Empire of Disorder

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* Book: Empire of Disorder. By Alain Joxe. Semiotexte,



Michel Bauwens, 2003:

This is an analysis of the geopolitical situation in the twelve years since the Gulf War, by a French geostrategist describing the thrust towards Empire by the U.S. - and a possible resistance by the 'Republics', i.e. Europe.

Joxe makes a crucial difference between the passionate violence which erupts between adversaries, and the 'cold and cruel systemic violence' that could arise:

- 1) when one side becomes absolutely domiant in an 'oppressive globality'; and

- 2) if machines and techno-strategy using cold functionaries sitting behind computers, completely take over the process.

In discussing the genesis of sovereign power, (instead of divine power), Joxe reviews Hobbes' Leviathan, which is based on the chaos and 'revolution' of the English Civil War, where a king is killed, replaced by Parliament and Cromwell (a tyrant, i.e. a popular dictator), then back to the new king. This made it clear to him that without a state, the people would revert to a state of nature. "of each against each other", but also that the people can effectively destroy it, but thus also create it. This is a proof that popular sovereignity is real. But the best protector, and this ability is the key feature of the state, was to him the absolute monarch. Nevertheless, he is also the formulator of popular sovereignity, and once the people become strong enough to protect themselves, they can have a 'Hobbesian Republic', without the quaint notion of a monarch.

For Hobbes, the death of sovereignity is caused by religion, historically by the claims of the clergy for temporal power or for excessive spiritual power (abuse or fear of eternal death, that surpassses the fear of death induced by the sovereign). The power behind Cromwell were religious forces. In particular Hobbes defined the three-way war (as in Cromwell's time, but also today in Columbia, Lebanon, Bosnia) as a specific moment of the destruction of the protective power of the sovereign.

Interestingly, Joxe makes a comparison between the Church, and the current usurpation of power by multinational corporations.


Theses of Joxe in the Preface

* Thesis 1

The "savage little wars" in the South are not a product of "cultural savagery" but a successful spatialization of violence. As an example of such a wrong interpretation, Joxe cites the invention of the 'Serbo-Croatian history of conflict'; Joxe reminds us of the prevalence of European violence up to the period of Nazi's, and the colonial wars. It is necessary to trace the distinctly modern political and sociological causes of wars today, in order to assign 'responsibilities' and establishing methods of political 'prevention'.

To find an alternative to globalized chaos and the cold massacres involved in the abstract management of the economy and demographics, Joxe will seek to offer a genealogy of the European Social Republic, based on Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Clausewitz (preceded by Marsilius of Padua and Dante). This Republic was born in England in 1649, and consolidated in 1688, then reincarnated in the US in 1774-77, and in France in 1789-93.

* Thesis 2

The U.S., though it is dominant, refuses to conquer and protect its subordinates, instead it merely regulates disorder, operating on a case-by-case scenario. This Empire of Disorder, no longer functions like the previous system of competitin between states, on the contrary, it is predicated on disorder that it pushes on the outskirts of Empire.

Joxe cites Anthony Lake as the counter-voice to Samuel Huntington. Max Weber is cited by Joxe for his examination of the relation between military and economic power, and between slavery and free labor. In the Roman Empire, because it was so cheap to hunt for slaves through war, free labor declined, unlike the situation in the Middle Ages.

* Historical Notes on Empire

There are 3 instances of Empire formation in Western history alone.

1) The Sumerian and Akkad empires constituted by the neolithic towns, and their successors: Babylonia, Assyria, Mede, Persian

2) Alexander's Empire emerging from the Greek city states, and the successors, i.e. Rome, Byzantine, the Sultanate, the Ottoman and Russian empires

3) The predatory colonial empires, emerging fromt he European merchant cities between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Joxe then distinguishes between 'logistical states' based on rationalising resources and shared well-being and focusing on the economy (Sumeria, Egypt, Etruscan Rome); from the violent predatory empires (Akkad, Assyrian, Latin Rome) where violence predates the economy as a means of accumulation. Maritime based empires such as Britian were more logistical; land-based ones were more predatory (Spain, France).

Violence by the state creates civil peace in the interior by exporting the tensions of the class struggle to an external conflict. In ancient times empires rarely touched, but this changed in the 16th cy, ultimately leading to two world wars, and morphing itself in the Cold War under the leadership of the US.

The current globality is economic and military, but not political, and the latter is a good thing. We want, says Joxe, a human geography of people ecologically connected to their land,not forced to a ceaseless nomadism. He categorically rejects the Huntingtonian view which inherently points to a cultural hierarchy and justifies civilizational conflict. (Joxe does insist on taking seriously the role of religion).