From Governance to Planning

Nuclearity, Ludology, Anarchy


We are called to address “the question of governance,” a governance, writes Benjamin Bratton, that might be suitable for the construction of an “alternative planetarity.” But, insofar as this call requires of us a new way of thinking, it is necessary that we first address thinking as it is, in this moment.1

In his “Memorial Address” (1955), Martin Heidegger argues that thought is like a “field,” a “ground for growth.”2 Such thought is “meditative,” rather than “calculative,” and it is this cognitive mode that Heidegger considers to be characteristic of the human being, a mode that is imperilled by modernity: “man today is in flight from thinking.”3 The calculative, the computational, “never stops, never collects itself,” closer to an “expressway” in its structure than a “field.”4

There is an allure to Heidegger’s reasoning. Highway driving and the infinite scroll can both induce kinetosis, motion sickness. As a remedy for this nausea, Heidegger prescribes a return to our “home ground,” declaring that the “flourishing of any genuine work depend[s] upon its roots in a native soil,” that indeed for any “human work to flourish, man must be able to mount from the depth of his home ground up into the ether,” into the “open realm of the spirit.”5 If the end of the human being is thought, the “life-giving homeland” is the beginning, root and ground, the self-soil of cognition.6 Modernity, for Heidegger, threatens to wash this “farmstead” away in its torrent.7

And yet, in Heidegger’s invocation of “spirit,” that which actually subtends his address is revealed. Jacques Derrida, in his Of Spirit (1987), remarks of an earlier address by Heidegger, the “Rectorship Address” (1933), that spirit, Geist, is neither “pneuma nor spiritus,” but the “flame” that can “be said, and thus thought, only in German,” the “self-affirmation” that is, and can only be, the self-affirmation of the German “order.”8 This order is the “value of command, of leading, duction or conduction, the Führung, and the value of mission: sending, an order given.”9 It is this “mission” that sends the “Führer, the guide,” Heidegger as rector in this case, and it is the Führer who in turn sends all others.10 Heidegger positions himself as the one “to guide this high school spiritually,” and that those who follow this spiritual mission, “masters and pupils, owe their existence and their strength only to a true common rootedness.”11 As Derrida notes, this “onto-typological motif” of the Führer as spiritual guide thus necessarily yokes spirit with “force,” Prägekraft, shaping or formative power, that by which the mission of spirit is made a command and by which those who hear the command are made into ones to be commanded.12

This command involves four key directives: “questioning,” “world,” “earth-and-blood,” and “resolution.”13 The force of Heidegger’s spirit is to command the “will to know”14 or the “will to essence,” whereby the “true spiritual world” can be brought about with a “a resolution which accords with the tone of the origin,” that which is “the deepest power of conservation of its forces of earth and blood,” essence mounting from its depth up into its proper “grandeur.”15 In case this “spiritual world” does not yet appear familiar, Derrida says plainly that Heidegger is “spiritualizing nazism.”16 Heidegger’s geistige Kraft or “spiritual force” is the force of National Socialism.17

But what of governance? Derrida provides the commentary that gives motive both to his study and to this excursus with which we have begun here. To found a discourse in spirit, even one that “state[s] [its] opposition to racism, to totalitarianism, to nazism, to fascism,” is to found a discourse in an “oppositional determination” predicated at minimum on a “voluntarist form” of the subject, which nevertheless resolves at maximum to a “metaphysics of subjectivity.”18 Even the most noble of “axiomatic[s],” democracy and human rights, insofar as the freedom they promise is a “formal liberty” rooted in “abstract universality,”19 are predicated on such a spiritual discourse, and as such find themselves “haunted” by the “most fatal figure of this revenance”—Nazi geistige Kraft.20

Thus, if we return to consider our present way of knowing, the calculative or computational mode, and the nausea this mode induces, we no longer find recourse to an alternative—or rather, our search for an “alternative planetarity” is spurred on by that which was always already alternative, that which is in flight from the ground, and indeed, is severed from any originary ground. If meditative thought, which Heidegger champions as the remedy for the nausea of modernity, is nothing but honey to make the pill of Nazism go down easier, how then are we to think? Do we allow ourselves to “fall into the clutches of planning and calculation, of organization and automation?”21 Such would imply the call for planetary governance that instigated this essay, that which takes its cue from “[a]rtificiality, astronomy, and automation”—i.e., non-soil, non-earth, non-spirit—and which takes for its question not the question of the meaning of being but the question of the “knowing, modeling, mobilization, regulation, [and] distribution”22 of that being in which, we might say with Jean-Paul Sartre, “appearance becomes full positivity,” not as “opposed to being” but the “measure of it.”23

Heidegger’s Geist “confers the most reassuring and elevated spiritual legitimacy on everything in which, and on all before whom, he commits himself, on everything he thus sanctions and consecrates at such a height.”24 But this background text demands a “world-picture (Weltbild)” and a “map of the world (Weltcarte)” that necessarily entail a geopolitics that is none other than a Weltpolitik, that imperialism under which the planetary is subsumed to the nation.25 If instead we open the question of governance by way of a science of appearances, we refuse the mantel of spiritual legitimacy entirely, refuse the link to any authorizing ground, refuse the “being-behind-the-appearance” the mission and conduction of which would guarantee the position of the master.26 Such a science of appearances recognizes that existence is “absolutely indicative of itself,” without reference to any universal.27

We must be careful, however, not to assume that such a science necessarily furnishes us with a politics nor, for that matter, with any functional system of governance. To “fall” into that which Heidegger positions as opposite to “meditative” thought is indeed to fall into that “oppositional determination” that, however minimal, eventually arrives back at a metaphysics of spirit. If we are to avoid the kerygma of yet another Weltgeist, so reifying the present world order as it is, it is necessary that we explore that which provides the conditions, in Heidegger’s reading, for its emergence: the nuclear bomb.28


“The age that is now beginning has been called of late the atomic age,” writes Heidegger, the “most conspicuous symbol” of which “is the atom bomb.”29 Nuclear physics is for Heidegger the apotheosis of calculative thought, the ultimate means for human beings to “set free new energies in nature.”30 Calculative thought converts nature into a “gigantic gasoline station, an energy source for modern technology and industry,” which extractive mode is most perfectly realized in nuclear fission, the splitting of atomic nuclei to release “gigantic” quantities of energy for human use—often to catastrophic ends.31 The nuclear as such fully realizes the possibility of a technology that could “break out somewhere” and “destroy everything,” an absolute possibility akin to Heidegger’s being-toward-death, but at a planetary scale.32

In his “Man and Machine” (1934), the Russian existentialist Nicolas Berdyaev argues that the “planetary feeling of the earth” comes about through the “actualism and titanism of technique,” a feeling that becomes “especially apparent in the field of military technique.”33 Prior to World War I, the “destructive power of the weapons of old was very limited and localized; with cannon, muskets, and sabers neither great human masses nor large towns could be destroyed nor could the very existence of civilization be threatened.”34 In the aftermath of the First World War, however, we see that “[a]ll this is now feasible,” and Berdyaev speculates on the possibility of future cataclysms not only on a “historical but on a cosmic scale.”35 Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be bombed just eleven years later.

“When man is given power whereby he may rule the world and wipe out a considerable part of its inhabits and their culture,” writes Berdyaev, “then everything depends upon man’s spiritual and moral standards, on the question: In whose name will he use this power—of what spirit is he?”36 But, as we have seen, to ask this question of spirit is always to enter into an oppositional determination, to presuppose a being-behind-the-appearance that might authorize our decisions. Berdyaev can only take us so far.

It is Jean Baudrillard in Simulacra and Simulation (1981) who provides us with a model of calculative thought native to the atomic age that does not smuggle with it a guarantor or guide, those servitors of spirit.37 To cite Sartre once again, both to repudiate Heidegger and to draw forward a continuity, in Baudrillard the “appearances which manifest the existent are neither interior nor exterior; they are all equal, they all refer to other appearances, and none of them is privileged”—none has “a secret reverse side,” nor are any referred to some “hidden reality.”38

For Baudrillard, the “sovereign difference” between “maps” and “territories,” between appearance and being, has “disappeared”—the “imaginary of representation” is lost and with it too “all of metaphysics.”39 No longer can an “imaginary coextensivity” of the “real and its concept” be proposed as a ground for cognition, the field from which we might mount up to spirit.40 Rather, we discover that the real itself is “produced from miniaturized cells, matrices, and memory banks, models of control,” an “operational” real, the “hyperreal, produced from a radiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere.”41

Certainly, Berdyaev proposes something similar, the passage from “organism” to “organization,” from “growth” to “construction,” and as a consequence the advent of new “organized bodies” that have no homeland to which they might return.42 And indeed, Berdyaev presents us with a precursor to Baudrillard’s hyperreal, what he terms “superphysical reality,” actual and titanic and irrevocably sundered from spirit.43 But Berdyaev does not help us through this sundering, nor have we somehow moved beyond Baudrillard’s critique. We go about politicking and playing at governance, each of us sheltering our idiosyncratic metaphysics so that we do not have to accept our nihilistic “fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us.”44 We encounter a profound “melancholia,” the “inherent quality … of the mode of the volatilization of meaning in operational systems,” and yet we defer and deter our melancholy through therapy, the “generalized process of indifferentiation” whereby we put off acknowledging that there “is no more stage,” that only the “desert grows” in its place, the “monstrous finality” that awaits us.45

To be a nihilist, however, to “observe,” “accept,” “assume” (that is, take on), and “analyze,” is to organize for the “imperious necessity of checking the system in broad daylight.”46 Nihilism is a terrorism against the “hegemony” of the system, a hegemony that is itself the “other nihilism,” the “other terrorism,” the otherness of which is merely a ploy, the system in its deployment of nihilistic “indifference” and terroristic “neutralization” which was always already first to do so.47 Without nihilism, any revolutionary or ultra-radical actions—the “ruses of desire,” the “revolutionary micrology of the quotidian,” the possibilities of “molecular drift”—will only ever be deterred and neutralized.48

We need this nihilistic orientation to superphysical nuclearity, to the hyperreality disclosed by the planetary, which is to say, we need a new collective “anticipatory resolution” that is only properly “authentic” in its abandonment of individual “facticity” in favour of collective “factiality”—the fact, as Quentin Meillassoux argues, that “only the contingency of what is, is not itself contingent … that contingency alone is necessary.”49 The existential question—why are there beings at all instead of nothing?50—is replaced with a historical question: why do there continue to be beings instead of nothing? And it is this question that, in its implication of the absolute possibility of nothingness, simultaneously reveals the possibility that there could be something else.

The nuclear signifies the absolute “irreference” of what is, that there is no ground, a signification that is, therefore, the “liquidation of all referentials” in an “operation of deterring” the “real process” of extinction.51 It becomes clear that the “atomic age,” the dominion of calculation, is not “thoughtlessness,” but the technical concretion of the impossibility of a ground for thought. Spiritual, metaphysical thought tried to deny this impossibility with obscene violence, but its defeat was already sealed, a closure made only more final by the obscenity of the bomb. In the wake of World War II, these two obscenities are conjoined in the thought of nuclear holocaust, another onto-typological yoking, but this time of Heidegger’s two regimes of cognition—that which is now past with the interminably deterred present. Futurity is foreclosed, replaced with progress, and history in turn is rendered static by the “museum.”52 The nuclear reveals the possibility of an otherwise the realization of which is denied by the planetary system of the nuclear’s deployment. It is little wonder that today we find ourselves paralyzed before the climate emergency, which has largely replaced prior generations’ concerns over nuclear holocaust. We never learned to think through the “hyperreal event[]” of the nuclear, an event we now find “indefinitely refracted” in other scenes of total annihilation—to name only the climactic: global heating, rising seas, ocean acidification, sea ice melting, water pollution, drought and scarcity of water, soil erosion, air pollution, insect die-off, and nature loss53—somehow always imminent yet always deferred.54

We cannot move on yet. We need Baudrillard’s clear-eyed nihilism, what we might describe as his “passionate, anxious freedom toward death, which is free of the illusions of the they”—here, the “they” being that common sense now realized in the total, orbital logic of deterrence.55 We must press on in our articulation of the structure of the nuclear, orienting ourselves in the torrent of the “programmatic, metastable, perfectly descriptive machine” of hyperreal, combinatorial planetarity, if we are to reclaim that something else which the absolute irreference of the bomb implies.56


The nuclear bomb is the “symbol” of the age of calculation, Heidegger claims, but insofar as this age brings with it a new epistemology, we find that the symbol as such is fundamentally transformed, reconfigured as structure, less sign and more system, a symbol with neither centre nor referent. The only real, “nondeterrent” use of the bomb, that horrific double punctuation enacted by the United States, signalled the end of the representational regime in which the bomb could have operated as a symbol, the passage from the symbolic to the “system of deterrence that has insinuated itself from the inside into all the cracks of daily life.”57 The saturation that is distinctive of the symbol is replaced with the “zero-sum signs” of the system—“neutralized, indifferent, equivalent.”58 Even the old conflicts are deterred, the “archaic violence” of war, competition between subjects or spirits, replaced with “a planetary structure of the annihilation of stakes.”59 There is no more “allegiance,” only “complicity.”60

Nuclear holocaust becomes a “pretext” that “interrupts, neutralizes, freezes … any revolt, any story [from being] deployed according to its own logic because it risks annihilation.”61 “Damocles’ nuclear sword” is therefore what makes possible a “universal security system, a universal lockup and control system whose deterrent effect,” paradoxically, “is not at all aimed at an atomic clash,” because the threat of the clash alone is what freezes all other narratives—it is the hyperreal event par excellence.62

“Deterrence is not a strategy,” writes Baudrillard, “it circulates and is exchanged.”63 Through this circulation, the “progressive satellization of the whole planet” is effected, the instantiation of the orbital “hypermodel of security.”64 Consequently, “the Law no longer exists,” replaced with a “[p]rogrammed microcosm” into which both real and concept are folded, “the total universe of the norm” in which the only law is “the operational immanence of every detail”—“[t]rajectory, energy, calculation, physiology, psychology, environment.”65 The nuclear and the orbital control system are the “vectors” whereby the real is made satellary, free-floating, the ungrounding of cognition, the equalization of form and content, the neutralization of the distinction therebetween. As Baudrillard writes, “the terrestrial principle of reality”—Heidegger’s “field,” “farmstead,” “native soil,” “homeland”—“becomes eccentric, hyperreal, and insignificant … all the terrestrial microsystems are satellized and lose their autonomy.”66

This “gigantic involution” is a kind of existential “blackmail.”67 As “liberating potentialities” increase, so too do control systems—the real must always be deferred, because if the real ever arrives, it will annihilate itself, annihilate us.68 Emancipatory energies “freeze in their own fire, they deter themselves,” the system experiencing a “vast saturation … by its own forces, now neutralized, unusable, unintelligible, nonexplosive.”69 If we are truly to attempt to think a new governance for a new planetarity we must reckon with this state of affairs.

Baudrillard asks: “what project, what power, what strategy, what subject could exist behind this enclosure”?70 This is a rhetorical question, on his part. The only possibility he foresees is that of an “explosion toward the center … an implosion where all these energies would be abolished in a catastrophic process … a reversion of the whole cycle toward a minimal point.”71 Nothing exists beyond the nuclear because the nuclear is that which reveals the groundlessness of the real while simultaneously threatening its annihilation. It is the unsurpassable, the “culminating point of available energy,” which is to say, of the real as standing-reserve, signifying, by its indefinite refraction, a succession of events “without logic,” or rather, with the only logic: that any event might be the end; that there will be a final generation.72

To be clear, this is not an empty thought experiment. To say there will be a final generation is indeed to recognize the very factiality of existence, the fact “that contingency alone is necessary.”73 Life, cognition, the universe—none of this is necessary. The historical question of being—why do there continue to be beings instead of nothing?—can thus be rephrased pragmatically: how do we go on? The absolute possibility of the bomb causes the philosophical program that sought to elaborate a syntax of the real to dissolve.74 There is no outside; the real has no double. We once again encounter the need for a science of appearances, but now this science presents itself as an ethical demand for an intimate combinatorics—the labour of analyzing, designing, enumerating, graphing, grouping, and ordering, all from the inside. Our new science does not operate in some “alternative realit[y],” as Patrick Jagoda contends in Experimental Games (2020), but is rather “of the world and in it,” refusing metaphysical duplicity while playing with modes of “action, interaction, enactment, expression, participation, and interpellation.”75

Baudrillard states that “[n]o strategy is possible any longer,” while also remarking that nuclear deterrence is governed by none other than the “strategy of games.”76 And indeed, in the place of philosophy, what we have been invoking here with our intimate combinatorial science can also be understood as a ludology. As Jagoda carefully demonstrates, games are, indeed, the model of governance that emerges at the planetary scale after World War II, the model of the nuclear that comes to be the model for everything else. As such, it is to games that we now must turn.


Let us chart a brief conceptual history of what we might understand as ludological governance. First, Baudrillard’s abovementioned theorization of law as replaced with “the operational immanence of every detail”—“[t]rajectory, energy, calculation, physiology, psychology, environment”—indicates the actually existing governance characteristic of control systems.77 Second, in her Cyborg Manifesto (1985), Donna Haraway elaborates a cyborg epistemology that does not think “in terms of essential properties, but in terms of design, boundary constraints, rates of flows, systems logics, [and] costs of lowering constraints.”78 Third, Eric Zimmerman, in his “Manifesto for a Ludic Century” (2013), identifies a departure from “linear media,” especially notable in the twenty-first century, toward “game-like experiences,” rendering media and culture “increasingly systemic, modular, customizable, and participatory.”79 Fourth, in response to the absolute possibility of nuclear annihilation, we encounter the ethical demand of a combinatorial science that emerges as the only possible strategy under the actual and titanic regime of deterrence, deploying such tactics as analyzing, designing, enumerating, graphing, grouping, and ordering. Fifth and finally, Jagoda argues that gamification indicates a “notable movement” in “social, political, and economic life” away from “appearing,” in the mid-twentieth century “society of the spectacle” (as theorized by Guy Debord), to “acting,” which can be characterized by the “paramount operations” noted above: “action, interaction, enactment, expression, participation, and interpellation”—which is to say, by ludological operations.80 This brief history, itself a combinatorial game of citation, helps orient us toward Bratton’s assertion that the question of planetary governance is a question of “knowing, modeling, mobilization, regulation, [and] distribution,” allowing us to draw the obvious parallels between these sets of operations and so make the claim that what Bratton is in fact soliciting is a ludological approach to planetary governance.

It has been necessary to chart this path, beginning with Heideggerian spiritualism and passing through Baudrillardian nihilism, for two main reasons. First, Baudrillard’s nihilism helps us to avoid a transcendentalization of games or play that would position either concept as ground, a new farmstead from which a new spirit might mount up and take its authoritative place on the world stage. If, as Derrida writes, we effect a “Destruktion” of philosophy—of the imaginary of representation—but do so “still in the name of spirit,” we risk perpetuating Heidegger’s “diabolical” program, allowing metaphysics to return and so opening the door, once again, to the figures of racism, totalitarianism, nazism, and fascism that we were so desperately attempting to forestall.81

Second, Baudrillard’s nihilism helps us to avoid positioning games or gamification, as the solution to either his question—what project, power, strategy, or subject is native to the system of control?—or to Bratton’s question of planetary governance. What the nuclear paradigm discloses is the absolute irreference of the real, that the real has neither reverse side nor double—a fact that, we have already noted, precedes the technological concretion of the nuclear. As Sartre writes, “[b]eing is, without reason, without cause, and without necessity; the very definition of being reveals to us its original contingency.”82 Games and gamification cannot be treated as keys for unlocking the hidden reality behind the real, the being-behind-the-appearances—rather, games and gamification are modes of acting in, interacting with, enacting, expressing, participating with, and interpellating the real, any of which may be more or less effective, more or less emancipatory, more or less responsive to any experimental criteria we may choose. This is why our combinatorial science, and any ludological governance that may be derived from it, is always already a matter of ethics, of an intimate politics. Gilles Deleuze, in his “Postscript on the Societies of Control” (1990), writes that there “is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.”83 For us, these “weapons,” what games might afford, are the tactics and operations required for the performance of an ethical ludological governance.

The planetary order “produced from miniaturized cells, matrices, and memory banks”84 is the society of control, which we have explored in detail through Baudrillard’s theory, and which Deleuze positions in relation to the disciplinary societies of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries.85 The society of control described by both Baudrillard and Deleuze is also what is commonly known as neoliberalism, a term Jagoda usefully describes as a “heuristic,” traceable by “varied genealogies” back to Hayekian theory in the late 1940s, the economic experiments of the 1970s, and the Reaganite and Thatcherite politics of the 1980s, all while functioning as a point in a broader historical constellation including “Taylorism, post-Fordism, postindustrialism, and advanced capitalism.”86 Given the scope of what we are dealing with here, and the fact that our object has undergone a significant transformation “since its inception,”87 Baudrillard’s condensation of this constellation into the hyperreal event of nuclearity needs to be updated. This “geopolitical architecture,” as Bratton terms it in The Stack (2015),88 clearly anticipates its own alternatives—“modulation[s]” foreclosing actual individuations89. The call for a new world order, for a passage from the “few strong columns” of post-war internationalism to a “dynamic mix of materials and structures” at some anticipated planetary, post-national stage,90 entails only transformation without actual change, failing to escape the “coils of the serpent.”91 So, when Jagoda contends that “games are the material and metaphorical means by which that paradigm,” neoliberalism, “establishes and perpetuates itself,” we must take him seriously.92 We need to move forward with care, with neither fear nor hope, and continue, with Baudrillard, to observe, accept, assume, and analyze these weapons that we encounter. Games are tools, and indeed, games can be weapons. But they are not intrinsically emancipatory. Games do things. They are the model of action in the control society, but they provide us with neither ethics nor politics—that is up to us.

The proliferation of games as the primary “armature[] and diagram[] of global power”93 occurred in a feedback loop with the proliferation of the social, economic, and political theories, and the more general historical conditions, noted above. Specifically, since the publication of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour (1944), games have operated as a formal and cognitive apparatus for the globalization of the human species, providing the “groundwork for creating a scientific language for understanding the entire social world.”94 Games facilitated the shift from an understanding of the human as spirit or subject to actor or agent, an understanding that was adopted and extended by neoliberal programs in an effort to not only “describe and model” the behaviours of actors, as Von Neumann and Morgenstern did, but to “prescribe” desirable behaviours.95 Biopolitics, governmentality, soft power—these modes of governance are deployed on top of the logic of games, “set[s] of regulated activities” or “set[s] of rules,” a new “pedagogy” for actors in control societies.96 And this same logic is the logic that subtends, and was in fact pioneered by, the orbital system of nuclear deterrence.

If we maintain this focus on game theory, we begin to see how Baudrillard’s theorization of the hegemony of deterrence can be updated. Game theory, taken to its “logical extreme,” was partially responsible for the “historical US policy transition from MAD to NUTS (nuclear utilization targeting selection)” in the 1970s.97 The nuclear system of “zero-sum signs” that Baudrillard describes as “neutralized, indifferent, equivalent” is, specifically, the paradigm of mutual assured destruction wherein the “two adversaries are fundamentally in solidarity”98—a system of “bilateral deterrence.”99 With the institution of NUTS in 1980 and then the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, the system became one of “asymmetric deterrence, escalation dominance, coercive bargaining, and [American] hegemony.”100 In a way, NUTS assured the formal end of the Soviet Union before its actual end eleven years later. With NUTS, the neutral system of existential blackmail perpetuated by the nuclear was tilted. The absolute possibility of nuclear annihilation became not only a “pretext” for a “universal security system,” but a pretext for the American administration of that system, and thus the assurance of American interests at the planetary scale.101

What is more, NUTS became viable as a nuclear strategy for the United States because of progress in the development of integrated circuit technologies, which saw huge advances in their design through applications in precision first-strike technologies like the B-70 Valkyrie nuclear bomber and the Minutemen nuclear missile program, both in 1958.102 These advances led to the production of the first “monolithic integrated circuit” in 1959, which is the fundamental technology of modern computation and the means by which the society of control insinuated itself into the lives of everyday people the world over.103 The feedback loop closes; the coils of the serpent tighten. It is not a surprise that “GAFA”—Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon—is the first of the “multipolar hemispherical stacks” to have risen to ascendance.104 The power of these corporations is derived, technologically, from American nuclear hegemony.

Bratton’s theory of “The Stack” is highly effective in the charting of paths forward through the control society, but if GAFA is positioned as simply equivalent to BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent), we neglect the uniquely American formation of this post-national technological system. To make this claim is not to assert that BAT, or any other stack, might not diverge from the American model, or that the American model is somehow ontologically necessary, but rather that the model ought not be ignored, just as we ought not ignore the Westphalian template of the nation even when nations the world over bear little resemblance to the European nations of the seventeenth century. If we remain ignorant of the American overdetermination of the society of control, the fact that the control society described by the likes of Baudrillard and Deleuze is American in its inception, our search for new weapons, new tools, new tactics and operations, will only lead us to become blind soldiers of yet another army, one with interests far more insidious than those of sovereign states in the Westphalian mould.

The society of control is historically notable in that it replaces the “distinct castings” of disciplinary enclosures with the “self-deforming cast” of the one actual and titanic enclosure “that will continuously change from one moment to the other.”105 Wherein disciplinary societies subjects “never cease[] passing from one closed environment to another”—family, school, barracks, factory, hospital, prison, nation—the society of control provides actors with no exit whatsoever.106 If the “User layer” of The Stack is the layer where the “effects” of each of the other layers “are coherently personified,” what must be understood about the control society is the planetary universalization of the actor- or agent-model of the human which consequently subjectivates the human as a user of a platform, all of which operate at the machine-level according to an American computational architecture.107 The platform in question, GAFA or BAT or otherwise, matters little—what matters is that the human becomes a subject of a platform, because the platform as such ensures the ongoing dominance of the American model of control. Bratton says as much: The Stack “is not THE Stack, as in one final enclosure, but the Stack, as a generic frame that proliferates and multiples [sic] of itself as the stacks we have and the stacks to come.”108 This “generic frame” is precisely the American modelization of the real, itself predicated on the contingency of the real, which we have been emphasizing here.

Overdetermined in this way, any radical possibility that we might imagine for games finds itself neutralized by “limitless postponements,”109 by proliferations of the generic frame. As subjects of control, every aspect of our lives becomes gamified, and all of us are transformed into gamers, subservient users of the planetary machine. For we platform subjects, the thought of emancipation is substituted with “points, badges, leaderboards, [and] personalized content.”110 Governance is already ludological, not because games are inherently good for people, but because games are uniquely successful in the “condition[ing] [of] players to be more familiar with and interested in digital and networked media, requiring them to analyze information, multitask across crowded hypermediated interfaces, develop hand-eye coordination, discover operational efficiencies, and submit to management techniques organized around digital rewards and punishments”—which is to say, games are uniquely successful in training humans to be ever more “valuable” sources of “human capital” in the society of control.111 Our intimate and combinatorial program was anticipated long before we conceived of it, every ethical and political project replaced with the imperative for each “person to enhance his or her own value”—in short, ludological governance, as it already exists, means that “everything becomes economized.”112

Before we can move forward, we must reckon with the planetary generalization of this uniquely American model of control. The only weapons in sight are the ones being used against us. The “Pandora’s box” of potentiality that Jagoda points toward at the end of his discussion of neoliberalism and control systems is not yet attainable. Before we can access any such potentiality, we must take a detour through the history of American planetary administration—the history of bureaucracy.


To this point, we have positioned our argument at the hinge between two paradigms of thought: the meditative and the calculative. Heidegger associates “spirit” with the meditative and “planning” with the calculative, contending that planning or calculation is necessarily less than spirit and meditation. However, as Derrida makes painfully clear, Heidegger’s repeat invocation of “spirit” as a conceptual category is nothing but a superficial justification for his Nazi politics, and should as such be handled cautiously. To propose a new “spirit” of the new regime of calculation would be to fall back into Heidegger’s fascist logic, merely elaborating the same structure with different terms.

So, we turned to the calculative, to the nuclear paradigm, to see what might be gleaned from this rootless, groundless mode of thought. With Baudrillard, we saw the nuclear bomb as the simultaneous abolition of the age of spirit and the institution of the age of control. International, oppositional conflict, most catastrophically realized in World War II, was replaced with the planetary order of nuclear blackmail. The fire of Geist was superseded by the cold of deterrence.

Finally, with Jagoda, we saw how the developing logic of games, game theory proper, assured the ascension of American planetary hegemony, a hegemony officially instituted by the policy transition from MAD to NUTS. The nuclear blackmail of the Cold War, the world held hostage by the Big Two, gave way to American administration.

But to talk about this administration, to talk about the “columns” of our contemporary world order, the order we are called to reform or replace, is also to talk about the planetary export of American bureaucracy. As David Graeber makes amply clear in The Utopia of Rules (2015), we cannot interpret the world as it is today without understanding the peculiarities of this historical form.113

Bureaucracy emerged in post-monarchical societies in order to regulate markets. Historically, markets have always been regulated by governments, and indeed, created by governments.114 The free market is an illusion—any such “freedom” has always been guaranteed by state power. However, with the revolutionary transitions across Europe from “absolutist monarchy” to democratic governance, it “turned out that maintaining a free market economy required a thousand times more paperwork” than the fiat power of the king—which is to say, it required the expansion of bureaucracy.115 Democratic nations operate through a distribution of authority, and bureaucracy is the apparatus or armature of this distribution. However, in the European model, bureaucracy was typically understood as something separate from the operation of the markets and social exchange generally, which it existed to regulate. Graeber cites Max Weber, who wrote that the “idea that the bureau activities of the state are intrinsically different in character from the management of private economic offices is a continental European notion and, by way of contrast, is totally foreign to the American way.”116 This is to say that “Americans simply assumed that governments and business—or big business, at any rate—were run the same way.”117

We see, then, in the wake of World War II, that the “very first thing the United States did, on officially taking over the reins from Great Britain,” was to “set up the world’s first genuinely planetary bureaucratic institutions in the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions—the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and GATT, later to become the WTO.”118 The significance of this move cannot be understated. The institution of the great post-war “columns” was a uniquely American “attempt[] to administer everything and everyone,” a move that was not only uniquely American but historically unique, insofar as the prior great powers sought only to conquer or trade with other nations.119

To be clear, bureaucracy itself is not unique to the United States. It was the United Sates and Germany who were the “pioneers” of the “new, private bureaucracies,” wherein “bureaucratic techniques” were applied to the “private sector,” so producing the “modern corporation” at the end of the 1800s.120 Indeed, it is the awful irony that the sort of calculative, strategic thought Heidegger decried is what facilitated the atrocities of the regime he justified in the name of spirit. But, with German defeat in World War II and the advent of the planetary regime of nuclear deterrence, it is the American model of bureaucracy that came to hold sway.

What makes this model so insidious is the passage from “molds” to “modulation” that it effects.121 The catastrophic clashes between enclosures are replaced with deformations and transmutations of the planetary system, global experiments with social, political, and economic organization. The transition from MAD to NUTS was one such transmutation; the “strategic pivot of the upper echelons of U.S. corporate bureaucracy” in the 1970s is another.122 We already noted the “economic experiments” of this period with reference to neoliberalism and game theory above, but Graeber helps us understand the essential link between these experiments and their earlier forms. The 1970s saw a move away from “corporatism” to financialization.123 Financialization marked a shift “away from the workers, and towards shareholders, and eventually towards the financial structure as a whole.”124 The political regimes of Reagan and Thatcher through the 1980s assured the transition to this new world of “mergers and acquisitions, corporate raiding, junk bonds, and asset stripping,” with the eventual result that the “investor class and the executive class become almost indistinguishable.”125 In turn, the only thing that truly trickled down was the “credo” that “everyone should look at the world through the eyes of an investor.”126 Insofar as this transformation of the corporation was a transformation of the American corporation, and this “model” of the American corporation was the model for the planetary columns of American administration, we see as a result a “cultural transformation” at the planetary scale, a transformation whereby financialized bureaucracy “came to invade the rest of society” and then “almost every aspect of everyday life,” so “engulfing any location where any number of people gather to discuss the allocation of resources of any kind at all.”127 As a result of this American model, governance is reduced to the “main mechanism for the extraction of corporate profits.”128 It is for this reason that Noam Chomsky writes that the truth of our new world order is that “the rich men of the rich societies are to rule the world competing among themselves for a greater share of wealth and power and mercilessly supressing those who stand in their way, assisted by the rich men of the hungry nations who do their bidding.”129

Thus, if we respond to the call for planetary governance and the solicitation of an alternative planetarity with new bureaucratic formulations, new modes of administration, without addressing the hegemony of the American model, we will be oblivious to the ways in which we are contributing to a further modulation of the system already anticipated by it. The new world order post-World War II “had almost nothing to do with the effacement of borders and the free movement of people, products, and ideas,” writes Graeber, and everything to do with “trapping increasingly large parts of the world’s population behind highly militarized national borders within which social protections could be systematically withdrawn, creating a pool of laborers so desperate that they would be willing to work for almost nothing”—the instantiation of a generic planetary frame of precarity.130 Substituting the “few strong columns” of early neoliberalism for the “dynamic mix of materials and structures” of late neoliberalism accomplishes nothing but a more subtle, intricate, and ubiquitous system for the control of labour.131 American nuclear hegemony paved the way for the hegemony of GAFA, the model of our post-national future, a future with no futurity, only progress—progress in the instruments of control. The operational immanence of every detail, the cyborg epistemology of design, boundary constraints, rates of flows, systems logics, costs of lowering constraints, the systemic, modular, customizable, and participatory culture potentiated by computation, the gamified world of action, interaction, enactment, expression, participation, and interpellation, the governance of knowing, modeling, mobilization, regulation, distribution—none of these promise deliverance. And indeed, what becomes clear in challenging the system is that we have already lost the game. We were enlisted, trained, and then shipped out for combat, but no one ever gave us our weapons—indeed, there is no need for us to have weapons because victory is already assured. The only time weapons are produced is when this state of affairs is challenged and violence is brought to bear on the dissenters.

As Graeber powerfully asserts, “the self-conscious completion of the world’s first effective planetary-scale administrative bureaucratic system” with the “waning of the Cold War” was not about “free trade” or the “free market” but rather about “ensuring the extraction of profits for investors,” which was in turn ensured by violence.132 Planetary bureaucracy only works if it is “backed up by the threat of force.”133 Total bureaucratization sees the proliferation of “security cameras, police scooters, issuers of temporary ID cards, and men and women in a variety of uniforms acting in either public or private capacities, trained in tactics of menacing, intimidating, and ultimately deploying physical violence … even in places such as playgrounds, primary schools, college campuses, hospitals, libraries, parks, or beach resorts.”134 The system instituted by the nuclear bomb culminates in a new symbol, a new structure: the bank, the “perfect point of conjuncture between guns and information.”135 Through the capacity of technologies originally developed to afford the United States with first-strike capability, the bank now lives in our pockets, on our smartphones, the ever present mode of deterrence reminding us that we must play the game even though we have already lost. Biometric security, credit score updates by push notification, PDF bank statements, SMS overdraft alerts, stock tracking apps, personal investment clients—all of this exists to remind us that we must play and that if we do not, we will be annihilated, which is to say, ejected from the bottom of society into the nuclear desert of the real.

The new weapons of the society of control do not belong to us—they live in our pockets and are used against us every day. This is the generalized holocaust the nuclear bomb foretold, the “restaging of extermination” through “a medium that is itself cold, radiating forgetfulness, deterrence,” “more systematic … than the camps themselves.”136 Now “‘everyone knows,’ everybody has trembled and bawled in the face of extermination—a sure sign that ‘that’ will never again occur,” but this is so because “it has always been in the midst of currently reproducing itself.”137 Fatal revenance, played out in the media, in culture, in governance, far beyond the television where Baudrillard locates it, the unexorcisable, the same “process of forgetting, of liquidation, of extermination, same annihilation of memories and of history, same inverse, implosive radiation, same absorption with out an echo, same black hole as Auschwitz.”138 The “mirror of being and appearances” was annihilated by the bomb, but in its infolding of the real and its concept, the final horrific convulsion of spirit became the first “major event of cold systems, of cooling systems, of systems of deterrence and extermination that will then be deployed in other forms.”139 The mass itself becomes “cold,” sapped of its decisive action, disarmed—there is only the opportunity for a “tactile thrill and a posthumous emotion,” a “spill into forgetting with a kind of good aesthetic conscience of the catastrophe.”140

We are made “harmless” because there is no longer the possibility of an exit, of an outside from which a true attack might be mounted—“YOU are the model!” “YOU are the majority!” “YOU are information, you are the social, you are the event, you are involved, you have the word”—such is the “about-face through which it becomes impossible to locate one instance of the model, of power, of the gaze, of the medium itself” because all of this “is immediately located in your head”—the frame is inside us.141 The control society, the planetary administration, “transistorizes all the neurons and passes through like a magnetic tape”—there are only “samples, data, markets,” and of course, the arche-model, “banks.”142 And through everything, “surfing” is all that we can do to navigate these freezing waters, this cold system, riding the currents produced by this generalized serpent of extermination.

Nihilism has brought us to a point of what Fred Moten calls “self-consumptive anger,” this anger in the face of a total administration that cares nothing about us, this “anger of the poor in spirit,” this “anger of a common love.”143 Reduced to dividuality, to modulations of the system, we cannot become complicit, “scurr[ying] about trying to curry favor by pretending [we] actually believe” what power declares “to be true,” what power desperately does not want us to “really think about.”144 When the self is transmuted into an investment bank, into standing reserve, into a nuclear bomb, we must say with Amiri Baraka: “Find the self, then kill it.”145 In response to this world order, the only weapon we can claim is “self-obliteration”—“not suicide” but “a common social refusal of self-possession.”146

It is only at this point, in this space of a common self-destruction, “adrift in this common wind,” that we can truly take up the call for a planetary governance, the intimate politics of a planetary belonging that does not simply reduplicate the system we already have. Indeed, to this point I have excluded a term from Bratton’s question of “knowing, modeling, mobilization, regulation, [and] distribution,” a term that the repeat insertion of the [and] has served to hide: “enforcement.” A simple word, a banal word, especially in the context of the words preceding it, and yet, as we have seen, this question of the planetary—from the question of spirit to the question of bureaucracy—is subtended by enforcement, by the threat of violence. This has been why we have belaboured the nuclear structure as the structure of the control society, from early internationalism to late postnationalism. Whether column or stack, these forms of planetarity are set up and protected by men with guns, by fingers on switches, by the powerful who see all of us as reserves awaiting extraction, as vessels for the exchange of capital. This is the planetarity that we must disassemble. This is the system for which an alternative must be built. This is where our combinatorial science must be brought into play.


In the conclusion to Being and Nothingness, Sartre contends that ontological contingency leads us to the point of ethical considerations, but not to an ethics itself: “we can not possibly derive imperatives from ontology’s indicatives.”147 However, the factiality of our existence does “allow us to catch a glimpse of what sort of ethics will assume its responsibilities when confronted with a human reality in situation.”148 The contingency of planetary being does not necessitate planetary belonging, but it does “reveal[] to us, in fact, the origin and the nature of value; we have seen that value is the lack in relation to which the for-itself determines its being as a lack.”149 The self is insufficient, and so all of our “various human projects” become subject to “moral description,” to the assessment of this or that “passion” that can only ever be “freely chosen [from] among others.”150

As such, we reencounter Berdyaev’s question—In whose name will he use this power—of what spirit is he?—but now must answer without alibi, without ulterior justification. Insofar as an ethics is a passion freely chosen, the one who chooses is, finally, the one responsible. To pretend otherwise, to hide behind a universal, is to act in “bad faith,” to adhere to an “ethics which is ashamed of itself.”151 Sartre famously declares that “it amounts to the same thing whether one gets drunk alone or is a leader of nations,” but this is not the emptiness of nihilistic fascination but the analysis made possible by a nihilism accepted and assumed, an analysis of the lack of ground that ethics find in being.152 Sartre writes, therefore, that “these questions … can find their reply only on the ethical plane”—this is the “future work” that we now take up.153 How ought we respond to this human reality in situation that we have been analyzing here?

In The Stack, Bratton presents his “design brief for the User layer,” which is worth quoting at length:

In the image of planetary-scale information infrastructure, comprising trillions of addressable haecceities, the resolved scale of the platform need not be for one User at a time, drifting into and out of narcissistic virtual reality, but for pluralities of partial users, quasi-users, human and nonhuman, organic and inorganic, intermingling in intersubjective alliances, sharing perceptions, memory, algorithms and techniques, visualization rhetorics situated among the semantic graphs of aggregate User experiences predicated not just on autobiographical interoperability, but on direct physical and cognitive promiscuity.154

This is an inspiring vision, in many ways, a vision that does not think in terms of “essential properties,” and so a vision in line with the general trajectory of my own work over the last several years.155 However, while thinking in this way is beneficial—more explanatory, more nuanced, more true to the real-without-double of which we are a part—we cannot forget the politics that inheres in this, or any, geopolitical vision. The present essay has been an attempt at such a reminder. If we take up Bratton’s design brief but naively assume that the “intermingling” of “pluralities of partial users, quasi-users, human and nonhuman, organic and inorganic,” is itself the work of justice, our “alliances” will amount to nothing but dividual complicity, yet further modulations of the system of control which has always already anticipated and accounted for our decisions because it primed us to make them.

What is to be done? The arche-political question returns, but now, faced with the infinite recombinations of the arche-totality, the modelized real, the contingent series of appearances, even this question finds that it has already been anticipated, already been accounted for. This is the danger of a politics that looks “more like a technology” and a technology that looks “more like an economics.”156 Everything becomes economized. The political is neutralized. The radical possibility of the “universal User” finds itself always already preempted, utterly neutralized, indifferent, and equivalent because it is always already defined in relation to the system of planetary administration that operates according to the American model of control.157

Bratton is not unaware of this difficulty: “this agnostic flatness of the User subject does little by itself to adjudicate what the ‘best’ ‘sovereign’ position for any of these Users might be.”158 But it is here where a divergence presents itself. To talk of sovereignty is to talk of force, or more specifically, enforcement, as Bratton himself does in his call for planetary governance. Force is what we have also talked about here as Prägekraft, shaping or formative power, which we have seen in Heidegger’s geistige Kraft, the spiritual force of a nation, and the Kraft of the nuclear, the operational force of an inter- and subsequently post-national planet. Though formally distinct, we saw these two powers yoked in the figure of nuclear holocaust, an onto-typological motif inaugurated by the Holocaust and sealed by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This motif constitutes the generalized serpent of extermination that we described above—the logic of total bureaucratization, the ultimate cold system, the freezing torrent of modernity. It is against this serpent that we must wield our new weapons, but insofar as this serpent is itself the real, we find ourselves capable only of surfing along its coils, never afforded with a vantage from which we might mount an attack. Force is the sovereign and thus exclusive right of this actual and titanic leviathan.

What, then, if we do not speak of sovereignty? What if we deny the sovereignty of the self, and more, we find the self and kill it, welcoming a “self-consumptive anger” and common “self-destruction” that the serpent can neither abide nor prevent, because it cannot incorporate and deter such a “no-thing” into itself, because this no-thing is the nihilistic acceptance and terrible passion of excessive, irreducible, unaccountable insufficiency?159 Against the arche-totality, the only weapon is the an-archic—“desertlike,” “aleatory,” and newly “indifferent,” all that which brings about the dispossession, dissolution, and destruction of the first principle as such.160 This is the true constitution of the “ethical plane” that Sartre signals, a barren plane populated only by absolute particularities and generic differences—unexchangeable, irreversible, irreducible. And on such a plane, new games, new tactics and operations, are, indeed, possible.

Though Jagoda does “explore many instances in which video games participate in and feed the neoliberal program, [his] argument is not that the form is categorically complicit with this way of thinking.”161 The experimental quality of games that Jagoda identifies is in fact a consequence of the “emergent contingency” of the real that we “can never fully control.”162 The absolute irreference of the real, the fact that the real has no double, yet indicates the possibility of something else, the possibility that the “control system” cannot “recuperate all anomalies or resistances.”163 These “anomalies” and “resistances,” these insurgent modes of play, are not in themselves guaranteed to be emancipatory—thus the metaphor of “Pandora’s box”—but they do provide us with evidence for what it is that escapes the serpent’s coils, evidence that indeed the desert still grows.164

First, nonsovereignty. Nonsovereign play is about frustration, about denying the “privilege of self-possession,” about not going with the flow, about not surfing.165 Nonsovereign resistance does not seek to learn how to “move into space and time,” but instead recognizes that “it creates space and time,” that to be is to be “ontogenetic,” not “ontological.”166 “Rather than encouraging speed and efficiency,” nonsovereign play “invites” us to “remain in the process and state of incompleteness for an extended period,” nourishing an “appreciation of uncontrolled middles” and “uncontrolled transformation.”167 In this way, we see how nonsovereign play does in fact draw from the potency of nuclear irreference, but rather than deterrence it wields an “anti-metaphysical anger that operates, finally, so piercingly through its object that it moves in the absence of that object and of the subject.”168 Deterrence requires sovereign expression, requires every user to speak their mind, to make themselves legible, to be a subject—the serpent devours such sovereign expression precisely because it is legitimate, just another modulation, just another mode in which things can be. Nonsovereign anger refuses this legitimacy, refuses to be a modulation: “Am I angry? No, I’m not.”169 Nonsovereignty is about the nonrecuperable frustration that frustrates every attempt at recuperation.

Second, nonrepresentation. The refusal of recuperation is about the refusal of representation. Nuclearity annihilates the imaginary of representation while conserving it through involution, preserved as legibility. Nonrepresentational play, however, “insists on the specificity of bodies,” the impossibility of referring such specificity back to a sovereign representation, to universal legibility.170 Am I a body? No, I’m not. The nonrepresentative body refuses to be made into yet another user. In this way, nonrepresentational play is anti-body, in the sense Legacy Russell employs the term, which is not a denial of the flesh but a “strategy of nonperformance” that “gives[s] form to something that has no form, that is abstract, cosmic.”171 Nonrepresentational play is thus the “absence of self-ownership,” the “consent to not be a single being, an embrace of a cosmic corporeality.”172 This new flesh is “unreadable” and “inaccessible” to the system of control—its sinks, it embraces “slowness in ways that are unpredictable to the user: endless buffering, crashing, damaging, deleting, reformatting.”173 It represents no-thing. Universal legibility is short-circuited. Nonrepresentational play recognizes that “the care-full reading of others is an exercise of trust, intimacy, belonging, homecoming.”174 No universal legibility—only specificities teaching each other how to read each other.

Third, nonrecuperation. Nonrecuperative play is about failure, about the failures that cannot be “converted into success.”175 In the control society, failure is “a quality that can be managed and optimized.”176 Failure is to be administered and governed. But what we have seen here is that such administration is always in service of the extraction of profit. So, how can we strike at this motive? We obliterate the banks, not with guns or explosives, but with the concentrated nuclearity of common self-destruction—what is also known as debt.177 Nonrecuperable debt is debt that refuses conversion into credit—the always “unpayable,” the “very principle of sociality,” “all those things we owe to each other.”178 As Stefano Harney and Fred Moten write in The Undercommons (2013), debt is the “criminality that brings the law online,” the “runaway anarchic ground,” the ground that “runs in every direction, scatters, escapes, seeks refuge.”179 The nonrecuperable is the “debt at a distance, the debt without creditor, the black debt, the queer debt, the criminal debt. Excessive debt, incalculable debt, debt for no reason, debt broken from credit, debt as its own principle.”180 And this is a debt we do “not intend to pay.”181

There is no governance here, only planning, and the nonsovereign, nonrepresentational, nonrecuperable game of planning we also call study. Governance seeks for the student to “graduate,” to “be interested,” to “join the global conversation,” to “invite others to identify their interests,” to get “credit.”182 But nonsovereign, nonrepresentational, nonrecuperable study, the study that plans, “black study,” is “study without an end, plan without a pause, rebel without a policy, conserve without a patrimony.”183 We study and plan but we “never graduate,” we “just ain’t ready,” we are “building something in there, something down there,” this “[m]utual debt, debt unpayable, debt unbounded, debt unconsolidated, debt to each other in a study group, to others in a nurses’ room, to others in a barber shop, to others in a squat, a dump, a woods, a bed, an embrace.”184 These are the sites where planning is elaborated, infrastructre becoming “anarchitecture,” the only place where we can meet with “those others who dwell in a different compulsion,” with “other ones [who] carry bags of newspaper clippings, or sit at the end of the bar, or stand at the stove cooking, or sit on a box at the newsstand, or speak through bars, or speak in tongues,” these ones who will never govern, will never be permitted to govern, and yet, these ones who “have a passion to tell you what they have found, and they are surprised you want to listen, even though they’ve been expecting you.”185 Planning refuses governance. Indeed, planning is the ungovernable. Harney and Moten write:

Sometimes the story is not clear, or it starts in a whisper. It goes around again but listen, it is funny again, every time. This knowledge has been degraded, and the research rejected. They can’t get access to books, and no one will publish them. Policy has concluded they are conspiratorial, heretical, criminal, amateur. Policy says they can’t handle debt and will never get credit. But if you listen to them they will tell you: we will not handle credit, and we cannot handle debt, debt flows through us, and there’s no time to tell you everything, so much bad debt, so much to forget and remember again.186

So we say, all together: “come let’s plan something together.” Really, “that’s what we’re going to do. We’re telling all of you but we’re not telling anyone else.”187 Come play this game with us, come plan and study. This is the new “call,” the new game, neither that of spirit or the bomb but of the “call and response,” and our “response is already there before the call goes out.”188 We are already in something. How do we go on? We already are.


Stein, Eric. “From Governance to Planning: Nuclearity, Ludology, Anarchy.” Response to New World Order: For Planetary Governance, April 10, 2021. Mirrors: Academia, ResearchGate.


  1. Benjamin Bratton, “‘New World Order’: For Planetary Governance,” Strelka Mag, March 2021,, n.p. 

  2. Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking: A Translation of Gelassenheit, trans. John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund (New York, NY: Harper Torchbooks, 1966), 45. 

  3. Heidegger, 46, 45. 

  4. Heidegger, 46, 45. 

  5. Heidegger, 47-48. 

  6. Heidegger, 48. 

  7. Heidegger, 48. 

  8. Jacques Derrida, Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 32. 

  9. Derrida, 32. 

  10. Derrida, 32. 

  11. Heidegger, cited in Derrida, 34. 

  12. Derrida, 34. 

  13. Derrida, 35. 

  14. Derrida, 35. 

  15. Heidegger, cited in Derrida, 36. 

  16. Derrida, 39. 

  17. Derrida, 39. 

  18. Derrida, 39-40. 

  19. Derrida, 119. 

  20. Derrida, 40. 

  21. Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, 49. 

  22. Bratton, “‘New World Order,’” n.p. 

  23. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2003), 2. 

  24. Derrida, Of Spirit, 39. 

  25. Derrida, 42, 46. 

  26. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 2. 

  27. Sartre, 2. 

  28. Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, 49. 

  29. Heidegger, 49. 

  30. Heidegger, 50. 

  31. Heidegger, 50. Readers familiar with Heidegger’s oft remarked upon “The Question Concerning Technology” (1955) should recognize his signature concept of enframing (Gestell) whereby the real is converted into standing-reserve (Bestand), which is the destining (Geschick) of being in technical modernity. 

  32. Heidegger, 51. 

  33. Nicholas Berdyaev, “Man and Machine,” in Philosophy and Technology: Readings in the Philosophical Problems of Technology, ed. Carl Mitcham and Robert Mackey (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1972), 203–13, 208, 210. 

  34. Berdyaev, 210. 

  35. Berdyaev, 210. 

  36. Berdyaev, 210. 

  37. Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1994). 

  38. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 1. 

  39. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 2. 

  40. Baudrillard, 2. 

  41. Baudrillard, 2. 

  42. Berdyaev, “Man and Machine,” 205. 

  43. Berdyaev, 207. 

  44. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 160. 

  45. Baudrillard, 161. 

  46. Baudrillard, 163. 

  47. Baudrillard, 163-164. 

  48. Baudrillard, 163. 

  49. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2010), 364, and Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency, trans. Ray Brassier (London, UK: Continuum, 2009), 80. 

  50. Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt (New Haven, CT: Yale Nota Bene, 2000), 1. 

  51. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 2. 

  52. Baudrillard, 8. 

  53. IAM, “The Everything Manifesto: A Thought Experiment for the Next Billion Seconds,” IAM Journal, November 2019,

  54. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 21. 

  55. Heidegger, Being and Time, 255. 

  56. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 2. 

  57. Baudrillard, 39, 32. 

  58. Baudrillard, 32. 

  59. Baudrillard, 32-33. 

  60. Baudrillard, 37. 

  61. Baudrillard, 33. 

  62. Baudrillard, 33. 

  63. Baudrillard, 33. 

  64. Baudrillard, 33. 

  65. Baudrillard, 33. 

  66. Baudrillard, 35. 

  67. Baudrillard, 33. 

  68. Baudrillard, 33. 

  69. Baudrillard, 40. 

  70. Baudrillard, 40. 

  71. Baudrillard, 40. 

  72. See Veselekov, Umurangi Generation (Microsoft Windows: Origame Digital, 2020), and Kaile Hultner, “A Requiem for the Final Generation,” No Escape, May 2020,

  73. Meillassoux, After Finitude, 80. 

  74. François Laruelle, Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction to Non-Philosophy, trans. Rocco Gangle (London, UK: Continuum, 2010), 2. 

  75. Patrick Jagoda, Experimental Games: Critique, Play, and Design in the Age of Gamification (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2020), 8, 15. 

  76. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 33, 32. 

  77. Baudrillard, 33. 

  78. Donna J. Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Manifestly Haraway (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 3–90, 30. 

  79. Eric Zimmerman, “Manifesto for a Ludic Century,” Kotaku, September 2013,, n.p. 

  80. Jagoda, Experimental Games, 15. 

  81. Derrida, Of Spirit, 40-41. 

  82. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 639. 

  83. Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” October 59 (1992): 3–7,, 4. 

  84. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 2. 

  85. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” 3. 

  86. Jagoda, Experimental Games, 9, 12. 

  87. Jagoda, 9. 

  88. Benjamin H. Bratton, The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), 3. 

  89. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” 4. 

  90. Hillary Clinton, cited in Bratton, The Stack, 3. 

  91. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” 6. 

  92. Jagoda, Experimental Games, 45. 

  93. Bratton, The Stack, 3. 

  94. Jagoda, Experimental Games, 46. 

  95. Jagoda, 53. 

  96. Foucault, cited in Jagoda, 54. 

  97. Jagoda, 55. 

  98. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 32, 37, emphasis added. 

  99. Jagoda, Experimental Games, 55. 

  100. S. M. Amadae, cited in Jagoda, 55. 

  101. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 33. 

  102. Gordon E. Moore and Robert N. Noyce, Method for fabricating transistors, US Patent 3,108,359, issued October 1963. 

  103. Robert N. Noyce, Semiconductor device-and-lead structure, US Patent 2,981,877, issued April 1961. I trace this history in Eric Stein, “Fiction in the Integrated Circuit” (Master’s thesis, Trinity Western University, 2018), See also R. V. Jones, The Wizard War: British Scientific Intelligence 1939-1945 (New York, NY: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1978), Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson, Crystal Fire: The Invention of the Transistor and the Birth of the Information Age (New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997), and Donald Mackenzie, Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990). 

  104. Benjamin H. Bratton, “Further Trace Effects of the Post-Anthropocene,” Architectural Design 257 (February 2019): 14–21, 17. 

  105. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” 4. 

  106. Deleuze, 3. 

  107. Bratton, The Stack, 252. 

  108. Benjamin H. Bratton, “On Hemispherical Stacks: Notes on Multipolar Geopolitics and Planetary-Scale Computation,” 6th Guangzhou Triennial, 2018,, 3-4. 

  109. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” 5. 

  110. Jagoda, Experimental Games, 44. 

  111. Jagoda, 21, 53. 

  112. Jagoda, 64. 

  113. David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2015). 

  114. Graeber, 8. 

  115. Graeber, 9. 

  116. Weber, cited in Graeber, 12. 

  117. Graeber, 12. 

  118. Graeber, 13. 

  119. Graeber, 13. 

  120. Graeber, 11. 

  121. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” 4. 

  122. Graeber, The Utopia of Rules, 19. 

  123. Graeber, 19. 

  124. Graeber, 19. 

  125. Graeber, 19-20. 

  126. Graeber, 20. 

  127. Graeber, 21. 

  128. Graeber, 24. 

  129. Noam Chomsky, World Orders, Old and New (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1994), 5. Is this not the case with the Organization of American States, which affords the ongoing interference of the United States in the affairs of Latin America? While the contestation of lithium in Bolivia leading to the coup of the Morales government is still debated, the fact that American corporate actors like Elon Musk saw the U.S. backed ouster as a vindication of the interests of the American capitalist class on the world stage is telling. See Steve Sweeney, “After Bolivia, Elon Musk Says Capitalists Can Overthrow Any Government They Want,” People’s World, July 2020,, and Agence France-Presse, “Morales Claims US Orchestrated ‘Coup’ to Tap Bolivia’s Lithium,” Al Jazeera, December 2019,

  130. Graeber, The Utopia of Rules, 29. 

  131. Hillary Clinton, cited in Bratton, The Stack, 3. 

  132. Graeber, The Utopia of Rules, 30-31. 

  133. Graeber, 32. 

  134. Graeber, 32-33. 

  135. Graeber, 33. 

  136. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 49. 

  137. Baudrillard, 49. 

  138. Baudrillard, 49. 

  139. Baudrillard, 2, 50. 

  140. Baudrillard, 50. 

  141. Baudrillard, 20, 29, 51. 

  142. Baudrillard, 51, and Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” 5. 

  143. Fred Moten, Stefano Harney, and Stevphen Shukaitis, “Refusing Completion: A Conversation,” e-flux, no. 116 (March 2021): 1–14. 

  144. Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” 5, and Graeber, The Utopia of Rules, 28-29. 

  145. Baraka, cited in Moten, Harney, and Shukaitis, “Refusing Completion,” 12. 

  146. Moten, Harney, and Shukaitis, 13. 

  147. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 645. 

  148. Sartre, 645. 

  149. Sartre, 645. 

  150. Sartre, 645-646. 

  151. Sartre, 646. 

  152. Sartre, 646. 

  153. Sartre, 646. 

  154. Bratton, The Stack, 264. 

  155. Stein, “Fiction in the Integrated Circuit.” 

  156. Bratton, “On Hemispherical Stacks,” 1. 

  157. Bratton, The Stack, 274. 

  158. Bratton, 285. 

  159. Moten, Harney, and Shukaitis, “Refusing Completion,” 13, 12. 

  160. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, 162. 

  161. Jagoda, Experimental Games, 25. 

  162. Jagoda, 31. 

  163. Jagoda, 71. 

  164. Jagoda, “Control,” Experimental Games, 153-190, and “Failure,” Experimental Games, 221-250. 

  165. Jagoda, 171, 184. 

  166. Erin Manning, cited in Jagoda, 186. 

  167. Jagoda, 186, 190. 

  168. Moten, Harney, and Shukaitis, “Refusing Completion,” 12. 

  169. Moten, Harney, and Shukaitis, 12. 

  170. Jagoda, Experimental Games, 173. 

  171. Legacy Russell, Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto (London, UK: Verso, 2020), 8, 91. 

  172. Russell, 69. 

  173. Russell, 84, 111. 

  174. Russell, 147. 

  175. Jagoda, Experimental Games, 223. 

  176. Jagoda, 223. 

  177. Moten, Harney, and Shukaitis, “Refusing Completion,” 9. 

  178. Moten, Harney, and Shukaitis, 9. 

  179. Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Wivenhoe, UK: Minor Compositions, 2013), 47, 61. 

  180. Harney and Moten, 61. 

  181. Harney and Moten, 62. 

  182. Harney and Moten, 67. 

  183. Harney and Moten, 67. 

  184. Harney and Moten, 67-68. 

  185. Russell, Glitch Feminism, 152, and Harney and Moten, The Undercommons, 68. 

  186. Harney and Moten, 68. 

  187. Harney and Moten, 68. 

  188. Harney and Moten, 134. 

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