Toward an Army of Ghosts

Tom Nomad


Nomad, Tom. Toward an Army of Ghosts: Immanence, Conflict, and Crisis. 2017. Berkeley, CA: Repartee, 2017. Paperback: no ISBN.


“In the idealized framework of police tactics all riot lines are orderly and controlled, but in reality cops have emotional responses, disobey orders, make mistakes, and are sometimes overwhelmed with resistance. The police riot is a massive acceleration of action, the complete breaking of coherence to reimpose coherence, but if it fails then they fall completely into incoherence. Though there is a tendency to see the police as a unified force, the organization of a riot line is not a form of order, rather it is a by-product of the attempt to organize a certain terrain of action within the paradox of contained crisis.”



“What was clear at the beginning of this project were the fundamental flaws in the categories we were using to make sense of action, and in our relationship to the space where action occurs” (i)

“terrain of activity” (i)

“a mode of life constructed around study, quiet music, and intimately engaged conversations, stepping back, looking beyond reactionary polemics on some immediate question, and forming foundations to think about the questions themselves” (iii)

“questions have emerged” from Master’s Tools (iii):

  • “the rejection of utopianism”
  • “the rejection of activism”
  • “the rejection of political absolutism, morality, and the structure of absolute meaning” (iii)

“what are the implications of a distinctly materialist approach to the foundation of politics—without falling into the trap of pretending to understand some sort of truth about the material, nor rejecting the role or importance of thought as a functioning structure” (iv)

“the state is a logistical phenomenon attempting to impossibly construct material unity through force” (v)

“this same structure would be necessitated by any attempt to manifest some conceptually total vision of existence within material space” (v)

“total war” (v)

“the paradox of the state, the paradox of the tension between thought and activity, the paradox of our concepts of existence and existence as a dynamic phenomenon” (vii)

“We must be comfortable writing outside forms that encourage self-targeted propaganda—texts meant to rile up the convinced—and embrace how little we actually understand, if we understand anything at all” (ix)

“Effects … effectiveness” (x)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Laruelle on “effectivity.”

“the text … is at most a snapshot of a person at some moment in time, taking their conceptual understandings of a question and imprecisely translating these into language, into the written form, only to have someone read these in their own way” (xvi-xvii)

“to trace, operationally, how these enemies function” (xvii)

“possible pitfalls” (xvii-xviii):

  • “reformed platformism”
  • “absolutisms of…”
    • “primitivism”
    • “deep ecology”
    • “forms of individualism”

“All that is possible is a point of departure” (xix)

The Paradoxical Construction of Immanence

“The political is, at core, a discourse of activity” (2)

“The political assumes that action is relevant, that actions and the effects of actions fundamentally alter the future, assume a world in which every moment exists as particular, with the moment that follows as product of the action of the present” (3)

“This book attempts to … reframe political narrative around the act and the inability to speak of the act” (4)

“the impossibility of speaking of the moment” (5)

“the inability of conceptually transcendental frameworks to express the complex kinetic moments of the present” (6)

“The state is an attempt to close this chasm, to construct an operational and material totality through the form of the sovereign, and it is this impossible attempt that allows us to rethink the state in a different light” (6)

“the concept of the state” as (6-7):

  • “active force”
  • “policing operation”
  • “attempt to eliminate the particularity of the action to construct a material, spatial, and temporal unity”

“this story is an attempt to tell how concepts—of universal law, of national identity, of immanent political forms and discourse of the social—operate, or attempt to operate, within the complexity of everyday life, within the dynamics of history” (7)

“The very structure of the universality of law, the very concept of judgment, exists at the pivot point of this disjunction between the moment and the concept” (7)

“the impossibility of the attempt to contain activity, to define the conditions of possibility for activity, within unitary forms” (8)

“my thesis, police exist only when and where it is impossible to impose conceptual definitions in material moments, and this is a function, therefore, in all moments” (9)

“The state exists on the one hand as an entire universe of concepts: flags, uniforms, police, bureaucrats, courts, prisons, federal budgets and economic bailouts” (10)

A “universe of legibility” (10)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Kafka, Certeau.

“it exists as content or doctrine, which is immanent in all moments as the possibility of the enforcement of this content” (11)

“all moments themselves must be simultaneously eliminated in the concept” (12)

“The paradox of immanence … transcendentally and materially, trying to be the possibility for time and manifest within time” (12-13)

“co-immanence … implies that the moment actually exists materially along with and dependent on the movements of the transcendental and vice versa” (13)

“all moments are already constructed as manifestations of the transcendental” (14)

“the transcendental has already encompassed all contingency including the total elimination of every moment” (14)

“the state functions purely through this role as a ‘spiritual society,’ a haunted social medium” (14)

“the co-immanence of the mobilization of police violence, which amplifies contingency, and the security operation, which exists as the attempt to immobilize all contingency, to cease all movement” (16)

“This leads to symbolic engagements within a conceptual terrain, what we call activism” (16)

“the very concept of security implies an inside, inclusion” (21)

“With the rise of the modern liberal state—the state based not on concepts of the nation but on concepts of universal philosophical forms—the territory of operation becomes total, with technological and logistical capacity being the primary limiting force” (21)


“the police … a deployment of warfare into the moment” (22)

“We need to pay attention to how the tactical logistics of policing work to maintain coherence even though it is organized and performed within, and as part of, an anarchic collisions [sic] of actions, all of which create other possibilities in other times and places” (23)

“The state seems to operate as a unit (the grand vision of fascism), but in reality it is an attempt to organize moments that are themselves particular, anarchic” (23)

“It is in the tactical mobilization of force that the state is attempted materially, and it is tactics here that we will focus on” (24)

“in the attempt to operate the transcendentally conceptual in the materially particular, this organization—this tactical mobilization—must attempt to eliminate particularity at all times in all spaces, through a mobilization of particular action. This attempt, this form of total projection across all time and space can only exist as a constant operation in crisis, in flux, as what we call occupation, total war, social war. Here is where this posited division of the military and police breaks down” (25)

“‘capacity’ is the maximum amplification of crisis that a certain structure can forcibly contain, to maintain a certain coherence of operation” (27)

“War, without the possibility of total victory or the elimination of the conflict (which would imply the elimination of action itself), is always a matter of magnitudes or concentrations” (27)

“the space has become completely materially idealized, the ideal structures of the state must operate in a directly material way, occupying the moment in its evacuation” (28)

“For this to be the case no actions can occur, because all actions generate sets of interactions, ruptures, and redefinitions of a medium” (28)

“in the bombing of Laos or sieges of Sarajevo … Weapons of projection were used to eliminate the possibility of appearance” (28)

“organizing a coherent tactical terrain has meant … paradoxically attempting to accelerate operations to construct a terrain of deceleration” (29)

“Capacity exists as this entire network of policing” (30)

“They culminate in structuring how we conceive of possible actions in specific moments” (30)

“Victory in this sense is thus the inability of the circumstance to be modified, the total deceleration of tactics through tactical deployment, the total catastrophe of the elimination of moments themselves” (31)

“The very existence of the police, even if they never left their precincts and office buildings, is combat itself, conflict itself as a possibility” (32)

“The deployment of state force to compensate for its inability to determine the possibilities of actions, generates possibilities from the act of deployment itself” (32)

“the discussion can never be of deploying force to eliminate conflict and contingency—which is impossible—rather it is a question of containment, capacities, movement, and logistics” (32)

“Innovations in weapons modify conflict by making it faster, more forceful, with better communication, more mobility, and greater range” (32-33)

“Conflict is always a tactical dynamic, a movement of movement, of collision: the very collision of actions in particular times and places, never some conflict of points, singular actions in isolation, singular targets” (33)

“Conflict is always an energy that creates effects that cascade far outside of the conflict itself, participating in the construction of history, but also the force that modifies all the elements of the conflict” (33-34)

“momentary actions that occur within everyday moments, generate contingencies that, over time, exhaust capacities” (34)

“Within the modern liberal state, which functions to the degree that its universal claims operate in all moments, the terrain of conflict is total” (38)

“the fortress city” (38)

“Not only is the cityscape a place where policing is concentrated, but also a space where the statistics of urban pllaners combine with the imperatives of police force and the constancy of the security operation” (38-39)

“policing is always partial” (39)

The Topography of Immanence

“This process of mapping, and operating these maps, constructs a territory built around this constant security operation” (41)

“Neighborhoods … police stations … prisons … the material enforcement of a process that begins with mapping” (41)

Commentator’s Note: Again, compare Certeau on place, gridding, and vision.

“constructing each isolation through the immanence of the concept of property” (42)

“Productivity is encouraged where possible, by isolation” (42)

“a fundamental organization of space around definitive forms, a structuring of a legibility of space and action, and the use of force, or perceived possibility of force, to operate this” (45)

“initially is structured along the lines of the state’s gaze” (45)

“In these environments everything becomes a metric, becomes tracked, traced, and mapped” (45)

“a massive operation of categorization, numbering, organizing, and allocating” (46)

“Without this elaborate construction of this conceptual universe, without this massive structure of information gathering, the tactical operations of policing would have no coherence” (46)

“applicability … the attempt to apply transcendental concepts to particular moments, to assume the immanence of the concept in the moment in the structuring of the logistics of its attempt to operate” (46)

“the technologies themselves, from the creation of identification numbers to the sophisticated big data operations, are a response to a material necessity of total operation, derived from the philosophical space of universality in the concept of the modern state, combined with the very material limitations of operational capacity” (47)

“As with all attempts to engage in thought, the framework of thought, the conceptual universe constructed within thought, comes into the moment from the outside, comes to function to the degree that its conceptual outlines can be inscribed into moments, with all moments and phenomena being nothing other than an isolated expression of a conceptual framework” (47)

“The complexity of space is eliminated and reinscribed with a visibility that only makes sense within the conceptual universe that the measurement operations themselves are premised on. All phenomena, all space, becomes a point that is visible to the degree that it can be measured, that it can be seen within this universe” (47)

“What this conceptual universe misses are the historical interactions of conflict and force that converge in particular, singular, moments. New practices are created, buildings are occupied, different groups of people form and dissolve, and every piece of new information that is not organized becomes on more gap in coverage” (48)

“The state is always an impossibility, existing at a fundamental spatio-temporal disjunction from actual moments; always as something outside the moment that attempts, impossibly, to materialize in moments” (48)

“policing operates to the degree … that it can be immanent in the moments, through constructing a tactical terrain of coherence” (48-49)

“the US military was well equipped to fight a force that was easy to map, one with bases, columns, and supply lines. But when they fought against asymmetrical forces the sheer magnitude and speed of actions prevented any strategy from operating” (49)

“In guerilla wars and social wars the space of the conflict multiplies constantly, making the battle field everything, in essence precluding certainy about any certain space, negating any effectiveness of mapping operations, and reducing all movements to temporary spatial occupation” (50)

“the ability to control space is reduced to almost zero … because of the invisibility of the resistance” (50)

RAND Corporation, Cyberwar is Coming! [CiC] (51)

“a set of tactics used to amplify crisis to create or increase incoherence for the opposing side” (52)

“Using the Mongols as an example, they became the territory themselves, able to strike in force on a couple days notice” (52)

“They formed a war machine through developing a form of fighting based purely on disorganizing the opposing side and accomplished this by being organized in a way that allowed them to shift with the terrain” (52-53)

Delanda, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines (53)

“In the structure of the modern liberal state, which philosophical exists on a body of universal claims, the terrain of conflict becomes thought of as total” (53)

“The concept of a universal state … means that the state has no outside, everything is within it, with the only limits being operational ones” (53)

“a medium of operations known as ‘topsight’ attempts to both generate coherence and accelerate the speed of operations” (55)

“It imposes a certain topography over a territory through rapid response to contingency” (55)

“Instead of amplifying speed and magnitude, swarming uses mobility and magnitude to construct a fluid, mobile tactical terrain contained less through operations and more through capacity. They construct an entire territory, one that gets increasingly overlaid with mechanisms of containment, depending on the capacity of the occupying force to remain organized in the shifting medium of conflict” (56-57)

“conflict cannot make sense in either frontal forms … or purely in the framework of conflict itself” (57)

“occupation and control is not a question of presence, but of the ability of an occupying force to move, to be potentially present, even if at any one moment, in any one space, they are absent” (57-58)

“This attempt to construct total occupation through total projection across time and space is, in this concept of swarming, synonymous with space. I will call this the invisible occupation: the amplification of capacity to the point of metaphorical total coverage, to the point of structuring space itself” (58)

“Actions become limited not due to physical force but due to the possibility of the use of force, through the projection of the cops out into space through the use of communications and vehicles” (58)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Heisenberg on development from nature to technology to communication and transportation.

“controls nothing directly yet frames the limits, space, and channeling of the moments through a projection of the possible use of force” (58-59)

“This constant operation is what separates ‘security’ from defense; for security the threat is always unpredictable, constant, and internal, whereas defense assumes a coherent inside with external threat. Security implies attempts to completely contain crisis while eliminating this outside; everything becomes an internal crisis” (60)

“What develops now is space constructed along the lines of conclusions derived from specific attempts to map an environment” (60)

“The imperative of the moderns state has increasingly led to measuring space, shaping space around the results of measurement, and using state operations, either tax incentives or police force, to shape space along the lines of measurement itself, with the police participating in the shaping of this space to further enable their capacities” (61)


“we have to fundamentally rethink the conceptual structure of fighting, what it means to oppose” (62)

“revolution, if that is still a relevant concept, must be thought of through a spatial and operational lens, one directly tied to the operational tempos and capacities of the enemy, regardless of what side of this conflict one is on” (62)

“resistance is not about unity—which always remains an impossibility that only partially materializes through deceleration—but about a tactical multiplication that shortcircuits the construction of topographies by violently exceeding the police capacity to contain crisis” (65)

“Resistance becomes about effectiveness instead of success; it ceases to be about accomplishing isolated goals and is instead about interrupting and eliminating the functioning of this terrain, a constant operation of the amplification of crisis” (65)

“policing has come to operate in a different way, as a force of projection and convergence, movement and swarms” (66)

“control ceases to be about articulation but is about self-control reinforced through the ability to concentrate force in fluid ways” (67)

“There is always a gap and this gap is the inability of the cops to operate completely, there are always situations where we have an advantage, always a space that they are not completely occupying, always a bank that they are not watching, and these gaps widen to the degree that action exists as a movement, as a rapid amplification of crisis” (67)

“Resistance has to engage non-directly, as the strike of a specter on the accepted world” (68)

“To amplify crisis is to resist the operation of topography, not by smashing it but by making topsight impossible” (70)

“the generation of crisis is an invisibility borne of the multiplication of actions, thus the multiplication of spaces generated by these actions” (71)

“what we see in riots” (71)

“the space becomes one in which nothing can be defined, nothing could be described as the actions of a group. It is when action is multiplied to the degree that capacity ruptures, that the impossibility of control opens a window, one that we can jump through if we only get the right angle” (71)

“anarchy already is” (71)

“It is the way that we structure our lives” (71)

“the archic is an operation that constantly fails” (72)

“The question of multiplication, of exceeding capacity and expanding spatial projection, is not merely a question of what we do, but also of the dynamics of this doing, the spaces in which doing occurs and the particularities of these spaces. It is a question of regrounding action in the time and space of activity, in the immediate, in the shifting terrain of everyday life, not through some vague concept of community organizing, but through an elimination of categories of resistance that center around political identity, issues, and of movements” (73)

“Invisibility is both a tactic and a goal. It is resistance that breaks out of isolated groups, that breaks out of the isolation of the political, and becomes a force that participates in the construction of a new terrain in its very actions” (75)

Toward an Army of Ghosts

“Ungdomshuset inspired … more confrontational, more asymmetric, and mobility-centric tactics” (77)

“it is the way that the impacts of activity modify the physical terrain of the activity, morphing a normal space into a space for the denial of territory against the state” (78)

“the ability to move through space, and the ability to operate within space, far outweigh the importance of holding ground, of being physically present within space” (78)

“actions became part of the terrain, and were invisible” (78)

“Invisibility was why these actions were as powerful as they were. Without sight, without some empirical data to make sense of conceptually, the state is blind, the terrain becomes invisible, unsure, the disjunction between the conceptual universe attempted tactically and material particularity becomes more apparent” (79)

“In this parallel world, everyone seemed to be on a mission all the time, different missions for each” (82)

“older tactics were isolating us as points to be mapped and contained whereas our fluidity in the streets in St Paul resisted the topography of the police” (83)

“an invisible form of action, because of the multiplication of contingencies; they could not map us” (83)

“We learned that defeating the police, even for a short time, is definitely possible, and also that this defeat is not from direct confrontation but from movement through and redefinition of all the spaces where they are not present” (83-84)

“In the generation of a terrain, the projection of capacity becomes impossible” (84)

“it is the multiplication of these gaps, till the gaps become the terrain, that disorganizes the police, not by ‘smashing the cops’ but by creating terrain that makes policing impossible” (84)

“Every police action seemed to generate more and more crisis in their operational capacity, until they had deployed every available unit to the area and run out of gas for their vehicles” (87)

“We have rediscovered the possibility of fighting back, the possibility of possibility … of insurrection” (88)

“the dual aspect of invisibility, of becoming ghosts” (88)

“becoming ghost is a very material resistance to the gaze of the state. From masks to barricades, the use of invisibility is mobilized as a tactic” (88)

“Insurrection has no guarantees, it promises nothing. It is only this rupture that divorces terrain, even momentarily, from containment, and creates the possibility for another world to be constructed in a localized space. It is hitting in the gaps, widening the gaps, and multiplying gaps; it is the complete reconstruction of the terrain, not spatially, but through generating situations that break down the organization of isolation, where a neighborhood can find itself again” (88-89)

“The gaze of the state relies on a discourse, and on some functional definition of the divisions of space and groups” (89)

Commentator’s Note: Compare Rancière on the distribution of the sensible.

“The streets themselves ripped open, the streets themselves became a resistant medium, and this was not only the product of evasion from the gaze of the state but also generated terrains that were invisible to the state” (89)

“preserving the space in which action becomes possible, in which possibilities proliferate, is about obfuscation and multiplication, not of unified approaches” (91)

“invisibility is not so much a question of a hiding, or withdrawal, more one of proliferation, a multiplication of difference, a generation of static, and being embedded in space” (91)

“It is in legibility that we always find our isolation and our defeats; somehow, along the way, we forget that we are just people living in moments” (92)

“Invisibility, becoming ghost, is the group of kids who go around and slash police car tires or set fire to their schools just ebcause they hate cops and school; it is the factory worker who calls in sick because they don’t feel like working that day; it is every college student who would rather starve than use their education to work for Lockheed and Goldman Sachs” (93)

“Resistance is literally everything, everywhere; friction is constantly fluctuating, conflicting with other frictions that structure our moments, and yet we go on and on about our pithy little political movements, so legible and definable” (93)

“The invisibility of resistance is the basic reality that every action is a rupture with the past, that every action creates other possibilities, that any night may be the night where riots break out” (93)

“anarchy … is the interference that is a part of every action” (94)

“Politics becomes nothing but debates about how to best secure a form, and the economy the content of the form, manipulating numbers within categorizations that were developed to analyze the economy itself” (95)

“an anonymity that we need to learn to mobilize” (95)

“the realization that for once we can live in a world where we exist, where our actions make the world spin” (95)

“It is talking to the people on your block because you live on the block, not in order to recruit people for the struggle” (95)

“It is about embracing our rage once again and acting because we want to” (96)

“anarchy is only the beginning, it is only generating the possibility of possibility, the possibility of existence, the possibility of life with no guarantees and so, full of potential” (96)

The Impossibility of Philosophy

“Philosophy is impossible … Somehow philosophy is always insufficient” (98)

Commentator’s Note: compare Laruelle’s non-philosophy.

“saying anything is over-determination, that it always ruins a moment” (98)

“the concept, though always positioned within a moment, can only be constructed through an impossible comparison of moments, a comparison that creates a concept as an odd sort of temporal constancy” (98)

Commentator’s Note: this is why Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts are bricks instead.

“To anyone who has ever been in a riot and attempted to describe the feeling of being alive, the feeling of being the territory, the feeling of existing, words always seem like a violence against the event itself” (99)

“a strange relationship posited between philosophy and the world, one that strongly replicates the assumptions at the foundation of the modern state” (99-100)

“the philosophical” (100):

  • “Expressive”
  • “Total”
  • “Transferable”

“the theorist, the thinker, the revolutionary plays the role of an outside and enlightened observer, the one who knows the world, and who would be successful in their mission if only others could see” (100)

“Anarchists critique communists for taking this approach, but often we are the worst perpetrators” (101)

“philosophy tries to construct its own relevance” (101)

“Everywhere within theory we witness recent people constructing theory as something that does something” (101)

“what typifies these attempts is the assumption that, at some level, the philosophical still applies to moments, that we should abstractly describe and structure actions” (102)

Commentator’s Note: What of the diagram? The way Nomad writes this chapter completely hides the fact that many theorists (many of whom he has read) have already moved away from this kind of theory.

Philosophers “forget or glass over the very basic question of philosophy, the relation between the conceptual and material” (102)

Commentator’s Note: And here Nomad is also behind the later semiologists like Hjelmslev, Greimas, and Eco. Hjelmslev’s purport, Greimas’s signification, and Eco’s continuum are firmly material. Nomad is setting up a straw man, while also relying on it to some degree.

“The real brilliance of Socratic philosophy, and the starting point for the discussion of the concept in ‘What is Philosophy?’ was not the Socratic process but the delineation of philosophical space” (102)

Commentator’s Note: No! This is the philosophical scission! Brilliant for it horror.

“Socrates argues that in order to know truth, to construct some conceptually total understanding of all possible things, knowledge would have to come completely from the ouside of existence” (103)

Commentator’s Note: Yes, and this is bad!

“Theory itself, the conceptual itself, can never directly express a moment, it is always an outside” (104)

Commentator’s Note: Laruelle and Deleuze, among many others, work through this problem and help us to the other side.

“to say that the Earth is round is to say that from a particular time and space we can say that in all times and spaces the Earth is round” (106)

Commentator’s Note: This confuses primary and secondary qualities. See Meillassoux.

“All concepts are singular. They are constructed in singular moments and do not transcend the moment of their construction, even if that construction assumes that transcendence” (107)

Commentator’s Note: This is why abstract machines have dates.

“This construction of a conceptual universe—or as Deleuze and Guattari would call it, a plane of consistency—exists as a tenuous connnectivity between concepts” (109)

Commentator’s Note: Nomad misunderstands and misuses this concept. D+G are allies.

“theory is … a much more precarious articulation of forms of sense” (111)

Commentator’s Note: Yes! Finally!

“the construction of the philosophical concept in a moment … is radically historical” (113)

Commentator’s Note: Thus the genealogies of Nietzsche and Foucault.

“Anarchists … have a tendecy to isolate actions … in the discourse of tactics … the moment gets isolated as an expression of more or less abstract value” (115)

“within Kantian ethical frameworks … we have to assume the existence of some transcendental value, one present in all moments to some magnitude or another, and then isolate the moment from its possibilities, categorize the moment within a concept of certain types of actions, and finally value that moment as in common with other actions defined in the same way” (116)

“Bigger cages, longer chains indeed” (118)

“The relation between the moment and the concept remains complicated by the paradox of the philosophical” (118)

Commentator’s Note: Perhaps we need to move away from large moments to microfluctuations in duration?

“the subjugated moment in the concept starts to actualize as an actual world … [in] fascist time” (120)

“to police through the creation of smooth conceptual worlds, which ends in preventing revolutions; to unleash possibility in conflict only to tie this possibility to an eternal future in the form of positivistic political vision” (121)

“the question not of what philosophy is but what philosophy does, of the politics of philosophy” (122)

Commentator’s Note: Yes, and there are so many you could be in conversation with on this point.

“The concept posits itself as a possibility, and that is all theory can ever accomplish in relation to the moment” (123)

“To discuss political philosophy is to conceptualize conflict, to speak of conflict in a singular sense. This may be the reason that political philosophy has always been a science of states” (127)

“the philosophical can only exist materially to the degree that it is effective, that is has effects and constructs contingencies” (131)

“We need to find the danger in our voice, to see our voice as a tactical attempt in itself. Concepts without actions are nothing but academia, closed off, self-referential, completely mediated” (134)

“In this model, common in academia and officialdom, the thinker is a body that is separate from its object … a form of topsight” (135)

“the positionality of the academic who sits outside of a static world. It is this positionality that constructs the think tank, the policy institute, the courts, and the prison; it is this positionality that is the basis for the conceptual form of the state, and it is this positionality that forms the core of not only state philosophy, but also much of radical politics” (136)

The “anarchic possibility of thought, rests on the recognition of the positionality of the one who thinks, as a particular thing existing in a dynamic of other actions and things in a particular moment” (136)

Commentator’s Note: What if you dialogued with the tradition of feminist technoscience? Haraway’s situated knowledges, Stenger’s animism, etc., etc. Or even further back, the phenomenological tradition. There are accomplices everywhere!

Commentator’s Note: A maddening chapter, in an otherwise insightful book.

Constant Crisis

“What is being articulated in modernist totalitarianism—what we refer to as fascism—is not some new concept of the state, as many liberal critics of fascism would have us think, but a rise of the concept of the state to primacy, or as Schmitt puts it in Political Theology, the necessary implications of sovereignty, of the state itself” (140)

“the state always and necessarily attempts to function as a totality” (140)

“It is not that we fight against a singular, logistically-static, symbolically-arrayed state, it is that we intervene against a state that is diffuse, constantly attempting to subsume the crisis generated in its very attempt to create itself, mobile and spatially limited; a logistical operation, not a monolith” (141)

“The construction or materialization of private property exists through gates and fences, guns to shoot the unwanted, cops that enforce the exclusion of this space from history, the construction of individuated housing units, etc.” (142)

“the very ontological structure supported by the existence of policing is operated through policing; policing is both the result and generation point for the materiality of the state, it becomes a form of its own self-justification and autogeneration” (143)

“materiality” of the state (144):

  • “projection”
  • “constancy”

“To attack the police is to attack the regime; the police are the very possibility of something called the regime just as the regime is the very possibility of the police” (147)

“the attempted organization of movement to prevent movement, action to structure a transcendent immanence to action, which eliminates the moment of action itself, inserting it into the totality of the conceptual transcendence of abstract value” (150)

“Policing always exists as a movement. It cannot be said that the sate is, that the state bridges the gap between concept and moments. All we can say is that the state functions as the attempt to structure the immanence of moments around conceptual, transcendent abstract value; it is a deployment of actions in particular moments in the effort to eliminate the particularity of moments” (150)

“sometimes those police look like ruling party thugs with knives” (152)

“The term ‘crisis’ originated in medical jargon as a point of possibility, a pivot point in the function of disease” (153)

“The core of the operations of the police revolves around the tactical deployment of tremendous violence into everyday life to mitigate the crisis of their functioning, in a terrain constructed through possibility, contingency, and crisis” (156)

“Social war … is the attempt to construct total stasis, complete purgatory, a world with no movement, no hope, no future and no past as well as no present” (159)

“Insurrection is … an abyss, an illegibility that exists outside of conceptual transcendence. It is what is illegible, what is unable to be spoken of, what is unable to be eradicated in actual moments” (166)

“unleashings of anger come from confrontation rather than some form of organization” (169)

“Somehow we were always right and this attempt at political recruitment is nothing but the process of others discovering their fate through our words and actions” (171)

“what we are doing is attempting to construct a movement around our ideas, to develop a conflict that in itself becomes constructive, the core of the positivist, constructivist, prefigurative concept of politics” (171)

“people try to use this conflict to end conflict” (172)

“It is the attempt to ‘produce’ revolution, through what is essentially a glorified marketing campaign, that attempts to end itself when certain goals have been achieved” (172)

“This is a completely reactionary form of politics totally mediated through the state itself, and also creates the action as one that is already completed, as one that aims at its end” (172)

“action is always a rupture with history that generates nothing but the possibility of a future” (173)

“We become concerned about how the public will react to one thing or another. We have frivolous, pointless conversations about what an anarchist is—at best these are a waste of time and at worst they are remarkably fascist forms of political purges like what occurred during the red versus green debate in the 00s, and is now occurring against insurrectionists (or ‘anti-organizationalists’ as some anarcho-communists would say)” (175)

“In embracing revolutionary subjectivity we must either embrace a naïve concept of revolution—in which we only exist as empowered beings that never suspend ethics for the expediencies of action—or become monstrous beings, the embodiment of the potentially awful things that often occur in revolutionary situations” (183)

“Traditional political models—operating in the possibility that there can be something political in theory—always try to change the forms of the operation of social immanence to ones that they call non-coercive. This is a concept of revolution as a temporary state aimed at its own end, revolution without revolution, or a crisis that ends with a certain form of order” (185)

“a dangerous innocence, a complete aversion to talk about the stakes and risks of actively engaging in social war. Active risk here means more than the almost certainty that people will be hurt, imprisoned, and killed, and that many of these will be known and close to us” (185)

“an almost total aversion to looking into the abyss of the act itself, to acknowledge that actions generate possibilities to the degree that they necessarily entail risks, unpredictable consequences and effects, and contingencies that can never be legible” (185)

Commentator’s Note: Compare hopepunk, much of solarpunk. This is the fundamental challenge such optimistic genres have to work through.

“All attempts to connect conflict to the necessity of a certain future are either pure propaganda and thus completely speculative prophecy, or a warning of the coming police operation that will attempt to end conflict itself” (188)

“Let’s stop attempting to operate destiny, stop embracing the fascist possibility of politics, and stop trying to explain our way out of the impasse” (194)

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