nettime's_fingerpuppet on Fri, 2 Nov 2001 11:21:58 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> actually existing democracy digest [gwen, hilder, snelson]

gwen <>
     Re: <nettime>Christianity &the myth of democracy
"Paul Hilder" <>
     RE: <nettime> myths, democracy, reactivism, network and hierarchy
"Kermit Snelson" <>
     RE: <nettime> Re: the myth of democracy

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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 11:01:32 +0000
Subject: Re: <nettime>Christianity &the myth of democracy
From: gwen <>

Dear Ian

I especially liked your points about the common ground between neo-liberals
and born-again Xians, and the idiocy of resistance to *all* forms of
authority (whatever that might be defined as).

The current anti-state and anti-technology movement in the States does,
however, have deep roots in Western culture. For example in the early C20,
various groups in Germany and Central Europe resisted modernisation,
industrialisation, and what they saw as 'impurities'. These groups, such as
the Youth Movement and Freundschaftsbuenden (Friendship Groups) united
elements of the pacifist, vegetarian left, and the far right (later to
become the Nazis). Again, they were opposed to vaccinations, inoculation,
blood transfusions and their main platform was blood-and-soil antisemitism.
They were often Christian (here, Protestant) who flirted with ideas of
paganism and 'authenticity' through things like outdoor activities,
gymnastics, and so on. There are, of course, obvious differences: they were
not armed and revelled in a racialised cult of the body, but the romance
with conspiracy theories was still fundamental.

So, the militias and so on in the States do see themselves as anti-Western,
but they also draw from Western culture in order to do so.



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From: "Paul Hilder" <>
Subject: RE: <nettime> myths, democracy, reactivism, network and hierarchy
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 12:19:34 -0000

we can argue till the cows come home about which is stronger or better, the
network or the hierarchy, and the answer will never be accurate in the
abstract or at the level of the global system - because at that level the
abstract distinction is void of content.

Yes, RAND, the CIA and the Pentagon are worried about netwar. They're
worried about it because it has the capacity to tie them down, to diffuse
their energies, to undermine them, and to be unbeatable (precisely because
its "underground network" (rhizome for those of you who like that language)
"spreads" faster than it can be destroyed ("the wasteland spreads"...).

But that doesn't mean netwar is the silver bullet to destroy the whole
complex, differentiated, hierarchy-cum-network which constitutes the West's
military and security architecture. It can infuriate that
hierarchy-cum-network, sting its behind, maybe even begin to transform its
mode of operation. But destroy it? How, exactly and concretely?

Nor does it mean that netwar is better than hierarchical warfare. Netwar is
just a formal description of modes of operation which the IRA and the CIA
have used for decades. Some would even say that the globalising network
economy is a subtle form of distributed netwar aimed at maintaining status
quo distributions of wealth and power (I'd prefer to see it not as war -
which flattens it - but as a distinctive field within which economic
struggle - and terrible suffering - take place).

We have a distributed network-cum-hierarchy power structure already. Can I
ask how exactly one prevents hierarchies from emerging out of networks (to,
e.g., provide universal health care or basic income? - or, more worryingly -
see Diamond's Guns, Germs & Steel - to conquer neighbouring and weaker

It's a piece of piss to pick apart the poor and double-edged eugenics
analogy. But I'd like to see nik take on the strongest elements of Kermit's
argument, rather than the weakest. For instance, the argument that much
anarchist/autonomist/soft-Deleuzean thinking is a theoretical justification
for mob rule...

<quote Kermit:>
Centuries of political theory and experience have established that
democracy has three natural enemies:  mob rule, empire and war.  And these
three are not unrelated.  In fact, they usually work as one insidious
system through which democracies are destroyed, just as Athens was
destroyed by the Peloponnesian War.  The same thing is probably happening
to us right now. And today's "anti-state brand of idealism", allied with
neo-liberalism and worse, is riding all three of these to yet another
Spartan victory.

It apparently did not occur to anybody until the modern industrial period
to come up with a theoretical justification for mob rule.  According to
this argument, the "many" are the actual engine of economic production.
As such, their economic and political activity can establish a political
order autonomously from any institution, much less government.
Therefore, any government is superfluous and parasitic, established to
enrich the few by the labors of the many through a legal monopoly on
confiscation by physical force.  For a popular exposition of this
argument, I'd recommend either Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" or Hardt and
Negri's "Empire", depending on the style of hectoring you prefer.

Not that mob rule ever "exists". Nor does "democracy". We know this. They're
political concepts which are used and abused. The fact is that there are
powerful syndicalist political experiments going on at the local level, and
powerful multilateral political experiments going on at the global level,
and neither of them looks like it works to me at the moment, but both of
them are worth thinking about in detail and in practice.

But I have to say I still find the concept of democracy useful for thinking
about our complex world. Not representative democracy. The rule of the
many - and critically (too often forgotten) the questioning of all by all.

Don't you?

Paul Hilder

-----Original Message-----
[]On Behalf Of n ik
sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 2:48 AM
subject: RE: <nettime> the myth of democracy + christianity

<begin reply to Kermit Snelson>

>The term "democracy" has been around since the fifth century BC.  So as a

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From: "Kermit Snelson" <>
Subject: RE: <nettime> Re: the myth of democracy
Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2001 17:09:35 -0800

> I wonder how Ian Andrews feels, now that Kermit Snelson
> has "sided" with him in his critique of nik's original
> post on "the myth of democracy."  Sometimes these
> discussions bring you uncomfortable acquaintances.

Most of my posts to this list have argued essentially that political theory
and practice based solely on knee-jerk opposition, lazy reading, sloppy
thinking and public name-calling results only in great injury to
progressives.  I'd like to thank Brian Holmes for providing this argument
with still more supporting evidence.

It's sad that progressives cannot challenge the premises of autonomism on
this list without being accused of opposing progressive activism in general.
This only proves the extent to which autonomism has infected the progressive
movement and undermined its political, intellectual and moral effectiveness.

So here's yet another attempt to dissipate this sorry fog.  Yes, there is a
critical gap between democratic ideals and capitalist reality.  Organized
activism is our only hope of closing that gap.  Fresh experiments with
democratic process, especially with new media technologies, should form a
crucial part of modern progressive activism.  I agree with all of this, and
that's exactly why I'm on this list.

The point that I and others have been arguing is that autonomism will not
get us there.  It is not a state-of-the-art guide to social change.  It is a
very old, failed idea with a noxious past rife with truly "uncomfortable
acquaintances."  Marx and Lenin recognized its ancestors as such and fought
them bitterly, and today's revolutionaries should do likewise.  Democracy
requires institutions.  Institutions require organization, leadership and,
yes, authority.  It is the task of activism to influence, lead and reform
the institutions we have, and to build the ones we need.

Autonomism, on the other hand, completely denies the effectiveness of
institutions.  In fact, it raises antagonism toward institutions to a level
of ontological totality.  Instead of a society based on institutions, it
advocates one based on permanent militancy of a religious cast.  And
rhetoric aside, it's therefore substantially identical to the "realist"
political agenda of Henry Kissinger and Samuel Huntington, with whom it
shares a Spinozist descent.

And having reached that topic, I'd like to express my disbelief that Holmes
cannot abide a reference to the murderers of September 11 as "our enemy."
In fact, he implies that to do so is a deployment of Huntington's "clash of
civilizations" thesis.  Nobody on this list has been more publicly hostile
to that thesis than I.  I believe that thesis is perhaps the most insidious,
dangerous, self-fulfilling prophecy in the world today.  In several recent
posts to nettime, I have dissected this and other arguments of the
right-wing "realist" school chapter and verse.  I hope the preceding
paragraph has made it clear why.  I reject it for exactly the same
theoretical and practical reasons that cause me to reject Negri.  If some
progressives think that calling these mass murderers "the enemy" is the same
as calling Islam the enemy, then they've incorporated the "clash of
civilizations" thesis into their thinking more deeply than anyone.  This
also shows in their unreasoning eagerness to look for enemies instead among
their own friends.  And that is a tragedy.

Kermit Snelson

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