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Empire of Disorder Interview Arrow Vol 1 No 1 Contents
About borderlands Volume 1 Number 1, 2002


From The Empire of Disorder

Alain Joxe
Ecole des Hautes Etudes, Paris

It is in the interest of the person who wages war by choice and ambition to conquer
and preserve what is conquered. He acts to enrich both his country
and the one conquered instead of impoverishing it.


1. We must cast our eyes on the New World, if that is the area with the dominant project today, in order to penetrate the genetic code behind its strength. In a manner of speaking, however, since this is just a biological parable. It serves to remind us of the fact that we are confronted, no doubt, with a living being, the North American state, albeit a political creature, a conglomerate of citizens. How and why can the law that has guided the autonomous development of American power since the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus be understood and pronounced?

2. Invaded in the north by Anglo-Saxon Protestants from Northern Europe, in the south by Spanish and Portuguese Catholics from Southern Europe, the two parts of America provide two different examples of genocide.

3. The genocide of Indians was almost total in North America and the slave trade became the project behind the southern United States; the Indian genocide in the South was interrupted by the encomienda that inaugurated a personal regime resembling the colonies of the Low Empire with vice-kingdoms that took over the Inca and Aztec Empires, and slavery was tempered by the ritualized and generalized emancipatory miscegenation that triumphed in South America along with the Spanish and Portuguese languages. Then, in the two autonomous new worlds founded by Washington and Bolivar, the North slowly but surely overtook the South, to such an extent that the New World as a whole described the potential image of the North-South relationship in the entire world.

4. In Europe, Orthodox Christianity and Islam, as continuations of antique culture, were immobilized in antique conquering structures and slowly underwent the humiliating fate of economically inferior countries corrupted by the petroleum windfall along with the venal and police bureaucracies that are politically kept outside democratic European culture. Europe has a South on its eastern and southern flanks, but this South is already, due to the economic and military constraints that weigh on it, under American control.

5. The future of Europe would therefore be as an associate dominant zone, condemned by its divisions to submit to the visible center of world military and economic power located in the United States. Europe and its historic citizenship would resemble the Greek city-states under the Roman Empire: the Greek source of Roman culture fell under the control of Rome in 197 BC when the consul Flaminius declared ‘the freedoms of the Hellens restored'. His proclamation prophesied their subservience when Rome banished ‘forever’ the preeminence of the Macedonians and other Middle Eastern peoples over Mediterranean cities in favor of the Roman imperium, in much the same way that the United States liberated Europe from the German empire and the Soviet empire, proclaiming the freedom of the historic democracies of Europe, in exchange for their submission to NATO.

6. To critique and perhaps alter this evolution of humanity, the chaotic strategic configuration that currently defines the American Empire must be taken as a whole, while considering its foundations, even if it is necessary to remain attached to reality through local investigations and anecdotes (which will entail the persistent analysis of confrontations.)

7. In any case, no matter the scale at which the object - continent, nation, neighborhood, family - is situated, we must always ask whether the war we are faced with is a war of Balkanization, the destruction of a type of political cooperation, or a war of Liberation, the destruction of a mode of oppression.

8. When the two types of processes are superimposed or cumulative due to scalar effects, political debate, which defines objectives of intervention and third-party participation, themes of peace research, must be refined as much as possible according to confirmed political goals, and certainly not in the name of ‘maintaining order’ since it is a question of disorder.

9. Our contact with chaos must not become a chance for parties on either side to depoliticize cynically or grossly simplify its implications as a result of intellectual laziness or misinformation, as can be seen in the many examples over the past few years in the Balkans, the Mediterranean or the Caribbean.

10. Moreover, the analysis of wars in terms of dominant class and new or old popular class interests must not be abandoned. Cruel internal wars financed by Mafias and with paramilitary armies have developed in many regions of the world since the end of the Cold War, in forms and for reasons that, by definition, can no longer be connected to the global bipolar dialectic between the Capitalists and the Communists, even if they first broke out in this ideological framework. During the bipolar period, all conflicts were reduced to class conflicts. Today, we should not commit the opposite error of seeing only bandits and intercommunity conflicts everywhere. These cruel little wars have spread over the ruins of the system of communist federal nation-states (Yugoslavia, Russia), in non-communist nation-states once in full free-market capitalist expansion ‘through import substitution’ (Columbia) and in national states formed by single party, non-communist revolutions/liberations (PRI Mexico, Kemalist Turkey, FLN Algeria).

11. During the various processes of State decomposition, armed conflict between linguistic, religious or Mafia communities (and usually all three simultaneously) creates combat systems that legitimize long-term strategies of assassination, kidnapping or territorial cleansing involving more or less sadistic massacres provoking mass exodus (Serbia, Columbia, Algeria). In Sub-Saharan Africa, the crises of post colonial states have degenerated into conflicts between communities across borders: Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, for Central Africa; Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia for West Africa. In Indonesia, the decomposition of the vast island federation, a legacy of the Dutch East Indies Empire, might only have begun.

12. We might ask whether these Balkanizations are not also ‘national liberations’ or on the contrary reductions to ‘protectorate status’ or even slow processes of reunification of linguistic nationalities, long sacrificed and di-vided by imperial frontiers or prior Balkanizations (Kurds, Albanians, Basques, Irish).

13. Even if the combats have sometimes, literally, taken the form of ‘ethnic’ wars, the fact remains that they originate in oppositions between the interests of ruling classes seeking to take power by dividing the popular classes by means of massacres between ‘ethnic groups’ then joining them locally under ruling class hegemony by creating ‘security zones’ on a smaller scale, along the lines of State decomposition. The wide variety of ‘identity cases’ leading to violence and war should not occult the fact that all these cases can now be combined and explained by a common and not at all secondary factor: the grand macroeconomic process of economic globalization following the computer revolution.

14. The general effect of globalization, its most general strategic definition, could be stated as follows: the disjunction of political, military and economic criteria that were once coordinated by the State, at the geographic level of the State. This disjunction constitutes the common source of diverse individual cases, allowing us to understand the proliferation of common symptoms, notably the outbreaks of cruelty and savagery, despite the cultural, historical and sociological differences that distinguish each of these suffering societies.

15. It is very important to preserve a global anthropological approach to each of these cases, for it allows their common traits, and their causes, to become more apparent. These wars cannot be attributed to the ‘barbarity’ of one ethnic group or religion but always to the intolerable suffering that accompanies the destruction of former solidarity by ruling Mafias and the great difficulty in creating new solidarity with the risk of falling into the 'fraternity of war crimes'.

16. In all the spaces where composite, multiethnic federal societies of conviviality have been destroyed or have self-destructed, their inhabitants preserve a melancholic and embellished memory of their prior civilization or at least of the values it tried to represent or in which it attempted to believe. The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia under Tito, multicultural Bosnia all joined the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the paradise of the past.

17. In memory of these disjointed hopes, the analysis of conjoining destruction today must maintain a large-scale project for peace and reject the blunt, day-by-day myopic realism of the sordid accountants of other people’s misery. The contemptuous post- or neocolonial mindset displayed by mediocre leaders often hastens these crises towards the worst catastrophes, which they follow with a sort of Schadenfreude, a neo-Darwinian pleasure in watching others suffer, close to an ‘unconscious fascism’ valid for the exterior.

18. Wars of balkanization and liberation become ‘current’ and not ‘archaic’ when they are put in the context of the processes of market economy globalization and the unification of the ‘chaotic’ imperial system known as the American Empire.

Contamination: Feared or Welcomed?

19. Here we must advance what might seem to be a contradictory judgement: the danger of these little wars for world peace is negligible, for even if global macroeconomic factors are determinant, their implications and specific causes are, by definition, local in nature. They actually take place within the historical and geographical framework of the States in crisis and their evolution depends on the specific political decomposition that the individual states undergo.

20. Contrary to the famous domino theory, these conflicts do not really tend to contaminate their neighbors and cross borders, except perhaps in Africa where the post-colonial borders for states without long historical consolidation cut through the tribal, linguistic and ethnic groups that form living identities.

21. Elsewhere, ‘contamination’ does not work, even in the Middle East and in Northern Africa, despite the unity of the Arab language and the preeminence of Islam, not even in Latin America, despite the unity of the Spanish language and the preeminence of the Catholicism. This non-contamination can no doubt be explained by the constant attempts of the imperial system to maintain a certain order while reinforcing divisions; but it must also be noted that the Nation-States, even within the process of destruction, retain the form of semi-sealed compartments; the effect of the mosaic structure opposes a generalized crisis in the States of a subcontinent. A state in crisis ‘holds in place’ through the resistance of its neighbors or the states of a given region simply maintain their identity because of the substantial socio-political differences between their respective national crises. Their differences counteract the spread of social movements across frontiers.

22. Wherever a cross-border ethnic movement can join populations combined prior to the formation of a colonial or post-colonial state, the United States tends to favor minority indigenous peoples, which is a way to Balkanize and limit political class struggle. However, the choice of the political left by Indian movements in Latin America (in Mexico, Ecuador, Peru and Chili), like the Kabyle movement in Algeria, have made them one of the unifying components of anti-imperialist, anti-globalist thought. Even if by definition they cannot become majority movements, they are symbols of liberation.

23. In the context of the Latin American narco-economy, the United States, under Clinton, claimed to fear ‘contamination’ - a reincarnation of the ‘domino theory’ - in many of its official statements; truth be told, the United States might have wanted it to occur. America does not exist as a decision maker. It is a permanent debate. With this name, I am only designating the result of the play of forces in competition.

24. In fact, abroad and at home, the trans-state factor of the ‘narco-economy’ unifies states around a police-military task, and thanks to this activity across borders, the United States can save the element that serves federal or imperial hegemony in the State: the minimal justice-police state. Abroad, it is possible, with or without democracy, and thanks to the narco-economy and the fight against narcotics trafficking, to unify ‘minimum states’ faster militarily than by unifying the economic elite through generalized dollarization and much more securely than by supporting an ideological Indianism that could always end up becoming a social Indianism as with Chavez or sub-comandante Marcos.

The Empire Wants No Autonomous Peace Processes

25. If current ‘narco’ States took harder individual stances to solve the problem, there are chances that they would have to strengthen their sovereignty, including their economic sovereignty, to face the problems on a social and political level; however, national management of the narcotics problem would slow neoliberal globalization.

26. For all these reasons, Post-Cold War America sponsors a few of the ‘peace processes’ that emerge from zones of massacre, called ‘violence’, but their theoretical approach to crisis intervention lacks conceptual clarity; the moral or religious principles that they defend keep them from recognizing the contradictions between the strategies they decide to implement. Barbaric war appears to imply only minuscule territories along with an apartheid or clan, region, religious or neighborhood war dialectic that have little to do with the splendid ‘globalization’ unfurling over the planet. These wars seem to involve delinquent groups serving corrupted politicians, which is not incorrect but which reduces political collapse to a form of delinquency while the delinquency itself should be considered as a particular form of political collapse.

27. Finally, the virtual decision maker sometimes preserves its ability to erase the macropolitical causes of all these disturbances from the public mind by only defining, on the criminal or penal level, microsociological causes like the growth of assassins’ guilds, cartels, ordinary generalized corruption, bank accounts in Miami, Switzerland or Cyprus. Maintaining the secrecy of these acts has been made more difficult today thanks to the action of highly specialized NGOs like Amnesty International, the International Human Rights Federation, and even Doctors of the World or Doctors without Borders and these organizations always relate the crimes of a nation in crisis to its political, social and economic context.

28. In this sense, all of these wars are truly political civil wars, even if they are skillfully diverted by the new ruling classes into conflicts apparently between communities that are capable of eliminating through bloodshed, in other words ‘concretely,’ the interests of the diverse social classes defined as trans-ethnic.

Binary Processes

29. Our strategic approach to the study of violence obliges us to note that a certain number of these little chaotic disorders are formally bipolar and go back to the Cold War, imitating its bipolarity even down to the smallest details - by building walls, dividing cities and countrysides - but more often that not without representing the same goals: capitalism versus communism.

30. Binary conflicts occur most frequently between communities where one ‘religious nationality’ is pitted against another (Arab Muslims against Jews in Palestine, Orthodox Greeks against Muslim Turks in Cyprus, Protes-tants against Catholics in Northern Ireland, Muslims against Hindus in Kashmir). The creation of these new sites of binary confrontations is insepa-rable from the desire expressed by these nations and classes in conflict to escape the binary logic of the Cold War, both its dual leadership and its latent structures of class civil war by proclaiming a local bipolarity between ‘nations’ or religions. It is the international equivalent of confrontation in certain democratic two-party systems. Republicans versus Democrats in the United States, Conservatives versus Liberals in Columbia are not the same as ‘right versus left,’ thus allowing political conflict to be distanced from the ambition to incarnate pure social conflict peacefully. Greeks versus Turks is not the equivalent of communists versus capitalists, allowing them to avoid civil war within each nation and also war, since the two countries are allies within NATO.

31. Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Columbia each contained binary conflicts inherited from the Cold War and the guerilla movements fighting armies defending the oligarchy. They continued to represent Cold War polarity. The first three received peaceful treatment through a process of negotiations that began while the world was reaching the end of the bipolar context. Columbia is the only local binary struggle that is still paying for the East-West conflict (agrarian reform, welfare state demanded by the guerillas), though without the presence of the former Soviet Union. The agrarian Colombian war takes on added complexity with the financial and transnational factor added by narco-agriculture. Its exception proves the rule.

Ternary Processes

32. Other local conflicts are even more complex and more recently formed. One might say they seem to illustrate the ‘clash of civilizations’ theory proposed by Samuel Huntington. They are engaged in wars between communities that sometimes resemble wars between religions or between religions and the state (Bosnia, Kosovo, Algeria). Often occurring in Post-Ottoman space, these wars are ethnic as well as religious (Lebanon, Israel-Palestine) or ethno-linguistic (Kurdistan-Kosovo).

33. Moreover, they often go through periods of complex disorder that could be defined as ‘three-sided wars'. Obviously, this would appear to be the case in areas that already have three religions, as in Bosnia or Lebanon. But religion is probably not the defining factor. The war in Columbia is also ternary even if the three groups - guerillas, army and paramilitary forces - are not separated by a religious membrane.

34. The Israeli-Palestinian war could become ternary or even quaternary if the religious or class factors took a more open role in the conflict, not only in Israel but on the Palestinian side as well. This might happen soon enough.

35. There are peace processes that ‘succeed’ after decades of setbacks (Northern Ireland, Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala); and others that have yet to begin (Cyprus, Kurdistan, Algeria). Others systematically fail (Spanish Basque country) by sinking into horror (Rwanda, Zaire, Chechnya).

36. Still others breakdown, halted by retractions that reveal the diplomatic failures of American leaders: when the United States succeeds in imposing itself as the sole mediator (Palestine, Bosnia), there is no way to conclude a lasting peace in the brief period allowed by the four-year terms of American presidents, reduced to three years by their election campaigns.

37. Broken-down peace processes are the most revelatory of the state of the entire international system. They last long enough to define themselves as endless conflicts tied to globalization

Broken-down Peace: The Humanitarianization of War
and so-called "Non-Clausewitzian" Wars

38. Not the same as a local failure, a ‘breakdown’ is first and foremost a new product of globalized diplomacy.

39. Accelerated negotiations coupled with indefinitely postponed implementation (Bosnia, Kosovo, Palestine, Columbia) are combined with the spatio-temporal criteria of American domination and the interplay of leadership divided by the hostility between the Executive and Legislative branches: under Clinton, rapid diplomatic success was required by the 4-year terms of Presidential mandates; codicils signed for only one year by the Republican majority paralyzed or undermined the long-term strategic engagements of the Democratic Executive. The final product: powerlessness, or, at best, what American jargon has termed mission creeping: the slow deformation of the definition of military missions. A certain number of military writings reveal the deep-set professional concern accompanying what we could call the appearance of non-Clausewitzian wars, wars that do not ‘continue politics or diplomacy by other (violent) means’ and are not started, as was the case during the Second World War or the Cold War, to restore or establish democracy.

40. Nevertheless, the absence of common war goals between the UN, the United States and European States should not be taken for a lack of political goals. War is not ‘non-Clausewitzian’ but the (internal or external) coalitions are incoherent.

41. Let us return to this question.

42. The mission objectives first given to troops wearing light blue or olive green helmets often change form imperceptibly along with the political goals. What seems odd is that, in this situation of disunion or non-cooperation, the deformation of the Ziel (the wartime military objective, in Clausewitzian terms) by leading military commanders deforms the Zweck (the political goal of war-peace, in Clausewitzian terms) and not the contrary. This might shock the external allies (States), and may also shock the interior allies (the Congress) of the leader of military power (the President of the United States).

43. Which means that in these cases military operations do not continue politics by other (violent) means. Since there is no single common policy, variable local military tasks can come to influence and modify the vague or contradictory initial political goals. These interventions are therefore not considered ‘Clausewitzian,’ which does not prevent Clausewitzian local wars from existing. Their local goals are very much political and opposed, but the common military objective of the outside participants, with no common political goal, cannot be defined except as a desire to exercise military control over the war. Because they take part at a level of autonomy and coherence that is inferior to that of the local warriors, since they disagree on the level of conflict with one actor or another, they take time to control the conflict and can only do so through the absolute use of military violence.

44. For the UN and NATO, this is not a war at all, but for the Serbs, Croats and Muslims, it is a war and a Clausewitzian one at that.The unbalanced Clausewitzian character of the interventions in cruel little wars is accompanied by a particular perversion: their international treat-ment through ‘humanitarian’ aid. This humanitarian action can pass for a purely political objective. Of course, humanitarian actions exist for themselves; in the field, they usually precede the expedition of UN soldiers. They are real and political and legally founded and praiseworthy in themselves. The point of perplexity concerns their connection with the classic scenario that makes war ‘a mere continuation of politics by other means.’

45. The connection, to a certain extent contrary to nature, between humanitarian aid and war, contributes to confusing the political meaning of events: by countering the Clausewitzian politics-war ‘continuation’ with an il-lusory ‘humanitarian aid-peace’ continuation, the true political goals of war (Zweck) can be hidden while its military operational goals (Ziel) are paralyzed.

46. By using humanitarian aid, war ceases to refer to politics to become angelic or in other words disincarnate. The Celestial Blue of the UN or the white background of the Red Cross represent this disincarnation; the pres-ence of military units removing the war from politics while at the same time removing it from armed action simply bears witness to the purity of the humanitarian intentions of the international community in the face of unchecked barbarity.

47. A great unease weighs on these undertakings since even deaf and mute public opinion can see and understand that expeditionary humanitarian forces are powerless to fight barbarity. It transforms the world television audience into a Roman plebe of voyeurs, ashamed of being constantly invited to watch the bloody circus games and watch innocent victims be devoured by the lions. The number of UN soldiers with serious neuroses continues to rise as they are submitted to an unprecedented situation for a soldier, trained to fight an enemy then stripped of the right to ride off in knightly armor to protect the innocent, watching them get slaughtered without pity.

48. If it were only a question of ‘pulling the wool’ over people’s eyes, the situation would be serious from a democratic point of view, but history has often done without democracy in affairs of external violence. It would not be the first time that public opinion has been ignored to lead a realpolitik in exte-rior spheres that requires deathly silence from the fundamental moral principles of democracy: human rights violations are always accepted as long as they remain unspoken. War is the continuation of politics through other means. War crimes are part of a strategy of means and they do not interrupt the rationality of Clausewitzian continuation, taking place on the level of the Ziel. Military goals justify military means. It is not a military affair if the means used to serve a military goal (Ziel) ruin the political goal (Zweck). Politicians must judge these actions and be judged by them. Which is why the clean conscience of torturers is protected by the bad conscience of politicians. But we will have to wait thirty years for one of them to have their Legion of Honor taken away.

49. Then again, Clausewitzian rationality has been broken and a superior degree of moral perversion has been reached. When humanitarian action accompanies and serves to compensate for or hide a crime against humanity tolerated by policy, there is not only a breach of morality but of political rationality on both sides, not far from madness. For without political rationality, war is nothing other than madness.

50. The massacres of civilians and planned genocide that often occurred in ancient and medieval history have not always been contrary to political rationality and to this extent, they were not considered illegitimate until recently. Some Serb nationalists (or more recently, Israeli nationalists) simply considered themselves to be traditional Machiavellians and Clausewitzians. But in the modern conditions of the economy, genocide and territorial expulsion of an ethnic group do not correspond to a rational objective unless one admits in the absolute that there are too many human beings on the planet. In itself, the genocide organized by the Serbs to purify their territory does not correspond to any reasonable objective in terms of politics or economic development. It clearly led Serbia to lose all political legitimacy and to military defeat. That is why it only took a few years to award General Divjak the Legion of Honor because he served his country, multicultural Bosnia, against the criminals against humanity of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia, supported by the French government. But Europe allowed them to continue along this path by only opposing their politics with humanitarian intervention.

51. Through its proximity to crimes against humanity, ‘humanitarian war’ introduces a maximum level of moral and political confusion. One could say that the humanitarian pretext when it is put in place by the Empire always serves to blur the two Clausewitzian articulations of politics and war, which require democratic political debate when taken separately.

52. Democratic debate concerning the political goals of war is therefore threatened by the deployment of this humanitarian smokescreen. The ‘Doctors of the World’ association, among other NGOs, has spoken out against the scandal that has not kept it from intervening in chaotic zones but has forced it to name political representatives to avoid playing the role of a smokescreen for the Empire.

The Words that Hide or Reveal Things

53. In the transitional period that we are now crossing, even political leaders sometimes do not know what they are doing, in other words they do not have the words at their disposal to name their powerlessness or their power and therefore their moral or political conscience in the new international system remains clouded. They lack the landmarks necessary to alter their understanding and therefore to propose a rational policy in relationship to potential goals. It is important for democracy to search actively for the means to punish the language and words of political leaders, to invite them to speak about what they are doing, to make them speak the truth. But there are many democratic schools. Or rather many democratic cultures.

54. Journalists have a prominent role to play in this domain, as do the elected representatives who have access to the media. They can either clarify or obscure public understanding. The efforts for clarity, for clarification are never unanimous; but it must be said, today more than ever, that part of the search for power involves handing the reins to an empire that reigns through the chaos of words, as much as the chaos of things.

55. In order to determine political responsibility and criticize it, one must admit that there has been a latent opposition between American strategy and European strategies, but also a latent opposition between two schools of speaking the truth and two schools of speaking falsehoods, connected to two democratic schools. The involvement of two European schools and two American schools has lead to a great deal of incoherence in the representations that public opinion had of these wars and in the humanitarian implications that the wars in Yugoslavia overtly expressed. We hope, by untangling these webs, to make things clearer in the future and strengthen the actions that are capable of affecting the political future of the world.

Imperial Chaos

56. If the form proposed for the world empire is a chaos, we have the right to think that it begs the question of the end of liberal capitalism. It is an ancient right. Except for the brief period of militant neoliberal media triumph that we are now crossing, one that started with Thatcher and Reagan, the question of the end of capitalism has not stopped being asked since its rise in the 19th century.

57. It is tempting in fact to consider the contradiction between ‘empire’ and ‘disorder’ to be insoluble and to pose the general question of decadence: ‘why the world, dominated by the United States, seems to be heading towards a decline, an imperial chaos that resembles, more than anything else, the Low Roman Empire. This recognition seems to presage the end of the current mode of production known as Capitalism, just as the Low Roman Empire presaged the end of classical slavery.’

58. The end of capitalism was a question that haunted Marx (who wanted to topple it) as well as Weber (who wanted to save it). These two 19th century men just as steeped in classical culture as Machiavelli sought a method to predict and forge a political future.

59. Weber looked for a response to this question through the ‘idealtype’ method and historical comparison. He wanted to understand why the Roman Empire arose from a city-state civilization then collapsed without reaching capitalist accumulation; and why capitalism arose from a new civilization of city-states in the Middle Ages, while conserving and developing free labor. He admitted that the end of the Roman Empire represented the collapse of a slave economy that he perfectly defined as an Idealtyp.

60. Weber went farther in this search than Marx by subtly defining the relationship between military violence and economy. He acknowledged that the relationship between free and forced labor, which competed in ancient Greece, shifted with the Roman Empire to a predominance of slavery be-cause people without freedom were inexpensive, he noted, because war took the form of a slave hunt. Weber, like Marx, believed that free labor was the most progressive form: with free labor, in fact, the division of labor - which leads to specialization among workers and therefore progress in techniques - starts by being identified with the growing extension of the market. A market economy and areas of exchange can spread extensively by progressing through space but can also develop intensively in a single space by including the greatest number of people who had been excluded at first... the urban bourgeoisie (Bürgerschaft) sought to destroy aristocratic property by expanding the market both extensively and intensively.

61. However, in antiquity, in cases of forced labor, ‘the progression of the division of labor,’ he writes, ‘developed through the increasing number of people: the more slaves or serfs there were, the more forced tasks could be-come specialized.’

62. Free labor and exchange decline in the classical period because people were inexpensive and people were inexpensive because wars had all the characteristics of slave hunts, ‘...which put free labor at the stage of salaried work without capital’ (auf des Stufe der besitzlosen Kunden Lohnarbeit). Technical progress through division of forced labor broke down due to the lack of a free market. In the Middle Ages, on the other hand, free labor and exchanges increased and free activity developed through salaried work and accumulation of capital.

63. The military organization of violence therefore determined the domi-nant mode of production and not the contrary, in any case in the two modes of non-capitalist production, because violence alone (or perhaps violence plus religion) can organize forced labor - almost a tautology. The defeat of slavery was necessary for capital to be accumulated.

But what about today?

64. Applying this ‘Marxo-Weberian’ method to the analysis of the present-day situation leads us to propose the following question:

Today, there is a form of servitude in all Third World factories that weighs on the free labor of prosperous countries. People without freedom are inexpensive. But they can be had without waging a slave-gathering war by depreciating agricultural knowledge, destroying country life, increasing influx to urban centers and turning the masses of the agrarian popular classes into delinquent plebes. The accumulation of free workers without work has now been disconnected from the division of labor and progress. Progress occurs by introducing new technology and electronic equipment into machines and the division of labor is a division of machine labor. So free people are worth as much as slaves as they are as workers. From a moral and profit-based perspective, they can be massacred, not to conquer them or reduce them to slavery, but just to subdue them.

Why? How? For whose benefit? For how much longer?

This Chaos is recent.


Alain Joxe is Director of France’s Center for Peace and Military Strategies and Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris. This is an excerpt from his forthcoming book The Empire of Disorder to be published by Semiotext[e] in spring 2002.

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© semiotext[e] 2002
this excerpt © borderlands ejournal 2002


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