photo cred: Patrice Maniglier, 2016
(Draft of the concluding section for my forthcoming article in Carte Semiotiche Annali 4, IMAGES OF CONTROL. Visibility and the Government of Bodies. Part I can be found here and Part II can be found here)
An other end of the world is possible. This statement ties together our critique of Patton, the emphasis Deleuze places (in cinema and politics) on the struggle for alternate and possible worlds in light of its seeming impossibility from the perspective of control societies, and the political category of creativity and resistance. For as we have seen, it is at the end of the second World War that two important transformations took place: the shift in cinema from the ‘movement-image’ to the ‘time-image’ and the marriage between cybernetics, information theory, and modes of governmentality; this latter case being undertaken in order to prevent the global devolution of the global capitalist order and its form of civil society. Thus, in our present circumstance it’s worth reiterating the point made by Guattari in his reflection on the progress made by capitalism after the events of ‘68:
“Capitalism can always arrange things and smooth them over locally, but for the most part and essentially, everything has become increasingly worse […] The response to many actions has been predicted organized and calculated by the machines of state power. I am convinced that all of the possible variants of another May 1968 have already been programmed on an IBM” (‘We Are All Groupuscules’).
This IBM which has predicted every possible future May ‘68 is to Alpha 60 as Deleuze’s concept of control societies is to our present. That is to say, and more to the point, present day control societies, with its cybernetic form of governance, is a form of social organization that takes as one of its axioms the pre-emptive powers derived from the control and permanent exchange of information in our present. In the situation where Alpha 60’s algorithmic powers of prediction equally determine the upstanding and problematic citizen; where cybernetic capitalism can create predictive models that run through every possible situation where an insurrection could take place; we find ourselves squarely in the contemporary manifestation of Clausewitz’s formula now with its contemporary twist: control is war by other means; these ‘other means’ being the politics of pre-emptive strategy supported by cybernetic technologies:
“Even if the origins of the Internet device are today well known, it is not uncalled for to highlight once again their political meaning. The Internet is a war machine invented to be like the highway system, which was also designed by the American Army as a decentralized internal mobilization tool. The American military wanted a device which would preserve the command structure in case of a nuclear attack…With such a device, military authority could be maintained in the case of the worse catastrophes. The Internet is thus the result of a nomadic transformation of military strategy. With that kind of plan at its roots, one might doubt the supposedly anti-authoritarian characteristics of this device. As is the Internet, which derives from it, cybernetics is an art of war, the objective of which is to save the head of the social body in case of catastrophe. What stands out historically and politically during the period between the great wars…was the metaphysical problem of creating order out of disorder” (Tiqqun, ‘The Cybernetic Hypothesis’).
Thus it merits an emphasis on the way in which our geopolitical context still maintains the cybernetic criteria of governance in ways that cannot simply be reduced to the technological or algorithmic properties of capitalist technology. In a 2014 Wall Street Journal article entitled ‘On The Assembly of a New World Order,’ Henry Kissinger asserts that the defining condition regarding Western powers today is the following: ‘the very concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is currently in crisis.’ According to Kissinger (and after the economic crisis of 2008 in a post 9/11 era) it is the recovery of global order based on the interests of American capitalism that is projected as the necessary task for Western powers today. If he is anything, Kissinger must be said to be the present day embodiment of those concerns that characterized both postwar cyberneticians (Abraham Moles, Wiener, et. al.) as well as Alphaville‘s central governing body, Alpha 60. In light of Kissinger’s perceived urgency regarding the re-establishment of order in the light of this concepts present crisis, the context of global warfare originally outlined by Clausewitz and cyberneticians alike is continued through the constitution of Western government’s pre-emptive measures; which seeks to perpetually defer war in favor of what are now called ‘security measures’ justified by the ‘war on terror.’
So… this proposed ‘end of the world’ as conceived by the cybernetic paradigm of governance is a decidedly different apocalypse as the one viewed from the perspective of a radical political orientation. This alternative apocalyptic scenario is intended in the same way as someone like Marx who characterized communism as a certain kind of global abolition. Communism, as iterated in the oft cited formula, is not “a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself,” but the “real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence” (German Ideology). Therefore, the type of abolition involved in this fin du monde is not the same type of abolition that is hinted at in the fears of Kissinger and cyberneticians regarding a generalized disorder since, for Marx as well as Deleuze, the revolutionary subject that abolishes itself and capital in the process of revolution brings about the end of the world as determined by capitalist social relations and ushers in a new world determined by the needs and interests of labor considered as a whole.
From this perspective, the end of the world feared by cybernetic control appears desirable insofar as it means the end of this world; the end of the world governed on the basis of capitalist control and surveillance. So bringing about the ‘end of this world’ requires, on our part, a vision of alternative worlds that would come to take its place. It is this dimension of Deleuze’s aesthetic and political commitments that Patton fails to understand and thereby commits himself to the valorization of anything that can be understood as metaphysically productive and creative (which is to say, Patton’s position ultimately consists of the affirmation of everything in-itself). The autre fin du monde that we call for must replace Patton’s vitalist aesthetico-politics since it is clear that, for Deleuze, there is a real content to the prescription of being against one’s time in the hopes for a time to-come. The content being the elimination of every form of complicity , the eradication of a global situation whereby one person’s freedom is only won at the expense of another individual or group. It is for this reason that Deleuze’s engagements with art and philosophy bring him to the realm of politics:
“Nor is it only in the extreme situations described by Primo Levi that we experience the shame of being human. We also experience it in insignificant conditions, before the meanness and vulgarity of existence that haunts democracies, before the propagation of these modes of existence and of thought-for-the-market, and before the values, ideals, and opinions of our time. The ignominy of the possibilities of life that we are offered appears from within. We do not feel ourselves outside of our time but continue to undergo shameful compromises with it. This feeling of shame is one of philosophy’s most powerful motifs. We are not responsible for the victims but responsible before them […] For the race summoned forth by art and philosophy is not the one that claims to be pure but rather an oppressed, bastard, lower, anarchical, nomadic and irremediably minor race–the very ones that Kant excluded from the path of the new Critique. Artaud said: to write for the illiterate–to speak for the aphasic, to think for the acephalous. But what does “for” mean? It is not “for their benefit,” or yet “in their place.” It is “before.” It is a question of becoming. The thinker is not acephalic, aphasic, or illiterate, but becomes so. He becomes Indian, and never stops becoming so…” (What is Philosophy? pp. 107-09).
Thus (and to put forward the beginnings of an argument that will be reserved for another article) the least we can say regarding Deleuze’s aesthetic and philosophical commitments is that they lead him, and therefore us interpreters of Deleuze, to assert the following prescription: find the means and conditions to effect the total abolition of anyone’s/everyone’s complicity in the violence (political, social, economic, environmental, etc.) against others; a complicity made actual by the individual freedoms granted by liberal-capitalism on the basis of the further devastation of the Third World and the First World’s own internal (and gentrifying) colonies. So the political correlate to Deleuze’s emphasis on the need to ‘believe in the world’ vís-a-vís cinema is the following: we need to learn how to bring an end to this world in order to wrest back what has been determined as impossible from the perspective of cybernetic-capital. Une autre fin du monde est possible, one that does not entail the infinite accumulation of surplus-value up to the point of environmental/societal collapse but the complete abolition of all forms of contemporary complicity in the violence against ourselves and others.