HACKER MANIFESTO [version 4.0]
by McKenzie Wark
There is a double spooking the world, the double of abstraction. The fortunes
of states and armies, companies and communities depend on it. All contending
classes - the landlords and farmers, the workers and capitalists - revere
yet fear the relentless abstraction of the world on which their fortunes yet
depend. All the classes but one. The hacker class.
Whatever code we hack, be it programming language, poetic language, math or
music, curves or colourings, we create the possibility of new things entering
the world. Not always great things, or even good things, but new things. In
art, in science, in philosophy and culture, in any production of knowledge
where data can be gathered, where information can be extracted from it, and
where in that information new possibilities for the world are produced, there
are hackers hacking the new out of the old. While hackers create these new
worlds, we do not possess them. That which we create is mortgaged to others,
and to the interests of others, to states and corporations who control the
means for making worlds we alone discover. We do not own what we produce -
it owns us.
And yet we don't quite know who we are. While we recognise our distinctive
existence as a group, as programmers, as artists or writers or scientists
or musicians, we rarely see these ways of representing ourselves as mere fragments
of a class experience that is still struggling to express itself as itself,
as expressions of the process of producing abstraction in the world. Geeks
and freaks become what they are negatively, through their exclusion by others.
Hackers are a class, but an abstract class, a class as yet to hack itself
into manifest existence as itself.
Abstraction may be discovered or produced, may be material or immaterial,
but abstraction is what every hack produces and affirms. To abstract is to
construct a plane upon which otherwise different and unrelated matters may
be brought into many possible relations. 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. To abstract is to express the
virtuality of nature, to make known some instance of its manifold possibilities,
to actualise a relation out of infinite relationality. 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
material means of extracting or distributing information, or with a producing
class that extracts and distributes. The class interest of hackers lies in
freeing information from its material constraints.
As the abstraction of private property was extended to information, it produced
the hacker class as a class. Hackers must sell their capacity for abstraction
to a class that owns the means of production, the vectoralist class - the
emergent ruling class of our time. The vectorialist class is waging an intensive
struggle to dispossess hackers of their intellectual property. Patents and
copyrights all end up in the hands, not of their creators, but of the vectoralist
class that owns the means of realising the value of these abstractions. The
vectoralist class struggles to monopolise abstraction. Hackers find themselves
dispossessed both individually, and as a class. Hackers come piecemeal to
struggle against the particular forms in which abstraction is commodified
and made into the private property of the vectoralist class. Hackers come
to struggle collectively against the usurious charges the vectoralists extort
for access to the information that hackers collectively produce, but that
vectoralists collectively come to own. Hackers come as a class to recognise
their class interest is best expressed through the struggle to free the production
of abstraction not just from the particular fetters of this or that form of
property, but to abstract the form of property itself.
What makes our times different is that what now appears on the horizon is
the possibility of a society finally set free from necessity, both real and
imagined, by an explosion in abstract innovations. Abstraction with the potential
once and for all to break the shackles holding hacking fast to outdated and
regressive class interests. 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 the myth of scarcity. "The world already possesses
the dream of a time whose consciousness it must now possess in order to actually
[ Top ]
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 the memory of the hack
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, to differentiate.
The hack produces both a useful and a useless surplus, although the usefulness
of any surplus is socially and historically determined. 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 creates the possibility of the expansion of freedom
from necessity. But in class society, the production of a surplus also creates
new necessities. 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.
What the producing classes - farmers, workers and hackers - 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. The elements of a free productivity exist already in an atomised
form, in the productive classes. What remains is the release of its virtuality.
The class struggle, in its endless setbacks, reversals and compromises returns
again and again to the unanswered question - property - and the contending
classes return again and again with new answers. The working class questioned
the necessity of private property, and the communist party arose, claiming
to answer the desires of the working class. The answer, expressed in the Communist
Manifesto was to "centralise all instruments of production in the hands
of the state." But making the state the monopolist of property has only
produced a new ruling class, and a new and more brutal class struggle. But
perhaps this was not the final answer, and the course of the class struggle
is not yet over. Perhaps there is another class that can pose the property
question in a new way - and offer new answers to breaking the monopoly of
the ruling classes on property.
There is a class dynamic driving each stage of the development of the vectoral
world in which we now find ourselves. The pastoralist class disperse the great
mass of peasants who traditionally worked the land under the thumb of feudal
landlords. The pastoralists supplant the feudal landlords, releasing the productivity
of the land which they claim as their private property. As new forms of abstraction
make it possible to produce a surplus from the land with fewer and fewer farmers,
pastoralists turn them off their land, depriving them of their living. Dispossessed
farmers seek work and a new home in cities. Here farmers become workers, as
capital puts them to work in its factories. Capital as property gives rise
to a class of capitalists who own the means of production, and a class of
workers, dispossessed of it - and by 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 existence,
but a way of life it expects its workers to consume. Commodified life dispossess
the worker of the information traditionally passed on outside the realm of
private property as culture, as the gift of one generation to the next, and
replaces it with information in commodified form.
Information, like land or capital, becomes a form of property monopolised
by a class of vectoralists, so named because they control the vectors along
which information is abstracted, just as capitalists control the material
means with which goods are produced, and pastoralists the land with which
food is produced. 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 whole of time, time
itself, becomes a commodified experience.
Vectoralists try to break capital's monopoly on the production process, and
subordinate the production of goods to the circulation of information. The
leading corporations divest themselves of their productive capacity, as this
is no longer a source of power. Their power lies in monopolising intellectual
property - patents and brands - and the means of reproducing their value -
the vectors of communication. The privatisation of information becomes the
dominant, rather than a subsidiary, aspect of commodified life. As private
property advances from land to capital to information, property itself becomes
more abstract. As capital frees land from its spatial fixity, information
as property frees capital from its fixity in a particular object.
The hacker class, producer of new abstractions, becomes more important to
each successive ruling class, as each depends more and more on information
as a resource. The hacker class arises out of the transformation of information
into property, in the form of intellectual property, including patents, trademarks,
copyright and the moral right of authors. The hacker class is the class with
the capacity to create not only new kinds of object and subject in the world,
not only new kinds of property form in which they may be represented, but
new kinds of relation beyond the property form. The formation of the hacker
class as a class comes at just this moment when freedom from necessity and
from class domination appears on the horizon as a possibility.
[ Top ]
Property constitutes an abstract plane upon which all things may be things
with one quality in common, the quality of property. Land is the primary form
of property. Pastoralists acquire land as private property through the forced
dispossession of peasants who once shared a portion of it in a form of public
ownership. Capital is the secondary form of property, the privatisation of
productive assets in the form of tools, machines and working materials. 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'.
The capitalist class recognises the value of the hack in the abstract, whereas
the pastoralists were slow to appreciate the productivity that can flow from
the application of abstraction to the production process. Under the influence
of capital, the state sanctions forms of intellectual property, such as patents
and copyrights, that secure an independent existence for hackers as a class,
and a flow of innovations in culture as well as science from which development
issues. Information, once it becomes a form of property, develops beyond a
mere support for capital - it becomes the basis of a form of accumulation
in its own right.
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. Hacking as a pure, free experimental activity must be free
from any constraint that is not self imposed. Only out of its liberty will
it produce the means of producing a surplus of liberty and liberty as a surplus.
Private property arose in opposition not only to feudal property, but also
to traditional forms of the gift economy, which were a fetter to the increased
productivity of the commodity economy. Qualitative, gift exchange was superseded
by quantified, monetised exchange. Money is the medium through which land,
capital, information and labour all confront each other as abstract entities,
reduced to an abstract plane of measurement. The gift becomes a marginal form
of property, everywhere invaded by the commodity, and turned towards mere
consumption. The gift is marginal, but nevertheless plays a vital role in
cementing reciprocal and communal relations among people who otherwise can
only confront each other as buyer and sellers of commodities. As vectoral
production develops, the means appear for the renewal of the gift economy.
Everywhere that the vector reaches, it brings into the orbit of the commodity.
But everywhere the vector reaches, it also brings with it the possibility
of the gift relation.
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. The gift, as a qualitative 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
gift of information need not give rise to conflict over information as property,
for information need not suffer the artifice of scarcity once freed from commodification.
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.
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. 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. A given media vector has certain fixed properties of speed, bandwidth,
scope and scale, but may be deployed anywhere, at least in principle. The
uneven development of the vector is political and economic, not technical.
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 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. The vectoral class may commodify information stocks, flows,
or vectors themselves. A stock of information is an archive, a body of information
maintained through time that has enduring value. A flow of information is
the capacity to extract information of temporary value out of events and to
distribute it widely and quickly. A vector is the means of achieving either
the temporal distribution of a stock, or the spatial distribution of a flow
of information. Vectoral power is generally sought through the ownership of
all three aspects.
The vectoral class ascend to the illusion of an instantaneous and global plane
of calculation and control. But it is not the vectoralist class that comes
to hold subjective power over the objective world. The vector itself usurps
the subjective role, becoming the sole repository of will toward a world that
can be apprehended only in its commodified form. The reign of the vector is
one in which any and every thing can be apprehended as a thing. 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 its possible use. All that
is determined by the technology is the form in which information is 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. 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. The
hacker class can release the virtuality of the vector only in principle. It
is up to an alliance of all the productive classes to turn that potential
to actuality, to organise themselves subjectively, and use the available vectors
for a collective and subjective becoming.
[ Top ]
Education is slavery, it enchains the mind and makes it a resource for class
power. When the ruling class preaches the necessity of an education it invariably
means an education in necessity. Education is not the same as knowledge. Nor
is it the necessary means to acquire knowledge. Education is the organisation
of knowledge within the constraints of scarcity. Education 'disciplines' knowledge,
segregating it into homogenous 'fields', presided over by suitably 'qualified'
guardians charged with policing the representation of the field. One may acquire
an education, as if it were a thing, but one becomes knowledgeable, through
a process of transformation. Knowledge, as such, is only ever partially captured
by education, its practice always eludes and exceeds it.
The pastoralist class has resisted education, other than as indoctrination
in obedience. 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.
The so-called middle class achieve their privileged access to consumption
and security through education, in which they are obliged to invest a substantial
part of their income. But most remain workers, even though they work with
information rather than cotton or metal. They work in factories, but are trained
to think of them as offices. They take home wages, but are trained to think
of it as a salary. They wear a uniform, but are trained to think of it as
a suit. The only difference is that education has taught them to give different
names to the instruments of exploitation, and to despise those their own class
who name them differently.
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. To the vectoralists, education, like
culture, is just 'content' for commodification.
The hacker class have an ambivalent relationship to education. The hacker
class desires knowledge, not education. The hacker comes into being though
the pure liberty of knowledge in and of itself. The hack expresses knowledge
in its virtuality, by producing new abstractions that do not necessarily fit
the disciplinary regime of managing and commodifying education. . 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 implies an
ethics of knowledge subject to the claims of public interest and free from
subordination to commodity production. This puts the hacker into an antagonistic
relationship to the struggle of the capitalist class to make education an
induction into wage slavery.
Only one intellectual conflict has any real bearing on the class issue for
hackers: Whose property is knowledge? Is it the role of knowledge to authorise
subjects through education that are recognised only by their function in an
economy by manipulating its authorised representations as objects? Or is it
the function of knowledge to produce the ever different phenomena of the hack,
in which subjects become other than themselves, and discover the objective
world to contain potentials other than it appears?
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.
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 - not just 'the' future,
but an infinite possible array of futures, the future itself as virtuality.
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 devalues them as property. The hack
as new information is produced out of already existing 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 gives
the hacker 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 statement 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 ruling 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. It has to distinguish between its competitive
interest in the hack, and its collective interest in discovering a relation
among hackers that expresses an open and ongoing future.
[ Top ]
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. 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.
Information has nothing to do with communication, or with media. "We
do not lack communication. On the contrary, we have too much of it. We lack
creation. We lack resistance to the present." Information is precisely
this resistance, this friction. At the urgings of the vectoralist class, the
state recognises as property any communication, any media product with some
minimal degree of difference recognisable in commodity exchange. Where communication
merely requires the repetition of this commodified difference, information
is the production of the difference of difference.
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 vectoral
class. 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. Privatising culture,
education and communication as commodified content, distorts and deforms its
free development, and prevents the very concept of its freedom from its own
free development. 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.
Free information must be free in all its aspects - as a stock, as a flow,
and as a vector. The stock of information is the raw material out of which
history is abstracted. The flow of information is the raw material out of
which the present is abstracted, a present that forms the horizon the abstract
line of an historical knowledge crosses, indicating a future in its sights.
Neither stocks nor flows of information exist without vectors along which
they may be actualised. The spatial and temporal axes of free information
must do more offer a representation of things, as a thing apart. They must
become the means of coordination of the statement of a movement, at once objective
and subjective, capable of connecting the objective representation of things
to the presentation of a subjective action.
It is not just information that must be free, but the knowledge of how to
use it. Information in itself is a mere thing. It requires an active, subjective
capacity to become productive. Information is free not for the purpose of
representing the world perfectly, but for expressing its difference from what
is, and for expressing the cooperative force that transforms what is into
what may be. The test of a free society is not the liberty to consume information,
nor to produce it, nor even to implement its potential in private world of
one's choosing. The test of a free society is the liberty for the collective
transformation of the world through abstractions freely chosen and freely
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. Critique is not a solution, but the problem itself.
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 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. 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
desire for a state, and a state that, in the process, is not challenged as
an statement of class interest, but is accepted as the judge of representation.
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.
The politics of information, of knowledge, advances not through a critical
negation of false representations but a positive politics of the virtuality
of statement. The inexhaustible surplus of statement is that aspect of information
upon which the class interest of hackers depends. Hacking brings into existence
the inexhaustible multiplicity of all codes, be they natural or social, programmed
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 credentialing police force other than that composed
by the gift economy among hackers themselves.
A politics that embraces its existence as statement, as affirmative difference,
not as negation can escape the politics of the state. To ignore or plagiarise
representation, to refuse to give it what it claims as its due, is to begin
a politics of statelessness. A politics which refuses the state's authority
to authorise what is a valued statement and what isn't. A politics which is
always temporary, always becoming something other than itself. 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. 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.
So-called 'violence' against the state, which rarely amounts to more than
throwing rocks at its police, is merely the desire for the state expressed
in its masochistic form. Where some call for a state that recognises their
representation, others call for a state that beats them to a pulp. Neither
is a politics that escapes the desire cultivated within the subject by the
Sometimes direct democracy is posited as the alternative. But this merely
changes the moment of representation - 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. Even at
its best, in its most abstract form, on its best behaviour, the colour blind,
gender neutral, multicultural state just hands the value of representation
over to the commodity form. While this is progress, particularly for those
formerly oppressed by the state's failure to recognise their identity as legitimate,
it stops short at the recognition of expressions of subjectivity that seeks
to become something other than a representation that the state can recognise
and the market can value.
But there is something else 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 precisely through its
refusal to put a name - or a price - on what revolt desires.
[ Top ]
The revolts of 1989 are the signal events of our time. What the revolts of
1989 achieved 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 bureaucracy and ideology, their police and
spies, they starved even their pastoralists and capitalists of innovative
transformation and growth.
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
statement. At least for a time. 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 and claimed 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 so-called anti-globalisation protests of the 90s are a ripple caused by
the wake of these signal events, but a ripple that did not know the current
to which it truly belonged. This movement of revolt in the overdeveloped world
identifies the rising vectoral power as a class enemy, but all too often it
allowed itself to be captured by the partial and temporary interests of local
capitalist and pastoralist classes. It was a revolt is in its infancy that
has yet to discover the connection between its engine of limitless desire
and free statement, and the art of making tactical demands.
The class struggle within nations and the imperial struggle between nations
has taken shape as two forms of politics. One kind of politics is regressive.
It seeks to return to an imagined past. It seeks to use national borders as
a new wall, a neon screen behind which unlikely alliances might protect their
existing interests in the name of a glorious past. The other form is the progressive
politics of movement. The politics of movement seeks to accelerate toward
an unknown future. It seeks to use international flows of information, trade
or activism as the eclectic 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.
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.
A politics of the hack, inventing relations outside of representation.
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. Expressive politics is the struggle to free what can be
free from both versions of the commodity form - its totalising market form,
and its bureaucratic state form. 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. Information is that which can escape the commodity
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 statement. Subject and object meet
each other outside of their mere lack of each other, by their desire merely
for each other. 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
existing states with a new state of existence, spreading the seeds of an alternative
practice of everyday life.
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Version 4.0 edited by Joanne Richardson for subsol. A much longer Version
2.0 can be found online at feelergauge
. Version 3.0 is still off-line.