Thursday, November 04, 2004

Empire part 2

The changes in the flow of capital and the nature of technology has allowed networks of power to be formed which don’t rely on borders, and can supersede nation states. These networks are part of a new global hegemony which doesn’t situate itself within any nation, but only exists as part of a network above all nations.

This new form of global control is what Michael Hardt and Tony Negri refer to as Empire, and it is important because of the way they articulate it, as being something and nothing at the same time, one thing and then apparently its opposite, is precisely the way in which Empire is able to elude people’s vision, to hide itself from people knowing its existence, or recognizing its fingerprints or scuff marks around their lives. Although we exist as hybrids, cyborgs, deeply divided subjects, the way modernity has structured our language, we aren’t readily equipped to recognize or discuss such divisions, we are equipped and groomed to see things in binary oppositions, with ideas such as objectivity and progress attached. Empire takes advantage of this by escaping those categorizations, using the limitations they imply as far as understanding how power works, or how hegemony is created to filter into levels of society and existence.

Hardt and Negri mention the idea of “just war,” which is an important example of a concept which promotes empire and its agendas, yet at the same time masks its existence. In particular they mention Iraq, Afghanistan and the how the idea of just war is being revisited by the Bush administration to justify their terrorist wars in both countries. But if one were to separate this from America, and realize how the rhetoric of it is being used to justify terrorist wars by Russia, China and Britian, and see how these argument while framed in self defense often deal instead with abstract ideas such as what Chomsky calls “maintaining credibility.” If we are to take the example of Kosovo and think of it in the older frameworks of domination and control, then there are only two reasons why the US or any other 1st world country would intervene. 1. There are riches to plunder. 2. It is humanitarian all part of the glorious benevolence of the nation. Since a place like Kosovo has no riches to plunder, the reason why America intervened must be because they are a wonderful nation. This is the discourse that will blind most to the real intent of the intervention in the Balkans which has to do with maintaining a certain dynamic through which war or conflict can take place. Under Empire war can only take place under certain circumstances, although Empire is more comfortable with the war machine then the nation-state, because the promise of Empire is in a limited way similar to Hobbes’ rationale for why people will accept being dominated, because it will provide them security. Empire offers security, it offers perpetual peace, but often times war will be necessary to maintain the order of the world, but when it takes place, it must be different than the wars of the past. It must be housed in a simple ethics, such as just war, and it must be reduced to a simple act of securing peace, not waging war. This simplicity is furthermore protected by the binary presupposition that whatever is being fought is the absolute evil. This is the dynamic seen in all nation states, stimulated by Empire, used to justify the destruction of insurgents, indigenous populations and those of upset its symbolic order.
I should point out that I am working the text to fit my own needs, I don’t think Hardt and Negri make these specific points about Empire’s relationship to war, but using the lens they provide, this is the way I perceive Empire’s construction.
One important point which Hardt and Negri make clear is that although old forms of control and subjugation still exist, the forms of resistance which worked against them are largely useless against Empire. Global organizations such as the WTO or the World Bank are corporeal symptoms of Empire, they are physical examples of the immortal and sometimes intangible ways which Empire is created and maintained. Can these be resisted or dismantled in the same ways previous institutions of power have been assailed? Arundhati Roy makes a good point with regards to this in an interview with David Barsamian. In discussing the global anti-war protest on Feb. 15th of last year, in which 15 million people marched against war, she said that the protest was fantastic, but largely symbolic, because the governments of today have learned to wait such demonstrations and forms of resistance out, to develop hegemonies rather then openly oppress, we must find other ways to resist as well.

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