Through and Out of Politics
The most important and definitive thing the occupant of the center does is select the successor who will be most likely to select the successor who will be most likely… This may sound like a very “formal” and “selfish” way of thinking about governing but the exact opposite is the case—the entire field of centered ordinality must be continually surveyed, all institutions must be created and maintained so as to produce suitable candidates and make those candidates known to people, responsibilities must be conferred across all distributory channels and priorities set so as to produce the dispositions needed to provide a sufficient number and range of candidates, Selecting the successor in perpetuity is intrinsically bound up with the center as the site of distribution, in which is remains continuous with its originary ritual function. As with all of my hypotheses (I know that I repeat this often) this is not just prospective and normative but descriptive—everyone with the slightest authority is always already doing this, even under conditions inimical to such projections of authority, which means it is often done dishonestly, without unawareness or, in the best of cases, by modeling one’s occupation of the center in such a way as to constrain future occupants. Everyone can feel on some level that all their work would be in vain if the wrong successor was to take over—trying to make your work indelible is an attempt to select your successor.
This description touches on the ritual, primarily, and the disciplinary, secondarily, “aspects” of center occupation—the disciplinary because all the knowledge acquired through the study of institutions of deferral would feedback into the process of setting the terms of succession. From the juridical standpoint, the occupant of the center (perhaps I should just start referring to that role as “the occupier”) is the highest judge, which is in fact a very pervasive and, next the that of presiding over or being the object of sacrifice, perhaps the most ancient function of the monarch. Since my diagnosis of the contemporary crisis of the liberal order has come to focus increasingly on the systematic vandalizing of the juridical (turning it into another means of conducting the very thing it was established to defer—the vendetta), this is probably the most direct way of thinking about interfering with and directing the uses of institutional power within this order towards another one. That is, open source Messianism is best focused, for now at least, on discovering and promoting and creating the personnel to support whoever is best suited to creating a juridical order consistent with intelligence gathered through studies of current forms of vandalism. All questions, e.g., regarding the specific institutional structure of governance (relations between executive, legislative and judicial, the role of elections, the enforcement or repudiation of one or another set of “rights,” etc.) can then be reduced to this problem.
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Conquest, which is to say war, lies at the heart of the juridical, because whether we are thinking in terms of imperial conquest or the ascension of one feudal lord through the subjection of the rest, it is through conquest that the original nomos distributing territory and authority that the rights and privileges would be allocated and then confirmed, adjusted and adjudicated by various layers of authority and ultimately the king. Even division of territory based on settlement, as in the American west, presupposes an imperial authority to whom disputes can be brought—the extension of the law proceeded parallel with the settlement of land in the West. So, the current occupier is the inheritor, however distant and through however crooked and hidden a path, of the original conqueror of the land in question. But, to refine our thinking about the “absoluteness” of that occupancy, the occupier is bound by the entire history of judgments made by himself and previous occupiers, through whatever system of delegation those judgments were made. “Bound” not in the sense that some higher judge will judge the sovereign (we must do our political thinking today free from the assumption of a just God) but in the sense that everyone is where they are and ready to do what they are ready to do as a result of this history, and that the very language you have for governing is suffused by all of these people being positioned where they are.
So, any political change, and certainly any substantive political change, can only be articulated as a rectification of some fundamental injustice that can be recognized but not remedied under the present justice system. There will never be any way of stepping outside of the existing order and representing that order as badly ordered in accord with some abstract model of order and proposing bringing it into closer approximation to that ideal. The very first decision you would make would activate all the resentments, i.e., the “sense” of “injustice,” that is inextricable from the “sense” that things are badly ordered in the first place. Regicides had to criminalize the king—they couldn’t just say that things could be run more reasonably through parliament. The nomos enforcer in waiting might be a bit Machiavellian and think he is using those resentments to get to the more rational order, but I think in the end he will have to be fully invested in his juridical role as the supreme arbiter, weighing out cases. This will a disconcerting conclusion for some because it implies the impossibility of extricating oneself from the dirtiest parts of the existing order—all the insane and virulent accusations people hurl at each other.
I think this also opens up the possibility of taking the “cleanest” approach to politics by making the suppression of lying publicly about others the central political issue. I’ve indicated this before in, for example, my discussion of “media” a little while back. If you get at defamation, libel and slander you can get at the entire system—which is pretty much based on such practices, and has to be. Not a single law could ever be passed by a single legislature (well, I at least know this to be the case in the US) without sustained campaigns of slander against various figures, slander that is inevitably built into the law and its enforcement. Even an innocuous and potentially beneficial (to some) law that, say, lowers the cost of some widely used medicine will also have some slander of the drug companies built into it—at the very least, it will slander by omission (an interesting legal category to create if it doesn’t exist) by providing a very selective account of the reasons for drug pricing. Now, if the government were to broker an agreement pursuant to a dispute between some combination of drug manufacturers, doctors, hospitals, patients organized as a class, etc., that could be done without impugning anyone’s motives or flinging wild accusations. But, then, we wouldn’t be “passing laws” but, rather, settling disputes which presuppose an existing body of law derived from the settlements of previous disputes which in turn presuppose property ownership traceable back to an original nomos. And that’s the point—laws should not be passed or created by legislators—that’s not what “law” really is. Legislatures should not exist—that historical transformation of parliaments from advisory to legislating bodies should be overturned, and can be overturned by focusing on the juridical. The last, and self-cancelling act of the legislature should be passing laws against defamation that include themselves and therefore make their job, or running for office, impossible. And, of course, the NGOs, interest groups, etc., are also eliminated along the way.
So, we then have the judiciary with the executive on top as final court of appeal and enforcement arm of the juridical order—this even takes into account international relations and the “commander-in-chief” functions insofar as relations between governments ruling over territories necessarily takes on juridical forms, even if less formal , more tentative and blurrier ones. (The only justifiable use of power of the hegemonic imperial power is to serve as such a reliable judge that other countries want to bring their disputes before it.) But the problem of transforming the entire order and then, presumably, organizing the new one, on the identification of defamation (for the religious, “bearing false witness”) as the central problem of social order is what’s really interesting here. This obviously paints “free speech” into a very tiny corner because there would be all kinds of things it would in effect be impossible to say without paying unacceptable costs. (There were, until very recently, exactly such constraints upon speech, but what I’m suggesting goes well beyond that—just look at what political candidates used to say about each other in the 19th century.) Of course the most powerful institutions will be best positioned to squash any reports or even observations or opinions critical of their operations—even if those criticism are true, the cost of proving that in court might prove prohibitive to the critics—this can obviously be a problem today, one which I could be seen as magnifying exponentially. But such objections can be addressed in various ways—through very expansive discovery procedures, through levying punitive damages in accord with the amount one has spent on the course of the case itself, and levying those damages on individuals and not institutions, etc.—these are interesting problems to work on! (And routine defamation of public figures, even powerful ones, might be more corrosive to social order than more isolated cases.) A social order that has determined through its highest authorities that not bearing false witness against your neighbor is among if not the highest value will work these things out.
Organizing a political movement or party around this approach would require innovative thinking, but could, I believe be shown to benefit the vast majority of people and only really disadvantage the political parties, media and various institutions involved in propaganda. It would reach down into the most thorough anthropological analyses of envy and resentment and could be shown to be an effective and economical approach to everyday questions of abuse of corporate power, abuse of government power, and the creation of needless divisiveness. The most immediate wedge is the vehicle for attacking “wokeness” it would allow for. Almost all charges of “racism,” for example, are defamatory according to any reasonable understanding of “racism” (whether there is, for that matter, any reasonable understanding of “racism”—and “sexism,” “antisemitism,” “homophobia,” etc.— such that accusations of such can be made is a question that will get raised as a matter of course). You could hit the ground running by defending your supporters in the most direct way against the most vicious vilification and persecution (as the government itself is to a great extent driven by “defamational” assumptions). We would be working on creating presentable scenes upon which the question of whether someone has “lied” (as opposed to being mistaken or misled, or thinking hypothetically, etc.—how, exactly, do we say what someone “did”?), has lied about someone in particular (are claims made about institutions, systems, processes, etc., really targeting—“implicitly” perhaps—individuals who can be readily identified with those institutions, systems and processes?), and has the person lied about been materially damaged (rather than made uncomfortable, or, for that matter, being able to profit off the lies told about them) as a result of those lies. Making these questions central to social order would provide a way of talking about everything. And, not incidentally, such an order would create the most fertile conditions for the performance of succession across all institutions and, more broadly, the organization of centered ordinality as a perpetual festival celebrating our shared human origin.
To determine whether someone has lied about someone, and the consequences of that lie, under contemporary conditions, means bringing in the entire information, knowledge and data gathering and analyzing system into play—which means that a crucial concern of government is making all the institutions concerned with those practices fit for the task as well. This provides a way of bringing the massive surveillance systems that are inseparable from the data collecting devices attached to virtually all transactions within the juridical order—its most important function becomes keeping us honest when it really counts. It’s also hard to see a more likely way of making virtue central to public life. Indeed, an incremental improvement in human nature is implicit in such a politics, which would ultimately take us out of politics and toward helping each other become the kind of people who know what leads to distracting and destructive disputes and therefore learn out to convert the elements of such disputes into creative, cooperative projects. To transcend the law you must fulfill it. To further remix scripture, this is not in heaven so that you don’t know where to look for it; rather, it is right here on earth, in being the kind of people we all (just about) say we would like to be (honest, with integrity, meaning what we say and saying what we mean, fulfilling promises, etc.) and in making the laws governing our interactions simpler and more transparent. There’s something here for the materialists—if a particular way of organizing economic relations makes it essential to lie, commit fraud and slander then that doesn’t speak well for that mode of organization, which should therefore be replaced; and for the idealists, even the Kantians, to some extent at least (lying to a murderer about where his victim is doesn’t really harm the murderer). It would also encourage us all to become scrupulous handlers of text and, of course, expert attendants upon data security.
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