Felix Stalder on Mon, 9 May 2005 15:01:36 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Fragmented Places and Open Societies

On Friday, 6. May 2005 12:33, onto wrote: > This essay, both > wonderful and 
disconcerting to me, has an almost tacit nostalgia for the > State, for the 
practices that states employ to define peoples, regulate > them, and make 
them 'free.'

You are right. There is a certain 'nostalgia' for the modern state as an 
utopia of equality (as opposed to pre-modern god-given differences of status) 
and of the rule of law (as opposed to pre-modern absolutism). This is the 
dream which propelled the liberal state through two centuries. Its utopian 
force, however, has been thoroughly exhausted, not just because of the myriad 
of ways in which it failed to live up to its own promises, but because the 
very notions space -- linear, homogeneous, stable -- on which it is built, 
has been rendered obsolete in the last 30 years.

In its stead, we have the resurgence of the state as a non-linear, fragmented 
practice, based on a flexible geometry of zones of exceptions (from certain 
civil rights, from taxation, from the law more generally) and the dream of 
equality (in the sense which inspired human rights) has been pushed aside by 
the hard hand of authoritarianism in the name of security.

> The elimination of the possibility of > liberal democracy could rather be, 
as vaguely implied at the end, the > birth of a form of democracy that 
discards the neceseity of the state > apparatus for its approval.

In this sense, the voiding of the institutions of liberal democracy is both a 
sign of end of the modern period and it opens, as you say, a room for 
alternative practices and new forms of democracy, with their peculiar mixes 
of old and new elements. At the moment, though, they seem much weaker than 
the return of authoritarianism.

> If the fragmentation of space means the fragmentation of the > state, the 
fragmentation of (neo)Liberal Democracies, then perhaps only > through those 
cracks can a truly 'open' society emerge.

Absolute. I believe that there are a lot of projects that create new kinds of 
protocols that enable openness without having force homogeneity on people. 
Networks, I'm convinced, have a much higher tolerance for diversity than 
hierarchies and thanks to new technologies, these networks now scale well, 
thus enabling new combinations of heterogenous identities and large-scale 

So, what I wanted to get at was that there is no direct connection between 
open communication systems and open social systems, yet they do transform the 
nature of space. Such systems, and the spatial dynamics they engender, are 
rich in potential and currently, we are seeing both, the renewal of 
authoritarian rule and of linking of self-determined identities, based on 
particular practices of fragmentation and integration.



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