McKenzie Wark on Mon, 27 Sep 2004 22:54:12 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> A hacker manifesto 007-020

Schmoo writes:
>in ref to the Hua Hsu quote:
>if the World was 'ours', what would we do with it?

That's one of two questions that the book tries to
answer. The other question is: why is this world
not ours? What is the new ruling class that seeks
to concentrate the onwership and control of all
information in its hands? In the extract below, i
try to develop a way of grappling with this


A Hacker Manifesto
McKenzie Wark
Harvard University Press

007.	Everywhere abstraction reigns,
abstraction made concrete.
Everywhere abstraction's straight
lines and pure curves order matters
along complex but efficient
vectors. But where education
teaches what one may produce with
an abstraction, the knowledge most
useful for the hacker class is of
how abstractions are themselves
produced. Deleuze: "Abstractions
explain nothing, they themselves
have to be explained."

008.	Abstraction may be
discovered or produced, may be
material or immaterial, but
abstraction is what every hack
produces and affirms. To abstract
is to construct a plane upon which
otherwise different and unrelated
matters may be brought into many
possible relations. To abstract is
to express the virtuality of
nature, to make known some instance
of its manifold possibilities, to
actualise a relation out of
infinite relationality, to manifest
the manifold.

009. 	History is the production
of abstraction and the abstraction
of production. What makes life
differ in one age after the next is
the application of new modes of
abstraction to the task of wresting
freedom from necessity. History is
the virtual made actual, one hack
after another. History is the
cumulative qualitative
differentiation of nature as it is

010.	Out of the abstraction of
nature comes its productivity, and
the production of a surplus over
and above the necessities of
survival. Out of this expanding
surplus over necessity comes an
expanding capacity to hack, again
and again, producing further
abstractions, further productivity,
further release from necessity --
at least in potential. But in
actuality the hacking of nature,
the production of surplus, does not
make us free. Again and again, a
ruling class arises that controls
the surplus over bare necessity and
enforces new necessities on those
peoples who produce this very means
of escaping necessity.

011.	What makes our times different
is the appearance of the horizon of
possibility of a new world, long
imagined -- a world free from
necessity. The production of
abstraction has reached the
threshold where it can break the
shackles holding hacking fast to
outdated and regressive class
interests, once and for all.
Debord: "The world already
possesses the dream of a time whose
consciousness it must now possess
in order to actually live it."

012.	Invention is the mother of
necessity. While all states depend
on abstraction for the production
of their wealth and power, the
ruling class of any given state has
an uneasy relationship to the
production of abstraction in new
forms. The ruling class seeks
always to control innovation and
turn it to its own ends, depriving
the hacker of control of her or his
creation, and thereby denying the
world as a whole the right to
manage its own development.

013.	The production of new
abstraction always takes place
among those set apart by the act of
hacking. We others who have hacked
new worlds out of old, in the
process become not merely strangers
apart but a class apart. While we
recognise our distinctive existence
as a group, as programmers or
artists or writers or scientists or
musicians, we rarely see these ways
of representing ourselves as mere
fragments of a class experience.
Geeks and freaks become what they
are negatively, through the
exclusion by others. Together we
form a class, a class as yet to
hack itself into existence as
itself -- and for itself.

014.	It is through the abstract that
the virtual is identified, produced
and released. The virtual is not
just the potential latent in
matter, it is the potential of
potential. To hack is to produce or
apply the abstract to information
and express the possibility of new
worlds, beyond necessity.

015.	All abstractions are
abstractions of nature.
Abstractions release the potential
of the material world. And yet
abstraction relies on the material
world's most curious quality --
information. Information can exist
independently of a given material
form, but cannot exist without any
material form. It is at once
material and immaterial. The hack
depends on the material qualities
of nature, and yet discovers
something independent of a given
material form. It is at once
material and immaterial. It
discovers the immaterial virtuality
of the material, its qualities of

016.	Abstraction is always an
abstraction of nature, a process
that creates nature’s double, a
second nature, a collective space
of human existence in which
collective life dwells among its
own products and comes to take the
environment it produces to be

017.	Land is the detachment of a
resource from nature, an aspect of
the productive potential of nature
rendered abstract, in the form of
property. Capital is the detachment
of a resource from land, an aspect
of the productive potential of land
rendered abstract, in the form of
property. Information is the
detachment of a resource from
capital already detached from land.
It is the double of a double. It is
a further process of abstraction
beyond capital, but one that yet
again produces its separate
existence in the form of property.

018.	Just as the development of land
as a productive resource creates
the historical advances for its
abstraction in the form of capital,
so too does the development of
capital provide the historical
advances for the further
abstraction of information, in the
form of 'intellectual property'. In
traditional societies, land,
capital and information were bound
to particular social or regional
powers by customary or hereditary
ties. What abstraction hacked out
of the old feudal carcass was a
liberation of these resources based
on a more productive form of
property, a universal right to
private property. This universal
abstract form encompassed first
land, then capital, now

019.	While the abstraction of
property unleashed productive
resources, it did so at the same
time as it instituted class
division. Private property
established a pastoralist class
that owns the land, and a farmer
class dispossessed of it. Out of
the people the abstraction of
private property expelled from its
traditional communal right to land,
it created a dispossessed class who
became the working class, as they
were set to work by a rising class
of owners of the material means of
manufacturing, the capitalist
class. This working class became
the first class to seriously
entertain the notion of
overthrowing class rule, but failed
in this historic task. The property
form was not yet abstract enough to
release the virtuality of
classlessness that is latent in the
productive energies of abstraction

020.	It is always the hack that
creates a new abstraction. With the
emergence of a hacker class, the
rate at which new abstractions are
produced accelerates. The
recognition of intellectual
property as a form of property --
itself an abstraction, a legal hack
-- creates a class of intellectual
property creators. But this class
still labours for the benefit of
another class, to whose interests
its own interests are subordinated.
As the abstraction of private
property was extended to
information, it produced the hacker
class as a class, as a class able
to make of its innovations in
abstraction a form of property.
Unlike farmers and workers, hackers
have not -- yet -- been
dispossessed of their property
rights entirely, but still must
sell their capacity for abstraction
to a class that owns the means of
production, the vectoralist class -
- the emergent ruling class of our

021.	The vectoralist class wages an
intensive struggle to dispossess
hackers of their intellectual
property. Patents and copyrights
all end up in the hands, not of
their creators, but of a
vectoralist class that owns the
means of realising the value of
these abstractions. The vectoralist
class struggles to monopolise
abstraction. For the vectoral
class, "politics is about absolute
control over intellectual property
by means of war-like strategies of
communication, control, and
command."  Hackers find themselves
dispossessed both individually, and
as a class.

022.	As the vectoralist class
consolidates its monopoly on the
means of realising the value of
intellectual property, it confronts
the hacker class more and more as a
class antagonist. Hackers come to
struggle against the usurious
charges the vectoralists extort for
access to the information that
hackers collectively produce, but
that vectoralists come to own.
Hackers come to struggle against
the particular forms in which
abstraction is commodified and
turned into the private property of
the vectoralist class. Hackers come
as a class to recognise their class
interest is best expressed through
the struggle to free the production
of abstraction, not just from the
particular fetters of this or that
form of property, but to abstract
the form of property itself.

023.	The time is past due when
hackers must come together with
workers and farmers -- with all of
the producing classes of the world
-- to liberate productive and
inventive resources from the myth
of scarcity. The time is past due
for new forms of association to be
created that can steer the world
away from its destruction through
commodified exploitation. The
greatest hacks of our time may turn
out to be forms of organising free
collective expression, so that from
this time on, abstraction serves
the people, rather than the people
serving the ruling class.

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