Multitudes 3 on Europe and Empire

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* Special issue: Multitudes #3: Europe et Empire


Article 1: L.F. Bravo: Empire and Sovereignty

Michel Bauwens, 2004:

Bravo starts by pointing out that for many schools of thought, usch as that of Luhman, the concept of sovereignty is obsolete, since:

   - society and the state now interpenetrate themselves and
   - the state has dissolved itself in subsystems, none of which dominates the other

Foucault himself said the regime of sovereignty characterized by 'faire mourir et laisser vivre', had been replaced by the disciplinary regime of the 18th and 19th cy: 'faire vivre et laisser mourir'. Only then did the state start determining fields of discipline (army, school, poorhouse/factory, hospital, and psychiatric ward), each with the regulation of their own knowledge, aimed at directing behaviour,i.e. living .

With the breakdown of the factory discipline of Fordism, the whole system became obsolete. And with it, the sovereignty of the nation-state, the post-war social compromise, and the Keynesian economy. The new post-fordist society needs finer mechanisms of control, as well as for the management of risk, in the context of globalisation, i.e the new sovereign power of Empire.

Article 2: Alain Joxe: L'empire american et l'Europe

Unlike Negri, Joxe speaks about an 'American Empire' and aks himself whether it is, after the breakpoint of the first Gulf War, a military rather than a economic one, without giving a definitive answer. He sees the Empire of Negri only as a possible scenario, since European countries have clearly given sovereignty to the EU. And thus, this EU Europe could be an alternative sovereign, a social Republic.

Article 3: Saskia Sassen

The author, an expert in political geography and famous for her work on global cities, says that the state is not so much in decline, but that its functions are changing. The key emergence is a 'private institutional order(s)', which has privatized and denationalized previous state functions. A new layer of transnational world power has emerged, different from the inter-state system. A new international law has emerged, especially since the early nineties, with rights for MNO's, and rules for transborder transactions, as well as a body of rules emanating from international organisations. Different from deregulation, this is a new institutional order.

A few examples:

   - the necessity to have an independent central bank, no longer bound to the executive branch
   - regulations in specialized areas, which create new international frameworks, such as anti-trust
   - the international human rights regime and rules imposed by big NGO's (for example: On recognizing their neutrality)
   - international commercial arbitrage, very important in solving conflicts
   - credit rating agencies for public debt
   - the big financial and taxation consultants
   - the selling of debts, and other financial innovations creating new rules
   - the WTO
   - self-regulation of international industries

Often these new norms, imposed by inter-state institutions, such as the IMF, delegitimize broader social demands (formerly the domain of the nation-state) and functions only for the benefit of small transnational elites. All this challenges the territorial exclusivity of the state; and reconfigures space.

  - Quote: "Les gouvernements sont de moins en moins competent pour traites les problemes auxquels sont confrontees les societes. Il s'agit moins de la fin de la souverainite que d'une alteration du monopole."

To function, globalisation needs a set of specialized international services which can adapt to the various localized and national demands (consulting, PR, advertising, tax regimes): it is these which are concentrated in what Sassen calls "world cities" (villes-monde)

Article 4: Une souverainite mouvante - Mariella Pandolfi

Interesting article about "militarized humanitarianism" (Bosnia, Kosova) and the new forms of transnational, nomadic sovereignty that it imposes. The author calls is supracolonialism because it often imposes a new order and hierarchies throughout the negotiated participation of the local population.

In a follow-up article by a member of Medecins sans Frontieres, Pandolfi is accused of putting humanitarian NGOs on the same level of the state and international bodies