Monday


In Geopolitics and Biopolitics, and again in Addendum on Geopolitics and Biopolitics, I suggested that the struggle between the geopolitical perspective and the biopolitical perspective could be a significant constituent of the ideological struggles in the coming century and centuries.

In so saying, I could be interpreted as saying that one epoch of history marked by the nation-state and its theoretical expression in geopolitics is slowly beginning to yield its place to an incipient epoch of history that will, in the long term, be marked by the dissolution of the nation-state and the theoretical justification of this dissolution in biopolitics. Since this is one interpretation (inter alia), I want to address this immediately simply in order to say that this is not what I am saying when I explicitly contrast the geopolitical style of thought with the biopolitical style of thought.

I would not say that the age of the nation-state, and its implicit theoretical expression in geopolitics, constitutes a division of macro-history on the order or nomadism, agriculturalism, or industrialism. The institution of the nation-state emerges in the agricultural paradigm and is preserved in the transition to industrialism, and thus represents a continuity, much like the fact of settled life, which originates with agriculturalism and remains the norm under industrialism.

It would be entirely plausible to make the argument that the advent of the nation-state is a political event on the level of macro-history, and that we ought to name a new division of macro-history on the basis of this form of socio-political order. I would not myself make this argument, but certainly the argument could be made. The advent of the nation-state is important, but not, in my opinion, that important.

I assume that it is possible that a struggle between the geopolitical perspective and the biopolitical perspective could proceed even as the macro-historical division of industrialism is consolidated and the process of globalization brings industrial-technological civilization to the planet entire.

Moreover, the struggle between the geopolitical and the biopolitical could animate the development of any of the possible scenarios for future macro-historical divisions such as I have identified: singularization, pastoralization, extraterrestrialization, and, most recently, neo-agriculturalism. It could even be argued that the next future will develop as a result of this conflict, much as Marx thought that communism would develop as a result of class conflict.

It is not that I suppose that the geopolitical and the biopolitical perspectives are indifferent to any and all of these macro-historical outcomes — I seems to me that the geopolitical perspective would be most likely to lead to extraterrestrialization while the biopolitical perspective would most likely lead to pastoralization or neo-agriculturalism if it were to become the dominant mode of thought — but rather that the dialectic of geopolitics and biopolitics is the form of development that will issue in a novel macro-historical division, and it is a further question, beyond the mere fact of the dialectic, which mode of thought becomes (or remains) dominant.

In any of these long term scenarios for macro-history I don’t think that the nation-state as we know it today will remain the central feature of political organization. Some form of political organization that is the successor to the nation-state system, and which evolves out of the nation-state system, is likely to prevail, but in the case of global, macro-historical developments, the geographically defined nation-state must give way to forms of political order less dependent upon geographical boundaries. It is not likely that the successor to the nation-state system will involve a complete dissolution of these boundaries, but rather a change in boundaries — their extension, extrapolation, or transformation.

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War and Peace, Again

28 May 2009

Thursday


After thinking through again what I wrote yesterday about the possibility of political, eschatological, and catastrophic philosophies of peace, I am convinced of the methodological value of seeking parallel formulations of conceptual pairs like war and peace, as well as classic philosophical oppositions such as truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, good and evil. I find that, though initially unlikely, it is after all a salutary conceptual exercise to force the mind to think unfamiliar thoughts such as philosophies of peace that mirror philosophies of war.

On reflection, it seems obvious that eschatological wars are started and fought with the desire to establish an eschatological peace, and that political wars are started and perpetuated with the end in mind of the establishment of a political peace. For fatalists, who believe that events befall unfortunate man, catastrophic war follows catastrophic peace, and so on iterating the pattern through history, without any regard to human action or desire. These are ways of viewing the world — the political, the eschatological, and the catastrophic — and they are expressed in war and peace alike. (I do not hold that Rapoport’s tripartite division of wars is an adequate typology, but it does have something to recommend it: it has proved food for thought, at very least.)

The Principle of Conceptual Parallelism (explicitly formulated yesterday, but only now called by this name) proves itself in this meditation upon war and peace, and suggests its application more generally. It is a dialectical principle: the thesis is the original formulation of a theoretical context for a given concept; the antithesis is the parallel formulation of a theoretical context for the antithesis of the originally given concept; the synthesis is the broader, more comprehensive, and hopefully more coherent perspective that results from systematically expanding our conceptual scope and horizons.

That war, as a human institution, should force this explicit formulation of the Principle of Conceptual Parallelism upon me, ironically proves the conceptual fruitfulness of war. And this is but a start, an initial suggestion. I cannot regard the Principle of Conceptual Parallelism as finished in any sense. There remains the difficult question of defining the initial conceptual pair that enters into the dialectic of the principle, and other problems as well are to be expected. But it is at least a start.

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