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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/27/13

A post-history strip tease

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Source: Asia Times 

This is an abridged version of a lecture this week at the 13th Seminary of Political Solidarity Don Juan Chavez in memoriam at the University of Zaragoza, Spain.

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How cozy it would be to summon the retro-spirit of Burt Bacharach to define our geopolitical future and start singing, "What the world needs now/is love, sweet love". 

Sorry to scratch the vinyl. We interrupt this lovey-dovey to bring you breaking news. You have been catapulted to the age of the new Hobbesian "hero" -- digital and virtual as well as physical.  

Casino capitalism -- aka turbocharged neoliberalism -- is ruthlessly destroying the last vestiges of the welfare state and the egalitarian consensus in the industrialized West, possibly with the odd Scandinavian exception. It has established a "New Normal" consensus, intruding into private lives, dominating the political debate and institutionalizing for good the marketization of life itself -- the final act of fierce corporate exploitation of natural resources, land and cheap labor. 

Integration, socialization and multiculturalism are being corroded by disintegration, segregation, and widespread de-socialization -- a direct consequence of the David Harvey-coined notion of "dis-accumulation" (society devouring its own). 

This state of things is what Flemish philosopher and art historian Lieven De Cauter, in his book Entropic Empire, calls "the Mad Max phase of globalization."  

It is a Hobbesian world, a latent global civil war, a war of all against all; the economic haves against the have-nots; intolerant Wahhabis against "apostate" Shi'ites; the children of the Enlightenment against all manner of fundamentalists; the Pentagon militarization of Africa against Chinese mercantilism. 

The disintegration and balkanization of Iraq, detonated by the Pentagon's Shock and Awe 10 years ago, was a sort of prelude for this Brave New Disorder. The neo-con worldview, from 2001 to 2008, advanced the project with its ideology of Let's Finish Off The State, everywhere; once again Iraq was the best example. But from bombing a sovereign nation back to the Stone Age, the project moved to civil war engineering -- as in Libya and, hopefully for the engineers, Syria. 

When we have armchair analysts, influential or otherwise, paid by flush foundations -- usually in the US but also in Western Europe -- pontificating about "chaos and anarchy," they are just reinforcing a self-fulfilling prophecy. If "chaos and anarchy" turns them on, it's because they are just reflecting the predominant libidinal economy, from reality TV to all sorts of what De Cauter describes as "psychotic games" -- inside a room, inside an octagon, inside an island or virtually inside a digital box. 

So welcome to the geopolitics of the young 21st century: an age of non-stop war (virtualized or not), sharp polarization and a pile-up of catastrophies. 

After Hegel, Marx and that mediocre functionary of Empire, Fukuyama; but also after brilliant deconstructions by Gianni Vattimo, Baudrillard or Giorgio Agamben, this is what we get. 

For Marx the end of history was a classless society. How romantic. Instead, in the second half of the 20th century, capitalism married Western liberal democracy till death do them part. Well, death is now upon them both. The Red Dragon, as in China, has joined the party and come up with a new toy; single-party neoliberalism. 

An individualistic, self-indulgent, passive, easily controllable consumer drowned in a warped form of democracy that basically favors insiders -- and very wealthy players; how could that be a humanist ideal? Yet the PR was so good that this is what legions in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America aspire to. But it's still not enough for the geo-economic Masters of the Universe. 

Thus, post-history as the ultimate reality show. And war neoliberalism as its favorite weapon. 

Choose your camp

We are now familiar with Giorgio Agamben's paradigm of the state of emergency -- or state of exception. The ultimate example, until the mid 20th century, was the concentration camp. But post-history is more creative. 

We have the Muslim-only concentration camp -- as in Guantanamo. We have the simulacrum of a concentration camp -- as in Palestine, which is virtually walled and under 24/7 surveillance, and where "the law" is dictated by an occupying power. And we have what happened -- as a dry run -- last week in Boston; the euphemistic "lockdown," which is a suspension of the law to the benefit of martial law; no freedom of movement, no cell phone network, and if you go the corner shop to buy a soft drink you may be shot. A whole city in the industrialized North turned into a high-tech concentration camp. 

Agamben talked about the state of exception as a top-down excess of sovereignty, and the state of nature -- as in Hobbes -- as a bottom-up absence of sovereignty. After the Global War on Terror (GWOT), which, despite whatever the Pentagon says, is indeed eternal (or The Long War, as defined in 2002, and part of the Pentagon doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance), we can talk about a merger. 

The war on terror, seductively normalized by the Obama administration, was and remains a global state of exception, even though trappings come and go; the Patriot Act; shadowy executive orders; torture -- a recent US bipartisan panel accused all top officials of the George W Bush administration of torture; extraordinary rendition, with which secular then allies of the West such as Libya and Syria collaborated, not to mention Eastern European nations and the usual Arab puppets, Egypt under Mubarak included; and the sprawling apparatus of homeland security. 

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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia (more...)

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