From the Cybernetic World War towards a Cybernetic Civil War

On an emerging phenomenon in the field of political affairs. On the Road to the Cybernetic World War Energy is essential for the production and movement of “things”. Using an assemblage of machines the industrial revolution exponentially increased the energy available to human society; however, such machinery required human supervision and control to attain its objectives. There are basically three “ideal types” of machines: those that convert matter from one form of matter to another; those that convert energy from one form of energy to another; and, those that exchange information. Cybernetics deals with the latter. In that sense, the Internet may be conceived of as an immense machine encompassing the breadth and length of the planet that has the real-time…

Catastrophe at Warwick

A catastrophe is only violent in its uncalled for appearing, and its coming is all around us in the smallest things. This year’s Critical Legal Conference takes place at Warwick under the title Catastrophe.  This is not without reason, for it sees the notion of catastrophe returning to one of its theoretical homes.  It was Warwick thinkers that coined the term ‘catastrophe theory’ for an assemblage of physico-mathematical techniques that explore ruptures, or jumps in behaviour as diverse as stretched elastic bands, ships at sea, human creativity, and stock market crashes.  Led by Christopher Zeeman, from the mid-1960s a team which also included Ian Stewart and Tim Poston married practical applicability of the theory to its popularisation, and may be…

The Razor’s Edge of Politics: Notes on the Meaning of the Encryption of Power

The original theory of the encryption of power was formulated by Gabriel Méndez-Hincapíe and I in an article published in Spanish in 2012. In the following years, several panels regarding the theory where held at the Critical Legal Conference, in 2014 at the University of Sussex and in 2015 at the University of Wrocław, Poland, with another one organized by Enrique Prieto and Lina Cespedes coming up in this year´s conference at Warwick. The concept has also been debated amply in other forums such as the last three meetings of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, among others. In what follows I will procure a simple outline of the core meaning of ‘encryption of power’ that may shed light on its focus,…

The Workerant

In the unfolding drama of work in the digital age, new circumstance demands new language. Gig economy, on-demand work, sharing economy, precarious work, automation, zero-hour contracts, outsourcing, workfare. Whilst the entire stage set changes, the central character of the drama remains. The worker. If this indicates both a resilience yet a revisionism of the worker today, there is the need to probe the worker subject of the new economies through new ones.  Thus here is the Workerant. Who is the workerant? The following are. The Uber taxi driver. The Deliveroo courier. The warehouse picker in an Amazon fulfilment centre. The handyman on Taskrabbit. The workerant is the human tethered to handsets, whose real life boss is an app. Whose labour…

Poverty, Indigeneity and the Socio-Legal Adjudication of Self-Sufficiency

A man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language.” — Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks In 2013, Darlene Necan, a homeless First Nations woman from northern Ontario, Canada, began the construction of a modest one-room cabin on an off-reserve Saugeen territory in Savant Lake — land formerly occupied by her parents, and passed down through a verbal agreement recognized by the Anishinabek Nation. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, however, insisted the ‘Township of Savant Lake’ to be Crown land. Consequently, Necan faced potential charges of thousands of dollars when the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry considered her actions in breach of the Ontario Public Lands Act. Subsequently, the government…

What does ‘the crowd’ Want? Populism and the Origin of Democracy

The liberal critique of the recent rise of populism reveals an uneasiness toward ‘unruly’ emotional crowds and their leaders’ anti-democratic postures – albeit these figures have captured political power through democratic means.[i] Trump, Le Pen, Modi, and Erdogan have indeed stirred nationalist emotions and collective energies in explosive directions. Erdogan’s purge of the Turkish state is just one of the recent examples of the potential of bloody nationalist effervescence, while Modi’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has rendered a new life to violent Hindu nationalism in India.[ii] Crowds were objects of scientific fascination and civic concern for the bourgeoisie in nineteenth century Europe, and researchers, like Gustave Le Bon, and later Sigmund Freud, closely studied them. Le Bon postulated that crowd possessed a…

Macron & Africa’s ‘civilisational’ problem

Mr Macron has been nostalgic lately. First, he was nostalgic for the 18th century and hereditary rule asserting that the French people did not want to execute the king and that the revolution has left a (king-shaped) void at the heart of the Republic that only other paternal figures can fill. Then, Mr Macron was nostalgic for the 19th century. Responding to a question about the possibility of a Marshall Plan for Africa, the French President dismissed the idea purporting that, unlike Europe after 1945, Africa’s problem is ‘civilisational’ and, therefore, an intervention along the lines of the Marshall Plan would be a waste of billions that would not stabilise anything. Macron’s response is striking, and telling not only of…

Protecting Public Space: The Gypsy and Traveller Community

The Gypsy and Traveller community is obliged to have respect for a system which both marginalises and excludes them. On 5 July 2017, a community of Travellers pulled up to Preston Park in Brighton. The council and the police soon descended on them to inform them that they were ‘trespassing’, as the land was covered by a Public Space Protection Order [PSPO]. They were told that if they did not vacate the land they would be liable for fixed penalty notices, and were directed to another transit site using police powers under s.62 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Introduced in 2014 under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, PSPOs enable councils to criminalise particular, non-criminal,…

History and Historical Mystification: Critical Observations on Badiou’s Politics

Alain Badiou is one of continental philosophy’s most original and creative minds. His politics can be understood as evading both the temptations of analytical political theory and post-modern skepticism through his metaphysics. According to Badiou, the multiplicity of Being guarantees that the old social totality will break down, and a new one will emerge through subjects who show fidelity to the truth of this radical event.  In this way, he seeks to capture what is best in the classical Marxist (materialist) project as read through Althusser and others, while still leaving more room for subjectivity than orthodox Marxism would allow. This is a fine line to walk, and to his credit, Badiou often does so successfully.  In many ways, his…

Looking in the mirror: reflections on the DUP and ‘the Irish problem’

The chatter, comments, and headlines are clear: the perennial ‘Irish problem’ has returned to haunt the British stage. But what is there to hear in the silence that frames the chatter? To the surprise and unease of many in Britain the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has been thrust front-and-centre onto the political stage of their liberal democracy. While this appearance has elicited much comment and chatter amongst the good people of that liberal democracy, the real question perhaps should be, beyond this comment and chatter which will undoubtedly die down when the ‘coalition of chaos’ comes to its inevitable end, what does this appearance tell us about British society and politics at a more general level? In Britain, since the first mention…

Radical Reconfigurations? Old and new futures in Northern Ireland

As the Conservative Party’s majority evaporated in the early hours of 9th June 2017, the new parliamentary power of the DUP quickly came into focus. With Sinn Fein resolutely abstaining from taking their seats, the Democratic Unionist Party find themselves in a position to enter a formal coalition or, more likely, a confidence and supply agreement with the Tories. On the straightforward arithmetic, there is no reason that such an arrangement cannot last a full five-year fixed term. Politically, however, it seems impossible. For the immediate future, however, it suits both Labour and the Conservatives to let the dust settle, make necessary internal changes within their parties, and allow new political distinctions to emerge in particular with regards to Brexit…

Five theses on youth & the sociology of the UK election

(or some quickly gathered thoughts) Thesis 1. Contemporary capitalism rarely appears simple. Back in 1848 Marx wrote in the opening of The Communist Manifesto about how “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.” But already things were more complicated. Marx’s analysis hinged on showing how the opposition of these two classes was founded in the relation of domination of capital and wage labour. Suddenly, unable to leap into pure identification with a class, people become split and split up. For Marx, only in…

Words Matter: Titles and Framing in the International Justice Scene

Sacrificing nuance, sensitivity and specificity for the sake of a ‘catchy’ title is not a neutral choice, but reiterates dominant narratives and is violently short sighted. Scrolling through my social media feed one evening last week, I came across an announcement advertising an event at the T.M.C. Asser Instituut in The Hague titled “Can Africa prosecute international crimes? – The DRC Example”.  Sponsored by the Asser Instituut, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) and the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden University, in cooperation with Open Society Foundations, the event was part of a popular series of Supranational Criminal Law (SCL) lectures organized by the Asser Instituut. The series has run for years, is generally well…

Editorial: Labour’s Insurgent Electoral Campaign

Whatever happens in today’s election in the UK, Corbyn’s campaign has been a success. Not in generations has there been an insurgent electoral campaign from the Labour party. By this we mean a campaign that faced down almost universal media antipathy (even hatred) but sought to turn Labor’s unpopularity with the establishment against the establishment itself. Because that is what Corbyn and Milne and the whole team have done. They have insisted that the establishment rejection of the Labour party under Corbyn is nothing more than an elite protecting its own interests. In this Labour have performatively revealed the political reality of even the most (apparently) liberal of media sources. At the outset one of the BBC commentators asked whether we…

The ‘Right to the City’ Emerges? Moscow’s Anti-Regeneration Protests

Last month saw some of the most populous and socially significant protests in Moscow. A series of rallies was held against the plans by the Moscow authorities to demolish old ex-public housing stock and resettle over a million residents. What was supposed to be an uncontroversial policy and in the run-up to the municipal and federal elections may have been seen as a vote-winner, led to an unprecedented mobilisation of residents. The protesters see the plans as an unconstitutional attempt of a grand-scale expropriation in favour of city authorities and developers, and believe that they risk social cleansing and the change of the city in the interests of those who do not live there.  Local activism, lawsuits, engagement with parliamentary…

Why is it difficult to accept foreign policy plays a part in terrorism?

In the travel documentary, In America, Stephen Fry visits a tea party in Massachusetts to speak with Harvard Professor Peter Gomes. The conversation discusses the re-imagined history of the United States, describing how American political solutions are sought for global and local problems. Gomes goes on to suggest ‘the many things one can say about this country is that we dislike complexity- so we’ll make simple solutions to everything we can.‘ In one sense, this also speaks to the British people. Explanations of complex problems are frequently reduced to a simple calculus, often at the expense of nuance and sometimes with compromises of difficult truths. As a response to the tragedy in Manchester, Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the wholesale shortcomings…

Black Skin, White Masks? Training African Leaders in the Art of Universality

  I was intrigued to see the recent advertisement for the Academy Africa Fellowship at Chatham House, a prestigious, London-based think tank on international affairs, with a Royal Charter granted in 1926, and originator of the famous ‘Chatham House Rule’. In its advertisement, Chatham House seeks fellows who will, as part of their Leadership training, undertake a research project of their ‘own design’. The project must be conducted under one of four Chatham House programmes, including the International Law Programme. It is here that my interest was piqued. The named research topic is ‘African Perspectives on international law’. You can see the full advertisement here: https://www.chathamhouse.org/academy/fellowships/africa ‘African governments may differ from those in the West and elsewhere in their perceptions…

The Empire Strikes Back: On the recent general strike in Brazil

In a recent review of Alex Cuadros’ 2016 Brazzillionaires: Wealth, Power, Decadence, and Hope in an American Country (astonishingly, yet unsurprisingly, still unpublished in Portuguese and in Brazil) Patrick Iber, writing for the New Republic, declared that ‘if Brazil’s inequality shocks the conscience, we must recognize that, as a global community, we are all Brazil.’ Indeed, the fascination of Brazil, not least in the current ‘close to boiling point’ climate that has come to dominate the political weather across the globe, consists not in its being an exotic outlier but rather, as Iber concludes in his perceptive piece, a magnifying mirror that shows in sharp detail the ruptured macrocosm of neoliberal techno-capitalism, its violence and cruelty, but also the beauty…

Michel Foucault: Biopolitics and Biopower

Key Concept Despite their prominence in subsequent academic writing,1 the concepts of “biopower” and “biopolitics” are perhaps the most elusive, and arguably the most compelling (given the attention they have subsequently received), concepts of Michel Foucault’s oeuvre. Within his published work, these concepts featured only in the last chapter of the slim first volume of History of Sexuality (The Will to Knowledge: History of Sexuality Volume I 1976).2 And, while biopolitics and biopower can be seen to figure within broader conceptualisations and genealogies of power and governmentality3 of his lecture series at the Collège de France (largely, 1975-76 ‘Society Must be Defended’4; 1977-78 Security, Territory Population5; and 1978-79 The Birth of Biopolitics6) these references remain ‘speculative’7 and incomplete, in part…