Tuesday, March 21, 2006

new International?


Which is to say, tentatively, that I agree with Mark's (and Angela's, and D&G's) descriptions...while I remain somewhat uncertain as to the status of their apparent prescriptive leaps.

Mark writes:

"There is indeed, no opposition to be drawn between capitalist progressivism and reactionary nostalgia. Let's be clear: there is no capitalist progressivism. But that is not to say that there aren't 'progressive' tendencies within capitalism, tendencies that are, by the very nature of capitalism, necessarily and inevitably blocked and inhibited. Which is to say: capitalism is defined by - is in many ways nothing more than - the tension between progressive and reactionary tendencies; the progressive elements can only be liberated from the reactionary ones when capitalism is destroyed."

And I agree with everything he says, only remain wondering about the best way to proceed, toward this "destruction." It may sound naive, but in short: why not encourage (or exploit) the "progressive" elements as much as possible, specifically in articulating and implementing new institutional formations (and not just in hastening destruction), in laying some provisional, maleable foundations that may yet help serve the cause of a more open-ended future? Toward a 'communism', in some new sense, perhaps. Why cross off internationalism and inter-nationalism (though I prefer the concept of 'globality') in one hasty sweep, tout court? (Or maybe I have misunderstood the status of this hyphen?) What of the benefits of a radically self-critical and adapting, new international law? Such strengthening, or clearing, for a new international needn't be understood as merely in the nostalgic service of the crumbling (and becoming-obsolete) formal nation-state; on the contrary. (I must say, that Derrida's speculations on what 'philosophy' fails to mean, if not this critical praxis, strike me as very apt indeed.)

Finally, what is called "globalisation" is in itself not purely evil. For example, the fact that English is becoming, increasingly, a universal language as a site of (albeit impoverished) translation, perhaps as code (as Kristeva might have said), also means: that when it is used as an affectively neutral, mediating language between people, it allows them to further escape the trappings of nationalism, oftentimes in a manner formerly impossible due to the insidious ways in which nationalism remains so embedded (within languages). Neither is this to reduce 'globalisation' to one language, certainly. And on something of a tangent, there are indeed good reasons to defend language diversity (though this word, 'diversity' is often enough assumed, simplistically, a sort of panacea in itself), not least of all in practical terms of defending biodiversity, and good science.

In any case, here is the specific impetus, you may have guessed, I have in mind:
...The 'international' I think is looking for its own place, its own figure; it is something which would go beyond the current stage of internationality, perhaps beyond citizenship, beyond the belonging to a state, the belonging to a given nation-state. And I think that today in the world a number of human beings are secretly allying in their suffering against the hegemonic powers which protect what is called 'the new world order'. So that is what I meant by 'the new international', not a new way of, let's say, associating citizens belonging to given nation-states, but a new concept of citizenship, of hospitality, a new concept of a state of democracy - in fact, it's a new concept of democracy, a new determination of the concept, the given concept of democracy in the tradition of the concept of democracy. Now, having said this - again, very simply, in words which are too simple - I think we don't have to choose between unity and multiplicity. Of course, deconstruction - that was its strategy up to now - insisted on not multiplicity for itself but insisted on the, let's say the heterogeneity, the difference, the dissociation which is absolutely necessary for the relation to the other but disrupts the totality.

What disrupts the totality is the condition for the relation to the other. The privilege granted to unity, to totality, to organic ensembles, to community as a homogenized whole - this is the danger for responsibility, for decision, for ethics, for politics. That is why I insisted upon what prevents the unity to close itself, to be closed up. And this is not only a matter of description, of saying what is, the way it is, it's a matter of accounting for the possibility of responsibility, of a decision, of ethical commitment. For this you have to pay attention to what I would call similarity, and similarity is not unity simply, it is not multiplicity. Now this does not mean that we have to destroy unity, all forms of unity wherever they occur. I have never said anything like that. Of course we need unity, some gathering, some configuration and so on and so forth. You see, the pure unity or the pure multiplicity are synonyms of death. There is only death when there is only totality or unity and when there is only multiplicity or dissociation...

I can't reach the other, I cannot know the other from the inside. That is not an obstacle, that is the condition of love, of friendship - of war too - it's a condition of the relation to the other. This dissociation is the condition of community, the condition of any unity as such. So a state - to come back to the state - a state in which there will be only 'unum' will be a terrible catastrophe, and we have unfortunately had a number of such experiences. So a state without 'pluribus', without plurality and the respect for plurality, would be first either a totalitarian state... it's a terrible thing, it doesn't work, we know that it doesn't work, it's a terrible thing and doesn't work; and finally it wouldn't even be a state, it would be like... a what... a stone, if you like, a rock. So a state as such must be attentive as much as possible to the plurality... of what... of people, languages, cultures, ethnic groups, persons and so on and so forth, and that's the condition for a state.

How could any reader of Specters neglect to mention this (insistence on pragmatic unity)? And at the same time, rapport sans rapport.

more here...


s0metim3s said...

Hey Matt, as you probably know by now, my biggest involvement has been in noborder stuff. So, I guess that might be taken as a way in which certain 'progressive' aspects of capitalism are indeed emphasised and pushed through.

But, and here is the kicker, the longer I've been thinking and working around these questions, the more I've become convinced that this so-called progressive aspect (eg, that capitalism eradicates borders) is mythical and idealised. And, more strongly, there is no way in which borders, as we might understand their particular functions in the present moment, existed prior to capitalism.

This, after all, is what the period of the enclosures of the commons - of which more could be said - is all about.

As for a new internationalism, I'm not convinced. I love Derrida, and there are some of his arguments that to me seem indisputable, but when he comes to discussing hospitality and related, I find myself thinking that he is talking at some distance from the struggles around border controls, of how they have played out over the last two decades. How, for instance, a notion of 'welcoming' might actually reinstall a sovereign pose, even if a purportedly more affable one that, in any case, cannot be materialised.

I'll stop now, except to say that the law is a very particular form of recognition, and not one I would argue for upholding.

Matt said...

A., thanks for the comment.

I assume you don't mean to say that law should be abolished, only that the law has limits (specifically in what, or how, it performs recognition), and that your own interests lie primarily elsewhere.

Derrida's may have been an intervention at some distance, in a sense...though this might also very well have been a plus.

I'm tempted to say I don't see how anyone could embrace Derrida without embracing 'hospitality.'

Matt said...

Curious how one might further distinguish between cosmopolitanism, in Derrida's sense, and "noborder stuff," needless to say.