A HACKER MANIFESTO (versione 1.0) by McKenzie Wark
"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, and in the process become not merely individuals apart but a class apart.
It is through the abstract that the virtual is identified, produced and released. The virtual is not just the potential latent in matters, it is the potential of potential. To hack is to produce or apply the abstract to information and express the possibility of new worlds."
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.
Every ruling class hitherto have used the surplus over bare necessity to enforce new necessities on its peoples. What makes our times different is that what now appears on the horizon is the possibility of a society set free from necessity, both real and imagined, by an explosion in abstract innovations. Abstraction that threatens once and for all to break the shackles holding hacking fast to outdated and regressive class interests.
While all societies depend on abstraction for the production of their wealth and power, the ruling class of any given society 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 benefit, depriving the hacker class of control of its creation, and by denying society as a whole the right to manage its own development.
Through the gathering of data, through analytic and creative transformations of data into information, hackers realise new possibilities latent within the actual. Old established abstractions may be managed and implemented by those who serve one or other existing class interest.
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, and in the process become not merely individuals apart but a class apart.
It is through the abstract that the virtual is identified, produced and released. The virtual is not just the potential latent in matters, it is the potential of potential. To hack is to produce or apply the abstract to information and express the possibility of new worlds.
All abstractions are abstractions of nature. Abstractions release the potential of physical matter. And yet abstraction relies on something that has an independent existence to physical matter—information.
Information is no less real than physical matter, and is dependent on it for its existence. Since information cannot exist in a pure, immaterial form, neither can the hacker class. Of necessity it must deal with a ruling class that owns the of the means of extracting or distributing information, or with a producing class that extracts and distributes.
Abstraction is always an abstraction of nature, yet which in the process creates a second nature, a collective space of human existence in which people live among their own products and come to take the environment they produce to be their nature.
Land is the detachment of a resource for nature, an aspect of the productive potential of land rendered abstract, in the form of property. Capital is the detachment of a resource from nature, as aspect of the productive potential of land rendered abstract in the form of property. Likewise, information is the detachment of a resource from nature, or from nature already once abstracted, from capital or land. It is a further process of abstraction, but one that also produces its separate existence in the form f property.
Just as the development of land as a productive resource creates the technical advance for its abstraction, so too does the development of capital provide the technical advances for the further abstraction of information, in the form of 'intellectual property'.
In feudal society, land, capital and information were bound to particular social or regional powers by customary or hereditary ties. What modern society hacked out of the old feudal carcass was a liberation of these resources based on a more abstract form of property, a universal right to private property. This universal abstract form encompassed first land, then capital, then information.
While the abstraction of property produced an unleashing of productive resources, it did so at the same time as it instituted class society. Private property established a pastoralist and a farmer class, and out of the labour it 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 owners of capital.
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, but still must sell their capacity for abstraction to a class that owns the means of production, the vectoralist class.
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 other classes, to whose interests its own interests are subordinated.
The time is past due when hackers must come together with all of the producing classes of the world, to liberate productive and inventive resources from myth of scarcity, and from the self serving priorities of the ruling class. The time is past due for new forms of association to be created that can steer the planet away from its destruction through commodified exploitation. The greatest hacks of our time may turn out to be forms of organising free human expression, so that from this time on, abstraction serves the people, rather than the people serve the ruling class.
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Irony is the wetnurse of history. It is a hack that sets the modern world of class and class conflict in motion. Improvements in agricultural productivity—an agricultural hack—enables the pastoralist class to dispense with the great mass of peasants who traditionally worked the land. This agricultural hack opens a chain of events that leads to the formation of the hacker class itself.
In place of the local and particular relations of property of the feudal world, a modern world of abstract class relations arises, all made possible, ironically enough, by the surplus generated by the farm sector using the improved techniques of the agricultural hack.
Land as property gives rise to a class of pastoralists who own it, and a class of farmers, which is what we may call peasants dispossessed of their local and traditional rights to land. Farmers work for pastoralists, their landlords, and receive in return only a part of the value of what they produce. As new forms of abstraction make it possible to produce a surplus from the land with fewer and fewer farmers, pastoralists employ fewer and fewer farmers, depriving them of their living.
Dispossessed farmers seek work and a new home in cities. Here capital puts them to work again. Farmers become workers. But once again, they do not get but a portion of the value of what they produce. They do not own the means of production, the capitalist class does. Capital as property gives rise to a class of capitalists who own it, and a class of workers, who are disposssessed of it.
Dispossessed farmers become workers, only to be dispossessed again. Having lost their land, they lose in turn their culture. Capital produces in its factories not just the necessities of life, but a way of life which it expects its workers to consume. Capital dispossess the worker of the information traditionally passed on outside the realm of private property, as the gift of one generation to the next, and replaces it with information of its own making.
Information, like land or capital, can become a form of property monopolised by a class, a class of vectoralists, so named because they control the vectors along which information flows, just as capitalists control the material means with which goods are produced, and pastoralists the land with which food is produced.
Dispossessed of their land, the farmers become workers. Even though farmers did not own land, they did work it with some degree of liberty. Workers, even though they do not own capital, and must work according to its clock and its relentless methods, did at least control their free time and information circulated within working class culture as a social property belonging to all.
But when information in turn becomes a form of private property, workers are dispossessed of it, and must buy their own culture back from its owners, the vectoralist class. The farmer becomes a worker, and the worker, a slave. Society in its totality becomes subject to the extraction of a surplus from the producing classes that is controlled by the ruling classes, who use it merely to reproduce and expand this spiral of exploitation.
The pastoralist, capitalist and vectoralist class have common interests, in that it is by accumulating productive resources as private property that they extract a surplus from the dispossessed. Yet their interests are not identical, and the struggle of the producing classes is to find the weaknesses in the common front of the owning and ruling classes, while meanwhile struggling against the exploitation of differences amongst themselves by the ruling classes.
As private property advances from land to capital to information, property itself becomes more abstract. Capital as property frees land from its spatial fixity. Information as property frees capital from its fixity in a particular object. This abstraction of property makes property itself something amenable to accelerated innovation—and conflict.
As vectoralisation 'advances', it not only produces more abstract forms of property, it subordinates prior regimes of property to the new, more abstract ones. Thus, ownership of land becomes subordinated to the ownership of capital, as the latter is a more abstract regime with an expanded capacity for the release of potential resources. Owners of capital come over time to dominate owners of land, although the struggle between them takes different forms in different places.
The capitalist class comes to dominate and colonise the pastoralists, and the vectoralists come in turn to dominate and cannibalise the capitalists. The hacker class, producer of new abstractions, becomes both more important to the ruling class, as the ruling class depends more and more on information as a resource, but also subject to stricter control.
Classes enter into relations of both conflict, collusion and compromise. Their relations are not necessarily dialectical. Classes may form alliances of mutual interest against other classes, or may arrive at an historic compromise for a time.
Society is dynamic, struggling to put new abstractions to work, producing new freedoms from necessity. The direction this struggle takes is not given in the course of things, but is determined by the struggle between classes.
Sometimes capital formed an alliance with pastoralists, and the two classes effectively merged. Sometimes capital formed an alliance with workers against the landlord class, an alliance quickly dissolved once the dissolution of the pastoralist class was achieved. Sometimes the workers formed an alliance with the farmers that socialised private property and put it in the hands of the state, while liquidating the pastoralist and capitalist classes.
Often capitalists and vectoralists find themselves in alliance, occasionally capital allies itself with workers to defeat particular initiatives of the vectoralist class.
One thing unites pastoralists, capitalists and vectoralists—the sanctity of private property. Each is dependent on forms of abstraction, which they may buy and own but do not produce. Each is dependent on the hacker class, which finds new ways of making nature productive, which discovers new patterns in the data thrown off by all natural and social activities, which produce new abstractions through which nature may be made to yield a second nature.
The hacker class, being numerically small and not owning the means of production, finds itself caught between the mass politics of the dispossessed classes and the power politics of the owners of the means of production. But in the long run, the interests of the hacker class are in accord with those who would benefit most from the advance of abstraction, namely the dispossessed classes.
A class is not the same as its representation. In politics one must beware of representations held out to be classes, which in fact represent only a fraction of a class and do not express its multiple interests. Classes do not have vanguards who may speak for them. Classes express themselves equally in all of there multiple interests and actions.
Through the advance of abstraction, freedom may yet be wrested from necessity. The vectoralist class, like its predecessors in the ownership of the means of production, seeks to shackle abstraction to the production of scarcity and profit, not abundance and liberty.
The struggle among classes has hitherto determined the disposition of the surplus, the regime of scarcity and the form in which production grows. But now the stakes are far higher. Survival and liberty are both on the agenda at once.
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Education is slavery. Education enchains the mind and makes it a resource for class power. The nature of the enslavement on offer will reflect the current state of the class struggle for knowledge, within the apparatus of education.
When capital required 'hands' to do its dirty work, the bulk of education was devoted to training useful hands to tend the machines, and docile bodies who would accept as natural the social order in which they found themselves.
When capital required brains, both to run its increasingly complex operations and to apply themselves to the work of consuming its products, more time spent in the prison house of education was required for admission to the ranks of the paid working class.
When capital discovered that many tasks could be performed by casual employees with little or training at all, education split into a minimal system meant to teach the poorest workers the basics of obedience, and a competitive system which offered the brighter workers a way up the slippery slope to security and consumption.
The so-called middle class achieve their privileged access to consumption and security through education, which they are obliged to invest a substantial part of their income.
Education is organised as a prestige market, in which a few scarce qualifications provide entree to the highest paid work, and everything else arranges itself in a pyramid of prestige and price below.
Both workers and capitalists can be heard to make similar sounding demands of the education apparatus. Workers want education that secures employment. They want education to contain at least some virtuality, but often conceived of in terms of opportunity for work. Capitalists can also be heard demanding education for work. But where workers have an interest in education that gives them some capacity to move between jobs or kinds of job, capitalists demand a paring down of education to its most functional vocational elements.
Two groups stand outside this demand for education as unpaid slavery that anticipates the wage slave's life. One is the information proletariat, The infoprole embodies a residual antagonistic class awareness, and resists the slavery of education. They know only too well that capital has little use for them other than as the lowest kinds of wage slaves. They know only too well that researchers treat them like objects for their idle curiosity.
The other group is the hacker class, who have an ambivalent relationship to education. The hacker class desires knowledge, and the pure liberty of knowledge in and of itself. This puts the hacker into an antagonistic relationship to the struggle on the part of the capitalist class to make education an induction into wage slavery.
Yet the hacker may lack understanding of the different relationship workers may have to education, and may fall for the elitist and hierarchical culture of education, which merely reinforces its scarcity and its economic value. The hacker may be duped by the blandishments of prestige and put brilliance in the service of conformity, and depart from the culture of the hacker class.
Education is not knowledge. Education is the organisation of knowledge within the contraints of scarcity. Education represents knowledge as scarcity.
Education turns the subjects who enter into its portals into objects of class power, functional elements who have internalised the discipline of the machine. Education turns those who resist its objectification into known and monitored objects of other regimes of objectification—the police and the soft cops of the welfare state.
In their struggle for the heart and soul of the educational apparatus, hackers need allies. It is particularly important to break the link between the demands of the capitalist class for the shaping of tools for its own use, and that of the workers for practical knowledge useful in this life. By embracing the class demands of the working class in the form of knowledge that equips workers with the cunning and skill to work in this world. This can be combined with a knowledge based in the self understanding of the worker as a member of a class with class interests.
The cultures of the working class, no matter how tainted by commodification, still contain an unconscious class sense, that can be used as the basis for a collective self knowledge.
By understanding and embracing the class culture and interests of the working class, the hacker interest can be advanced in many ways. It provides a numerically strong body of allies for a much more minoritarian interest in pure and free knowledge. It provides a meeting point for potential class allies in other struggles. It opens the possibility of recruiting potential hackers from the ranks of the working class.
No matter how divergent in their understanding of the purpose of education, workers and hackers have in common an interest in resisting educational content that merely trains slaves for commodity production, but also in resisting the inroads the vectoralist class wishes to make into education as an industry.
Both workers and hackers have an interest in a meritocratic educational apparatus, in which educational resources are allocated on the basis of: to each according to their needs, from each according to their abilities.
The ruling classes desire an educational world in which quality education can be purchased for even the most doltish heirs to the corporate fortune. While this may seem attractive to the better paid workers as securing a future for their children regardless of merit, in the end even they may not be able to afford the benefits of this injustice.
Where the capitalist class sees education as a means to an end, the vectoralist class sees it as an end in itself. It sees opportunities to make education a profitable industry in its own right, based on the securing of intellectual property as a form of private property. It seeks to privatise knowledge resources, just as it privatises communication and culture, in order to guarantee their scarcity and their value.
Education is a major means of passing on class as a form of inheritance. All classes look to education either to maintain their class privilege, or to seize it. The only exception are the infoproles, who are the negative example of the link between education and class. The preserve their class pride and integrity by refusing it.
Many of the conflicts within higher education are distractions from the class politics of education. Only one intellectual conflict has any real bearing on the class issue for hackers. Is it the role of education to produce objects who can function in an economy by manipulating its authorised representations? Or is it the function of education to enable subjects to create new knowledge that expresses as yet unknown possibilities in this, or some other, world?
To hack is to express knowledge in any of tits forms. Hacker knowledge implies, in its practice, a politics of free information, free learning, the gift of the result to a network of peers. Hacker knowledge also imples an ethics of knowledge subject to the claims of public interest and free from subordination to commodity production. Hacker knowledge is knowledge that expresses the virtuality of nature, by adding to it, fully aware of the bounty and danger.
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The uneven development of the resources of nature lead to relations of exploitation between states. Those states in which the ruling class can quickly seize control of abstractions and productively apply them to a source of resources acquire a power over other states and can force relations of unequal exchange upon them.
The most developed states are those in which the feudal patchwork of particular property forms and traditional means of deploying resources was overturned by the more productive, abstract and modern forms. Local and qualitative property forms gave way to the abstraction of private property, which pitted farmers against pastoralists, and workers against capitalists on a local, then regional, then national scale.
At each stage of its unfolding, this abstraction of space developed out of the imposition of abstract geography of communication vectors on the concrete and particularised geographies of nature and second nature. The vector creates the plane upon which localities merge into regions, regions into states, states into suprastate unions.
Wherever the productive hack that best releases the surplus of production can be identified, applied and spread is put into practice quickly, surplus accumulates quickly, and the territorial power of localities, regions, states and suprastates grows apace.
Where ever hacking has been most at liberty, best resourced and most rapidly adopted, a surplus is released and power grows. Where ever hacking has been most rapidly adopted, all traditional and local fiefdoms and productive pockets have been liquidated, their resources thrown into large and large pools of resource, out of which ever more varied productive possibilities may be further generated.
Where ever hacking has produced the most varied productive possibilities, power arises that subordinates territory to its demands. Localities dominate regions, regions states, states other states. Where ever these imperial powers arise, they become a power also over hacking, subordinating it to the growing demand of the ruling classes and the states in which they vest their collective interest for forms of abstraction that further enhance and defend their power. Thus the liberty that gave rise to abstraction, and abstraction to power, comes back to impose new necessities on the free expression of the hacker class.
In the states where this process has developed most rapidly, perhaps to the point where these centres of power constitute an overdeveloped bloc of states, the exploitation of underdeveloped territories by the ruling classes creates the surplus out of which the state may compromise with the productive classes and incorporate some of their interests—at the expense of the under developed world.
The same vectors which permit an opening of abstraction into the world, allowing the ruling classes to expand into the developing world, can become a means to erect barriers to protect the over developed world. Thus the ruling classes seek to open the developing world to its flows of capital and information, but cultivates an alliance with the productive classes within the over developed world for the maintenance of barriers against flows emanating from the under developed world. Neither the labour, nor the products of the labour of the developing world are to be allowed free entry into the over developed world.
The abstraction of the world that the vector makes possible is arrested in a state of development that represents the interests of the ruling classes, but in which the producing classes of the over developed world have acquired a stake through their partial democratisation of the state and partial socialisation of property through state ownership.
Pastoralists and farmers unite against the under developed world in protecting markets bounded by the overdeveloped state. Likewise, capitalists and workers unite to protect markets against good produced in the under developed world. An 'historic compromise' arises in which abstraction stops and the state borders.
The hacker class is also partly accommodated, through the recognition of intellectual property as property, and through its partial socialisation. The high rate of production of new abstraction is thus secured by accommodating the interests of the hacker class.
This compromise is contingent and temporary. The over developed world may arrest the abstraction of the vector by turning it into a means of enclosing its local and regional interests, but the over developed world also incubates the rapid hack of vectoral technologies with the capacity to overcome such limits.
The compromise between the ruling and productive classes only encompassed the pastoralist and capitalist ruling interests, who were in any case limited by the partial development of the potential of the vector from conceiving of their productive universe on a global abstract plane. The rise of a vectoralist class that profits by the abstraction of information itself rapidly overcomes this prudent limiting of the territorial ambitions of the ruling class.
Where the vectoral class played a subordinate role in the development of the abstract space of the state commodity economy, it assumes a leading role in extending abstraction to the world. Its capacity to vectoralise all of the world's resources, to put them all on the same abstract and quantifiable plane, creates the conditions for the expansion of the ambitions and desires of all the ruling classes.
The ruling classes detach themselves from the envelope of the state, and shed their historic compromises with the productive classes within their borders. The ruling classes come to represent their interests through suprastate organisations, within which the ruling classes of all the overdeveloped world begin to represent to themselves and to enforce upon others the global conditions most conductive to the expansion of pastoralist, capitalist and vectoralist interests around the globe.
The ruling classes of the over developed world pit themselves against the compromises formerly reached within the over developed state, and force the socialisation of property through the state on behalf of the productive classes into retreat.
The ruling classes of the over developed world also pit themselves against the interests of the ruling classes of the under developed world, and against the state envelopes within which these less powerful states sought to limit the inroads of global commodification.
As the ruling classes of the underdeveloped world struggle to maintain the protection of their state envelopes, they restrict the potential productivity of their productive classes, and cut themselves off from the accelerated production of abstraction the comes from the rapid spread of any and every potential new hack. But the only option these ruling classes are offered is to sell out to the ruling classes of the over developed world, and hand over their territories to the liquidation of local practices and subordination to emerging global norms.
Desperate for the investment of the resources of the over developed world's ruling classes, the states of the under developed world are forced to choose between surrendering their sovereignty or reconciling themselves to a diminished rate of growth of the surplus and a relentless diminution of power relative to the over developed world.
The choices facing the productive classes of the under developed world are even starker. When their states lose their sovereignty, they become a resource for the global production of food and goods, which everywhere seeks to extract the maximum surplus. The state loses its ability to socialise part of that surplus as a condition of access to capital and entry to the emerging global order.
The only alternative offered the productive classes is to ally itself with that faction of the capitalist and pastoralist classes that resist the erosion of national sovereignty. In which case the productive classes may strike a bargain within a state cut off from development and left behind in the global production and distribution of surplus.
To make matters worse, the leading force in opening the local and qualitative territories within state boundaries is everywhere the vectoralist class. The rise of a vectoral class, within first national, and then international spaces, brings with it the demand for the privatisation of information.
The vectoralist class everywhere comes into conflict with its erstwhile allies to the extent that the vectoralists seek to extract as much surplus as the market will bear for all aspects of the production and circulation of information. The capitalist and pastoralist classes were formerly content to permit the state to take charge of these unproductive activities and to socialise them.
The interests of the vectoralist class also come into conflict with those of the subordinate classes who benefited from the partial socialisation of information through the state. However, some of the cost to the subordinate classes within the dominant states is offset by the exploitation by the vectoralists of the developing world, where increases in the cost of information weigh particularly heavily on the struggle to wrest freedom from necessity.
Just as the subordinate classes struggle within the state against the privatisation of information, so too they must join with interests across the class spectrum from the developing world in the global struggle against a vectoralist monopoly of information.
The spread of information vectors creates an ever more abstract space within which the world may appear as an array of quantifiable resources. The particular and contingent borders and local qualities give way to an abstract space of quantification. This process is not natural or inevitable and everywhere meet resistance, but this resistance is itself a product of the process of abstraction, which makes formerly natural seeming local conditions appear as something threatened by an emerging plane of abstraction.
The spread of the vector homogenise space and unifies time, passing through the pores of the old state borders and threatening the particularities that once resided unchallenged with the state's envelope. But the vector also brings with it qualitatively new kinds of difference. It not only becomes the vehicle for the self conscious defence of local differences, but also their valuing beyond their borders for their unique qualities. The local difference becomes a resource for global commodification.
The spread of the vector also produces qualitatively new differences, not bound by the distinct space and time of localities. Heterogeneity flourishes alongside the imposition of uniform global commodity forms. Thus the global and the local forms of commodity production come to represent two versions of the same process by which the vector makes of everything it touches a object with the potential to be quantified and commodified.
The politics of globalisation comes to represent the confluence of these trends. It pits the over developed world against the under developed world, and calls into being temporary and opportunistic alliances across class lines within the state, or across state lines within a class. Along both axes, the vectoral class comes to dominate all others in its ability to make and break alliances at will.
The productive classes are hampered in their ability to develop alliances, even among their own numbers, but particularly with the productive classes of other states. The productive classes everywhere still exist within national vectoral spaces, having come to perceive their interests to date within the limits of the envelope of the state.
The state machine in the over developed and under developed world alike is losing its ability to incorporate the interests of the productive classes in the form of a compromise with local ruling interests. The ruling classes everywhere abandon their compromises within the state, at the expense of the productive classes.
This development is uneven, however. The productive classes in the over developed world maintain their power to slow the free flow of food and goods from the under developed world. But this only hampers their ability to form alliances with the productive classes of the under developed world.
There the productive classes are more likely to identify their interests with local capitalist or pastoralist interests, who struggle to use suprastate organs as a means to open up the over developed world to their goods and food to the same degree as they are forced to open their territories to ruling interests from the over developed world, particularly as represented via the supra state organs that the ruling class of the over developed world disproportionately control.
While the over developed world remains substantially closed to the under developed world, many members of the productive classes seek to emigrate, legally or illegally, to the over developed world. As the over developed world will not take its goods, thus causing under employment and causing migration, so too it refuses this migration which it has itself unleashed. Migration further strains the potential for alliances between the productive classes of the over and under developed world, as each sees in the other a foreigner opposed to his or her local interest.
Meanwhile, the under developed world finds itself the object of the surplus seeking interests of the vectoralist class. Where other ruling classes merely want to exploit the labour or resources of the developing world, and is more or less indifferent to its cultural expression and subjective life, the vectoralist class seeks to turn the productive classes all over the world into consumers of its commodifed culture, education and communication. This only further hardens resistance to the abstraction of the world.
But what of the hacker class as a class? Where do its interests lie in all of these globalising developements? The interest of the hacker class lies first and foremost in the free expansion of the vectors of communication, culture and knowledge around the globe. Only through the free abstraction of the flow of information from local prejudice and contingent interests can its virtuality be fully realised. Only when free to express itself through the exploration and combination of any and every kind of knowledge, anywhere and everywhere in the world can the hacker class realise its potential, for itself and for the world.
However, there is a stark difference between the free abstraction of the flow of information and its abstraction under the rule of the commodity and in the interests of the vectoral class. The commodification of infomation produces nothing but a new global scarcity of information, restricting the potential for its free expression.
This commodified regime makes of information an object whose value is produced by its very scarcity. This artificial scarcity makes of information an object to be desired, as what negates and limits the subject, such that the subject mistakes itself for its desire for what it lacks.
The global spread of commodified information produces a global productive class that sees its interests in commodified form. Even when it resists the more obviously global forms of commodified information, desire takes the local as a sign in the place of the global, but in an abstracted and commodified universe in which one is merely the mirror image of the other.
The hacker class finds its interest in the free production, and productivity, of information subordinated to the interests of the vectoral class in extracting a surplus from the hack and from furthering only those hacks that generate a surplus. But it also finds that the vectoral class recruits more and more subjects into this world in which they appear to themselves as nothing more than what they lack.
As difficult as it may be, the hack class must commit itself to the free alliance of productive classes everywhere, and most make its modest contribution to overcoming the local and contingent interests that pit the productive classes everywhere against themselves. This contribution may be technical or cultural, objective or subjective, but it must everywhere take the form of hacking out the virtuality that a free global abstraction would express as an alternative to the commodified subjection that both local and global domination by private property represents.
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The virtual is the true domain of the hacker. It is from the virtual that the hacker produces ever-new expressions of the actual. To the hacker, what is represented as being real is always partial, limited, perhaps even false. To the hacker there is always a surplus of possibility expressed in what is actual, the surplus of the virtual. This is the inexhaustible domain of what is real without being actual, what is not but which may be. To hack is to release the virtual into the actual, to express the difference of the real.
Any domain of nature that may be apprehended as information may yield the virtual. By abstracting from nature, hacking produce the possibility of another nature, a second nature, a third nature, natures to infinity.
When the hack is recognised in an abstraction of property rights, then information as property creates the hacker class as class. This intellectual property is a distinctive kind of property, in that only a new creation of information may lay claim to it.
Through the application of abstraction, the hacker class produces the possibility of production, the possibility of making something of and with the world—and of living off the surplus produced by the application of abstraction to nature—to any nature.
Through the production of new forms of abstraction, the hacker class produces the possibility of the future. Of course not every new abstraction yields a productive application to the world. In practice, few innovations ever do so. Yet it can rarely be known in advance which abstractions will mesh with resources in a productive way.
It is in the interests of hackers to be free to hack for hacking's sake. The free and unlimited hacking of the new produces not just 'the' future, but an infinite possible array of futures, the future itself as virtuality.
Every hack is an expression of the inexhaustible multiplicity of the future, of virtuality. Yet every hack, if it is to be realised as a form of property and assigned a value, must take the form not of an expression of multiplicity, but of a representation of something finite and particular. Property traps only one aspect of the hack, its particular and contingent property. It cannot capture the infinite and unlimited virtuality from which the hack draws its potential.
Under the sanction of law, the hack becomes a finite property, and the hacker class emerges, as all classes emerge, out of a relation to a property form. Like all forms of property, intellectual property enforces a relation of scarcity. It assigns a right to a property to an owner at the expense of non-owners, to a class of possessors at the expense of the dispossessed.
By its very nature, the act of hacking overcomes the limits property imposes on it. New hacks supersede old hacks, and make them worthless. The hack as information is made of information. This gives the hacker class an interest in its free availability more than in an exclusive right. The immaterial nature of information means that the possession by one of information need not deprive another of it.
To the extent that the hack embodies itself in the form of property, it does so in a quite peculiar way, giving the hacker class as a class interests quite different from other classes, be they exploiting or exploited classes. The interest of the hacker class lies first and foremost in a free circulation of information, this being the necessary condition for the renewed expression of the hack. But the hacker class as class also has an interest in the representation of the hack as property, as something from which a source of income may be derived that gives the hacker some independence from the exploiting classes.
The very nature of the hack gives the hacker a crisis of identity. The hacker searches for a representation of what it is to be a hacker in the identities of other classes. Some see themselves as vectoralists, trading on the scarcity of their property. Some see themselves as workers, but as privileged ones in a hierarchy of wage earners. The hacker class has produces itself as itself, but not for itself. It does not (yet) possess a consciousness of its consciousness. It is not aware of its own virtuality.
Because of its inability—to date—to become a class for itself, fractions of the hacker class are continually split off from it and come to identify their interests with those of other classes. Hackers run the risk, in particular, with being identified in the eyes of the working and farming classes with vectoralist interests, which seek to privatise information necessary for the productive and cultural lives of all classes.
To hack is to abstract. To abstract is to produce the plane upon which different things may enter into relation. It is also to produce the names and categories and numbers of those things. It is also to produce kinds of relations, and relations of relations, into which things may enter. Differentiation of functioning components arranged on a plane with a shared goal is the hacker achievement, whether in the technical, culture or social realm. Having achieved creative and productive abstraction in so many other realms, the hacker class has yet to produce itself as its own abstraction.
The struggle of the hacker class is a struggle against itself as much as against other classes. It is in the nature of the hack that it must overcome the hack it identifies as its precursor. A hack only has merit in the eyes of the hack if it supersedes or otherwise outclasses previous hacks. Yet the hacker class brings this spirit also into its relation to itself. Each hacker sees the other as a rival, or a collaborator against another rival, not—yet—as a fellow member of the same class with shared interests.
The hacker class produces distinctions as well as relations, and must struggle against distinctions of its own making in order to reconceive of itself as itself. Having produced itself as the very process of distinction, it has to distinguish between its competitive interest in the hack, and tis collective interest in discovering a relation among hackers that expresses an open and ongoing future for its interests.
This struggle must enlist the components of other classes that assist in the realisation of the hacker class for itself. Hackers have so often provided other classes with the means by which to realise themselves, as the organic intellectuals connected to particular class interests and formations. But having guided—and misguided—the working class as its intellectual 'vanguard', it is time for hackers to recognise that their interests are separate from those of the working class, but necessarily in alliance.
It is from the leading edge of the working class that the hackers may yet learn to conceive of themselves as a class. If hackers have taught workers how to hack, it is workers who must teach hackers how to be a class, a class for itself as well as in itself.
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History is itself an abstraction, hacked out of the recalcitrant information thrown off by the productive activity of people and things. Out of the information expressed out of events, history forms orders of objective or subjective representation.
The history dominant in any era is the product of the educational apparatus established by its ruling powers. Thus even dissenting history takes form within institutions not of its making. While not all history represents the interests of the ruling powers, the institution of history exists as something other than what it can become when free of this constraint, namely, the abstract guide to transformation of the ruling order in the interests of the producing classes whose collective action expresses the events history merely represents.
For history to be something more than a representation, it must seek something more than its perfection as representation, as an image faithful to but apart from what it represents. It must express rather its difference from the state of affairs that present themselves under the authorship of the ruling class. It must be a history not just of what society is, but what it can become.
This other history brings together the record of events as an object apart from collective action and the action of the subjective force that struggles to free itself from its own objectification. This other history introduces the productive classes to the product of their own action, which is presented to themselves not just by the ruling version of history but by the ruling class itself in all its actions, as a thing apart.
This other history hacks out of appearances and returns the productive classes the containment of their free productive energy in successive property forms. From the direct subjection to the individual owner that is slavery, to the patchwork of local lordships and spiritualised subjection that is feudalism, to the abstract and universalising private property of the commodified economy, in every era, a ruling class extracts a surplus from the free productive capacity of the productive classes.
The history produced in the institutions of the ruling classes makes history itself into a form of property. To the other history, the history of the productive classes, the dominant history is but a visible instance of the containment of productive power within representation that it otherwise seeks to hide. Even the would-be 'radical' histories, the social histories, the history from below, end up as forms of property, traded according to their representational value, in an emerging market for commodified information.
It is the form of history, not its content, that must be challenged by that other kind of hack. Adding yet more representations to the heap of history's property, even representations of the oppressed and excluded, does nothing if it does not challenge the separation of history as representation from the great democratic forces that produce it in the first place.
What matters, in the struggle for history, is to make it express its potential to be otherwise, and to make it a part of the productive resources for the self awareness of the productive classes themselves, including the hacker class. Hackers, like productive labour everywhere, can become a class for themselves when equipped with a history that expresses their potential in terms of the potential of the whole of human society.
This history does not need to be invented from scratch, as fresh hack expressed out of nothing. It quite naturally borrows from the historical awareness of all the productive classes of the past. This other history, the history of the free is also a free history that is the gift of past struggles to the present.
One thing is already known, as part of this gift. The containment within the representation of property, as managed by the state in the interests of the ruling class, may accelerate productive growth for a time, but inevitably retrains it and distorts it as well. Far from being the perfect form for all time, property is always contingent, and awaits the exceeding of its fetters by some fresh hack.
This is the salient point of the past that weighs upon the present. Production bursts free from the fetters of property, from its local and contingent representations of right and appropriation, and eventually gives rise to a universal and abstract form of property, private property.
Universal private property encompasses land, capital, and eventually information, bringing each under its universal abstract form and making of each a commodity. It cuts land from the continuum of nature and makes of it a thing. It cuts the products made out of nature into objects to be bought and sold and makes of them things also. Finally, private property makes of information, that pure immaterial potential likewise becomes a thing.
The progress of the privatisation of property creates at each stage a class which owns the means of producing a surplus from it, and a class dispossessed of it. As land becomes the object of a universalising law of abstracted private property, peasants who held traditional rights to that land find themselves dispossessed of their own birthright.
What made this dispossession possible was the agricultural hack, by which more productive means were discovered for extracting a surplus from the land. But it was not the peasants who benefited from this bounty, but a rising class of land owners, a pastoralist class.
The pastoralist class, through its domination of the organs of the state, produced the legal fictions which would legitimate this theft. Secure in its ownership, it rented land back to some proportion of the peasantry, who become tenant farmers. The rest are dispossessed, and dispersed to the cities or the colonies. They become either landless workers, or dispossess others in turn, through colonial appropriation.
The agricultural hack sets flows of dispossessed peasants in motion, and they become workers, selling their labour to an emerging capitalist class. Just as the pastoralists use the state to secure land as private property, so too the capitalists use their power over the state to secure the legal and administrative conditions for the privatisation of flows of raw materials and tools of production in the form of capital.
Land and capital for a time represent conflicting interests, who struggle against each other through the state for domination. Landed interests try to achieve a monopoly on the sale of grain within the space of the nation through the state, while capital struggles to open the market and thus push down the price of grain.
Where capital gets the upper hand in this struggle, it reduces the amount of the surplus going to the pastoralist class and secures for itself lower costs of production, thus making its goods more competitive internationally. Struggles of this kind are not uncommon among the otherwise ruling classes, and are always worth studying with an eye for opportunities presented in them for the productive classes to turn to their advantage.
The classes that own the means of production, be they a pastoralist class in possession of land, a capitalist class in possession of material and mechanical goods, or a vectoralist class in possession of stocks, flows and vectors of information, everywhere extract a surplus from the productive classes.
The productive classes are so called because they are the real producers of wealth, be they farmers and miners of land, workers of material or mental value, or hackers who produce new means of production itself. Their interests and desires not always coincide of their own accord, which is why they are considered as separate classes, tied to different relations of property, but taken together they have in common their dispossession from the greater part of what they themselves produce. Their history is the history of the struggle to reappropriate the fruits of their own labour.
The productive classes everywhere produce abundance, wrest freedom from necessity, generate a surplus, but are everywhere dispossessed of it. Through its ownership of the means of production, and domination of the organs of the state, the ruling classes return only so much of the product to its makers as the struggle between the classes has determined.
The productive classes may struggle directly against their appropriators, over the terms of the trade between them, or may struggle indirectly through the state. The state, which the pastoralist and capitalist classes used as an instrument for legitimising its appropriation of property, can also be the means by which the productive classes seek to resocialise part of the surplus, through the taxation and transfer of the surplus to the productive classes in the form of a social wage. This may take the form of health care, education, housing or other material and cultural means.
The ruling classes also use the state for their own ends. Taxation may distribute the surplus toward the producing classes, toward the ruling classes, or may be diverted for the expansion and armament of the state itself. While the ruling class seeks to limit the state's interference in its activities, it also seeks to direct its share of the surplus towards its own uses. Meanwhile the productive classes struggle to extract a part of the surplus through the taxation system for their own uses.
In many cases, the ruling classes ceded to the state the information intensive functions that were of benefit to the capitalist and pastoralist classes as a whole, or were the bargain struck by the productive classes. The state became the manager of the representations through which class society as a whole came to know and manage itself.
However, the rise of a vectoralist class put an end to this 'historic compromise'. The vectoral class uses the state to extend and defend the privatisation of information. It attacks the socalised culture, communication and education that other ruling classes for the most part left in the hands of the state.
At the same time as they attack the socalised information in the hands of the state, the vectoralist class attacks the ability of the hacker class to maintain some degree of autonomy over its working conditions through its ability to transform the hack into intellectual property.
Besides its struggle over the value of its labour, and its struggle through the state, each productive class struggles over the autonomy of its working conditions. Farmers form associations, workers form unions, many seek autonomy through the ownership of productive tools. The hacker class likewise struggle for autonomy in a world in which the means of production are in the hands of the ruling classes.
But there is yet one other struggle that all the productive classes are always engaged in, whether they know it or not. This is the struggle to exceed the limits to the production of the surplus and its free appropriation imposed as a fetter by the commodity form in general, and by its most restrictive form—private property—in particular.
This is the most salient point in any history that aims to become a part of the struggle to wrest freedom from necessity. The commodity form is an abstraction that releases an enormous amount of productive energy, but it does so by diverting production always toward the reproduction of the commodity form. Yet that form itself becomes a fetter on the free productivity of production itself. The hack is limited to the hacking of new forms of surplus extraction.
As land, capital and information are progressively abstracted as property, property itself becomes more abstract. Land has a finite and particular form, capital has finite but universal forms, information is both infinite and universal in its potential. The abstraction of property reaches the point where it calls for an abstraction from property.
The class dynamic drives class society to the brink of overcoming the property form itself, to the overcoming of scarcity and the release of the surplus potential of productivity back into the hands of its producers. What history expresses to the producing classes is this unrealised potential to wrest freedom from necessity once again. Just as property led to the wresting of freedom from natural necessity, the overcoming of the limits to property offers the potential to wrest freedom from the necessities imposed on the productive classes by the constraint of private property, class society and its domination of the state.
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Information wants to be free but is everywhere in chains. Information is the potential of potential. When unfettered it releases the latent capacities of all things and people, objects and subjects.
Information is indeed the very potential for there to be objects and subjects. It is the medium in which objects and subjects actually come into existence, and is the medium in which their virtuality resides.
The potential of potential that is information has its dangers. But its enslavement poses greater dangers still. When information is free, it is free to act as a resource for the averting of its own dangerous potentials. When information is not free, then the class that owns or controls it turns its capacity toward its own interest and away from its own inherent virtuality.
The conditions of freedom of information do not stop at the 'free' market, no matter what the apologists for the vectoral class may say. Free information is not a product, but a condition of the effective allocation of resources. Free information requires a public and gift economy as much as a market economy for information in its commodified form.
The arrest of the free flow of information means the enslavement of the world to the interests of those who profit from information's scarcity. The many potential benefits are subordinated to the few benefits of the profiting few. The infinite virtuality of the future is subordinated to the production and representation of futures from which the few alone benefit.
The enslavement of information means the enslavement of its producers to the interests of its owners. It is the hacker class that taps the virtuality of information, but it is the vectoralist class that owns and controls the means of production of information on an industrial scale. Their interests lie in extracting as much profit as possible from information, in commodifying it to the nth degree. Information that exists solely as private property is no longer free.
The interests of the hackers are not always totally opposed to those of its owners. There are compromises to be struck between the free flow of information and extracting a flow of revenue to fund its further development. But while information remains subordinated to ownership, it is not possible for its producers to freely calculate their interests, or to discover what the true freedom of information might potentially produce in the world.
Information may want to be free, but it is not possible to know the limits or potentials of its freedom when its free potential is subordinated to the actual state of ownership and scarcity. Privatising information, commodifying information, distorts and deforms its free development, and prevents the very concept of its freedom from its own free development.
The subordination of hackers to the vectoralist interest means the enslavement of the whole of human potential. While information is chained to the interests of its owners, it is not just hackers who may not know their interests, no class may know what it may become.
It is not just information that must be free, but access to the knowledge of how to use it. Information in itself is a mere thing. It requires an active, subjective capacity to become productive.
For everyone to become free to join in the virtuality of knowledge, information and the capacity to grasp it must be free also, so that people of all classes may have the potential to hack for themselves and their kind a new way of life.
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The very act of the hack itself is what makes nature appear as both the source of what the hack expresses, and as the object of the hack's representation. Nature appears as both subject and object of the hack, although it has an independent material existence of either its expression or representation.
Nature appears as a concept at the point at which what the concept designates disappears. Once collective human agency has begun to wrest a portion of freedom from nature's necessity, then nature as an absolute value has begun to disappear. It subsists hereafter as a relative value. Things are more or less 'nature', but never absolutely so.
Nature seized as property makes of nature a thing that can be appropriated for something other than itself. The property form turns nature into a object and its appropriator into a corresponding subject. Or so it appears in the representation that is the property relation.
Through collective action, freedom is wrenched from necessity, in the form of a transformed nature, a second nature, more amenable to existence. The transformation of nature into second nature frees human existence from necessity, but creates new forms of necessity.
Nature seized as something other than itself becomes a resource for the creation of second nature, the landscape that collective labour makes for itself out of what it seizes as a resource. History becomes an endless 'advance' in which nature is seized as an object, and made over in the form that suits subjective interest. But because subjective interest is always a class interest, the transformation of nature into second nature produces freedom from necessity only for the ruling class and its favourites. For subordinate classes, it produces new necessities.
This is the case also in terms of dominant and subordinate nations within the world system. The nature seized and transformed into second nature is often the nature of the subordinate nations of the world, and it is transformed into a second nature that benefits the subordinate classes of the dominating world, from whom capital is happy to extract a profit for its comforts.
In the creation of a collective existence, in culture, society, economy and polity, humans alienate themselves from nature, and nature from themselves. They become creators of their own nature, if not consciously, then at least collectively.
Neither the appropriators of nature in the form of property, nor the dispossessed who struggle for public property as compensation for their dispossession, have an immediate interest in nature as nature. Theirs is a struggle over second nature. Nature itself disappears in its transformation.
The subordinate classes of the developed world discover an interest in its preservation at the point at which the development of second nature has freed them from nature's necessities. But this discovery of an interest in nature puts the subordinate classes of the overdeveloped world at odds with that of the underdeveloped world, for whom nature is still in the process of disappearance, and still appears as grim necessity.
Neither objects nor subjects exist in nature, but are an effect of the reduction of nature to property. Nature is increasingly objectified. At the same time, nature is subjectified, and represented in the image of what is human. Since nature knows no objects, no subjects, and no representation, its appearance in representation as object or subject is a false appearance.
To the extent that nature exists even in its disappearance, it exists as expression. Not as the other of collective human action, but as the multiplicity of forces that the human in concern with the nonhuman articulate and express.
Nature does not reveal its true nature when represented either as land, capital or information. The division of land into private holdings, the extraction from nature of material resources, the representation of nature as complex informational processes, all of these abstractions of nature abolish it in their representation of it, and yet are partial expressions of its multiplicity.
To the hacker, nature is another name for the virtual. It is another way of representing the unrepresentable multiplicity from which the hack expresses its ever renewable forms. There is an interest that the hacker class has in nature, but it is not in a fixed representation of nature, that nostalgia that may be comfortably indulged in first world comfort. It is an interest in another nature altogether. In that nature which expresses the limitless multiplicity of things, and from which any and every hack derives.
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Production produces all things, and all producers of things. Production produces not only the object of the production process, but also the producer as subject.
Hacking is the production of production. The hack produces a production of a new kind, which has as its result a singular and unique product, and a singular and unique producer. Every hacker is at one and the same time producer and product of the hack, and emerges in its singularity as product of the hack as process.
The hack as pure hack, as pure production of production expresses as a singular instance the multiplicity of the nature out of which and within which it moves as an event.
The hack as pure hack is social in origin, but differentiates itself from the social in its production. The recuperation of the hack for sociality takes the form of its representation to and within the social as property. Which is to say, its recognition and communication.
Production takes place on the basis of a prior hack which gives to production its formal, social, repeatable and reproducible form. Every production is a hack formalised and repeated on the basis of its representation. To produce is to repeat; to hack is to differentiate.
Production transforms nature into objective and subjective elements that form a social ensemble, in which a second nature emerges. This second nature consists of a sociality of objects and subjects which may enter into relations of production for the further, quantitative, development of second nature.
The qualitative transformation of second nature, however, requires the production of production, or the intervention of the hack. The degree of dynamism or openness of a society is directly proportional to its capacity to hack.
A society which develops, and institutionalises as a form of intellectual property, the phenomena of the hack will at one and the same time experience an exponential growth in its productive capacity, but also in its qualitative tendency for transformation and differentiation.
The hack produces both a useful and a useless surplus, although the usefulness of any surplus is socially and historically defined. The useful surplus goes into expanding the realm of freedom wrested from necessity. The useless surplus is the surplus of freedom itself, the margin of free production unconstrained by production for necessity.
The production of a surplus within a society may lead to the expansion of freedom from necessity or to new necessities, socially defined. Surplus producing societies may be free societies, or they may be subject to domination by a ruling class or coalition of ruling classes.
Class domination takes the form of the capture of the productive potential of society and its harnessing to the production, not of liberty, but of class domination itself. The ruling class subordinates the hack to the production of forms of production that may be harnessed to the enhancement of class power, and the suppression or marginalisation of other forms of hacking.
When the pastoralist class dominates, it suppresses any hack that may lead to the development of non-agricultural production. Production remains land based and dedicated to the valorisation of land.
When the capitalist class dominates, it frees the hack for the production of new forms of useful production. But it subordinates the hack to the accumulation of capital. Hacking that leads to the production of new classes of consumable object and consuming subject are the only kind not marginalised. So while the capitalist class provides resources and encouragement for the hacker class, it is under the condition of subordination to commodification.
When the vectoralist class dominates, it frees the hack for the production of many kinds of useless production, and thus is often seen as an ally of the hacker class. But the vectoralist class act only out of self interest. For they extract a profit from the commodification, not just of production, but of the production of production. Their goal is the commodification of the hack itself.
The vectoralist class at one and the same time encourage free production, but also commodify it. No kind of information is too useless, to esoteric, to escape the vectoralist agenda of privatisation and commodification.
Whereas under pastoralist or capitalist rule, the free and useless hack is suppressed or marginalised, but otherwise retains its own gift economy, under vectoralist rule, it is actively encouraged and courted, but only under the sign of commodified production.
Production produces not only objects which appear as commodities, but subjects, who appear as the consumers of these objects, but are in fact their producers. Modern society becomes indeed a 'social factory' which makes subjects as much as objects out of the transformation of nature into second nature.
The producers of commodities, be they farmers producing primary goods out of the land, or workers producing secondary goods out of material capital, or tertiary workers producing intellectual products out of information, are themselves the socially produced outcome of socialised production.
Where the hacker class under vectoralist society is alienated from its capacity for free production, and knows it, the farming and working classes are also alienated but don not know it. Or rather, know it intuitively, in their periodic revolts against vectorialist society, but do not have direct experience of free production.
What the farming, working and hacking classes have in common is an interest in freeing production from its subordination to ruling classes who turn production into the production of new necessities, who wrest slavery from surplus. What the farming and working classes lack in a direct knowledge of free production the hacking class has from direct experience. What the hacking class lacks is the depths of an historic class memory of revolt against alienated production. This the farming and working classes have in spades.
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Property is theft, as Proudon says. It is theft abstracted, the theft of nature itself from itself, by collective social labour. Property is not naturally occurring. It is not a natural right but a social production, product of a powerful hack of ambivalent consequences.
To make something property is to separate it from a continuum, to mark it or bound it, to represent it as something finite. At the same time, making something property connects it, via a representation of it as a separate and finite object, to the subject who owns it.
When a relation is produced as a relation of property, then the things designated within that relation become comparable and relatable as if in the same terms and on the same plane. Property constitutes an abstract plane upon which all things may be things with one quality in common, the quality of property.
Property comes in many forms, and there are antagonisms between these forms, and yet one form of property may be converted into another as all forms of property belong to the same abstract plane. The forms of private and public property, being two of its key forms, are in antagonism, but yet are both comparable as forms of property. The property produced in the form of the gift, however, is another matter.
Public and private property give rise to expressions of collective interest. Owners of private property that is a productive asset defend their rights to it, whereas those dispossessed of private productive assets claim rights to public property by way of compensation. All forms of property give rise to forms of collective interest, for it is with its property, be it actual or potential, that a group produces and reproduces itself as itself.
All conflict between groups becomes conflict over property: over the form of property, the ownership of that property, over the limits to the property relation per se.
The conflict between private and public property advances into each domain that property claims as its own. As property claims more and more of the world, more and more of the world construes its interests and its being in terms of property.
Land is the primary form of property. The privatisation of land that is a productive asset as property gives rise to a class of interest among its owners. These owners are called landlords. Landlords acquire land as private property through the forced dispossession of peasants who once shared a portion of it in a form of public ownership. The dispossessed must pay for the use of their own land henceforth in the form of rent.
The instrument of rent puts land into play as a form of property that has a degree of abstraction inherent in it. All land becomes comparable on the basis of this abstract plane of property. However, land is in more or less fixed supply, and by definition is fixed in place, so the abstracting of land as property is a limited form of vectoral abstraction.
Capital is the tertiary form of property. The privatisation of productive assets in the form of tools and machines and also of working materials gives rise to a class of interest among its owners, the capitalist class. Dispossessed peasants, with nothing to sell but their capacity to work, create this vast stock of capital as private property for the capitalist class, and in so doing create a power over and against themselves. They are paid in wages, but the returns that accrue to the owners of capital as property is called profit.
The instrument of profit puts capital into play as a form of property that has a greater degree of abstraction inherent in it than that of land. All physical resources now become comparable on the basis of this abstract plane of property. However, capital, unlike land, is not in fixed supply or disposition. It can be made and remade, moved, aggregated and dispersed. An infinitely greater degree of potential can be released from the world as a productive resource once the abstract plane of property includes both land and capital, such is capital's 'advance'.
Capital as property also gives rise to a class interest among its owners, sometimes opposed, sometimes allied, to that of rentiers. The pattern of alliance and conflict depends on the disposition of all class forces, and all forms of public and private property.
Information, once it becomes a form of property, gives rise to even more abstract forms of vectoralisation, and also to a class interest among its owners, the infolords.
The advances of property is driven by the development of productive resources. The vectoralisation of land gives rise to capital as property; the vectoralisation of capital gives rise to information as property
The enclosure of the potential if land, capital and information within a regime of property produces, at each turn, a dispossession. This dispossession creates, in each case, a class of dispossessed opposed to their dispossessors.
Those dispossessed by the capture of a resource, and its definition as a resource by private property, nevertheless come to conceive of their interests in terms of property. They may struggle individually to become owners of it, or they may struggle collectively to socially own a portion of it.
Land, capital and information all present themselves as domains of struggle between possessors defending or extending the claim of private property, and the dispossessed, who struggle to extend or defend public property. Farmers struggle against their landlessness. Workers struggle against their dispossession, for a social wage.
For the hacker class, which has some margin of ownership conferred on it by the instrument of intellectual property, finds its rights challenged again and again by vectoralist interests. Hackers, like farmers and workers before them, find that their ownership of the immediate tools of production is compromised both by the market power of the possessing class confronting them, but also by the influence that class can have over the state's definition of the representations of property. Thus hackers as individuals are obliged to sell out their interests, and hackers as a class find their property rights diminished.
That hackers as a class have an interest in information as private property can blind the hacker class to the dangers of too strong an insistence on the protection of that property. Any small gain the hacker gets from the privatisation of information is compromised by the steady accumulation of the means of producing information in the hands of the vectoralist class. Since information is the primary means of production of production, of the hack itself, the privatisation of information is not wholly in the interests of the hacker class.
To maintain their autonomy, hackers need some means of extracting an income from the hack, and thus from intellectual property as a form of private property. But because information is an input as well as an output, this interest has to be balanced against an interest in the free distribution of information.
Hackers must calculate their interests not as owners, but as producers, for this is what distinguishes them from the vectoralist class. Hackers do not merely own, and profit by owning information. They produce new information, and as producers need access to it free from the absolute domination of the commodity form.
The hacker has an interest in maintaining a mixed property form, which includes private as well as public forms of information ownership. Where the farmer suffered the enclosure of the pastoral commons, the hacker must resist the enclosure of the information commons.
This is an interest the hacker shares with farmers and workers, who demand the social provision of education in the interests of education, and in the interests of the democratic oversight of the state. Without an information commons, all classes become captives of the vectoralist privatisation of education.
Without an information commons, all subordinate classes lose a powerful weapon in the class struggle over the composition of the democratic state. The working and farming classes may be numerically superior, but face a vectoralist class in possession of all information necessary for the management of the state, information that the pastoralist and capitalist classes can grudgingly afford, but from which the farming and working classes are excluded.
The hacker class must think tactically about property, balancing public and private property in the scales of class interest and class alliance. But there is a third kind of property that the hacker class must defend and extend wherever it can—the property that is the gift.
Both the public and socialised forms of property are property in which subjects confront objects as buyers and sellers, via the quantitative medium of money. Even socialised property does not alter this quantification, not just of the object as commodity, but the subject who confronts it. The commodity economy, be it public or private, commodifies its subjects as well as its objects.
The gift as property is pure qualitative exchange. In the form of barter, it was superseded by monetised exchange, which opens up the development of production in the abstract. Money is the medium through which land, capital, information and labour all confront each other as abstract entities, directed by the complex and subtle medium of exchange.
As modern production develops into its vectoralised form, however, the means appear for the renewal of the gift economy. The vectoral form of relation allows for an abstraction of qualitative exchange as vast and powerful as that of quantitative exchange.
The hacker class has a close affinity with the gift economy. The hacker struggles to produce a subjectivity that is qualitative and singular, in part through the act of the hack itself, but only in part. The hack reveals to the hacker the qualitative, open and virtual dimension of the hacker's immersion in nature, but it does not reveal the hacker as hacker to other hackers, or to the society at large.
The gift exchange does. The gift, as a quantitative exchange between singular parties allows each party to be recognised as a singular producer, as a subject of production, rather than as a commodified and quantified object. The gift expresses in a social and collective way the subjectivity of the production of production, whereas commodified property represents the producer as an object, a quantifiable commodity like any other, of relative value only.
The vectoralist class contributed, unwittingly, to the development of the vectoral space within which the gift as property could return, but quickly recognised its error. As the vectoral economy develops, less and less of it takes the form of a social space of open and free gift exchange, and more and more of it takes the form of commodified production for private sale.
The vectoralist class can grudgingly accommodate some margin of socialised information, as the price it pays in a democracy for the furtherance of its main interests. But the vectoralist class quite rightly sees in the gift a challenge not just to its profits but to its very existence. The gift economy is the virtual proof for the parasitic and superfluous nature of vectoralists as a class.
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There is nothing to be gained by the critique of representation. The politics of information, of knowledge, advances not through a critical negation of false representations but a positive politics of the virtuality of expression.
All representation is false. A likeness differs of necessity from what it represents. If it did not, it would be what it represents, and thus not a representation. The only truly false representation is the belief in the possibility of true representation.
The critique of representation becomes itself what is most in need of critique, for it assumes an access to the true that it cannot ground. Every critique of representation attaches itself to an even more ludicrous representation, which is the sole basis for the effectivity of its critique.
It is critique itself which is the problem, not the solution. Critique is a police action in representation, of service only to the maintenance of the value of property through the establishment of its value. The problem is always to enter on another kind of production altogether, the production of virtuality, not criticality. The role of critique is to critique criticism itself, and thus open the space for affirmation.
What a politics of information can affirm is the virtuality of expression. The inexhaustible surplus of 'meaning' that is expressed in expression is that aspect of information upon which the class interest of hackers depends. The critique of representation always maintains an artificial scarcity of interpretation, valorising some but excluding all others. Or, what is no better, it maintains an artificial scarcity of interpreters, who are licensed by the zero sum game of critique and counter critique to peddle the infinite.
What hacking brings into being is the inexhaustible multiplicity of all languages, be they natural or social, programmable or poetic. But as it is the act of hacking that composes, at one and the same time, the hacker and the hack, hacking recognises no artificial scarcity, no official licence, no credentialling police force other than that composed by the gift economy among hackers themselves.
The critique of the politics of representation is at the same time the critique of representation as politics. No one is authorised to speak on behalf of constituencies as properties or on the properties of constituencies. Even this manifesto, which invokes a collective name, does so without claiming or seeking authorisation, and offers for agreement only the gift of its own possibility.
Politics expresses collective interests, it does not represent them. The expression is always different from interest, while being at the same time its only means of existence. Whatever classes may be, they are not identical to their representation. But where representative politics takes place on the basis of the charge of false representation, an expressive politics accepts the falseness of expression as part of the coming into being of a class as an interest. Classes come into being as classes for themselves by expressing themselves, differing from themselves, and overcoming their own expressions.
This the ruling class in modern society comes to know only too well. It knows itself be nothing but its expression and its overcoming of its expression. And thus it overcomes itself, splitting and mutating and transforming itself from a pastoralist to a capitalist to a vectoralist expression.
The subordinate classes, meanwhile, get caught up in their own expressions as if they were representations, making the representation the test of the truth of its own existence, rather than vice versa. Or worse, the subordinate classes get caught up in representations that have nothing to do with their class interest. They get caught up in nationalism, generationalism, various bigotries.
Even when representations serve a useful function, in identifying nonclass forms of oppression or exploitation, they still yet become means of oppression themselves. They become the means by which those best able to be the object of the representation refuse recognition to those who differ most obviously from its identity.
The politics of representation is always the politics of the state. The state is nothing but the policing of representation's adequacy to the body of what it represents. That this politics is always only partially applied, only some are found guilty of misrepresentation, is the injustice of any regime based in the first place on representation.
Even in its most radical form, the politics of representation always presupposes an abstract or ideal state that would act as guarantor of its chosen representations. It yearns for a state that would recognise this oppressed ethnicity, or sexuality, but which is nevertheless still a yearning for a state, and a state that, in the process, is not challenged as an expression of class interest, but is accepted as the judge of representation.
And always, what escapes effective counter in this imaginary, enlightened state is the power of the dominating classes, which have no need for representation, which dominate through owning and controlling production, not representation. Which eventually come to accept any and every claim on the state to accept as legitimate a claim on representation, when there is a profit in it.
And always, what is excluded even from this enlightened, imaginary state, would be those who refuse representation, namely, the hacker class as a class. To hack is to refuse representation, to make matters express themselves otherwise. To hack is always to produce a difference, if only a minute difference, in the production of information. To hack is to trouble the object or the subject, by transforming in some way the very process of production by which objects and subjects come into being and recognise each other by their representations.
A politics that embraces its existence as expression, as affirmative difference, not as negation, is the politics that can escape the politics of the state. To refuse, or ignore, or plagiarise representation, to refuse to give it what it claims as its due, is to begin a politics, not of the state, but of statelessness. A stateless politics. A politics which refuses the state's authority to authorise what is a valued statement and what isn't.
This politics is always temporary, always becoming something other than itself. It can never claim to be true to itself. Any stateless expression may yet be captured by the authorised police of representation, assigned a value, made subject to scarcity and commodification. This is the fate of any and every hack that comes be valued as useful.
Even useless hacks may come, perversely enough, to be valued for the purity of their uselessness. There is nothing that can't be valued as a representation. There is nothing that can't be critiqued, and thereby valued anyway, by virtue of the attention. The hack always has to move on.
Everywhere dissatisfaction with representations is spreading. Sometimes its a matter of breaking a few shop windows, sometimes of breaking a few heads. But this dissatisfaction does not always rise above a critique that puts revolt squarely in the hands of some representative or other, offering only another state as an alternative—even if only a utopian one.
Sometimes direct democracy is posited as the alternative. But this merely changes the moment of representation, from the election to the decision. It puts politics in the hands of claimants to an activist representation, in place of an electoral one.
Sometimes what is demanded of the politics of representation is that it recognise a new subject. Minorities of race, gender, preference demand the right to representation. But soon enough they discover the cost. They must now police the meaning of this representation, and police the adherence of its members to it.
But there is something else. Something always hovering on the horizon of the representable. There is a politics of the unrepresentable, a politics of the presentation of the non-negotiable demand. This is politics as the refusal of representation itself, not the politics of refusing this or that representation. A politics which, while abstract, is not utopian.
In its infinite and limitless demand, it may even be the best way of extracting concessions in the class war, precisely through its refusal to put a name—or a price—on what revolt desires. See what goodies they will offer when those who demand do not name their demand, or name themselves, but practice politics itself as a kind of hack. A hack which may deign to unmask itself, to acquiesce to representation, only long enough to strike a bargain and move on. A politics that reveals itself as anything but pure expression only long enough to keep the meaning police guessing.
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The revolts of 1989 are the signal events of our time. In the east and in the far east, people rose up against tyranny and boredom in all its forms. Farmers, workers, in both material and immaterial trades, formed alliances against the most oppressive and tedious forms of the state. Mixed in amongst them were hackers, hackers of all kinds, including not a few, borne of the struggle, who were hackers of politics itself.
In Beijing and Berlin, Manilla and Prague, Seoul and Johannesburg, alliances rose up that could turn the vectoral flows of information against states all too used to policing representations by cracking the heads that disputed them. The cracking of heads confronted the hacking of codes, and the hack won out.
If only for the moment. What the revolts of 1989 achieved, willy nilly, was the overthrow of regimes so impervious to the recognition of the value of the hack that they had starved not only their hackers but also their workers and farmers of any increase in the surplus. With their cronyism and kleptocracy, their ideology and their police they starved even their pastoralists and capitalists of innovative transformation and growth.
The revolt of 1989 put an end to all that. It did not succeed everywhere—Beijing and Jakarta are monstrous exceptions. But it put the state on notice everywhere that in the vectoral age, any state that cannot recognise the value of the hack, that cannot incorporate transformation into its being, will soon whither on the vine.
The revolts of 1989 overthrew boredom and necessity, at least for a time. They put back on the world historical agenda the limitless demand for free expression. They revealed the latent destiny of world history to express the pure virtuality of becoming. At least for a time. Before new states cobbled themselves together that were able to claim legitimacy as representations of what revolt desired.
The revolts of 1989 opened the portal to the virtual, but the states that regrouped around this opening soon closed it. What the revolts really achieved was the making of the world safe for vectoral power. The opening was in the end a relative, not an absolute one. The failed capitalist states of the east and the far east became the colonial zones of every branch of vectoral empire.
The so-called anti-globalisation protests of the 90s are a ripple caused by the wake of these signal events, but a ripple that does not yet know the current to which it truly belongs. This movement of revolt in the overdeveloped world identifies the rising vectoral power as a class enemy, but all too often it allows itself to be captured by the partial and temporary interests of local capitalist and pastoralist classes.
But this revolt is in its infancy. It has yet to discover the connection between its engine of limitless desire and free expression, and the art of making tactical demands. It has yet to discover how and when, and in whose interest, to mask its faceless free expression with a representation of interests that corresponds to the broadest coalition of class forces for a free and just future.
There are three kinds of politics, in which the class struggle within nations and the imperial struggle between nations takes new and surprising forms. One kind of politics is regressive. It seeks to return to an imagined past. It seeks to use national borders as the new wall, tin curtain behind which unlikely alliances might protect their existing interests in the name of a glorious past.
Another kind of politics is progressive. It seeks to accelerate toward an unknown future. It seeks to use international flows of information, trade or activism as an eclectic set of means for struggling for new sources of wealth or liberty that overcomes the limitations imposed by national coalitions.
Neither of these politics corresponds to the old notion of a left or right, which the revolutions of 1989 have definitively overcome. Regressive politics brings together luddite impulses from the left with racist and reactionary impulses from the right in an unholy alliance against new sources of power.
Progressive politics rarely takes the form of an alliance, but constitutes two parallel processes locked in a dialogue of mutual suspicion, in which the liberalising forces of the right and the social justice and human rights forces of the left both seek non-national and transnational solutions to unblocking the system of power which still accumulates at the national level.
Contrary to a popular myth, the revolts of 1989 dealt a blow to the right, not the left. The collapse of Stalinism removed the once external force that kept the regressive and progressive forces of the right together. Contrary to popular myth, the left has experienced no such clarifying moment. The left does not yet know that it faces a choice between progressive internationalism and regressive nationalism.
Since neither is a palatable choice, the left refuses to make it, and remains a confused and reactive rump movement. Since regressive politics requires less thought, it sinks into being the mere bedfellow of racist and reactionary forces that opposed globalisation in the name of maintaining local privileges.
But there is a third politics, which stands outside the alliances and compromises of the post-89 world. Where both progressive and regressive politics are representative politics, which deal with aggregate party alliances and interests, this third politics is a stateless politics, which seeks escape from politics as such.
Where regressive and progressive politics are each against each other, the alternative to both is a politics against politics as such.
Representative politics is a politics that struggles to secure for the classes allied in struggle command of property, be it public or private. Expressive politics is a struggle against commodity property itself.
Expressive politics is not the struggle to collectivise property, for that is still a form of property. The collectivist mode of property was show to be bankrupt by the revolutions of 89, as was the kleptocracy of the far east. Expressive politics is the struggle to free what can be free from the commodity altogether.
What may be free from the commodity form altogether is not land, not capital, but information. All other forms of property are exclusive. The ownership by one excludes, by definition, the ownership by another. But information as property may be shared without diminishing anything but its scarcity.
The vectoralist class sees in the development of vectoral means of production and distribution the ultimate means to commodify the globe through the commodification of information. But the hacker class can realise from the same technical opportunity, that the means are at hand to decommodify the greater part of information, to make private ownership of information a minor, rather than the dominant form.
Politics can become expressive only when it is a politics of freeing the virtuality of information. In liberating information from its objectification as a commodity, it liberates also the subjective force of expression.
Expressive politics becomes a viable politics only at the moment when a class arises which can not only conceive of freedom from property as in its class interest, but can propose to society as a whole that it is in the interests of society as a whole.
This expressive politics does not seek to overthrow the existing society, or to reform its larger structures, or to preserve its structure so as to maintain an existing coalition of interests. It seeks to permeate the world of states and the state of the world with the seeds of an alternative practice of collective life.
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It is the state that manages representations of land, capital and information as forms of property and hence as categories. The state polices these representations. Where ever they are challenged, the state responds in force, and justifies its existence through its claim to use force justly, in the name of who and what the state represents.
What it is that the state represents is subject to conflict and compromise among the classes who come into contact, as classes, via the state. All classes struggle or collude with each other directly, but their direct contract is partial and particular. Their contact through the state is abstract and formal.
The dispossessed classes struggle to socialise property through the state, while the property owning classes seek to limit the state's redistributive powers. They struggle, in the first place, over which classes are taxed and at what rate, and also over the transfer of tax revenue by the state to classes or class fractions. The state is not only a machine for defining forms of property and arbitrating competing claims to property, it also transfers property through taxation and transfer.
States have to contend not only with classes but with the representations of many other kinds of collective interest. There may be representatives of collective regional interest, the interests of generations or genders, ethnicities or industries. The state may also create interests through its transfers of socialised property, such as pensioners or the military.
All of these representative interests have the capacity to limit the capacity for action of the state, or even to destroy its capacity to function. Yet it is only the interests of classes that determine the positive dynamic of the state. Other representations may capture the state, causing the state, in turn, to capture development and retard it. Only class interests prod and push the state toward the production of a surplus and the production of production.
Class alliances may yet hobble the state, where a dominant class rules by capture of the state and the direction of it toward the suppression of new expression of the production of production. These may be alliances between pastoralists and capitalists to suppress the vectoral interest, or they may be alliances that take in some of the subordinate class interests as well.
The vectoral class may yet capture the state by depriving other classes of the free flow of information with which they may contest its representations of the collective interest. The vectoral interest seeks to capture information flows within the profitable form of the commodity perverts the free flow of information into commodifed information. This deprives the hacker class a considerable part of its capacity for free expression and forces it into a subordinate relation to the vectoralist interest.
The state may be an abstract state or it may be a particular state. A particular state is one that recognises some representations as having superior rights to others. While all states exclude some representations, and make claim to their power through this capacity to exclude, the abstract state embraces the widest range of representations as holding equally valid claims and does not question them as to their truth value.
The abstract state will always be the most just and efficient vehicle for managing representations, but there is always something that is beyond its ken. There is always some hack that eludes or escapes its representational net. The hacker interest is with the abstraction of the state. Only once the state has accepted without question the most obvious differences of race, gender, sexuality or faith is there space for expression free from the sanction the policing of representation.
But while there may be an interest for hackers in prefering certain kinds of state to others, the state is still always just a vehicle that is caught up in the wars of representation and counter representation, upon which flows of resource or liberty may hinge, but which is ultimately only in existence to help or hinder the establishment of a productive relation between classes.
Even when the state does not hinder the productive relation between classes, it may foster a productive relation that leads to the capture of surplus by a class and the production of production that meets that class demand only. So it is not enough that the state be freed from particular representations. It is not enough that the state be abstract. It is not enough that the state fasciliate a productive relation between classes that produces a surplus. The state may still be distorting the free expression of the virtual by allowing a class or class alliance to capture surplus and direction the production of production.
The hacker interest is not just in an abstract state, but a state that maintains a plurality of property forms: private and social, but also the property of the gift. Out of this plurality of property forms, the hacker class is best able to produce and reproduce itself and its interests, as the producer of producers.
The hacker class, if it looks deeply into itself, knows that while it exceeds representation, and expresses the virtuality of matter and information in its innovation, is also potentially the producer of a host of dangers. The hack may be as destructive as it is productive. It is not hackers who poison the waters or manufracture the plutonium, or inculcate the dangerous creeds. But it is hackers who hack these bright new things in the first place.
The class interest of the working and farming classes, which is in the production of a surplus, the wresting of freedom from necessity, and the class interest of hackers, in the free and open expression of virtuality, lie in making one more demand upon the abstract state. The demand that the products of the hack, but not the hack itself, be in some sense public property.
At each threshold of abstraction, a plurality of forms of property has proven most productive. Where neither private nor public property dominate, and where indeed other subsidiary forms of property still flourish in the margins, more productive resources have been realised.
Where a class alliance forms around an existing level of abstraction, and against the development of new forms of abstraction, there arises an historic compromise at the expense of weakening a nation's power relative to other nations. Class alliances in defence of land against capital, or capital against information secure stability at the price of ceding an advantage to other nations within which class relations remain fluid and new forms of abstraction come into being without resistance.
But while the free formation of modes of abstraction may enhance the power of the ruling class within a nation, and by extension the power of that nation over others, it does not always follow that this is in the interests of subordinate classes.
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The pastoralist class merely laid claim to the farmer's labour, and at first got limited access even to that, not least because farmers retained some access to property, in the form of their immediate means of production. The capitalist class extended its claim to worker's attitude and disposition. The vectoralists are able to assert a claim to every aspect of being, by the ability to designate any part of that being as a resource.
Seized as information, not merely as physical resource, the genetic makeup of the whole biosphere can be seized as property, be it as public or private property. This may indeed be the last frontier in the struggle to appropriate the world as a resource.
This vectoralisation captures the body and mind and indeed soul of the dispossessed as never before. It comes closer to dispossession perfected than any other form of property.
Property invades time as well as space, and this is where its greatest impact on the subject is to be felt. Time was once a property that the subject disposed of as it pleased, provided it could meet its the to the pastoralist master. Then time became divided into work time and 'leisure'. Only the latter remained the property of the worker. But now all time belongs to property.
Time itself becomes the object of temporary outbreaks of revolt, ever since the farsighted communards smashed the time clocks in the workshops. But while there are temporary halts and interruptions to time in which the subject reclaims itself as something beyond the subject, the totality of property
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Theories that attempt to grasp in the abstract the productive development of human society may take one of two forms. They may be based on the concept of scarcity, and legitimise the rule of one or other class who must take charge of scarce resources. Or they may be based on the scandal of surplus, on the conviction that the productive forces in society produce more than they need, and may consider themselves deprived of this surplus.
The abstraction of scarcity is based on the notion that desires are infinite, but goods are few. Therefore some power is called into being that allocates scarce resources. This is usually conceived as a neutral objective principle, an 'invisible hand', when actually what allocates resources come to be a class power.
The theory of scarcity objectifies wants and needs, and subjectifies desires. They are conceived as separate things that confront each other willy nilly. It is as if all that is desired is an object, and all objects exist to be consumed in the name of desire. The theory itself presents itself as objective.
It is the propagation theory of scarcity itself that creates the abstraction of objectified wants and subjective desires that can only be met in commodified form. It is only in the theory of scarcity that desire need be thought of as having an object, and that this object need be thought of as the commodity. Subjects do not have desires whose object is a thing. Subjects are desire, the desire for subjective becoming in the world.
Subjects may experience themselves as desire in many ways. Some seek to become other than themselves, some seek the repetition and prolongation of the experience of themselves as themselves. Either way, what the subject wants is nothing, nothing but its own subjective becoming in the world.
Subjects are obliged to work to produce themselves as themselves, and this production of the subject necessitates the production of objects that meet the subjects needs. But it is not the object that is what the subject desires, it is merely a means to maintain or enhance the subject's own experience of itself. There is no desire but experience.
But the theory of scarcity redirects the subjects experience of its own desire from the desire for its own becoming and affirmation of itself, and towards objects that appear to negate the subject's powers, and taunt the subject with its limits. These are false desires, calling upon the subject to experience itself as the lack of an object rather than as its own surplus of productive will and capacity for becoming.
The theory of the scarcity of objects of desire and the theory of desire as subjective lack are one and the same theory, and both serve the same class interest. They are means by which subjects are recruited for the production of objects and objects are presented as what desire lacks. Both distract from the production of free subjectivity, which not only frees the subject from objectified desire but frees the subject from itself as subject, into the absolute freedom of pure becoming as expression.
There are hackers of subjective desire just as there are hackers of the objectified world, and just as the latter hack toward the free expressivity of nature from which all objectifications arise, so too do the former hack beyond the constraints of the subject limited to its apprehension of itself.
The producing classes may not aspire to pure becoming, but may yet come to grasp their class interest in freeing desire from the constraint of commodifed objects and subjects. Indeed, the producing classes continually free themselves from particular objects of desire, and free themselves from subjectivities thrust upon them in the interests of enslaving that subjectivity to particular objects of desire.
But while the producing classes free themselves from particular commodified desires, they do not always take the next step, to the abstraction of desire itself from commodification. This is where hackers of both the objective world and of subjectivity can affirm their productive relation to the producing classes.
The abstraction of the objective and subjective worlds into information opens up the virtuality of desire and its liberation from commodification. Information knows no natural scarcity. Unlike the objectified products of land and capital, one's consumption of information need not deprive another of it. Surplus appears in its absolute form.
And yet the coming into being of vectors along which information flows freely, if not universally, around the planet appears to usher in a new regime of scarcity even more total than that of the reign of capital before it. Everywhere are signs presented as the commodifed answer to desire; everywhere there are subjects impugned into thinking of themselves as negated by the signs they do not possess.
This abstraction of desire into commodified information is the handiwork of the vectoral class, who detach desire from its fetishising of the object, and attach it instead to the commodified sign. Subjects are detached, in part, from feeling the lack of material goods and teased and taunted instead by the signs and brands and names from which they are separated.
And yet there is a detectable air of desperation in the work of the vectoral class, a constant anxiety about the durability of a commodifed regime of desire built on a scarcity that has no necessary basis in the material world. The producing classes come again and again to the threshold of perceiving themselves as capable of the self affirmation of their desires, and to a realisation that scarcity is the product of class rule, not an objective fact of nature.
That there is oppressive scarcity in the world at large is a fact, and so too is the fact of its attenuation by the vectoralisation of the world. As more and more of the resources of the world, both animate and inanimate, become quantifiable resources for commodity production, so the producing classes in the overdeveloped and underdeveloped world alike come to perceive the power the vectoral class has brought into the world, the power to steer development here or there at will, creating sudden bursts of productive wealth and just as suddenly, poverty and unemployment.
Yet the same vectoral flows of information that chasten the productive classes with the knowledge of their own temporary grasp on the wage relation and the commodified bounty, also show again and again the immense productive resources the world possesses, and the artificial nature of the experience of material scarcity.
So too do does the same vectoral connection show the limitless virtuality of information itself, which again and again escapes the commodity form and flows as pure gift among the producing classes, only to be stuffed back into the objectified commodity form and held apart from the producing classes as an artificial scarcity.
Again and again, the producing classes create their own experience of desire freed from commodification, and again and again does the vectoralist class scramble to commodify the new desire, and pull apart the desiring subject and desired object, and reassert a commodified relation between them.
The producing classes discover for themselves, independent of the commodified flows of information, that the hackers exist and are struggling to produce new abstractions on both the subjective and objective axes, which have the potential to liberate desire from the negativity of scarcity. They learn to adopt new abstractions for themselves, rather than in the commodified form in which the vectoralist class would sell virtuality to the masses.
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Once information has become the object of a regime of property, a vectoral class emerges who profit by the control of information. This class competes among itself for the most profitable ways to commodify information as a resource.
Even more than the pastorialist and capitalist classes before them, the vectoral class depends on the advances hackers are able to produce in order to maintain their competitive advantage and the profitability of their enterprises. Where owners of land and capital may dominate through the sheer level of investment required, the vectoral class relies on a form of property subject to constant creative hacks that create qualitatively new forms of production and devalue the old means of production.
The vectoral class invest the surplus in hacking to an unprecedented degree, and base the fortunes of their enterprises on intellectual property. Their search is for ever new ways to vectoralise information in the form of a commodity.
A vector, in geometry, is any line of fixed length which may be in any position. In epidemiology, a vector is the particular means by which a given pathogen travels from one population to another. Water is a vector for cholera, bodily fluids for HIV. By extension, a vector may be any means by which information moves. A given media vector, such as the telegraph, telephone, or television, has certain fixed properties of speed, bandwidth, scope and scale, but may be deployed anywhere, at least in principle.
With the commodification of information comes its vectoralisation. Extracting a surplus from information requires technologies capable of transporting information through space, but also through time. The storage of information may be as valuable as its transmission, and the archive is a vector through time just as communication is a vector that crosses space.
The vectoral class comes into its own once it is in possession of powerful technologies for vectoralising information. Information becomes something separate from the material conditions of its production and circulation. It is extracted from particular localities, cultures, forms, and marketed in ever widening circles.
The vector not only abstracts information from the particular conditions of its production, it abstracts every other relation with which it comes into contact. The expansion of the reach of markets, states, armies, cultures, from local to national to supranational forms is conditioned by the development of the vectors along which information travels to thread them together.
The irreversible abstraction of information comes at the point where vectors are hacked into being that free information from the velocity of movement of objects and subjects. Once information can move faster than people or things, it becomes the means by which people and things are to be meshed together in the interests of productive activity.
Telegraph, telephone, television, telecommunications: these terms name not just particular vectors, but a general abstract capacity that they bring into the world and expand. All are forms of telesthesia, or perception at a distance. Starting with the telegraph, the vector abstracts itself from the speed of other commodities, and becomes the speed according to which all other speeds are measured and monitored.
The vector abstracts from the geography of nature, and provides the axes along which collective human labour transforms nature into second nature. Second nature offers a new home in the world, in which freedom is wrested from necessity, but where class rule imposes yet new necessities on the producing classes.
The vector itself is an instance neither of nature of second nature, but constitutes a third nature, an information landscape. Just as third nature extracts itself from nature yet depends on it, so too does third nature extract itself from nature and depend on it. Third nature is not a transcendence or escape from nature, but merely the release the virtuality of nature into the world, in the service of collective human labour.
With the coming of telesthesia, the vector becomes a power over and above both nature and second nature. The vector intensifies the exploitation of nature, by providing an ever present third nature, within which nature is grasped as an object, as a quantifiable resource, to be commodified and exploited by the ruling classes.
The vector intensifies the setting to work of the producing classes, but in the form of commodity production. Not just nature is objectified and quantified, but so too is second nature. The producing classes find themselves transformed into objects of quantification and calculation.
Telesthesia allows the quantification of all things, their comparison, and the direction of resources according to the apprehension of the world simultaneously as a field of objects that can be brought into productive relation. The vector itself usurps the subjective role, becoming the sole repository of will toward the objectified world.
The vectoral class unleashes this third nature upon the world, and profits from it, either directly or indirectly. It profits from the producing classes, and also from the other ruling classes, to whom it sells the capacity to grasp the world in its objectified form.
The becoming-vectoral of this world is the release of the productive potential of all its resources, and at the same time the creation of a category of resource for any and every thing in it. The vectoral is not only the potential to conceive of everything as a resource but the potential to bring that resource into productive relation to any other resource whatsoever.
The reign of the vector is one in which any and every thing can be apprehended as a thing. That is, as something distinct, something of value, and which may be transformed at will into any other thing, which may be brought together with any other thing of value in the creation of a new value.
But having set third nature in motion, the vectoral class find itself increasingly unable to control its creation. Subjectivity resides not in the vectoral class, but in the cumulative product of its activity, the third nature that arises out of the proliferation of the vector.
There may be cold comfort for the productive classes in this. They may not control the means by which information is extracted from their lives and returned to them in form of the commodity. They may not control the allocation of resources based on the instantaneous quantification of all things in the world, but the point may be reached where no class does. The vectoral class produces a means of domination over the world that comes to dominate even its own exertions and extortions.
The vector is a power over all of the world, but a power that is not evenly distributed. Nothing in the technology of the vector determines that it must be deployed here rather than there. All that is determined by the technology is the form in which information is objectified.
The whole of life in the most overdeveloped parts of the world presents itself as a vast accumulation of vectors. It is the proliferation and intensification of the vector that constitutes the 'advance' of the advanced parts of the world. Whether this be an advance toward the furthest regions of hell or not remains to be seen.
The vector perfected would be the relation that holds in that world which is, in every one of its aspects and moments potentially becoming every other world. That this world has not come to pass, yet is indeed the potential aspect of the actual world as we find it, leads to a questioning of the powers that limit this potential. Constraint is what must be accounted for, the constraint imposed by the direction of the development of the vector by commodification.
The hacker class seeks the liberation of the vector from the reign of the commodity, but not to set it indiscriminately free. Rather, to subject it to collective and democratic development.
Under the control of the vectoral class, the vector proceeds by means of objectification. It concentrates subjective power in the vectoralist class in the first instance, but becomes as it progresses an ever more abstract means by which all of nature and second nature may be objectified.
The vectoral class struggles at every turn to maintain its subjective power over the vector, but as it continues to profit by the proliferation of the vector, some capacity over it always escapes control. In order to market and profit by the information it peddles over the vector, it must in some degree address the vast majority of the producing classes as subjects, rather than as objects of commodification.
It remains only for the producing classes, addressed as if they were subjects, to really organise themselves subjectively, and use the available vectors for a collective and subjective becoming. This struggle for class power on the part of the producing classes is a struggle for collective subjectivity. It joins with the planetary struggle for survival, in which the whole of nature, in all its dimensions, must appear as a multitude of living, subjective forces.
The great challenge to the hacker class is not just to create the abstractions by which the vector may develop, but the forms of subjective social management of the vectoral power, that may overcome the limits not just of commodification, but of objectification in general, of which commodification is just the most pernicious and onesided development.
The interest of the hacker class in the production of production, in the abstraction of the world, the expression of the virtuality of nature, must be brought into accord with the needs and interests of nature itself. But this too is only a step toward another history. One in which nature expresses itself as itself, as neither object nor subject, but as its infinite virtuality.
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