Tag Archives: Neo-liberalism

Tra utopia e realtà: Olof Palme e il socialismo democratico. Antologia di scritti e discorsi, (ed. and trans.) Monica Quirico (Rome: Editori Riuniti university press, 2009)

Monica Quirico has produced a nicely edited and translated work that collects together into Italian some of the writings and speeches of the assassinated Prime Minister. The volume consists of an introduction by the editor-translator and a division of Palme’s work into four sections: socialism and democracy, Swedish reform, the Neo-Liberal offensive and solidarity without limits. The book also possesses a useful glossary that succinctly explains various acronyms and persons of interest.

As one reads the speeches and writings of Palme, one is struck by their relevance for today. The texts reveal a politician that was formed at a time when social democracy was not only viable and rich with promise, but one also finds an astute awareness of the threat of Neo-Liberalism and the difficulties and challenges posed by globalisation and a globalised economy. With the collapse of the Left and the dominance of a globalised market-place politics, Palme still offers hope, even after his demise. One feels the palpable urgency of his message and his commitment to improving society and the state of the world.

The Introduction, written by Quirico, presents a biographical sketch of Palme, outlining the sources and influences that helped shape him throughout the various periods of his life. Born into a Conservative family, Palme developed a deep concern for injustice and inequality while studying both in Sweden and abroad. Quirico sets the stage for her readers to begin to appreciate the various concerns and programmes of Palme’s politics. Section One focusses on the speeches and writings of Palme that examine the nature and struggles of socialism and democracy. I should note, here, that the writings and speeches contained in the volume are not arranged in a strict chronological order; rather, they are organised around certain themes, which the editor-translator has rightly identified as indicative of Palme’s political vision and legacy. One sees in this section Olaf Palme’s struggles with various forms of socialism and how they represent themselves at the international level. Palme rejects communism as a viable form of socialism, as it undermines individual freedoms. The communism that he has in mind is the Soviet form. He is also critical of capitalism, for it values profit over individual and collective wellbeing. In fact, striking in Palme’s speeches and discourses is his conviction that individual wellbeing is intimately linked with societal or collective wellbeing, including global community. Democracy and active participation in democratic politics requires a just distribution of goods so that all peoples can actively participate in government. Palme identifies work as an important social mechanism that will allow more active participation. Unemployment eats away at the very possibility of a more communal and active sense of political life. He remarks, “The fight against unemployment takes on a crucial value in this respect, if we wish: to avoid wasting our economic resources; alleviate social tensions and personal suffering that stem from unemployment; maintain trust in our democratic form of government and reinforce democracy. Full employment not only creates wellbeing, it also distributes it. There is no greater division than between those who have work and those who do not. Moreover, the person who now suffers runs the greater risk of being unemployed. All that has been said up until now can sound quite obvious, so much so that it may ring as commonplace. But the problem is that such obvious commonplaces are not often spoken. It is good to repeat them, lest we forget them.” (99 Translation mine)

Section Two collects together some of Palme’s work on social reforms in Sweden. Here, the Swedish statesman’s commitment to the welfare state model of politics is very clear. There is an emphasis not only the intimate connection between a just and equal economic distribution of goods—an economic vision oriented toward a more encompassing goal of communal good rather than individual profit—and democracy, but one also finds here his conviction that solidarity is vital if Sweden is to carry out its social welfare values. We read: “The strength of a welfare state for all…is: it is just in and for itself such that all may benefit; it makes possible a redistribution among people in different phases of life and among different social groups; it is balanced because it consists of both rights and obligations for all; it protects the most vulnerable. International comparisons reveal how inefficient selective politics are in trying to lead those who live in conditions below average; it creates liberty, avoiding the enclosure of persons in a state of dependency, which could be difficult to get oneself out of; it offers autonomy. Individuals can live their lives, even when they become ill or old; it guarantees freedom of movement, for rights follow the person wherever he or she may be; it consists of a limited bureaucracy insofar as it does not revolve around the rise and fall of certain economic conditions, which is opposite to systems that only concern themselves with the most marginalised of a society.” (161–61 Translation mine) The section ends also with Palme reminding Swedes of their uniqueness in the world and their global contribution, especially concerning advances in social wellbeing and the environment. He sees Swedish unions as making vital contributions on this score.

Section Three is one of the most poignant and salient sections of the book. Quirico has collected here Palme’s writings and discourses on the Neo-Liberal offensive. Given that, today, we have completely succumbed to the Neo-Liberal model, especially in the West, what Palme criticises and fears have come true. In many ways, reading these speeches from our present point of view makes him seem like a prophet. The late 1970’s and early 1980’s introduced massive economic difficulties on the world stage. One feels in the texts of this section the effects of massive unemployment, an increased cost of living due to inflation and high interest rates and the fleeing of European and North American labour markets by producers of goods in favour of places where labour is cheaper and, therefore, more profitable. The social democratic and welfare state models advanced by Palme are under severe attack as unable to sustain the goals he claims it could promote. He comments on the dissolution of unions in North America and England: “To launch a politics directly aimed at workers, especially when it deals with unemployment, social security, etc., is to attack the union, incriminating its legitimacy as the voice of its members. This is what is happening in country after country. This is why it is necessary that unions react, uniting their respective forces at the international level. The strong unions of Sweden have a particular responsibility in this battle for human rights and the freedom of unions. It is to you, I am convinced, that the future belongs.” (194–95 Translation mine) Today, unions have lost their voice and workers are subject to the whims of the markets—the security of the welfare state is no longer.

Section Four concludes the volumes with a hopeful message and, perhaps, a useful tool to mobilise us against the excesses and faults of a globalised Neo-Liberal economy, with its recent crashes in 2008 and 2011. We find here various addresses that Palme gave against apartheid as well as in former war-torn Vietnam. Ultimately, solidarity, especially at an international level, is invoked as a source of change and reform; it can also prevent us from falling into a politics of fear and oppression. Solidarity is no longer local, but global, and it entails a profound social responsibility—one that Palme lived whole-heartedly, for example, as mediator in the Iran-Iraq war and in his fight against apartheid. “All of us have a role to play in the struggle against apartheid. I have reported to United Nations and to other agencies of the measures of our government. We are actively engaged so that other countries may adopt, in turn, measures similar to ours. One of the reasons why we are concerned that our actions are compatible with those of others at the international level is so that the probability increases that others may follow our example […]” (260 Translation mine)

Unfortunately, Olaf Palme’s life came to an abrupt and unexpected end with his assassination in Stockholm in 1986. With his death, his fight for a more democratic society based on justice, equality and a communal well being rooted in solidarity and responsibility also came to an end. Quirico has given us an important resource for preserving and studying Palme’s legacy and political message of the need for certain values that preserve and promote human life and society as well as create a more just and equitable world. Perhaps Palme’s speeches and writings may help in reinvigorating the left or producing a new social democracy. Only time will tell.


Emergence of a new paradigm: Towards a post-crisis cosmopolitanism

1. Introduction

The current, tense “post-crisis” situation is considered by many intellectuals, politicians and citizens to be a simultaneous aggravation of much older financial, political and environmental crises that have been challenging the international community. At the same time, it has also been described as a perhaps unexpected hope for the emergence of a real cosmopolitanism based on a genuine possibility of emancipation and dialogue about world problems in the international community.

We will begin by discussing briefly the causalities of the recent financial crisis, which can be seen as a crisis of neo-liberal capitalism following the original mortgage crisis in the USA and the following economic depression in many countries. In this context we can also mention political elements of the crisis and further explore its threatening relation to the environment. Finally, the same crisis can be considered as a crisis for cosmopolitanism. Some pundits have interpreted the crisis as a crisis of cosmopolitanism of human rights, where it has not been possible to create a new world order of strong international governance.

On the basis of these causalities the paper will discuss whether we can see a potential “new beginning” or qualitative shift towards a new regime of a social ethics including: (1) the emergence of a community economy, e.g. state intervention and civil society responsibility in connection with corporate citizenship and business ethics; (2) the emergence of a new ethical cosmopolitanism including a paradigm shift towards a renewed conception of justice as concerns the common good in the world community.

2. Crisis causalities

What happened? Why did this world crisis come around and how should we explain the crisis causalities? There have been many arguments or diagnoses trying to explain the worldwide financial crisis. I can mention the following, very different, but mutually dependent explanations:

1. The crisis is due to neo-liberal capitalism.

This explanation focuses on the financial breakdown based on the American mortgage crisis and the following depression in many countries. It was the neo-liberal processes of globalization (e.g. privatizations, liberalizations, financializations) that led to the development of risky financial products and the resulting credit crunch, for they were based upon the dogma of the neo-liberal economic system, whereby the paramount goal is quite simply to increase economic gains in the business at all costs. This model for risky business did not only concern banking and economic investments. The most important factor that played a pivotal part in the economic crisis was the emergence of the use of houses for sales and risky mortgages of houses, so that houses became primary objects of investment. The dominant narrative in this explanation is neo-liberal “greed”, as exemplified by Madoff’s pyramid Ponzi scheme, which resulted in his imprisonment and so well symbolizes the basis for this kind of explanation of the crisis. The narrative of “greed” involves that the crisis is due to a brutish conception of human nature as a kind of profit-maximizing individual, who lives only or mostly according to his or her own narrowest self-interest. This explanation is based upon taking into account the fact that neo-liberalism was the dominant economic ideology after the end of the cold war. With this explanation of the crisis we have an explanation that is conceived exclusively in economic terms, and primarily as a breakdown of the international financial system.

2. The crisis is due to changed relations between major powers in the world.

This explanation focuses on the relation between the US and other countries, notably China. In this context the crisis may be considered as a shift in world powerhouses. We may argue that such a shift is the real reason of the credit crunch and the ensuing economic depression. It can be argued that the Chinese, after the massive economic crises in the east of Asia in the 1990s, realized that they would have to build up a strong financial system. After longer than a decade, the savings of China were so large that the country was able to resist the 2008 financial crisis, which showed instead the real vulnerability of the US and Europe. In addition, the crisis can be explained as a result of the economic problems of the US after the Asian wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the early 2000s. It can be argued that the result of the wars was the weakening of the US as a superpower and that the credit crunch was just a symptom of this changed situation of the West in relation to the East in economic terms, where China is emerging as the main power in the world. With this explanation of the crisis we move from a purely economic explanation towards an explanation in terms of international politics too.

3. The crisis arises from a clash of civilizations.

Here we can focus on the confrontation between world cultures, in particular the tensions between radical Islam and the West, leading to the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. How can we interpret the crisis in terms of the “clash of civilizations” described by Samuel Huntington? Since 2001 and 9/11 in particular, the confrontation between civilizations has been very present in international politics. The concept of the clash of civilization was developed as a response to Francis Fukuyama’s idea of the end of history, i.e. the end of the struggle of recognition, when the liberal world order has been victorious. We may say that the clash of civilizations is a response to this situation, where the end of the struggle for recognition is not ending in dialogue, but exactly in a clash between civilizations. In fact we may say that a challenge for a post-crisis situation would be to develop a kind of intercultural philosophy building upon a dialogue between civilizations, as opposed to the clash of civilizations. The clash of civilizations is in particular a challenge to the belief in the universality of the Western values of democracy and human rights. We can argue then that the recent crisis is a crisis of these values, following the events of 9/11 and of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

4. The crisis is a crisis in the policies to respond to an environmental crisis.

We can argue that the recent crisis was a crisis of the realization itself of the climate problem. The question is: have recent agreements led to hope for environmental justice or do we only experience new inequalities between developed and developing countries? In the neo-liberal paradigm before 2008 the climate issue was dealt with as a matter of utility and sustainable use of resources. It can be argued that the recent crisis is a crisis for the utility-based conception of the environment, for it appears that CO2 reduction is more than utility, but something that is fundamental with regard to the possibility of life in the world. We can argue that the crisis is a crisis for a civilization that has no understanding of the climate issue as fundamental for human survival. The Danish environmental sceptic Bjørn Lomborg may be considered as a representative of this view. In fact it can be argued that the opposite view of Al Gore, who stresses that the climate issue is about the continuation of the human species, represents an alternative to the view of Bjørn Lomborg, which emerges out of the crisis of the neo-liberal conception of the environment as utility: rather than admitting defeat in front of overwhelming evidence, blind denial is preferred.

5. The crisis is a crisis for cosmopolitanism.

Some have interpreted the recent crisis as a crisis of cosmopolitanism of human rights, where it has not been possible to create a new world order of strong international governance. In fact, it can be argued that the dream of the neo-liberal position was a world order with universal governance. As described by Michael Walzer, we can say that we need a new world order where we have to find the right balance between world government and total anarchy. It may be argued that the concept of the world order as a universal order with a world government is in crisis with the global crisis. What is needed is a new conception of the global order that is both beyond state sovereignty, but also beyond the idea of a world government. We may argue that we have to look for models of cosmopolitanism that deal with world politics without referring to a concept of a global world government as the basis for international politics.

3. The cultural and social background of the crisis

On the basis of the five causalities described above, the issue may be addressed as follows: how really should we define the recent crisis? What does the crisis imply and what does it relate to?

From a phenomenological point of view, we meet the crisis in our own lives when our family, ourselves or our friends lose their job or have to go from their houses because the mortgage rent is too high. In fact, the pre-crisis atmosphere in the Western world was marked by a strong narrative of greed and of spending, in particular a raise of luxury spending. We can then use the concept of hyper-modernity in experience economy, as proposed by the French sociologist and philosopher Gilles Lipovetsky, to take into account this pre-crisis, but indeed also the crisis atmosphere.

Hyper-modernity or hyper-modern society is conceived as an escalation of modernity, i.e. a kind of creative construction of experience where the creativity of human beings as makers of metaphors and symbols moves in the forefront of capitalist production. We are searching for more than maximization of pleasure preferences in the cultural industry. We want to become new human beings when we eat at restaurants, travel, go to the theatre, read magazines or books, or even when we buy ordinary products in the grocery store or in the supermarket. We want to experience happiness and authenticity in all aspects of our lives as consumers. Consumption shall help us to construct our identities. I shop therefore I am. It is the creativity of the producers and designers of experiences that is needed to fulfil this search for meaning in the experience economy. The conditions of possibility of the experience economy are based on the historic changes of the meaning of creativitiy in human societies. Today, with a hyper-modern society of creativity, creativity means something else than it was the case earlier in history. What is essential is that creativity no longer is based on a higher divine reality, but instead it refers to the entrepreneurial genius of the human creative spirit. With no divine meaning left, it is therefore the job of the creative class to fill the empty space of the loss of meaning in post-modernity or hypermodernity, and because there is no pre-given meaning dependent on a metaphysical reality, also the consumer must be creative and create meaning through experiences. Human beings are now primarily defined as hyper-consumers and their appearance as citizens is derived from this condition of consumption.

Hyper-modernity expresses a metamorphosis of liberal culture. We live in a consumer society that has become global and international. In the hyper-modern society we can talk about a new system of consumption that has become universalized. What characterizes hyper-modern society is the development of a world culture of consumption. We can talk about universalization of the brand market economy: the West, Asia and China, South America and Africa. The global market culture is a culture of global media and of global commercial culture. Hyper-modern society is made possible with the neo-liberal ideology of the free market and private happiness through consumption, and it was accelerated with the global revolution of information technologies.

In his 2006 work on hyper-modernity Le Bonheur paradoxal (Paris: Gallimard), Lipovetsky describes the three phases of the development of hyper-modern consumer society:

1. the period from 1880 to the second world war

2. the period from the 1950s to the 1970s

3. The time starting with the 1970s-80s (where we really see that consumer society fully developed).

We have been facing hyper-modern society since at least the 1980s. This is a society where consumption is democratized and made available to nearly everyone. Whereas the first phase of industrial society is signaled by the the emergence of industrial society for an elite, the second phase is marked by the increased generalization of consumer society as well as by increased individualization of consumption, for example by the generalization of luxury products like perfumes, media appliances, etc. However, it is only with the emergence of hyper-modern society that we really face the individualization of products.

In this individualist society we see how individuals are able to organize their space and time on the basis of their individuality. Accordingly, we can argue that with the individualization of consumption, combined with the focus on individual experience, makes immaterial experience and pleasure the focus of product promotion and product content. This new society of hyper-consumption is marked by a break with the conformities of class society. Although the class differences still exist, there is no specific class culture. In this sense, the consuming individual is utterly liberated from the traditional institutions and from the cultural bonds of society. We can say that the consumer of the experience economy is a “turbo-consumer”, a capitalist consumer who is no longer regulated by strong ethics and who is free to consume as much as he or she wants.

A very good example of this “Turbo-consumer” in hyper-modernity is the consumer of great international brands. The brands are expressing the global logic of hyper-consumption. Through global marketing brands appeal to the dreams of having authentic experiences. Consumers of hyper-society are not particularly loyal to one particular brand, but they are loyal to the promise of happiness in the brand economy that activates their dreams and emotions. The global brand economy expresses the logic of experience as emotional rather than bound to the materiality of the products. Hyper-consumption is a continuing renewal of the sensations. It is travel in experience. The turbo-consumer wants the most intense experience and in order to get this experience the turbo-consumer overcomes traditional limits of time and space that are taken over by the commercial logic. There is a close link between the brand economy and the search for happiness as the ultimate imperative of hyper-consumption society.

Together with Jean Serroy in La culture-monde. Réponse à une société désorienté (Paris: Gallimard, 2008), Lipovetsky discusses globalization of culture in the perspective of hyper-modernity. We can mention fashion, advertisements, tourism, art, the star-system from Hollywood as aspects of a world culture that has become dominating in hyper-modernity and manifests itself as a cultural hyper-modernity aiming at satisfying the search for satisfaction of experiences by consumers in hyper-modern society. But at the same time this globalization of culture in the framework of an experience economy is marked by the paradoxes of increased complexity and increased collective and individual disorientation.

The capitalist market experience economy is supposed to respond to the dark sides of increased individualization and narcissism. Because of individualist mass society with less common references to give a sense of meaning and community, the world culture of brand consumption is supposed to be the compensatory device that can give individuals meaning and fullness in their individual lives, which are increasingly devoid of meaning. World culture promoted through experience economy is the only tool left to give meaning and sense to individual lives, yet it is far from certain that it is succeeding in its task.

4. Towards a new beginning: Emergence of a new cosmopolitanism

With an economic crisis in the middle of hyper-modern consumer society, we can see how the whole foundation of this society is shaken. Therefore it is also interesting to ask the question about what happens after the crisis. Can we see a “new beginning” or qualitative shift towards a new regime of social ethics of responsibility as a kind of new event emerging out of the crisis, or should we just say that the crisis is nothing more than a confirmation of the logic of hyper-modernity, or alternatively is it possible to argue that the crisis opens for new meanings that help us to move beyond hyper-modern society? What does it mean to speak about paradoxes of a post-crisis situation that challenge the pre-crisis relations? We can observe the following aspects of a post-crisis situation that helps to mark qualitative breaks with the pre-crisis situation.

1. The emergence of a community economy

State intervention and civil society responsibility in connection with corporate citizenship and business ethics signal the emergence of a community economy. We can argue that the business ethics movement based on corporate responsibility and corporate social responsibility replaces within this context the confrontation from the cold war between communism and capitalism. Moreover, the end of neo-liberalism shows that we need a better relation to the economy and a better conception of the content of the economy. Business ethics and corporate social responsibility represent a response to the situation of crisis of business organizations in the sense that it is a new way to deal with the capitalist system.

Business ethics deals not only with ethical responsibilities of corporations but also with a responsible way to deal with economic and legal activities. Therefore we can talk about the economic, legal and ethical responsibilities of a corporation. The different responsibilities must be integrated into the strategy of the corporation, according to the new paradigm of corporate social responsibility and in close coherence with the strategy of the corporation. Business ethics can be considered in close interaction with the idea of hyper-modern society because in hyper-modern society ethics and corporate social responsibility are integrated into the experience economy. This means that ethics is considered as a virtue that is closely related to the self-construction of the individual. Accordingly, the individuals in the business corporation want to have a meaningful work and they want to be accountable and trustworthy as a part of their personal identity. Therefore business ethics is not in contrast to hyper-modernity, but rather a consequence of the culture of this kind of society. So the post-crisis scenario of intensified business ethics and corporate social responsibility is not necessarily in contrast to the culture of globalized hyper-modernity.

In this context we can argue for a movement towards an ethical cosmopolitanism within the field of business, as I have argued in my book Responsibility, Ethics and Legitimacy of Corporations (Copenhagen Business School Press, 2009), which the reader can find reviewed in the present issue of Nordicum-Mediterraneum. An important aspect of this movement is the idea of republican business ethics, defined as involvement of corporations in and for the common good, the res publica, which are expressed in the concept of corporate citizenship with integrity and responsibility. Integrity matters as the self-imposed norms of international corporations can ensure accountability and trust. Integrity is analyzed as a function of the business ethics of corporations, especially in the normative guidelines for international business.

With this cosmopolitan approach I have argued that the corporation can contribute qua world citizen to solve the important problems of hyper-modernity. This can be viewed as the application of the important concepts of the virtues of responsibility and cosmopolitanism. As actors at the global level in a time of interstate interdependence with regard to world ecological, economical and political problems, it is a challenge of the corporation to contribute to building up an international community of virtue and protection of basic rights.  We can define this vision of universal corporate citizenship as the World ethos of business ethics. The corporations shall not only protect universal human rights, but they shall also give those rights meaning in relation to the particular cultures in the countries where they operate.

2. Cooperation replaces conflict.

We may ask the question whether the post-crisis scenario is opening for a new era of cooperation that is in contrast with the idea of conflict that was dominating in the cold war times and in the times immediately after the cold war. An argument from globalization is that the financial crisis has been a reminder of how we now really live in “one world” in economic, cultural, social and political terms. In this sense it can be argued that we need scenarios of cooperation with new interactions between major powers in the international community, which is establishing a regime of problem solving rather than confrontation.

With Hannah Arendt, we can argue that we are searching for a political conception of international relations that move beyond the legalistic conception of the international community. Hannah Arendt’s work after the second world war presents a critical discussion of Kantian cosmopolitanism. She offers novel views on human rights and the rights of citizens and she discusses the possibility of an international tribunal to deal with crimes against humanity. Also, her philosophy implies a critical reply to a naive “juridification” of international relations as marked by legal structures alone. Arendt proposes a solution for the reintegration in the political community after the fight with the wrongdoers. The international political community needs a dimension of civil society, as proposed by Arendt, to find a possible mediation of the double edge of cosmopolitanism. We can argue that Hannah Arendt understood the importance of a political foundation of the respect for the naked human being beyond the political relations of the nation state. This is what Arendt argued for when she coined her famous term of the foundation of human rights as the “right to have rights”.

In her 2006 book Another Cosmopolitanism (Oxford: Oxford University Press), Seyla Benhabib seems to propose a new version of Arendt’s older position. According to Benhabib, modern cosmopolitanism is not only about hospitality but also about the political and legal institutions to govern our world in order to deal with circulation of persons, capital, commerce, pollution, information, labor, goods, viruses, etc. Cosmopolitanism is about building political relations at the international level, so that people can enjoy the right to have rights in the international community. In particular, Benhabib defines human rights as universal ethical obligations that go beyond national sovereignty and are formulated within a form of law.

Benhabib argues that the challenge we face today is the construction of a jurisprudential theory that is able to reconcile the universality of human rights with the partiality of positive law. She deals with the problem, as Hannah Arendt also did, by focusing upon the rights of persons who reside within a state but who are excluded from its polity, i.e. legal and illegal aliens. Thus, Benhabib takes up the challenge of the double edge of cosmopolitanism by arguing for the search of a legal foundation of cosmopolitan citizenship beyond positive law alone.

When Benhabib deals with the double edge of cosmopolitanism she answers this question by drawing on Kant’s doctrine of cosmopolitan rights, which she attributes to Kant’s thesis that ”The law of world citizenship shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality” – hospitality covering the relationship between states and strangers. With Benhabib we can argue that the double edge of cosmopolitanism lies within the confrontation between republican national law and international relations, because the law of hospitality intersects with the positive law of the state. Specifically, Benhabib focuses upon the point of intersection between these two dimensions. On the one hand we have the Republican opening towards the international community in the republican public sphere; on the other hand we have the mediation between the cosmopolitan norms and the republican community.

Benhabib argues that we can propose a solution to the tension of the double edge of cosmopolitanism by means of a cosmopolitan law that emerges from increasingly conscious public debates in democracies, where the norms of cosmopolitanism are accepted as basic human rights into the positive constitutions of republic societies. In this sense universal norms are mediated into the will formation of democratic societies, so that cosmopolitan norms are becoming integrated into the republican framework of democracy.

An illustration of this kind of democratic development of the cosmopolitan norms and of the “democratic iteration” is for example the European Union, where citizenship is expanded in a cosmopolitan direction. However, the contradiction between the universality of ethics and the particularity of law can never fully be overcome and there is always room for national sovereignty where laws are made.

When we talk about a civil justification for the emergence of cosmopolitan norms, we can argue that this justification of cosmopolitan hospitality emerges within the framework of democratic community because people are becoming more and more acquainted with others beyond their national borders and cultures with norms of reciprocity and respect. In this perspective there is a genuine hope that cosmopolitan norms are internalized in local cultures, democracies and populations. However, this is not enough according to legal theorist Seyla Benhabib. Cosmopolitan norms must also be based on a legal framework. In Another Cosmopolitanism, for example, Benhabib discusses the case of European citizenship as a token of the increased movement towards the development of such cosmopolitan norms.

Still, there remains the danger of a cosmopolitan stateless future. Benhabib argues that we should imagine a future where ”civil, social and some political rights” are not related to national belonging. In this context, universal cosmopolitanism is situated between law and ethics, universality and particularism, nation and international community. When we search for a philosophical foundation of these cosmopolitan norms, we can look back at the philosophy of Hannah Arendt who argued, as we have already said, that the most important thing is the right ” to have rights”.

We can say that Hannah Arendt’s book about the Eichmann trial — Eichmann in Jerusalem. Essay on the Banality of Evil (London: Penguin Books 1964/1981) — was fundamentally a book about cosmopolitanism and international law. This is true in particular when Arendt deals with crimes against humanity, where genocide is conceptualized as the crime against humanity, or rather the crime against humanness or the right to be human. The issue of the cosmopolitan double edge, i.e. how to mediate between national legal structures and moral universalism, can be answered by reference to the Eichmann trial. This trial marks the beginning of cosmopolitan norms. It is a trial for crimes against humanity that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of legal positivism.

If we look more closely at Arendt’s book about Eichmann and follow Seyla Benhabib at the same time, we can argue that cosmopolitanism is not only the Kantian horizon that as we may infer from Arendt’s letters to Karl Jaspers — Jaspers being himself a Kantian cosmopolitan — but an ideal of civic republicanism combined with a vision of political self-determination as the foundation of true hospitality in cosmopolitanism. So the emergence of global civil society as the movement from international to cosmopolitan norms of justice can only be accomplished as long as it draws with it principles of civic republicanism.

Concepts such as ”the right to universal hospitality” and ”the right to have rights” are certainly Arendt’s legacy of Kantian cosmopolitanism. Yet she adds a normative force that can emerge only within a republican, democratic framework of legal norms. These concepts, in other words, should have a binding power. The idea is that the ”right to have rights” indicates rights of universal hospitality that triumphs over positive law, but can also be within positive law, because it is founded on republican self-governance and autonomy.

We need more than the formal political construction of the cosmopolitan norms of human rights. The international human rights regime, crimes against humanity, humanitarian interventions and transnational migration norms should all be based on civic republican recognition of the right to have rights. So cosmopolitan justice must be based on a kind of nationally sanctioned international law of peoples, where the tension between sovereignty and hospitality is overcome through the act of self-legislation as an act of self-constitution under a cosmopolitan perspective.

Benhabib says that ”Liberal democracies must learn to negotiate these paradoxes between the spread of cosmopolitan norms and the boundedness of democratic communities”: according to her, the development of cosmopolitan norms is characterized by democratic Iterations between the local, the national and the global.

5. Conclusion

Following Hannah Arendt and Benhabib, we can argue that cosmopolitanism emerges as the power of democratic forces within a global civil society and this helps to a construction of international norms that goes beyond the tension between cosmopolitanism and national sovereignty. What is characteristic of the new cosmopolitanism, at least according to this view, is that citizenship and political membership are no longer based on culture and collective identity. As exemplified by the case of the European Union, the conflict between sovereignty and hospitality is no longer so important. Accordingly, a new discussion of politics implies the search for new forms of political agency in cosmopolitan times, where we recognize what Benhabib calls the “democratic iterations” of the concept of democracy and citizenship. And this recognition will help to develop new foundations of democracy in international politics.

Moreover, by protecting universal rights that are dependent on the charter and declarations of the United Nations, corporations can act for good international relations that go beyond the interests of particular communities of republics and nations. By doing this, corporations, when they really want to appear as good citizens, can help to build a world community that implies the universalization of the procedural virtues of liberal society. Corporations can at the same time be cosmopolitan and situated in particular societies, in the sense that they foster universal principles while making those principles work in concrete practice. In this sense, the post-crisis scenarios can be a development of a new cosmopolitanism in both international politics and in the activities by corporations and other organizations and institutions helping to build up an international civil society.

Locals Collection


The population
density of Essex
Mass a chu sett s
is one person
every two acres




We stand distributed in our respective fields.
We communicate by semaphore.




My friend who lives around Cancun returned from a long journey through thickets of family and illness to find all his material possessions piled into one corner of one room.  All around the house in spaces with which his possessions once interacted, wads of chewed gum had been affixed to every surface.  In the course of the hours which followed his encounter with this rearrangement, he gathered the gum into a formation the size of a softball, which he placed in a bowl.


This is a map of Doxa, an electronic county in a state of confusion that could be anywhere in the United States except for the socio-economic particularities which determine the array of psycho-spatial relations to the notion crisis that one encounters.  But because the socio-economic particularities as such are determinate everywhere in the same kind of way, noting them without specificity makes of this map of a backwater a map of anywhere.

This map of Doxa is not made on the basis of a geometrical projection: no device is in place that transposes sphere to flat surface.   Perspectives are pre-linear: the aspects of others which face you the reader because they face me who mediates your relation remain facing you even as other aspects of the context of encounter may twist or turn or change.

This is a map of a very local slices of meanings associated by a particular duration (roughly January 2009-January 2010).  Like any map, what is represented is weighted toward the point of its assembly, so the performances of relations to economic crisis which I take to be performance of an ideological crisis connected to the beginning phases of the collapse of the American Empire are weighted toward the end of this period.  The explanatory narrative is also staged as an exploration of Doxa.  A map is a collage of appearances.


The Crisis Hunter sets out on repeated explorations of the same immediate environment looking for specimens of crisis to trap in a jar smother & mount each one caught on a corkboard after running a pin through its thorax.  The Crisis Hunter would like to gather a cross-section of crisis types in order to enable Linnaeus or Buffon or other colleagues to fashion a typology; in the detailing of the specific surface features which distinguish this genus from another a distance can be established.  I the Crisis Hunter am now looking down into a cabinet of crisis curiosities I can admire the colors of the wings and the delicacy of the antennae & tell stories about the hunting.  I caught this one in the area behind the outhouse at the Shipbuilding Museum late at night bathed in yellow light that reminded me of the outhouse behind the cabin where I would spend summers as a child so much  that the physical environment around which I stumbled holding my fine mesh net and peanut butter jar seemed to flicker between dimensions and perhaps this is what crisis is the experience of the capture, the ways experience complicates in the hypnotic space of  beating wings & blurring colors.  That is what capturing the crisis mounted second from the right in the top row produced in me.  It seemed most itself when it was evading me, most clearly itself when I could only take it in as aspects of motion and the play of lights.

Another one, this one, bottom row same column, this one I found at the peripheries of stories I gathered from a financial advisor over dinner in the North End of Boston who after glasses of wine began to talk about the segments of his clientele which were burning and other segments which were not burning, talking in a way that indicated that perhaps the whole situation would be easier if either all segments were on fire or none were on fire but this shifting mosaic of pieces burning not burning this riot of movement without  obvious direction & it was there around those sentences that I saw the moth-like crisis come but I was constrained by antipasti on a small table and open bottles of wine and did not have my fine-meshed net or my peanut butter jar in any event so I captured it with my hands, smothered it in my mouth & placed it in the pocket of my shirt and perhaps that is what later drew the cameras to me at the basketball game I looked up to see myself enormous looking up to see myself small looking up hovering over center court in Boston Garden and the crowd began to cheer & after the game walking through the corridors people tried to touch the hem of my garments like I could heal them but the whole time I was trying to protect the corpse of the moth-like crisis I held carefully in my pocket that I had smothered in my mouth after capturing it with my hands.  Perhaps they sensed that in my pocket was a kind of solution.

Meta: Looking at a Cabinet of Crisis Curiousities.



 The notion of crisis: a singular noun, a spatio-temporal specificity.

In the crisis-days prior to the war. 1929 Commenting on the Wall Street crash of yesterday, the German press unanimously agrees that Germany has no reason to mourn. They’ll feel the Pulses of the Stars, To find out Agues, Coughs, Catarrhs; And tell what Crisis does Divine The Rot in Sheep, or Mange in Swine & Then shall the sicke..by the vertue and power of a happy Crisis, saile forth into the hauen of health.  The Crises here are excellent good; the proportion of the chin good; the wart above it most exceeding good.

In principle crisis is a something a pattern of distortion distributed across waveforms regular enough to allow for commonalities to be attributed for example here when we see these moths we see the veering to the right characteristic of petit bourgeois organisms and their responses to certain types of real or imagined environmental perturbations and based on information we have from elsewhere we could reconstruct the symbolic environment of these petit bourgeois organisms, catalogue routine activities recurrent perturbations and responses and in that way catalogue and know the ecosystem into which these particular moths will fly.  But I admit that it is confusing to have to think in terms of moths and systems and relations or effects to talk about crisis which should be condensed in these moths.  But look at them.  At the same time, a crisis should have a location.  It should have boundaries.  Because you can refer to it using a noun, one should be able to move into and out of crisis.  Crisis should start somewhere so it can end.



1933 To escape a crisis so full of terror and despair the Federal Reserve Banks can hardly be blamed for their policy of credit restriction up to the moment of Wall Street Consciences Synteresis, and Syneidesis which can warrant her to passe her Crisis or conclusive judgement so exact that will with greatest scorne reiect the slump or depression of the 1930s which began with the Wall Street crash of 1929 in America.

It is curiously difficult to locate crisis.  The words that define it that elaborate it float about.  In the stories people tell crisis lands in a dizzying array of spaces.  Depending on one’s situation, one might be in crisis if unemployed or go visit crisis when reorganizing one’s business through the instruments of commercial debt or see crisis on television.  One might be related to people who are in it to the side of it who float above it who skim along beneath it.


The Courtier is not bothered by the economic situation.  O sure he reads the newspapers and knows the narratives.  But that’s in order to make conversation.  It is important to make conversation. Conversation is the mirroring back to another of what the other just said.  It is flattering & he is good at it that is at its prerequisite that is at appearing to be interested without engaging.  Engagement risks loss of control & loss of control risks exposure.  He does not call himself The Courtier. The continual avoidance of exposure sharpens the self-awareness.  A sharpened self-awareness is a polished surface for mirroring back to the other what the other just said. This self-awareness has its edges like any surface its points of dropping off sloughing away caving in.  Very American, he imagines himself the froth atop an espresso.  He imagines himself light in any situation.  Like a bird.  Like a bird overhead.  He imagines himself the froth atop an espresso that he sits lightly in situations, smoothing the way, servile but unobtrusive, his self-awareness a polished surface that mirrors back whatever you just said.  What you just said is very important I devote my full attention to that very important thing.

He says: When I think of economic crisis I do not think of anything.  The newspapers say we’ve recovered.




Rule One: an ideological crisis is many things but one thing it is not is an ideological crisis.


1.  Ask any Regulation School theorist and they’d have told you that crisis is the most pervasive and consistent phenomenon produced by capitalism.  Crisis is everywhere continually emerging through geographical change consolidations automations obsolencences planned and unplanned emerging continually everywhere through the ordinary workings of the system of systems.  Crisis is the air that capitalism produces for itself to breath; it is the medium through which capitalism grows and contracts, seizes up and lurches.  But if this is the case and crisis is everywhere emerging continually through the ordinary operations of the capitalist system of systems, then crisis is not crisis at all.  It is entirely banal, the smell of cigarette smoke that clings to your clothing. 



2. Hegemony is an ideological practice or is a way of referring to what the practice of ideology is that is to the what that is being done through the circulation adaptation recirculation adaptation of ideology through the dominant relay systems.  Hegemony is the continuous implicit argument for the legitimacy of the existing order through the continuous normalization of its effects.  Ordinary crisis is continuous so not crisis at all.  Ordinary crisis which is not crisis at all is more a stream of disruptions which could issue into actual crisis but for the fact that the stream of disruptions is contained in regularly moving streams of disruptions.  Movement within these streams is the everyday practice of ideology circulation adaptation recirculation adaptation.

2.1 Crisis would emerge as a discrete category so as crisis something sensed or felt as crisis across a seizing up of this normalization function, so a disruption of repetition not so much at the level of statements or images as at the level of the regularity with which disruptions emerge and fall away.

2.1.1. This regularity of emergence and falling away renders as neutral the medium which enables the regularity of these flows of disruptions in the way that the overall system of commodity circulation is legitimated across the continuous transformation and stratification of the commodities that circulate within it. This follows from the tendency to see in each element of ordinary disruption a discrete event or thing, self-contained self-referential.

2.1.2 Events or things succeed one another with remarkable regularity each one self-contained and self-referential to the extent that each refers to dense contexts in the immediate spatio-temporal vicinity of the Event or thing, dense contexts which are referenced but excluded by the mode of presentation of the local at the level of the aggregate.

2.2 The medium across which the aggregate flashes, so the fact of the aggregate, is neutral to the extent that it is the space of regular appearance.  Regular appearance enables or constitutes meta-narratives and cross-referencing.  The medium which enables these is a neutral space of control.

Benign control like GPS or the locating chips that are in your cellphone.  It’s for your own good you see.  In case you end up one of the missing children.

3. What disrupts the normalization is the emergence of the medium in its artificiality.

At the end of the 2000 presidential election in the US all the television networks called Florida in the same mistaken way because all were buying exit poll results from the same consultancy: the grinding attrition of legitimacy entailed by enthusiastic collaborations in selling the war in Iraq; Hurricane Katrina opening onto a reveal of racialized class war; the unraveling of the descriptive power of neoliberal categories in a context that did not allow for their adaptation only their repetition.



Rule One: an ideological crisis is many things but one thing it is not is an ideological crisis.

In a sense the strictly economic register of “crisis” is an abstraction an index a chain reaction entailed by the stalling out of traffic in derivatives.  As signifiers, as objects of exchange, derivatives are expressions of a system-level attempt to use debt as a mechanism to maintain exchange velocities across a period of fundamental reorganization in capitalist manufacturing sectors. They were predicated on an assumption that real estate values would continue rising endlessly such that risk would be minimized.



Are you asking me?  I can tell you.  Changed lending practices opened up real estate for a lot of people who may or may not have been qualified so may or may not have been able to make the payments.  Had the mortgage writers opted to extend the terms over 40 or 50 years this wouldn’t have been the same kind of problem.  But they didn’t.  Anyway one of the changes was that you could finance a house up to 100%.  Nothing down.  You might decide to keep your liquidity and just use someone else’s money.  And you probably would have assumed like a lot of people did that real estate values would endlessly go up.  So being into a loan for a million say if you couldn’t actually afford it wasn’t so irrational because in the end you assumed that you’d be able to flip the property.  You know, unload it.  People think: you look at a house you look at a property and it’s a real thing, you know, something solid.  It’s value would be something solid too, like the trees or the dirt.  But values are set through transaction patterns.  The solid ground is subordinated to systems of mirrors and ways of looking into and through them.  People know this and they don’t it seems like.  Anyway, when the derivatives thing hit creative lending practices dried up and when the lending dried up the demand dried up and when demand dried up prices starting dropping.  So you had people who had financed a mortgage for a million bucks at 100% who find that the property’s now worth 600,000 and there’s nothing they can do.  Sometimes people just walk away, call it a bad investment.  In some areas of the country there’s little choice because property values have fallen by 30 or 40 percent.  It’s not so bad around here.  But still, if you’re in that position of owing a million on a place that’s now worth about half that, you’re fucked.  Upside down.  Under water.  Well and truly.


Derivatives as objects of exchange are symptomatic of a change in the meaning of autonomous flows of capital.

Derivatives as objects of exchange expose the extent and speed of the semi-visible networks through which these objects circulate; they expose the interconnectedness of financial centers, banking insurance and currencies.  They expose the powerlessness of nation-states to regulate much less control autonomous capital flows.

1938 Whereas the others beauty and lustiness is a Crysis of their youth, not their idleness,

the crisis-minded always maintain that the problems of their particular decade are unique and insuperable.  

The powerlessness of nation-states to act coherently within or on the spaces of flows that the ideology of neoliberalism enabled exposes the incoherence of the political arrangement in the image of which neoliberalism operated. Neoliberalism promised a self-regulating market world in which everything would be open to change while at the same time nothing fundamental would change.  If a system tends toward equilibrium, elements within it may be scrambled but a single coherent viewpoint would nonetheless be possible as a transposition of the notion of equilibrium. In this way an imaginary American nation-state was super-imposed atop a lattice of bi- and multilateral agreements, institutional and legal infrastructures, supply chains and shipping arrangements, an expression of an imaginary natural tendency toward equilibrium within imaginary bounded systems.

1938 How many people are crisis-conscious?  1940 The point is to join up the crisis-feeling to what can be felt all the time in normal life.

The marketing of neoliberalism in the states as an ideology so dominant it did not have a name was of a piece with the construction and consolidation of a discursive empire particular to conservative politics.   If conservatives were to support unregulated capitalist activity and not see in it a danger to their own political worldview, there had to be a mediating term which enabled tendencies logically contradictory to hold together.

For example, American dominance of the global capitalist order might have been as natural as the tendency to equilibrium in imaginary bounded systems if the Bretton Woods arrangement was understood not an expression of the balance of military and economic power after Word War II but merely a beneficient something fashioned in order to make reconstruction easier and facilitate political stability by stabilizing currencies.  Neocolonialism might not be colonialism at all if your view of it is predicated on voyages between shelving units in retails outlets marooned in parking lots.



First come the traffic barriers.  Then come the action figures & their walkie talkies which bring conversations about license plates and stochastics.

The hole is dug by elaborate antiquated machinery all spindly arms and cables. The material is hauled away.

Once the void is determinate, a committee convenes around its edges. Each time they array and linger, silent, looking.

Then material arrives not the same but if the same then scrambled. Insectoid machines fill in the hole.  The walkie talkies go silent. The action figures depart. The traffic barriers disappear.

The next day it begins again a few inches further along.

I monitor the Wandering Hole of the Causalityway.  As happens with everyone who lives here, The Hole has migrated into my mind.

These days I think about the Silent Committee.  I understand the compulsion to empty a space hollow it out look at the emptiness again and again.  There’s an environment that arises in the space where continuity and rupture intertwine. It is a place full of parasites.  Carriers rain down like ticks & parasites transfer & pass through their life cycles indifferent to the host environment self-contained and feeding with no effects on the host system only a silent eating until there’s a mutation.  Mutation catches the host system unawares.  The parasite system begins to express its characteristics which are shaped by its origin between continuity and rupture as a rationality inside a rationality.  A disconnect between them.  Thinking its his or her idea, the host repeats the parasite’s characteristics digging holes, looking into the emptiness, filling them back in.

Repetition becomes inertia.  Continuities destroy themselves.




1965 Crisis-management problems.

Some people saw in the Reagan administration a thousand points of light.  Others saw supporters of Liberation Theology being thrown out of helicopters into the Nicaraguan forest.  Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend how different are the realities that coexist in the same geographic space much less how they are coordinated.  Maybe there isn’t anything about space that is ever the same that is ever identical with itself.

It would be difficult to say exactly what the connections might be between the sense of imploding empire and the ideological problem that accompanies it that expresses it that is it, the seizing up of autonomous capital flows and the debacle in Iraq. But it is not at all difficult to see that there are connections.  When the Bush Administration decided to invade Iraq they draped a war on ghosts over the neoconservative fantasy of a new American century in which the United States was a military hegemon that stood outside of that presided over networks of bi-and-multi-lateral agreements and institutions and patterns of capital and commodity flows.  In this imaginary world the United States would ground a system the logic of which tended to dissolve nation-states in an image of nation-state and because without the nation-state conservatism has nothing to talk about the ideological rationale for the nation-state as ground was to be American conservative politics.

The Project for a New American Century was a conservative policy group formed in the 1990s the primary function of which was to write letters requesting that another war be launched against Iraq.  Please start another war against Iraq they would say.  We do not at all like the way in which the last one turned out.   From their collective viewpoint the problem with the first war followed from the unseemly involvement of the United Nations which prevented the manly American military from motoring into Baghdad and finishing the job. The UN was a castrating multiplicity.  The new and improved Iraq war would erase the memory of symbolic castration.  The Wolfowitz Plan was the perfect encapsulation of this way of thinking.  Iraq was to be a two-week theatrical run on a very large stage, an abstract space into which American forces would march to be greeted by Happy Natives welcoming their Liberators.  Flowers would be strewn everywhere like August 1944 Paris except with live television coverage brought to you by the Pooled Press.

But things didn’t quite work out.



Dave the Other Guy sits on a bar stool belted into a chair fighting the fish, pulling back & being pulled forward by the fish, watching the line run back and forth across the giant reel guiding it with his hand.

The invisible rod slips out of its holder: jerking around behind the mobile weight of the memory tuna the shadow of the rod traces complex patterns over the surface of the bar.

Dave the Other Guy’s arms shake from the fight then & now.  Exhausted, he tries to hand off the rod to Tim the Lead Man who refuses in both times saying: “The first time you had sex did you try to hand off?”  In order to prevent permanent damage to the man’s reputation, he says.  Out here everybody remembers everything.

He says: The rule is that you have to boat the tuna within twenty minutes before it starts to cook itself in the energy expended by fighting you.

Now in a second stool Tim the Lead Man looks for a gaffing hook pulls one up from beneath the surface of the bar & at that moment realizes the hook is too small.  Nonetheless he grabs the lead & guides the memory tuna through the ocean of liquor bottles as the boat we are on jerks forward & reverses circling confusing the fish boxing it in. When the head of the fish breaks the surface of the water Tim arcs the too small gaffing hook over my macaroni & cheese and into the head and continuing the gesture pulls the 250 pound memory fish bleeding across my pint of ale and into the boat the far side of the bar.

And now the commercial fisherman who had been floating the whole time on other boats nearby are emerging from cabins appearing on decks breaking into applause sounding boat horns & shouting Now that’s how you boat a tuna.





Outside my window the tide is low the tree branches bare the air Sunday morning silent in a fading imperial power the inflexible stories that the empire tells are distributed about the grasses like tickertape like white lace like frost the stories that are empire an empire of stories in a frozen space where movement is realignment is loss of position is a sense of something moving that should not be some ineffable change affecting objects and spaces.

Beyond the story of assemblages of stories a horizontal band of brown grasses framed by a model of collapse of empire, one without events, something on the order of the Hapsburgs in which collapse is a tightening around routines a moving into the regular a motivated avoidance a flight into the stable into nothing too demanding into a map of the world like a phonebook a list of objects their proper locations and co-ordinates that allow you to reach them in the low tide mud past the tree branches bare in the Sunday morning silence the sun fading through pink the tide filling the gullies by degrees the stories evaporating something ineffable in the air something is changing.


3 Each television monitor is the Cathederal at Aachen.  Like Charlemagne, each television image of the Leader is faced by an audience and the image of the Leader faces the altar faces God.  In this way the Leader mediates the relations between the audience and Order.  The gazes of all converge in the Gaze of the Leader.  The actions of the Leader are the Actions of all.

3.1  Judged by a royalist logic that seems to require symmetry of inside and outside, virtue and what befalls, the second Bush administration was Illegitimate and the disasters its actions have brought down an expression of its Illegitimacy.

3.1.1 The role of the polity in such a situation is not obvious. Within the revolutionary tradition the actions of the Authorized Subject/Object of History position were hedged around by potential revolts.  But we are past all that now.

3.2   The crisis of empire is a spectacle.  We watch it unfold as a cheap tragedy with an idiot anti-hero. The space of action is contained within the monitor.  It unfolds at a temporal remove from us.  In that dimension, the chorus already knows the story. A spatially and temporally inverted image of the chorus, outside the space of action, the audience assembles.

3.2.1 The anti-hero disappears to build himself a library in some wasteland locale.

There is no release.  There is no catharsis.  As a spectacle it is terribly unsatisfying.

3.2.2 Perhaps it is the lack of catharsis that inspires we the audience to pay expiation ourselves. And what is expiation? A long march through thickets of pain & phantom purple mountains on the edge of the sunrise where no purple mountains should be the evacuation of the present it’s placement under the sign of a version of the past a placement which defines the present as an extension of a version of the past the loop this puts into a sort of motion and the accompanying self-immolation without end. But we do not act.

3.3  We watch and wait then watch some more.


When you have a child you want the stream of disruptions to be contained and containable the medium across which disruptions stream to remain neutral a space of meta-narratives of patterns and control you do not want it to surge into the foreground and ordinary disruptions to wobble into crisis not for yourself but for the future that has to array itself around the child.  But there is nothing you can do to influence it.

So you collapse into a fiction of the ordinary find an ordinary boy make an ordinary space of ordinary objects arranged in ordinary ways.  Maybe then the wobble and spray will pass over like a tidal wave will curl over certain spaces or overlook you like crisis is the Khymer Rouge sweeping into a city rounding up people who wear glasses to send to die in the countryside & maybe you can survive if you look as though you can see.


They hold each other as they sit on the couch.  His eyes look in two directions.  He is very sweet.  He is hard to talk to.  She is counting on her fingers.

He says: If you ask her any number she can tell you. She remembers everything about numbers.  Other things not so much.

Not so much other things.  One time her daughter was going downtown with a lady from the city.  As they passed a building, she pointed and said that is where the man holds me down on a bed. Then lots of people from the city on the telephone.  How could you not know about the man who was doing things to your daughter?  I know eggs and how many there are. My health is not good.  There are so many numbers to remember.

He who is holding her he looks out for her.  When you knock on the window he comes downstairs to let you in.  He helps you through the back room full of boxes and restaurant equipment to the stairs.  He says going up: The only way secret entrance like a fort.

He makes her eggs and she knows how many there are.  She counts the things in her cupboard. Unless she’s not feeling well again.  Again lately she has not been feeling well again.  Again.  He says to her: How many trips to the emergency room this year?  She says: 206. Loud.  Definite.  She knows everything about numbers.

He says on the phone with people from the city: Her health is getting worse things are going wrong I cannot protect her.  He says: I ask the people from the city on the phone can’t you help her?  And each says I can’t but I will find the person who can.  Then someone else calls.  Over and over the same conversation.  So many people who will not help us.  She just needs some care.  I think they want us to die.

They hold each other as they sit on the couch.  His eyes look in two directions.  He is very sweet.  He is hard to talk to.  She is counting on her fingers.



I was playing a video driving game in which my car would only crash.

The impact of the crash extended indefinitely, shaking the wheel, the animated viewpoint tumbling end over end, the sound quite loud the crashing continuous end over end the wheel rattling the animated viewpoint.

Each time I lean past the edge of the low cube within which the game unfolds I see a large room that is dark and empty and silent.

I think about the drop-off, the boundary between inside and outside.









Imagine you are in a room opposite.  Between the two a space of passage that is overlaid with transparent versions of itself again and again each version slightly misaligned with respect to the layer before or after it depending on your viewpoint where you start from what motion is.

Draw a thin red square around the assemblage of spaces of passage with the tip of a pen that tears the flesh of the world





redthinClimb through the opening.
























A thin line of bodies is moving across the water through the amplified sound shower of the rivermouth                              disappearing                                              reappearing

                 disappearing again                     on the slacktide               blue planar surfaces buckle & fold around thin wavering multi-colored vertical lines a lattice of attentions the light within against the water and sky breaks into beams & nodes then patterns maybe cracks or a honeycomb a scrim behind the recurrent appearance           disappearance                 configuration                of multicolored vertical folds that hover within above the black line that marks that is the edge the surface the water in the amplified sound shower of the rivermouth.


                          Locals Collection

                          Data Mining in Post-Reality

Stephen Hastings-King

Thanks to Marc Teatum, Heather McDonough, Sarah Slifer, Paige Larkin, Brad Powers & Guy Yasko for their responses to earlier versions of this piece, each of which generated a turn.

And to the fine people at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum for their support.


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