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If our starting point is the center, it would make sense to speak of the capitalist, not in liberal bottom-up terms as a agent of private initiative regulated after the fact, but more as a kind of state ordered contractor. This is most directly the case with industries most closely linked to state imperatives, above all military but also health, internal policing, infrastructural, etc., imperatives—but even those industries and businesses that are not directly state sponsored or funded are so indirectly, as they are contracted by those business more directly connected with the state, or agents of the state at different levels. This contracting relation, then, is different than the direct delegation attempted in the Soviet-style states insofar as different businesses are allowed to compete for the contracts, allowing private enterprise to serve as a kind of realm of experimentation that the state can engage in cost-free, since if one contractor goes out of business it will always be possible to replace it, perhaps with remnants of the failed company, perhaps with a spin-off of a more successful company. Over time, monopolies and near monopolies will arise in the most essential industries, where long-term planning and consistency in standards is necessary, but it’s in the state’s interest never to let the monopolies be completely beyond challenge—we can see the emergence of an upstart company in some established industry as the state or some faction within it either pressuring the leading contenders to up their game or having decided they are unsalvageable. At the same time, these quasi-monopolies penetrate the state, which really can’t have any way of distinguishing between various initiatives without the guidance of established figures in the field.
This is all given and is continuous with the emergence of money and something like private property in the ancient world as a means for empires to supply their troops and maintain supply chains. But it is just the beginning, as we need to take into account the world order, a highly asymmetrical articulation of states driven by the agendas and competition between a top few and the centrality of banking, money, and especially debt to the global capitalist order. As my and Zack Baker’s soon to be published (in Anthropoetics) essay argues, the modern world begins with the (English) state turning itself into a debtor to the national bank so that the bank can (using the terms laid out above) directly take over financing the “contractors,” and those who the contractors contract, and those whose purchases recirculate money back into those layers of contracting and therefore themselves become part of a system founded on indebtedness. The state, in this case, is primarily a debt enforcement agency, and the politics of the state of indebtedness involves attempts on the part of one sector or another (demographic sector, state sector, regional sector, business sector, etc.) to shift the load of debt onto another. The intelligence agencies, then, serve primarily to ensure that the scheduled rotations in occupancy of the center do not, let’s say, threaten to institute a “jubilee,” however potentially or indirectly. Thus, the highest levels of transnational sovereignty and largest banks supply each other and hold each other in check, through an entire order of contractors, sub-contractors, state subsidiaries, displaceable and replaceable populations, and so on.
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Agency, or initiative, only exists insofar as one becomes a center, both signifying and occupied, holding and held, and therefore working out the protocols of succession. To lose the reins of succession, as begins as soon as the state is mortgaged to the banks, is to confront the necessity of creating new means of occupying the center. Explicitly, succession is arranged through procedures invented so as to simulate something like the “will of the people,” but electoral processes, however orderly and consensual (i.e., not noticeably contested) they may be, can do nothing more than allow for forms of conflict between organized social factions that remain below the threshold of civil war. There’s no reason for such ad hoc and mindless combat to be expected to maintain conditions under which a major state, with domestic and international obligations, could maintain itself as a center. Hence the rule by intelligence agencies, operated for a while and still to a considerable extent through the media and universities but increasingly through the social media and data organizing and searching companies. Private initiative is a kind of pilot, fledged into being by the intelligence agencies, more or less directly, and put through a series of tests by the finance system. Everything that appears to us in juridical forms (the only way things really can appear), whether in the form of legitimated government or private actors, is a point on a string held together to a certain degree of tension by someone in the finance system on one end and someone in the intelligence agencies on the other end. When they don’t need to hold so tight at their respective ends, there is enough slack in the system that there is no interference with the necessary illusion of freedom of action on the part of visible, explicit agents. But in the end, even the banks and intelligence agencies are betting on future options and derivatives, and the exchanges—discharges of debt—that need to take place at. Certain intervals fail to come off, the string needs to be pulled tight, debts, monetary and otherwise, get called in, certain key imperatives must be traced more closely to their felicitous conclusion, and things start to look a bit “crazy”—politicians, media personalities, business executives and others who seemed to be known quantities suddenly act in ways that are “out of character.”
The best example of such craziness today is the insistence on escalating antagonisms with both Russia and China on the part of those governing the US state; while much remains obscure, the deliberate shedding of one of the few valuable pieces of Cold War wisdom, that war between nuclear powers is to be avoided at almost any cost, is a sure sign of dysfunction. In our Anthropoetics essay you’ll see repeated the proposal I’ve many times before in these essays as a way forward: the establishment of (or conversion of an existing institution into) a political party and/or research/consulting institute (the two options are not mutually exclusive and may have to become one) that also operates as a business, pedagogical center and currency issuing institution ready to take sovereignty through a gradual assumption of responsibilities. I’ll push this proposal a bit further by insisting that the only governing institution that can ensure singularized succession is one that is economically self-supporting, reliant neither on taxes nor loans, on the model of the king living off his own lands (whether any king ever did so live is beside the point). Just like the king was the largest landowner in an order where wealth derived from land ownership the new sovereign must control the most powerful engines of data gathering and analysis in a period where that is increasingly the main source of wealth. Isn’t it possible, then, for the government to go out of business through a series of bad investment decisions, bad luck, corruption, etc.? Yes, but only insofar as it ceases to be the leader in data collection and analytics, because by definition being such a leader guarantees business success and bad decisions, whether out of carelessness, arrogance or cupidity, will vitiate the data collection and analysis. And such decline will be noticed by other, “contracting” companies, as well as elements within the governing company itself, and a new company will emerge as the primary data power.
It's important to keep foregrounding such presumably unlikely scenarios (as I will always ask, though, unlikely compared to what? The US surviving victoriously as a pile of rubble slightly less rubbly than that underneath which Russia and China are buried?) in mind because any future flourishing human communities will need to have leadership capable of (and supported in) doing something probably not completely unprecedented but barely commemorated: be capable of acting very forcefully to suppress, especially juridically, all challenges to succession protocols, while never giving into the temptation of the vendetta. Rivalries need to be conducted ruthlessly, but by establishing trustworthy “brokerage” wherever possible, not through sabotage and subversion. There’s nothing impossible here since sometimes humans do act justly in their dealings with each other, so nothing prevents the more influential among us from scaling that up. Brokering disputes can be, has been, indeed sometimes still is a business—business do hire professional arbiters rather than taking their disputes to court sometimes. People are more likely to do so when both sides consider themselves in the right and want a responsible decision based on a examination of the facts of the case in accord with the strongest juridical experiences—when one or both sides knows their case is bogus is when we see influence peddling, venue shopping, propagandistic poisoning of jury pools, etc. Either our prospective political party or our prospective research institute could take on such a brokering role, one which states might also have recourse to—it might become the case that one side willing to submit to trusted arbitration and the other refusing itself makes for a kind of winning case. And, of course, the best justice system is the one that’s used least, because everyone can make a good guess at the results in any case and accept the results in advance—and, better yet, reform their behaviors accordingly. The opening here is for a “private” actor to take on these roles that political rhetoric demands we expect of the state, which means that political rhetoric really becomes a way of exploiting dysfunction so as to benefit disproportionately from it. This would be a kind of initiative that would draw upon similar initiatives of the past, those that led to the emergence of the Big Men, the chiefs, the sacral kings and the empires. Of course one would have to walk that tightrope held on either end by financiers and intelligence agents, and thereby take on a bit of the functions of each. But in both of those institutions one can be at varying distances from juridically intelligible and accountable behavior.
These proposals are ways of becoming a center, which involves drawing the kind of attention and creates more attention and this attention is a mode of deferral that always stays at least one step ahead of the attention drawn by centralizing violence. We don’t need to be naïve mimetic theorists who see scapegoating as a spontaneous process (which the mimetic theorist looks over at from a distanced position that maybe I’m the only one seeing as somewhat smug)—the real question is whether the most powerful institutions, those holding the tightrope, will take aim (or, to stick with the metaphor, set the rope vibrating). A great deal of effort must be put into providing research and training services that these institutions find indispensable or, more precisely, that create differences within those institutions between those invested in the massive sacrifices involved in the rituals of the debt-intelligence state and those who want to bring their activity under the light of the juridical. The breakthroughs of “AI,” i.e., search engines of increasing power, is cause for optimism here. The marginal advantages of those with a research project utterly free of liberalism and all the sacralities of the period of its breakdown will be immeasurable. Look at all these petty concerns about AI “ethics,” “safety,” “alignment,” or, for that matter, its domination by “wokeness.” Anyone incapable of disregarding all this should be disregarded. Such a research program will be programming marginal succession, hypothesizing exchanges between our hypothesis and the furtherest future outside option, For the present, think in terms of designing practices that are unimaginable within existing institutions and yet irresistible once introduced. Celebrating a jubilee day for those who take on their true debt to the center by retrieving, preserving and clearing of noise its oldest imperatives.
This research project can be understood as an expanded (to the point of being all inclusive) practice of data search. Machine learning through large language models is always a search practice, first of all searching “what someone like_____might say/do/want” and, second, the design of target searches to determine the systems within which various samples of likeness might be the same. Let’s say we generate some text out of a database trained on selected works of Ernst Junger, Franz Kafka and Charles Sanders Peirce, and we determine that this Jungerian/Kafkaesque/Peircean intelligence provides us with several possible directions a discourse on, say, succession, might go. These variants will all no doubt be very interesting in various ways, but we would want to find it interesting in some specific ways, perhaps by supplying the database with researched accounts of some events or examples that recur across the variants; perhaps by selecting several words or phrases that are used repeatedly in idiosyncratic ways and doing a wider database search of the uses of that term (or the most similar terms we could find) that are most like those terms and then have the program generate new uses pertinent to (say) the study of succession we are undertaking—to be presented, perhaps, to some institution as a proposed solution to institutional problems. So, a new idiom, designed with whatever rigor we determine (there are many kinds of rigor) can be brought to bear in an absolute way to a particular conjuncture. And the search goes well beyond this, to include the search for new clients, new associates, new bodies of text and modes of textual analysis that will be attracted to by the curvature in dataspace made by the customization of the database. All of reality, in fact, presents as fields of hypothetically ranked search results. The knowledge and learning process here will have elements of science, technique, craftsmanship, play, inscripture, archiving, archaeology, and strategy—even a bit of shamanism. Soon enough, searching will move beyond texts and include images and 3-D recordings of physical actions, real and simulated. It is the originary hypothesis generating a new world within the old by revivifying all the elements of deferral that old world had forgotten.
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