Peer Governance and the State

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Paul B. Hartzog comments on Ernest Laclau's views:

"Ernesto Laclau was here @ UMich and gave a delightful talk that gave me some key insights into the long-term stability of panarchy.

Basically, the hegemony that is the state (and state-system) cannot distinguish between potentially anti-systemic social movements for particular purposes (e.g. weaker copyright law, gender equality, poverty reduction) vs. social movements that are anti-systemic in intent (e.g. revolutionary). State insecurity demands that the two types be equated in order to avoid unintended anti-systemic cascades. Thus, the recent use of the term ‘terrorism’ as an umbrella that now includes everything from environmentalists to open-source software programmers.

Since particular movements are concerned with their particular interests, as long as they are not anti-systemic, they will not be compelled to unite against the state. They do not share some unifying theme, and the entire social space remains heterogenous with respect to the state, instead of the homogenous anti-systemic unity that would be required to resist the state.

But, the very origin of the state is a construction stemming from a unifying singularity of a people. In this origin, one particular axis of difference assumes the representation of the totality, and all other forms of difference remain outside the system.

However, with the new heterogeneity of global social movements, Laclau makes the point that as the state-system declines, there is no possibility of the emergence of a new state-like form because the diverse multitude possesses no single criterion of difference around which a new state could crystallize.

Thus, there is no possibility of a state which could satisfy the heterogenous values of the diverse multitude. What is significant here is that according to this logic, once panarchy arrives, it can never coalesce into some new stable unified entity.

In other words, panarchy is autopoietic as is. As new criteria of difference emerge and vanish, the complex un-whole that is panarchy will never rigidify into something that can be opposed, i.e. it will never become a new hegemony." (