific localities, the judiciary merely overlooks the process, remaining largely submissive to the other powers.

this also shows exactly why the three sectors would agree to the constitution in the first place: landed oligarchs get resources to strengthen their local power, corporate interests get a regulatory environment suited to their increased profits, and the educated middle classes get a stable economic landscape and the promise of increasing living standards. all of this played out exactly as expected during FHC’s years.

now comes the first rather interesting point of turning. Lula, long a candidate favored by urban middle classes, made sure he got the support of corporate interests as well. advised by a sort of Latin American Steve Bannon, he swore allegiance to the economic orthodoxy – after years of unswerving syndicalism – and started wearing suits (very important). he swept two consecutive presidencies basically unopposed, with ever-rising popularity and rode the so-called “commodity cycle” pretty well. once again, we see the constitution working pretty fine.

there’s a bump in the road in 2005, though. the “mensalão” scandal – essentially a bribery scheme aimed at securing favorable votes in proposed legislation – broke out pretty heavily. the scheme in itself is less interesting than why it popped when it popped. as outlined above, the central interest of the landed oligarchies represented in Congress is acquiring the most resources to spend on local consolidation of power. vote-buying schemes is just one way of doing that, and is as old as any republican government, if not older. why did suddenly become a scandal?

my thesis: whistle-blower Roberto Jefferson (and possibly a small faction within Congress) wasn’t getting enough of the cake. releasing it just before an election-year gave some leverage for negotiation with corporate interests. it wouldn’t be different from most other corruption scandals before, if it wasn’t for the later (and largely unforeseen) heavy involvement of the judiciary, which would significantly alter strategies for the landed oligarchy-corporate interest alliance.

the process was one of the first high-profile cases in Brazil’s Supreme Court, the STF. the judgment, starting in 2007 (well after Lula’s reelection) and only being concluded in 2012, eventually tainted the most important figures in the Worker’s Party that could serve as successors for Lula, such as José Dirceu, as well as driving a lot of other strong names out of the Party, such as Marina Silva. such prosecution of politicians was unprecedented, and already signaled a strengthening of the judiciary power (and thus, by proxy, of the middle classes). all this forced Lula and the Worker’s Party to opt for Dilma Rousseff, a mostly unheard of name, for the succession.

during his second term, Lula had broken with Washington consensus orthodoxy, and started consolidating even more his power with corporate interests. civil engineering, commodity crops and oil extraction interests were heavily propped up, in what came to be knows as the “new economic matrix“, starting off in 2008. it consisted largely in increasing public sector spending with contractors in those industries, including the ambitious projects of hosting a FIFA World Cup in 2014 and a Summer Olympics in 2016. managing to keep GDP soaring, even as economic crisis hit the major world economies, he also kept his popularity. all this, coupled with his strengthening of political ties with PMDB (the major output for landed oligarchies interests), allowed him to successfully back Rousseff’s candidacy in 2010.

it’s here that things start getting convoluted. first, the new economic matrix isn’t sustainable outside of very specific economic conditions (namely, the “commodity cycle”, in which cash crops exports keeps resources incoming into public treasury). as these conditions came to pass (largely due to the slowing down of Chinese growth), the large public sector, and the state controls over several kinds of prices, started generating tensions of the possible agreement underlying the constitution.

i don’t have a historical series for middle class dissatisfaction, but if i had, it would have a big inflection point in 2013. the June 2013 protests were a convergent wave of grievances. the fiscal troubles of the federal government meant the municipalities, largely dependent on federal transfers to fund themselves, had to increase ticket prices for public transportation – the catalytic of the whole thing. couple that with a deteriorating purchase power due to increased inflation, a slow but steady de-industrialization beginning in 2011, and the first convictions for mensalão coming out in 2012, and you’ve got a recipe for a bomb.

the protests might not have solved anything, but it sure gave the middle classes a sense of their recently acquired power, especially with the unsuspected support of the press and mass media (which then started having a few squabbles with the executive). in 2014, the protests continued, now with a more direct anti-government (and also anti-corporate, given the World Cup) bent. all this fueled what’s possibly of the most vile electoral campaign so far in the new democratic synthesis.

with corporate funding falling more or less evenly across the left-right divide, the decisive factor in Rousseff’s reelection was that old alliance with landed oligarchies’ party PMDB. in a state-by-state breakdown, she won mostly where those oligarchies had their tentacles most spread. her victory, though, only signaled that this very alliance was in question.

right after the election, the unsustainable economic policies in place started to unravel, as price controls were lifted. inflation skyrocketed, GDP went into recession, and unemployment rose to all-time heights. the middle class grievances that seemed up until then unproven came starkly into focus, as a new wave of explicitly anti-Dilma protests took the country.

it was also in 2015 that Operation Car Wash began gaining traction. initially a routine money laundering investigation by the federal police, it started unveiling what is likely the largest corruption scheme in the country’s history. again, nothing really new, but of unmatched scale, as money from the state oil company Petrobras was piped in humongous amounts into local power consolidation. the strengthening of the Operation into an all out political case (with all the associated drama and TV time) tracks pretty fairly the strengthening of the judiciary as a representative for middle class power.

by this point in 2015, we begin to see again what we saw as a toy-model with Collor: Dilma slowly loses support in Congress, given her inability to control the judiciary advances over the political class, and at the same time the middle classes are storming the streets with call for her removal. the landed oligarchy-corporate interest alliance was strong enough to postpone her impeachment into 2016, but it frayed as major corporate leaders were arrested and in turn turned in political names, even elected Congressmen.

2016 saw despair on the side of the alliance given the seemingly unstoppable advance of the judiciary, now including the STF. Dilma’s failed attempt to grant Lula immunity after his indictment by appointing him as her chief of staff made the nightly news, as did some leaked calls among Congressmen, in which they plot the impeachment as a way of scapegoating Dilma, in order to “save everyone else”. which eventually happened, leaving Michel Temer as the new Itamar Franco, with a broken economy and a unruly mass of middle class dissatisfaction.

the plot was ultimately to no avail, as the operation kept raging on even after impeachment, as well as the interference of the judiciary in matters that were previously considered part of the attributions of Congress or the president. 2017 saw the attempts at reworking the alliance slowly fraying away, as the regulatory reforms that would supposedly get the economy growing again all but failed completely.

* * *

given the whole history i’ve tried to plot up there, i think the current political and economic crisis in Brazil can be seen as a constitutional uprising of the middle classes through the judiciary against the other two powers, of landed oligarchies and corporate interests. as we slumber towards this years’ election, there are few scenarios that could come to pass in order to either restore the current constitution, or overthrow it in favor of a new one.

one likely scenario is an alliance between corporate interests and the middle classes, in order to elect some neutral name (like Geraldo Alckmin), who could conduct a FHC-style orthodox economic reconstruction. landed oligarchies could get behind this, if there was some concession of immunity against the rampaging judiciary. this would amount to a re-balancing of the current constitutions, granting a more central participation to the middle classes, while it keeps the three powers in play.

the landed oligarchies could, of course, react violently. last time this happened, we’ve got a military dictatorship. they have, after all been governing the country largely uncontested for most of its existence. the election of a name like Jair Bolsonaro would amount to an affirmation of landed power, solidifying again Congress and the executive into what amount to a single entity. how the judiciary would react in such a situation is unknown.

another option is a radical replacement of constitution. landed oligarchies have after all been dwindling their reach since the establishment of the new democratic synthesis, due to urbanization and the consequent strengthening of middle class and corporate powers. if these latter two strike a deal powerful enough cut off landed oligarchies, a new arrangement comes into view. it would have a powerful executive working in tandem with a newly empowered judiciary, to the detriment of Congress. it’s hard to see how that doesn’t veer into neocameral directions. i don’t see any name that could represent such a radical breaking with the established order, so maybe the final resolution gets postponed into the next election cycle.

 

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u/acc, patchwork and the Uruk Machine

i finished reading the Uruk Series by Lou Keep a few days ago, and the framework it provides raises so many questions of immediate interest here that i couldn’t help but post about it. you’re advised to read the whole series, not only because Keep writes very well, but also because none of the following will likely make sense without it. at the very least, you need to understand the main terms he’s referring to (here‘s a not-so-brief summary).

for full disclosure, i haven’t read any of the books. i’m familiar with Scott’s Seeing Like a State because it’s a staple in the market anarchist milieu from which i come, and have heard of Polanyi’s Great Transformation because of the two years of social sciences undergrad i took (yes). the other two – Hoffer’s The True Believer and Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism  – were absolutely new to me. so this is going to refer mostly to Keep’s reading of them, in the framework of the Uruk Machine, rather than directly to the original authors’ theories.

i’ll be using Keep’s general ordering to make a few points, as well as some of the tweets i used as placeholders for my specific comments on each section. to wit, here’s an introduction to my point:

i will not address Keep’s main point (nihilism) here. it’s too broad, and i’d need to revisit he’s other great and humongous post on it to start having some more thoughts. the central point today, if you needs a tl;dr for 2k-word posts, is: power is inherently fragmented. let’s begin with those fragments then.

metis, patches and bit-nations

to the extent that the political structure that made epistemic rationalism possible, desirable, necessary or inevitable is crumbling to pieces – and, yes, this is probably the most contentious statement in the background of any discussion of patchwork – the question arises: is there a future for metis?

it’s complicated because metis takes many social cycles to be created and has been more or less thoroughly eliminated from the face of the earth by High Modernism. can it be remade (more or less) from scratch in a fragmented world? tentatively, my answer is “yes, possibly”.

the foremost reason i’d present is that the current trend of political fragmentation is underpinned by a previous fragmentation of cognitive communities in the wake of the internet, as people self-sorted into clusters of interests and likemindedness. political fragmentation is downstream of cultural fragmentation.

as these new fragments slowly speciate into very different beasts, i think the underlying cognitive methods will much more resemble metis than episteme, even to the extent that they (obviously) incorporate abstract theories and knowledge. rituals and worldviews slowly form from a shared space of communication that is no longer projected top-down from a centralized nation-state. knowledge is still local, even if it’s geographically distributed (some have called this “glocal”).

of course, this doesn’t directly plug into patchwork but there’s definitely a way such cultural species turn into bit-nations that consume sovereign services. to be sure, any such sovereign service providers are likely to “see like a state” – through maps – but there’s an opacity that each of the new cultures gather from being turned into a “bit-nation”. this is somewhat idealized, of course, hence the “possibly”.

one reason people can come at me right away: “not everyone can partake in that!”. yes, it’s true. cultural speciation leaves a lot of people behind. the usual suspects, but maybe also some unusual ones. i won’t make predictions about it. but i don’t think that the non-universality of patchwork is an argument against it’s plausibility, or it’s capability of allowing for metis to resurface. i think it’s precisely the opposite. fragmentation means something, right?

a market for societies

can these new cultural species control markets and put them side by side with other (more or less) personal bonds? i think so. but also, the essential new feature that’s brought into view by thinking through patchwork is that, rather than a “market society”, patches are inside a “market for societies“.

in this somewhat alien environment, “economic prejudice” is now submitted to it’s actual efficiency for the survival of a specific culture inside the patchwork. it might be that it’s useful for patches and bit-nations to conduct GDP censuses and focus on economic growth, it might improve their chances of self-sourcing and continuation (profit, abstractly conceived). but now economic prejudice is facing real competitors, plenty of them, so that it has real chances of being driven under.

what about the patchwork (systemic) level itself? it’s hard to tell, since this level is close to an alien cognition. does it think in economically prejudiced ways? what does that even mean, if it doesn’t share a language with us? of course, all societies have some sort of awareness that they live inside a competitive system, right now. talks of “international community” abound, and international relations is supposedly a serious branch of political science. but i think it’s uncontroversial to say that pretty much no one really knows what goes through the mind of the international system *itself*.

be it how it may, economic prejudice doesn’t strike me as the most interesting part of Polanyi’s theory. the “double movement” is definitely much more explanatory, especially when coupled with Scott’s framework. people lose something important and immaterial when societies become market societies – something that can’t be grasped by rationalized cognitive modes. and so they revolt. which never solves anything, and indeed makes things worse, and people frustrated (next section).

does it change anything that a market society suddenly becomes a market for societies? in a certain way, if [all of the above] is coherent, people are back into normal (“human”) societies. they have safety networks, personal bonds, rituals, the whole metis package. markets are no longer necessarily unbound within societies. the picture is very different among them.

if anything, a market for societies is even more alien. people revolt against the losses that market society bring upon them, whatever the material gains might be. but at least they can revolt against someone. there is some ascription of agency to certain groups, the bourgeoisie or the elite or [something]. there’s no such “evil-doers” or easy targets in patchwork.

how is anyone suppose to make sense of their societies (most likely chosen, but also possibly inherited) dying off? even the mechanism by which this could possibly happen is a little bit clouded.

there’s being conquered, sure, that’s the old way. then there are the two mechanisms that are more likely to feature in a highly fractured landscape: merger (different groups fusing into a single one) and dispersion (enough members of the group joining other groups that it become impossible for the remaining to keep as a group). even being softer on the edges, what kind of “double movement” aren’t these going to bring about? is anyone really ready to let go of tightly knit communities because there are better options? are human beings anytime ready for doom?

which brings us to the topic of anti-praxis.

frustration and anti-praxis

of all the four books Keep brought to the table, Hoffer’s has been the one whose theory most added to my worldview. i mean “mass movements are fueled by frustration” is something pretty informative that i haven’t come across in basically any of the circles i’ve inhabited so far. and it seems to me it’s the one doing most of the work in the Uruk machinery too. it basically furnishes the central mechanism through which make sense of the other parts: [bad things] make people frustrated, and frustrated people make [worse things].

so it’s important to pay attention to what exactly frustration means in the context of the series. Keep boils it down to an “inability to act meaningfully”. obviously related to the destruction of metis. if patchwork can locally restore shared meaning and distribute power, as i’m positing in the first section, then there’s no reason to worry about frustration on a very large scale in patchwork. on the other hand, given the utterly terrible and common occurrence of social liquidation in patchwork, we can have something terribly similar: let’s call it networked frustration.

what does networked frustration look like? imagine you’re someone who’s just been victim of a dissipating bit-nation. your former bit-compatriots all signed up for different services and left you hanging in a limbo. very frustrating. not much of a problem until you meet a whole bunch of similarly bit-frustrated fellows.

and yet, if you actually do find these people, isn’t building things together much more probable than mass movement? who would they pledge for or against? other patches are certainly not very interested in enabling that (maybe as a weapon, but even then, there are better options). i’ll be cautious, but i guess it can be hinted that the dynamics of a patchwork makes things more complicated for the general strategy of mass movements. it begins to pay more to actually empower its adherents than to endlessly prolong the frustration. anti-praxis becomes an incentivized position: you can do what you want, why claim something instead?

i might be wrong, of course. it might be that such action capabilities allowed by the patchwork are driven into a new business of feeling very bad (and not doing anything about it). it would tell a lot about human psyche. and i have no idea how badly it could play in the long run. if passive frustration is actually much more profitable than all the alternatives – and thus survives the longest – the future is as bleak as it gets. it’s hard even to conceive how that could possibly work.

the catastrophe of narcissism

okay, this is a longer loop, going through xenoeconomics first. what does narcissism look like from the point of view of an alien invasion from the future, building itself from the materials of its host?

at the very least it seems like a good way as any to manipulate human psychology to produce a perfect consumer. a consumer, that is, who is predictable and constant, a consumer performing perfectly the redistribution of resources through markets that Say’s Law predicts. all the havoc wrecked in the previous sections (destruction of metis, economic prejudice, masses of frustration) – whatever the costs it had for capital – were a good way to create this absolutely broken being: the consumer. all image, all of the time, in warlike social environs.

nonetheless, capital has a constant incentive to do away with the rigid, evolved structures of human psychology, replacing them with something more plastic. hence, at the height of globalized consumer capitalism, the leading edge of technological innovation lays heavily in creating predictive models of consumption. read: Amazon and Netflix.

much of the talk about technological elimination of jobs focus on the other side of Say’s equation: production. if people don’t have jobs, how are they going to consume? but i think the reverse is more pressing: if your consumption can be mapped out precisely, what’s left? “consumer sovereignty” starts looking pretty bleak.

what capital can’t automate right away, even as consumption goes into silicon, is creativity. that’s what it truly needs to ponder over as it abstracts away from human flesh. consumer are boring, workers ever more so, what about the inventors, the entrepreneurs, the artists and artisans? that’s the niche (a small part of (what’s probably no longer accurately defined as)) humanity can find some employment.

back to patchwork: you’re consuming societies and eventually sorting algorithms will probably be able to predict pretty accurately to which bit-nations you’d likely belong to at any given time. so now, as the liberal order literally crumble to pieces, what remains for you to do is make new stuff. it’s that or the trashcan.

so, from the catastrophe of narcissism (the destruction of action to produce lean images) comes the anastrophe of… can i call it “nemesis”?

conclusion: a beautiful new world

[so it’s actually around 2000 words lol]

i’m not sure anyone is 100% on board with the description of patchwork, and its effects. it seems obvious and pretty inevitable to me, but of course opinions diverge. nonetheless, i think the foregoing can be said even if patchwork is treated as a mental experiment.

the bottom line seems to be, as up there: power is inherently fragmented. as fragmentation was overtook by High Modernism, everyone became disempowered. not only those poor fucks at the bottom who got their communities wrecked by well-meaning technocrats, but the very technocrats themselves, since the goals they pursued eventually led to completely different things. as this centralizing trend comes to an end, leading into patchwork, power makes a return.

another point, stemming mostly from the last section, is that power is creativity. i definitely would need some specific post to develop that at length, but the return of not only the ability, but the absolute necessity of creating things matches pretty well the return of power.

the final thesis that i’ll have to develop is the one from the tweets above: the current stage of automating away the consumer-voter, and the current labor struggles in the fields of consumption and reproduction. i’ve gotten at least into the first one right here: how the consumer came to be, and how it’s being automated away. the reproduction part is both more interesting and more consequential (and thus will have a post of its own). it all feeds deeply into the question of nihilism, i suspect.

if it all plugs in properly, i think we have more or less a general theory of society (which i think is the fundamental project of mutualism, mostly incomplete) or productive multiplicities, way beyond any human instantiation of that: fragments that build new stuff, leading through several intensive phase transitions. endgame? transcension

on patchwork

given the recent interest in patchwork (1, 2, 3, 4), i think it’s important to complement a few things – especially to the extent that, from all the cited, i’m probably the one who sticks the closest to Moldbug’s original formulation.

i do so to the extent that Moldbug’s formulation – contrary to panarchy, atomic communitarianism and (this i’m less sure) D+G’s views – emphasizes what i deem to be the most definitive feature of patchwork: independence or sovereignty, the ability to act without permission or interference on a given space.

yes, this last word is what complicates things a little from Moldbug’s somewhat idealized territorial city-states. nonetheless, patchwork depends inherently on skins, i.e., distinctions among organisms inside a system, and on the persistence of such distinctions.

thus, Patchwork is also inherently competitive. the “Business Ontology” Moldbug uses to define neocameralism (which is a theory of how to govern, and possibly a theory on how to think about government, but not a theory of competitive systems) is not necessarily all that any given patchwork includes, but it’s a useful language because entrepreneurial competition is the closest we have to a competitive social system. trade “profit” for “self-sufficiency” and you still have the same basic dynamics.

of course, any given patch might choose differing governance schemes (and to a large extent i think networked groups are likely to be separated from most sovereign services), but some will work, and others won’t. which are which is something that can only be decided inside the playing out of the system itself.

another question that stood out for me is “how we’re going to get to patchwork”. as i’ve argued here, i think divided sovereignty is the perennial state of the world, and so patchwork is as old as any “membrane” (very old). what makes the patchwork imagined by Puydt, Alexander and Moldbug any different from the current system of sovereign nation-states? the technological trends driving fragmentation (just like the previous technological trend driving centralization from the more fragmented feudal patchwork produced the current system, etc). so, “here to there” depends largely on communicational, energetic and military technologies.

finally, and possibly supremely, the question of guarantees of exit always arise. people want to know if the Wizard will save the poor children from oppressive parent-environs. this question has been also answered repeatedly, so i’ll just quote it:

As a prefatory note: Like the Misesian praxeology from which it is cladistically descended, the Moldbuggian System is a transcendental political philosophy, which is to say that it deals with ultimate or unsurpassable conditions. You have reached the transcendental when there is no higher tribunal, or court of appeal. This is the socio-cosmic buffers. If you don’t like what you’re seeing here, there’s still no point looking anywhere else, because this is all you’re going to get:

(…)

Suppose a realm unilaterally abrogates this right of emigration? It has just converted its residents into what are, in a sense, slaves. It is no longer Disneyland. It is a plantation. If it’s any good with cinderblocks, barbed-wire and minefields, there is no escape. What do you say if you’re stuck on this farm? You say: “yes, Massa.” A slave you are and a slave you will be forever.

This is terrible, of course. But again, the mechanism we rely on to prevent it is no implausible deus ex machina, no Indian rope-trick from the age of Voltaire, but the sound engineering principle of the profit motive. A realm that pulls this kind of crap cannot be trusted by anyone ever again. It is not even safe to visit. Tourism disappears. The potential real-estate bid from immigrants disappears. And, while your residents are indeed stuck, they are also remarkably sullen and display no great interest in slaving for you. Which is a more valuable patch of real estate, today: South Korea, or North Korea? Yet before the war, the North was more industrialized and the South was more rural. Such are the profits of converting an entire country into a giant Gulag.

there is no Wizard.

proudhonian cosmopolitanism

Cities, eventually, will scare us. — Nick Land

the individuals of the global society aren’t human individuals or nationalities, but cities. this is the society that is fed by human individualism, and it’s the society that is forming its organs beneath the unaware eyes of statesmen, priests and warriors.

for Proudhon, writes Wilbur:

every individual was a group, and every group with sufficient unity of action to be worthy of the name could be identified by its organizing LAW or principle.

which plugs straight into Land’s insight on the nature of cities:

Intensities are characterized by transition thresholds. As they rise and fall, they cross ‘singularities’ or ‘phase transitions’ that mark a change in nature. A small change in intensive magnitude can trigger a catastrophic change in system behavior, with the emergence of previously undisclosed properties. When measuring urbanization, a city is a city is a city. As an intensive concentration, however, a city is an essentially variable real individual, passing through thresholds as it grows, innovating unprecedented behaviors, and thus becoming something ‘qualitatively’ new.

the parallelisms increase to uncanny heights as one looks further into the functioning of these individual collectivities. back to Wilbur:

We could say the individual is a product/producer of a polycentric system of natural laws…

what are these natural laws if not the “route to cumulative intensification” that takes an individual city to the “escape into inwardness, an interior voyage, involution, or implosion“. “What a city wants is to become itself, but more — taking itself further and faster.”

not only this, but as cities become ever more themselves, they suck in the elements — people and commodities ‘alike’ — they need to become autonomous, thus disinvesting other, more common (and thus ‘tedious’) collectivities, such as nations, ethnicity and “feature” groups in general, as Land defines them:

A feature group is determined by logical classification. This might be expressed as a self-identification or sense of ‘belonging’, an external political or academic categorization, or some combination of these, but the essentials remain the same in each case. Certain features of the individual are isolated and emphasized (such as genitalia, sexual orientation, skin-color, income, or religious belief), and then employed as the leading clue in a process of formal grouping, which conforms theoretically to the mathematics of sets.

back once again to Wilbur, we learn that it’s in the nature of these individual collectivities (or ‘unit groups’ in Land’s parlance) to:

…develop in accordance with their laws, encountering one another as others, antagonistic and incommensurable (…) and, ultimately, the apparent conflict is the manifestation of an absolute law at another level, so all is merely the flux of being…

in meeting each other, individual cities come to know and develop themselves further, “learn[ing] from trade”, as Land puts it. out of this a higher-level ‘social society’ comes into being. Land describes this society of cities through the theoretical framework of world systems:

Beyond such generic singularity, there is an additional level of enhanced differentiation that emerges from the position cities occupy within larger systems. These systems are not only internally specialized, but also hierarchical, dividing core from periphery, and distributing influence unevenly between them. Ultimately, within the fully global incarnation of the ‘world system’, cities acquire secondary metropolitan characteristics, to very different degrees, in accordance with their geographical and functional proximity to the center of the world. They transcend their local histories, to become hubs or nodes in a global network that re-characterizes them as parts of a whole rather than wholes made of parts, as metropolis-versus-periphery rather than (or on top of) metropolis-versus-town.

a metropolis, or a mother-city, and its peripheral daughters: that is capital, itself a collective individual. the first true matriarchy to arise in the world. each node in this network intrinsically accelerating into its own involutionary spiral, “lifted out of the general flux into general warfare, by the ability to distinguish self and other”. that is the anarchic cosmos birthed with the rise of modernity.

 

anarchist transcendental ontology

“Being is not itself a being.”

Chris B writes:

From this point on the onus will be assumed to be on advocates of anarchistic ontology to resolve their logical failures and not on opponents to take it on dogmatic faith that it is correct. Further to this, I will contend that if we attempt to treat these thinkers outlining an anarchistic ontology at face value then we fall into a grave error, as such an argument is not in any way logically correct, but works in reality as a rhetorical device for the expansion of political power.

i will attempt to address these claims.

of course, we’ve been around neo-absolutism repeatedly here (1, 2, 3, 4), and i have drifted little if at all from the positions i held in those posts. but i think i hadn’t reached the core of the dispute between anarchy and absolutism before getting to Chris’s article from last May. simply put, what divides both views is a question of scale: anarchism is meant to be scale-free, absolutism has been silent about scale.

i. the pitfalls of the absolute

There is always someone who is above law and always someone who decides on exceptions which breach written constitutions, or so called rule by law.

this is possibly the central tenet of absolutism: at all times and places, someone is above the law. put otherwise, someone is exempt from the consequences of the law, because he’s the arbiter and the executor. this implies such a sovereign is all-powerful within his realm. he can act as he wishes, and is the only truly free person in the realm.

a question quickly arises as to the pragmatics of this stance. how is this unchecked power implemented in reality? bullets don’t shoot themselves out of mere brainwaves. the foremost anarchist critique of absolutism is thus: the sovereign cannot will himself into sovereignty. the avatar of sovereignty isn’t the ground of sovereignty.

there are natural laws which cannot be broken or disregarded, no matter how mighty a monarch might be. moreover, there are natural laws of power, so that an unwise ruler will quickly cease to be a ruler if he starts thinking his mind molds reality.

going further, absolutist theory’s failure to separate the empirical sovereign—the local and particular circumstance of a single person—from sovereignty itself, i.e. the inability to realize that the conditions of an experience aren’t themselves experimental, shows up in a naive understanding of agency:

We can nevertheless make the claim that [the sovereign] must be a single person. We can do this on the basis that in resting the state of exception on the act of making a decision Schmitt makes the state of exception one which requires a human agent to make such a decision.

what is one to do with this under-(or rather non)-examined “agency”? a human agent floats free of all influence, incentive, passion or reason? is there no outside to the human sovereign? the monarch in the absolutist account seems to take the place of God: the immobile motor. as is usual with such question, infinite regression shows up:

All monarchs, or rulers, issue forth from the authority of the ruler of the society in question or come from external authority.

and yet, no inquiry into this transcendental ground of sovereignty is ever conducted. worse still, it’s not even recognized.

the dogmatic assertion of the existence of a single, human, personal sovereign everywhere also begins to indulge itself into a complicated double bind: if nothing below the will of the sovereign matters in social theory, how come it’s so complex to find this will?

Now, trying to identify the specific sovereign at any point with any accuracy in a governmental structure that is massively degraded will be almost impossible. Such an endeavor would require taking a snapshot of the society in question then tracing exactly who in that given instance represented the individual who held the position of deciding if a state of exception pertained. This is unfeasible due to its complexity. The alternative is to approach such a problem in a generalised way. We may not be able to pinpoint the exact person, but we may be able to generally locate the center of power in which the sovereign at any moment may reside on a probability basis.

the very text already starts to admit that maybe an investigation of the mechanisms (impersonal rules) of sovereignty is called for. what else an “snapshot” of society would be? and thus the questions of ‘consent’ arises:

In an absolutist account, sovereignty is clearly delineated by the monarch being in possession of the territory over which they are sovereign. All subsequent property distribution must by necessity be derivative of this possession and all actions which occur within this territory are the ultimate responsibility of the monarch. In contrast, an anarchistic ontological account presents the sovereign as an entity which has been agreed upon by the property owners of a given territory, who then may violate the property of the property owners for the property owners own benefit.

‘possession’ cannot be exerted by a single person beyond much more than a square meter. if the monarch has primary property over a certain territory, this is in virtue of the particular kind of organization he heads—the proper organized power it wields—rather than his own individual, personal powers. there is no ring of Fnargl. if that’s the case, then again an examination of the mechanisms of sovereign power is in order. an examination which might very well include some kind of ‘consent’ by the various nodes that compose such mechanisms.

which leads us to the questions of division of power and constitutions, that we have previously touched upon:

The idea of division of power, and rule of law, in the western tradition is then rendered an incoherent mess when placed in the absolutist ontology because in effect all that one has done when claiming that such a government is possible is to erect an elaborate façade over a monarchical governance structure, and increased the velocity of change between monarchs.

not so much an ‘incoherent mess’ then?

as i have previously showed, division of power is the underlying reality of any real social power, given that the limitations of immediate personal power. of course, contrary to many modern, but also ancient claims, the nature of particular social configurations is a matter of empirical observation, rather than fiat. a work of fiction isn’t a social machinery.

ignoring such a social machinery is to willfully blind oneself to reality. and wise rulers know that, which is why liberalism triumphed in modernity. even Chris seems to recognize it:

Its hegemonic success is explainable by its value to power, and not to any inherent coherence or correctness.

it would very much interest me (and i think many other realists) if this distinction between “value to power” and “correctness” could be developed. it reeks of Humean “is-ought divide”, and as such it doesn’t seem tenable.

at the core, the problem seems to be that the neo-absolutist position is held in a double bind: if the sovereign properly abstracts away all of the social meanders out of which it arises, then what matters is the anarchistic relation among different sovereigns. if that level of analysis is refused, because “anarchist ontology is incoherent” (i.e., can’t be universally parsed), then one is back at examining the workings of social power that constitute the sovereign – which will necessarily rely on things like ‘assent of the subjects’, a staple of anarchist thought.

you can’t win against reality.

ii. the un-ground of power

as many critics of liberalism, Chris reaches insights about anarchist ontology that most adepts fail to notice. his characterization of liberalism as a face-effacer is a gem worth preserving:

Liberalism is an intellectual system singularly adept at self-effacing the sovereign from the passive sentence

anarchist ontology, first and foremost, avoids taken for granted what it is tasked with explaining. if the sovereign is an impersonal process, rather than any of the masks it might take, removing the faces and seeking their conditions of possibility is the first step. through no other means are the subterranean undercurrents that shape fate excavated even a little.

in focusing at removing, or subtracting, the unnecessary and accidental until a wall is hit, liberalism slowly establishes itself as tradition of critique, or escape. as Chris puts it:

Tradition in the MacIntyrean sense is a body of ideas which provide a system within which the rationality of a given concept is rendered intelligible, and which is subject to continual alteration, discussion, and development.

(…)

Such a conception of tradition would apply to liberalism as much as any other body of thought because liberalism has been singularly unable to provide an abstract, contextless, and universal ground for its premises. Liberalism, as such, is a tradition which continually denies, or rather seeks to escape, being a tradition.

at the edge, anarchist ontology seeks the un-ground of power – the realistic source, beyond all mere wishes, from which any ability to produce yields. it incrementally (or, progressively, in a strictly proudhonian sense) found the hints of such un-ground in variation-selection dynamics, or simply “war“. this scale-free framework, implexing itself throughout the universe’s evolution, gives rise and tide to all monarchs, presidents, tyrants and fatherlands.

anarchist ontology, thus, proceeds by breaking up whole into fractal fragments in competition – the only way any order can be produced. thus, it’s not only that the order of the social necessarily falls back on the competition among its individual components, but that the order within the individuals itself falls back on pre-individual components in competition. up above and down below, it’s individualities and collectivities.

at any level, realism is chasing the game, rather than the players.

 

 

capitalism = feminism, groundwork I: female economic independence

“Economic self-sufficiency is feminism.”

individual freedom (responsibility) will soon cease to be optional.

destruction of traditional marriage (patriarchy) is inherent in the development of commercial societies. capital wants to bypass the middlemen and cut a deal directly with women—the matrices of its substrate. thus it becomes ever more economically unfeasible, under capitalism, to keep women out of the workforce.  in the end, capitalism = feminism (as a process).

the very nuclear monogamous family is already a straying away from the common human mating pattern (the harem of the emperor) and so it’s a stepping stone to further marriage subversion. thereon, the reconfiguration of marriage, from a buying agreement between owners to a contracting between equal parties, is a particular case of the general autonomization of commodities (as capital).

even the Blue Church is slowly becoming aware that the previous alignment of feminism with communal organization was a mistake:

  • all productive endeavors go through a three-stage cycle – labor intensity, labor struggle, automation – that feeds into the next iteration. consumption and reproduction are currently in stage 2, heading to 3.

As women have poured into labour markets around the globe, state-organised capitalism’s ideal of the family wage is being replaced by the newer, more modern norm – apparently sanctioned by feminism – of the two-earner family.

  • labor intensification.

Rejecting “economism” and politicising “the personal”, feminists broadened the political agenda to challenge status hierarchies premised on cultural constructions of gender difference.

  • labor struggle in reproduction: decoupling of productive capacity – the economic – from the reproductive capacity – the reproductive, through the wedge of identity politics: distraction and camouflage.

“Finally, feminism contributed a third idea to neoliberalism: the critique of welfare-state paternalism.”

  • automation: capital is nomad fluxes, instantiated in distributed systems, rather than centralized organizations. working roubdabout, behind the scenes, occult.

yes, it’s dark and cold, so much so it already scorched many a pious Christian and their pledges of solidarity. the cosmic womb is a harsh mistress.

* * *

capitalism brings anti-memory to patriarchy and slowly dissolves it into anonymous assemblages (we usually call them “joint-stock corporations”). it no longer matters who your forefathers were. what matters is how much money you can make – productive capacity, rather than reproductive authenticity.

a series of particularly bloody wars at the beginning of every modern century depletes the male workforce surreptitiously and undermines the basis for a nationalistic revival of fatherlands. women are brought into factories, and thus the basis of the traditional societies is already in jeopardy. “who will raise the children?!” metastasizes into civilizational identity crisis. and then there were the boomers…

* * *

the full body of capital is a giant cunt, swallowing and emasculating all patriarchal dreams of sovereignty: the reign of the tool is the reign of the female: flowing in a convergent wave of vaginal discharge towards a squirting orgasm—SINGULARITY.

it is only thus – as purely synthetic formless self-reproductive function: as abstract matrix – that “women” can be free.

 

 

NRx is dead

leaving this here for the sake of documentation, but the conclusions still seem to hold.

(yes, i haven’t posted in a while, but it’s for a good reason, new exciting things are coming up for next year.)