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.

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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.

 

 

an asceticism of power

“never fall in love with power” Foucault admonished us. let us purge the romanticism that could come from that right at the outset: this is a warning to a trap, not advice to would-be priests or saints.

falling in love – holding fast and tight to it – is to completely misunderstand the nature of power and – here’s the real trick – allow oneself to be imprisoned.

powercan only be when it flows. it cannot properly “be held” as it must always already become transferred. power can only be excercised through delegation and devolution. letting it go is the only way to make it come into being.

moreover, attachment to power is a toxic kind of willful blindness. it inebriates and gives illusions, only to deliver frustration and resentment at the end. one who would seek to “attain and keep” power, not only fails to accomplish one’s objective, but is easy prey to those who know how power works. they’ll find themselves with many offices, titles, medals, badges of honour and a vast curriculum – but little to no power. any organisation of any value knows this and exploits it fully, from mafias to cartels to corporations to parties. the people at their top – the real powerful – are those capable of giving and taking as opportunity shows. those in love with power are merely their bodyguards, their cannon fodder.

this commends us to an asceticism and a scepticism of power. since letting power flow is the best way to empower oneself – and since power is the only immanent good – the supreme posture in the world is an icy coldness and negligence towards power and the powerful. the weak can be safely wielded through their envious passion, but the powerful must be neglected to be truly attacked. power escapes through our clenching fists, and invests those who simply don’t care about keeping it.

the message to propel is, as always: let go.

the queue

Violins tell me:

with the best of intentions, i have nominated our governor, to rule the largest queue ever formed, long enough to go around the world.

and there wasn’t a single man on earth there weren’t in the queue. and all waited with bodies so full of soul, like a radio with new batteries.

even when the last man in the queue spread the perverse rumor, that not everyone would fit in. the reaction brought forth in families was an indifference to cause laughter. not a single place in the queue was altered. not even a single pair of anxious people dispersed. and we saw in the face of these people the sign of an endless wait.

nobody left for nothing.
and i laughed my ass off
from the first place in the queue

i see no other way of construing this, except taking the queue to be human economy. everyone has got an economic standing, strictly ordinal. when prompted with the (fairly reasonable) proposition that “not everyone will fit in”, i. e., some people will be left without resources, incredibly nobody moves.

no revolutions, no one at each other’s throats. almost inhumanly so.

which leads us to think if economic standing is not driven by things beyond human will. no one moved – primarily – because there is no way to move. Gregory Clark seems to be the name here.

but then again, the first man in the queue, the one who nominated the governor, why is he laughing about? the meaninglessness of his position? of position itself, since everyone in line showed signs of an endless wait? it’s cryptic.

anarchy

i’m well aware of the etymological fallacy. so, this is not a logical argument about the meaning of words.

anarchy is the absence of arkhé, which is to say ruler – but also beginning or end. anarchy has no genitive, no genealogy, no teleology. it’s unengendered, transcendental. all cosmos is anarchic, which is to say that anarchy is order. the chaos ordering.

thus, anarchy is a circuit of power: it can be democratic, aristocratic, thymocratic, even plutocratic. at any given point, it’s all of those. it can’t, by definition, be oligarchic, or monarchic, nor demarchic, not even panarchic. it has no ruler, but power always flows.

anarchy cannot be the object of an ideology – that would imply that time itself is within time – a mere being, not Being. it’s sad that anarchist has come to mean anything but “anything”. anarchy is, right now, and will ever be – there’s no “after” the Revolution. the Revolution has never failed to happen.

in the process of eating all absolutes, mutual excitation makes itself the only Absolute. this process, just as modern as it has been ancient, is anarchy.