Nomads and the Esoteric

Mass, the totality of people, goods and information, defines the modern world. Mass production, big data, the masses. Modern politics is focusing more on the masses than ever before, yet contradictorily polarisation increases and the masses become ever more fragmented and decentral. While production is nominally decentralised into global production networks, mass production continues in all facets, from material resources to consumer goods. Everything is total and categorisable, with any diminution seen as an aberration in the move to homogeneity.

Massification then is a condition of modernity, and thus it requires ever more institutional centralisation to maintain it. Mass production needs the ever present watch of the state to subsidise overproduction by providing outlets to soak it up. “Through Keynesian fiscal policy, massive highway and civil aviation programs, the military‐industrial complex, the prison‐industrial complex, foreign aid, and so forth”[1] the state acts as an arbiter of the production process, providing the means to maintain profit margins and capital accumulation. An institutional apparatus is produced that favours vertical integration under the auspice of one economic actor, creating long-term contractual relations among a number of suppliers and distributors which guarantee product lines and set the focus of production processes upon one or two specific products. This makes production reliant on monopolisation, as corporations invested in one or two product lines cannot afford for stoppages or the destructive processes of market activity and competition. Huge national highway and railroad systems further these processes, allowing for economic actors to diversify through a number of different subsidiaries while maintaining central control over the production of their particular outputs. New forms of industrial expansion, such as civil aviation and military R&D, provide new outlets for product specific monopoly production.

Politics is also a massified set of organisations and actors, channelled through centralised states and duopolised party structures. All modern campaigns focus on converting or convincing the ‘masses’, whether it be the focus of the Labour Party on becoming a mass party, or the processes of Brexit being accepted by as much of the masses as possible. Mass, in the sense of all people in a given territory, becomes the main aim of politics itself. Thus there is a push for homogenisation of policy, such as chasing centre-ground voters during the era of Third Way policies, or chasing the votes of ‘working people’ (or JAMs) by both the Conservative and Labour parties in this year’s general election. Dialogue becomes restricted as any issue has to be placed in this matrix of mass politics. Complex issues are ignored, and the liquid issues of ‘leadership qualities’ and ‘people power’ are put to the fore.

“What swell the costs in enterprises carried on in the interlocking centralized systems of society, whether commercial, official, or non‐profit institutional, are all the factors of organization, procedure, and motivation that are not directly determined to the function and to the desire to perform it. These are patents and rents, fixed prices, union scales, featherbedding, fringe benefits, status salaries, expense accounts, proliferating administration, paper work, permanent overhead, public relations and promotion, waste of time and sill by departmentalizing task‐roles, bureaucratic thinking that is penny‐wise and pound‐foolish, inflexible procedure and tight scheduling that exaggerate contingencies and overtime.”[2]

Such processes define mass in all its homogeneity. Minority interests dominate, and distributional coalitions develop that demand more protection. Perverse institutional relations develop, with a revolving door between bloated bureaucracies and subsidised corporations that produces entry barriers and limits the processes of competition and creative destruction. However this is only one institutional form that has predominated through the survival of the fittest, but by being able to subsidise its own bloat.

“When enterprises can be carried on autonomously by professionals, artists, and workmen intrinsically committed to the job, there are economies all along the line. People make do on means. They spend on value, not convention. They flexibly improvise procedures as opportunity presents and they step in in emergencies. They do not watch the clock. The available skills of each person are put to use. They eschew status and in a pinch accept subsistence wages. Administration and overhead are ad hoc. The task is likely to be seen in its essence rather than abstractly.”[3]

The series of institutional crises, from political legitimation being questioned with the election of populists and the continued economic stagnation and indebtedness that plague many countries, seem to necessitate the forms of libertarian flexibility that Goodman describes. It should be against massification of all kinds, focusing instead on a politico-economic flexibility on many fronts. With a world moving away from institutional hegemony, norms are becoming less stringent. Norms like liberalism and tolerance have lost their edge in politics, as people become more politically internalistic, focusing on their interests and the interests in their direct vicinity. Things are becoming less classificatory, more heterogeneous and variegated, with party identities giving way to single issues and ground-up organisation that is adhoc and non-administrative. Lash describes this as a move away from representation through institutions where authority is developed from the top-down (whether they be governmental or corporative) to communication that is de-centric. Communication is disembedded, running through different nodes and networks. It is symbolic in the Freudian sense of undefined images and loose imaginaries. “They worked through the processes of displacement and condensation in the unconscious. Symbols were comprised of figures displaced from the instrumentally clear and distinct subject, verb, qualifier temporality of the ego”[4]. Thus it is non-instrumental, part of an accelerated spatio-temporality of extropic activity and increased velocity[5], where space-time becomes fluid and ever-changing, part of the communicative channels of technological innovation and multi-scaled politico-economic existence. This then produces new realities of power and new forms of resistance.

There is an entropic-extropic process of de-massed institutions alongside increased complexity and movement, with hegemony breaking down in favour of a postmodern power structure of “potentia”, understood “as residing in individual beings, in their unfolding. Thus it is strictly ontological or what I would call (in the best sense) metaphysical as opposed to the physical”[6]. Being in this sense isn’t defined by representation, but by ideas and concepts developed through different pathways and scales. Being becomes messy and multi-faceted. In the Deleuzian sense, it is “a truly, intrinsically differential horizon, whose only foundation is absolute difference without unity. Reason itself can be remodelled (‘a truly sufficient reason’): it is no longer be immediately considered to ‘seek unity’. From the ideal notion of collective unity we move to a permanently distributive structure of reason. And while the Kantian ‘common horizon’ is shattered, chaos or indeterminacy does not ensue; rather the splinters can assume a new formation”[7], rejecting the unified commonality of Kantian being that is defined by reason. Identity is becoming decentral, moving along different axes of power and space that provide new opportunities not afforded by the hegemonic age of institutional, top-down authority. The institutional breakdown and the crises of legitimacy bring forth new models and new beings.

However, these splinters are not themselves unidirectional. They can lead to centralisation and control as much as they can lead to decentralisation and liberation. This dichotomous reality is represented through Lash’s concept of facticity, where in the move from hegemonic institutionalism to communicative, multi-dimensional forms of power we see a change from emphasising norms (laws, rules and regulations which directly control people) to emphasising facts. Facts are raw data, open to conceptual ideas that interpret their social/political meanings, making them inseparable from these from ideas. “That is, facts that once were abstracted as attributes of events and things are now not separable from the things and events themselves”[8]. Thus facts are movable to different narratives, being co-constitutive of ideas and discourses. “The concept is dis-intermediated and we come up against facts as raw sense data. In their rawness, facts come very much alive”[9], and become mouldable and multiplicitous. Big data is itself raw facts, recorded phenomena surrounding particular activities related to consumer and financial behaviour which reveal preferences and the extent of individual and collective choice. They could potentially allow for new communities to develop around these preferences, constructing new organisational models which can aggregate and disaggregate such things at will and allowing for general exodus through understanding these informational and knowledge flows. However, big data can also be a technology of anxiety, creating identities and ‘preferential’ behaviours through a post-hegemonic, ground-up coercion. “Whilst technology and digitalisation save time and relieve individuals of certain responsibilities and chores, they also affect the notion of community. In a neoliberal, individualist environment, subjects are made to compete among themselves but also with technological machines as the individual is remotely supervised and to technological devices. Hardship, ‘failure’ to perform according to set matrices, and anxiety are interpreted as personal limitations which need overcoming, self-training and management”[10]. Big data in this case is a technology of control, limiting individual capacities and the ability to organise collectively.

What this shows is that control and identity are the important factors when understanding technological innovation and the move toward facticity. This means these forms of control aren’t inevitable, with the technology containing the means to exodus as much as the capacity for authority. The best means to resist these new forms of power is to accelerate these technologies further, exposing their overdetermined nature and allowing for individuals and collectives to utilise them for alternative means. As Deleuze noted, the new conceptions of being that are brought forth are splintered and fragmented, meaning individuals are not purely defined by the hegemonic institutions as they were. They can now have one foot out of the prevailing socio-technic system, cultivating independence and developing a form socio-economic nomadism, where one is not defined by their current spatio-temporal order/existence. This is akin to Guy Debord’s idea of dérive: “To dérive is not exactly to resist. It is to evade. It is an ‘exit’, not a ‘voice’ strategy. The dérive moves slower than lines of flight. It moves from engagement to engagement”[11]. Thus instead of a direct engagement, a general strike of some kind or some other utopian image that suggests reality is what it is, it is better to drift, moving from engagement to engagement and allowing for new forms to grow organically from the building of small alternatives in the interstices of the prevailing politico-economic order.

This nomadism is akin to the cypherpolitical project, where one should be able to move from form to form on the techno-sphere of political and economic projects, living in “indeterminacy and greyness”[12] and allowing for one to have one foot out of the system. It allows for the development of enclaves and overlapping spatiality, creating a bricoler set of walls and fences, easily constructed and deconstructed, variegating space in its most esoteric of forms and positions. It is against massification in its many forms, whether that be in a mass production economy that centralises data systems or in a political system that forces individuals into duopolised camps, eliminating expression and multiplicitous political engagement. A range of esotericisms grow, from the decentral monad to collectivities of all ranges, capable of accessing the reams of data, the postmodern facticity of financial and consumer analysis, allowing for a technological nomadism of individualistic orders and monadic organisation. Drifting from project to project, whether that be individual production in 3D printing makerspaces and P2P production units, or moving in and through the anonymity of political organisation on multiple fronts. In the processes of the blockchain and the politics surrounding it, we see more of this political nomadism, with different ideologues and individuals engaging on different levels, whether it be currency traders buying Bitcoin or those talking of the social potentials of cryptocurrencies, or even those who favour the anonymity of the blockchain protocols for all manner of activities (political and economic).

These technologies and techno-spheres should thus be accelerated, eliminating the capacity to control their flows by particular groups and governments, encouraging this drift which creates political and economic nomads. The processes of creative destruction and crises allow for nomads of all kinds, in all their esoteric desires, to cultivate new technical, social and economic forms, exposing the breakpoints of modern organisations and moving in the capillaries and interstices of modern power relations. An organic growth of decentral, esoteric forms can grow through these technologies, using the power of facticity to move control away from corporative structures and centralised data units (Facebook, Google, etc.) toward a multiplicitous, indefinable set of realities and modernities. The role of resistance should be that of the nomad, drifting in and out, ignoring the comforts of modernity, aiming at “the extraterrestrial, which resists stability. It is a largely three-dimensional space, chaotic and impossible to territorialize”[13]. It is a splintered conception of being, with ideas overtaking norms and rules, moving away from the centralised ‘comfort’ of tacit coercion and mass stupidity toward fragmented nomadic drift that is interstitial, anonymous, bricoler and beyond simple categorisation and cataloguing.

The world is liquid, and it isn’t looking back at some long-forgotten past. There are two ways of dealing with this liquidity. There is the conservative way, desiring to preserve what we have and attempting to limit change. The best way to accomplish this goal would simply be suicide, because at least then you have staticised your immutable world. Or you can look to both react to and develop new ways of understanding the coming processes of futurity, wishing to accelerate these processes, ripping open their contradictory and overdetermined nature, and thus allowing for reactions and alternatives to grow and become part of this ever-moving morass. Forget conservation as its nothing more than a sour joke. Look instead to the enclave and the new spaces that have the potential to alter reality, acting as the nomad between and amongst these developments, accepting the liquidity and aiming to move within its temporalities and flows.

[1] Kevin Carson, The Homebrew Industrial Relation, 2010, 53

[2] Kevin Carson, The Homebrew Industrial Relation, 2010, 64

[3] ibid

[4] Scott Lash, Power After Hegemony, 2007, 57

[5] https://antinomiaimediata.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/inner-time/

[6] Scott Lash, Power After Hegemony, 2007, 60

[7] http://www.generation-online.org/p/fpdeleuze8.htm

[8] Scott Lash, Power After Hegemony, 2007, 63

[9] Scott Lash, Power After Hegemony, 2007, 64

[10] https://oxfordleftreview.com/ioana-cerasella-chis-big-data-a-technology-of-anxiety/

[11] Scott Lash, Power After Hegemony, 2007, 67

[12] https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/cypherpolitical-enterprises-programmatic-assessments/2017/03/15

[13] https://nyxus.xyz/the-aphotic-insurrection/

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