Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dyskairos: authoritarian liberalism

One of the paradoxes spoken in the McCain-Obama debate yesterday was of McCain asserting his low-taxing, small government ethos at the same time as supporting the urgency and necessity of the big government intervention in the US finance system. Of course, this is a crisis and so potentially damaging that there is no choice but to act against his small government principles.

Of course, as there-is-no-alternative.

Is this what is meant by the state of exception: a dyskairos (the worst possible decision made in a critical and opportune time) in which the state is impelled to act against its normal rationalities of governing? In the case of the Neoliberalised state the crisis of home mortgage defaults tied to derivates that are literally un-valuable presents the opportunity and full moment to strike with a technique designed to promote liquidity and confidence in the finance system. And yet why do many pundits fear that this 'surge' of state insurance will merely load up the Wall Street crack pipe for another session before the debt adddicts come knocking at the congressional door again, looking to draw that white heat-white light of confidence into the lungs just this one more time 'till we straighten out.

Just this one last time.


These acts of dyskairos are mulitplying. The states of exception in which Guantanamo Bay exists and by which a massive State-based intervention into the security market can be performed are part of "the permanent pole of liberal rule made possible by the liberal view of government as limited by the sphere of civil society external to it and the liberties of autonomous individuals within that sphere" (Mitchell Dean, Governing Societies. 2007: 200)

For Dean exceptions such as these are homologues to those that form an autonomous liberal citizen-subject self and autonomous civil society. " Authoritarian liberalism" effectively acts through states of exception to constitute, sometimes violently, the conditions and continuous existence of that which liberalism asserts ultimately authorises, resides exterior to and pre-exists the state. Thus the type of 'civil society' that the military or capitalist state has formed and joined itself to is that form and type of civil society that it must surround in a permanant condition of crisis. This condition is usually buried, narcoticized, displaced. But it is there to be drawn on in order that urgent action can become a matter of security.

It's not civil society, even the markets per se, that are in crisis and under threat from the US asthmatic convulsions, but those forms of civil society and markets that are suffussed with Neoliberal political rationalities and techniques of governing the self, the household, the local landcare community group, your portfolio of shares, treasury. The current state of exception will see the authoritarian hand of Neoliberalism reach into Congress for a big rock of crack.

Kairos is at large.

Will it be smoked or become a time of justice and democracy?

K-punk chimes in with some sensible analysis:
What we're seeing is not the collapse of capitalism, but the disintegration of the illusion that capitalism is about the untrammeled free market. The developments over the last few weeks only underscore Alex Williams's point that the State, far from being exterior to capital, is a "vital element of stabilisation" which prevents capitalism from accelerating to the point of self-destruction.

Velvet Underground - Waiting for the Man.

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