sleeping with the enemy (embedded trauma)

December 15th, 2009 | 3 comments
truth in irony – whether beat down or beaten entirely / g20 protests, london

truth in irony – whether beat down or beaten entirely / g20 protests, london

Since there are no remaining visible alternatives to universal pan-capitalism there seems to be no need for payoffs for the disenchanted, no necessity to bribe dissenting segments of the population and no incentives to grant extensions of freedoms. Instead of peddling hope and the vision of a mutually shared commonwealth, authority is maintained by synthetic fear and the need to secure property against some other. (“Synthetic Fear,” Konrad Becker, in Strategic Reality Dictionary: 144).

What is an anthronomics? Anthronomics would come to consist of embedded analysis. But literally: sleep with the enemy. Living the precarious wage as anthropology of the precariat. And plumbing the depths of the employer (or lack thereof). As a -nomics, a study of laws, it is yet a side-step from an economics which sees laws as relations of production, trade, and money, or in general of eco– principalities that become increasingly removed from affective conditions of collective bodies. An anthronomics puts the body back into the equation of economics, as well as the embedded status of its investigator, and like cultural ethnography, seeks to think through by thinking among.

What is the precariat from the perspective of an anthronomics? Beyond what has already been said, the precariat is that class that lives within the repression/expression of trauma brought on by perpetual motion. While mobility is touted as the vector of freedom, mobility belies not a life of change, but a stasis in which security is suddenly fraught and yet central to existence. Any anthronomics of the precariat must learn to decipher the signs of collective trauma, to unwrap the politics of fear (as Brian Massumi collected long ago), and to pinpoint – and disintegrate – the control strategies in which the semantics of security reside.

Claiming precarity presupposes a state in which life was good, stable, grounded. Stability and the heartland – the volk – is a myth, which is to say, an effective distribution which found its place for a time. Longing for one is the prison of the other. The stable job that is now a dream was once the cage (and the time clock) to the worker of the 20th century. What does this mean? That though the poles of de/stabilization are contained within a politics of fear, the semantics of security are a new development within the perpetuation of fear under mobility.

Fear has been around as long as anything, and operates in different forms (…and is this not Foucault’s study, Discipline & Punish). Over the past centuries in which capital has intensified, fear has been operative at multiple levels, from the revolutionary fear of the proletariat and their organisation into unions that wield fear as power, to the perpetuation of fear under militarism during apparently stable economic formations, and always in complex ways (fears of union-busting; fear of violence, organised strikes, communism; fear of the corrupt union itself, etc: in this case, fear is fear of becoming-mobile, of losing one’s collective support, fraternity, job, home, family). Likewise, security was a concern under conditions of apparent stability when the world was organised in a bipolar fashion (the twin militarizations of capitalism/communism). In the 21C, attempts at bipolarization have not been entirely successful (“with us or with the terrorists”). In any case, it is more effective to retain fear of the other within — within borders, within homes, within ourselves, and precisely at the ontological level.

(For who in your office might go postal? Fear them. Carry a gun. You will never really know (them). But you will be ready when the time comes. — As will they. Amen.)

expression of localized fear as sadism: state sanctioned / g20 protests, London

state sanctioned expression of localized fear as sadism (aka "going postal") / g20 protests, london

Losing one’s job, family and home is still a fear, but now, a fear executed upon the solitary. To lose a job now is to be disconnected from a network; to lose the potential of one avenue of mobility. Fear in this case is fear of losing a series of connections, on the one channel, and fear of losing oneself among the overwhelming sea of connectivity, on the other.

When Becker writes of the utter lack of need to address the demands of the precariat, he is defining necessity from the side of what is also a precarious system of control. Precarity is not merely the precarious class, as the class of the cognitive labour, the mobility waged, and so on. Precarity is also the state of stability in its most general form, which can take system-wide effect, as the 2008 credit crunch demonstrated. Precarity is the state of the ecological worldsystems in which humans survive. Precarity is thus a general fear of total collapse, and it is the defining ontological condition of humanity as it emerges out of the first 10 years of the 21C.

As a totality-fear, it is a collective trauma meted out by a thousand cuts. For the very few, one fear eclipses all – and this is a phobia – but for most (in the overdeveloped West), fear expresses itself in a general panic about nothing at all, as nothing so large, and totalizing, has yet to be localized. The fear has not (yet) manifested — and this is precisely the fear. The West has not yet seen: mass terrorist attacks; collapse of food stocks, contaminated water; mass impoverishment; civil collapse. The precariat at all levels thus lives in a state of fear over what yet may be. A general trauma sets in, a fear of the future, and its futurity (will there be a future?). This is a nuclear fear without the content that the nuclear threat posed. For fear is now everywhere. This is fear at all levels.

One consequence of this generalized fear is asserting that the precariat is not the newly renamed proletariat. The precariat is a cross-section of the multitude, and the multitude, under Paolo Virno’s formulation, is a form, not a content. (If this form/content grouping is too simplistic, then think it like this: the multitude is evacuated of content; it is a framing, a process, without a point of reference in a revolutionary class. The multitude is a condition and it changes. What groups the multitude is the connectivity of the globe, as a network, and the development of communicative technics, as redefining the conditions of labour and production. The multitude is nonetheless locatable by grouping the collective bodies wrought within cognitive labour, communicative technologies, and generalized fear. This does not mean that the multitude, however, by virtue of its content, being or technico-economic status follows any particular entelechy or unfolding of history, dialectical or otherwise.)

In this sense, the great fear of all the trad-leftist theorists is thus realised, insofar as the multitude is not necessarily leftist, proletarian, etc — it is only expressed, perhaps, by this shared condition of collective trauma, which is a fear of the futurity of the future, a fear of what is yet to come but also that there might not be a to-come to come, and that what might come along might just put off what comes again once and for all. The conditions of this fear demand their embedded analysis, for they are constructed and wrought by the politics of fear, the semantics of security, and the economics of precarity / mobility.

In this shared moment, the precariat redefines necessity. It is not necessary to improve the living conditions of others not only because there is no alternative, but because there is no future. (Or there is no futurity-belief: even as the future arrives, without question. Not even Star Wars mythology — there is no only Hope, not even another Hope, just a lack of futurity in which Hope can be situated as a concrete imaginary, Force or No Force.)

Is there not something nihilist, then, in this formulation (and in the way Kroker thought technological nihilism)? The world’s underemployed and impoverished receive nothing because the perception of necessity is such – amongst those who distribute and steal from the collective wealth of the world – that there is no need to address necessity itself. A necessity only takes hold when it is imperative to address something in order to rectify (perhaps we understand this as the application of justice), or in which a scenario offers no alternative but to, under fear of a penalty (such as death). For example, the latter fear of the overthrowing of power, the revolution, personified in the fear that you might be the first up against the wall, generates the necessity to address the demands of the underemployed. Here, in this case where necessity has seemingly failed, the true necessity is one in which there is no alternative but not to, as there is no alternative (in general), because there is simply no need to.

In short: there is no fear of revolution, no fear of the uprising of the multitude, as those benefiting from current conditions are as part of this politics of fear as anyone else, and as part of the flux of the multitude as anyone else. What they fear is what we fear, and this fear is within us all, as the fear of what is hidden within, the incorporated, and that which is so totalizing – the Earth’s rejection of its human inhabitants – that it levels this fear against us all, amongst us all. There is no outside to this problematic, so to speak. And without fear of uprising, there is no necessity at the level of the locale, the level in which fear affects the body. At this level, there is fear not of a collective uprising of the underemployed and impoverished, but a fear of everyone and everything. For we know not who is agent and who is patriot. And this situation, of course, justifies everything.

a body registers fear in a localized impact of "necessary force" / g20 protests, london

a body registers fear in a localized impact of "necessary force" / g20 protests, london

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    3 Responses to “sleeping with the enemy (embedded trauma)”

    1. sleeping with the enemy (embedded trauma) « fugitive philosophy_ http://bit.ly/6G91Y4

    2. […] question is how to get out of it, which brings us to two points, both of them courtesy of Paolo Virno. The first is that our concepts deployed here are empty. Like multitude, they have no (ontological) […]

    3. […] of the many under the rule of the sovereign one, be Hobbes, and the denigration of the chaotic multitude of the carnival.]] And where are these people celebrating their newly found patriotism, finally […]