Neocybernetic Governance and the End of Politics

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* Article: Res Publica ex Machina: On Neocybernetic Governance and the End of Politics. by FELIX MASCHEWSKI & ANNA-VERENA NOSTHOFF. Institute of Network Cultures, October, 2018




"In 2017, Denmark sent the first digital ambassador, Casper Klynge, to Silicon Valley. The aim of this move of ‘techplomacy’ was, as Klynge explained, not simply to distribute greetings notes by the Danish queen. Rather, the intention was to ‘update diplomacy’ based on the recognition that a few tech companies have obviously become much ‘more influential than some nation states’. Klynge framed the new political course in the manner of a well-known old but still utterly contemporary mantra: ‘There is no alternative’. In a similar vein, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelson highlighted the importance of the step as follows: ‘Just as we engage in a diplomatic dialogue with countries, we also need to establish and prioritize comprehensive relations with tech actors, such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and so on. (…) The idea is, we see a lot of companies and new technologies that will in many ways involve and be part of everyday life of citizens in Denmark.' (


"The idea to implement tech on new political test grounds is ... mirrored by recent digital initiatives which focus more explicitly on the nation-state. The most poignant concepts in this realm include ideas such as ‘algorithmic regulation’, ‘government as a platform’ (Tim O’Reilly), ‘direct technocracy’ viz. ‘info-states’ (Parag Khanna), ‘smart states’ (Beth Noveck), or ‘social physics’ (Alex Pentland), to name a few. It is vital to explore some of these concepts in greater detail and on a more theoretical and philosophical level. What form of politics is implicitly being promoted in this context? As we argue, this question is best examined against the background of an understanding of these concepts as very idiosyncratic reformulations of cybernetic approaches to the political, which date back to the 1960s. We explore how the implicit visions and concepts rearticulate early concepts of cybernetic politics in their insistence on the vitality of feedback structures, in allegedly blending hierarchy with tenets of decentralization, in shifting the focus from the individual to the interrelations between humans, including the social fabric encompassing them and, most importantly, in how far this might raise problems. Subsequently, this rather theoretical perspective will allow us to examine the extent to which such neo-cybernetic concepts promote a rather reduced vision of the political, or politics as such. As we argue, current approaches to ‘smart’ states or cities and their corresponding models of governance mark no entire automation of politics but at least in certain respects, a pragmatic actualization of cybernetic visions of the state against the background of surveillance capitalism. As such, theoretical dispositifs that have emerged from early ideas of cybernetic politics are still marking certain effects." (


  • ‘algorithmic regulation’,
  • ‘government as a platform’ (Tim O’Reilly),
  • ‘direct technocracy’ viz. ‘info-states’ (Parag Khanna),
  • ‘smart states’ (Beth Noveck), or
  • ‘social physics’ (Alex Pentland)

More information