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Makeworlds paper#4 is a product of collaborative text filtering and appeared in a circulation of 10,000 hard copies on dead tree. It was produced as a collection of associated or complementary or auxiliary text material at the occasion of NEURO--networking europe, from February 26-29 in Munich (DE). But also beyond the actual event the paper will be valuable as a entry point to the various debates, presentations, workshops and audio-visual productions during and around the festival.

Giorgio Agamben: The State of Emergency

In his Political Theology (1922), Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) established the essential proximity between the state of emergency and sovereignty. But although his famous definition of the sovereign as "the one who can proclaim a state of emergency" has been commented on many times, we still lack a genuine theory of the state of emergency within public law. For legal theorists as well as legal historians it seems as if the problem would be more of a factual question than an authentic legal question.

The very definition of the term is complex, since it is situated at the limit of law and of politics. According to a widespread conception, the state of emergency would be situated at an "ambiguous and uncertain fringe at the intersection of the legal and the political," and would constitute a "point of disequilibrium between public law and political fact." The task of defining its limits is nevertheless nothing less than urgent. And, indeed, if the exceptional measures that characterize the state of emergency are the result of periods of political crisis, and if they for this very reason must be understood through the terrain of politics rather than through the legal or constitutional terrain, they find themselves in the paradoxical position of legal measures that cannot be understood from a legal point of view, and the state of emergency presents itself as the legal form of that which can have no legal form.

Giorgio Agamben: We Refugees

1. IN 1943, IN A SMALL JEWISH PERIODICAL, The Menorah Journal, Hannah Arendt published an article titled "We Refugees." In this brief but important essay, after sketching a polemical portrait of Mr. Cohn, the assimilated Jew who had been 150 percent German, 150 percent Viennese, and 150 percent French but finally realizes bitterly that "on ne parvient pus deux fois," Arendt overturns the condition of refugee and person without a country--in which she herself was living--in order to propose this condition as the paradigm of a new historical consciousness. The refugee who has lost all fights, yet stops wanting to be assimilated at any cost to a new national identity so as to contemplate his condition lucidly, receives, in exchange for certain unpopularity, an inestimable advantage: "For him history is no longer a closed book, and politics ceases to be the privilege of the Gentiles. He knows that the banishment of the Jewish people in Europe was followed immediately by that of the majority of the European peoples. Refugees expelled from one country to the next represent the avant-garde of their people."

Giorgio Agamben: Movement

March 8, 2005

My reflections come from a malaise and follow a series of questions that I asked myself whilst at a meeting in Venice some time ago with Toni, Casarini etc. A word kept coming up in this meeting : movement. This is a word with a long history in our tradition, and it seems the most recurrent one in Toni’s interventions. In his book too this word strategically crops up everytime the multitude needs a definition, for instance when the concept of multitude needs to be detached from the false alternative between sovereignty and anarchy. My malaise came from the fact that for the first time I realised that this word was never defined by those who used it. I could have not defined it myself. In the past I used as an implicit rule of my thinking practice : the formula ’when the movement is there pretend it is not there and when it’s not there pretend it is’. But I didn’t know what this word meant. It is a word everyone seems to understand but no one defines. For instance where does this word come from ? Why was a political decisive instance called movement ? My questions come from this realisation that it is not possible to leave this concept undefined, we must think about the movement because this concept is our unthought, and so long as it remains such it risks compromising our choices and strategies. This is not just a philological scruple due to the fact that terminology is the poetic, hence productive moment of thought, nor do I want to do this because it is my job to define concepts, as a habit. I really do think that the a-critical use of concepts can be responsible for many defeats. I propose to start a research that tries to define this word, so I will try to just begin this with some basic considerations, to orient future research.

Slavoj Zizek: Too Much Democracy?

Columbia University 04/14/2003

"Democracy" is not merely the "power of, by, and for the people," it is not enough just to claim that, in democracy, the will and the interests (the two in no way automatically coincide) of the large majority determine the state decisions. Democracy - in the way this term is used today - concerns, above all, formal legalism: its minimal definition is the unconditional adherence to a certain set of formal rules which guarantee that antagonisms are fully absorbed into the agonistic game. "Democracy" means that, whatever electoral manipulation took place, every political agent will unconditionally respect the results. In this sense, the US presidential elections of 2000 were effectively "democratic": in spite of obvious electoral manipulations, and of the patent meaninglessness of the fact that a couple hundred of Florida voices will decide who will be the president, the Democratic candidate accepted his defeat. In the weeks of uncertainty after the elections, Bill Clinton made an appropriate acerbic comment: "The American people have spoken; we just don't know what they said." This comment should be taken more seriously than it was meant: even now, we don't know it - and, maybe, because there was no substantial "message" behind the result at all. This is the sense in which one should render problematic democracy: why should the Left always and unconditionally respect the formal democratic "rules of the game"? Why should it not, in some circumstances, at least, put in question the legitimacy of the outcome of a formal democratic procedure?

Naomi Klein: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Last summer, in the lull of the August media doze, the Bush Administration's doctrine of preventive war took a major leap forward. On August 5, 2004, the White House created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, headed by former US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual. Its mandate is to draw up elaborate "post-conflict" plans for up to twenty-five countries that are not, as of yet, in conflict. According to Pascual, it will also be able to coordinate three full-scale reconstruction operations in different countries "at the same time," each lasting "five to seven years."

Paolo Virno: La festa del General Intellect

Negli anni Settanta, il primo maggio fu una ricorrenza stantia e anche un po’ gaglioffa. Stantia, perché le lotte operaie – e la politica, e la vita in genere – se ne tenevano scrupolosamente alla larga. In quelle adunate prive di ogni allegria, c’era soltanto il sindacato in quanto istituzione nevralgica dello Stato keynesiano.

Border 04

BORDER04 is the common framework for a wide range of local and remote, mobile and stationary activities taking place in summer 2004. It is a modular, temporary, and tactical association of various new media-and network-initiatives from east and west europe, from outside as well as within the new europe. An international and interdisciplinary coalition of fine art and performance artists, human rights-, noborder- and new media-activists, filmmakers, video- and fotografers, researchers, scientists and investigators will set a series of events in motion that surround, circumvent and perforate the borders of Europe. B04 is a two month, virtual travel along both sides of the new borders of an enlarged European Union, from the balcan to the baltic states.

Gilles Deleuze: On Human Rights

The reverence that people display toward human rights -- it almost makes one want to defend horrible, terrible positions. It is so much a part of the softheaded thinking that marks the shabby period we were talking about. It's pure abstraction. Human rights, after all, what does that mean? It's pure abstraction, it's empty. It's exactly what we were talking about before about desire, or at least what I was trying to get across about desire. Desire is not putting something up on a pedestal and saying, hey, I desire this. We don't desire liberty and so forth, for example; that doesn't mean anything. We find ourselves in situations.

Tomislav Medak: A Continuum of Knowledge - A contribution to the Political Economy of Copyleft

While, in the age of real existing socialism in Yugoslavia, the social production was supposed to be governed by the principles of public ownership & workers' self-management, all along the circulation of capital continued to rely on the solid principle of the industrial capitalism - the capital could generate surplus value if those who were selling the productive commodity - their labour force - into the labor market, meaning workers, were also the ones who were buying back the commodified products of their labour (and also if, this is the second principle in the equation of profit-making, but this is less to the point here, these transactions occurred with a differential in value).