Monday, September 26, 2005

The New Map: Terrorism in a Post-Cartesian World

I haven't posted much original content recently because I've been working on this:

The New Map: Terrorism in a Post-Cartesian World

The fundamental problem of political philosophy is still precisely the one that Spinoza saw so clearly (and that Wilhelm Reich rediscovered): Why do men fight for their servitude as stubbornly as though it were their salvation? (1)

- Gilles Deleuze

The Long War, Philip Bobbitt’s concept of the 20th century conflicts from World War I through the end of the Cold War, provided a consistent conceptual framework through which to view our world.(2) In this conflict, the struggle by Nation-States to legitimate one of a variety of theories of domestic political order was played out on the international stage. This century-long conflict ensured the continuity of the Nation-State framework until the world system could be unified behind a single, victorious theory of how to internally organize that state.(3)The eventual victory of the democratic-capitalist approach has resulted in the confirmation and acceleration of the trend towards globalization of the world’s economic activity. But, as with the conclusion of prior epochal conflicts,(4) the close of the Long War opened the door for a host of new threats to the Nation-State status quo. Chief among these threats, international terrorism poses a direct challenge to the very fabric of the Nation-State system.(5) Having spent the past nine years in the intelligence and counter-terrorism community, I am forced to conclude that our increasing failure to effectively combat terrorism is not merely the failure of programs and policies, but rather the fundamental failure of our paradigm. In order to understand and effectively confront terrorism, we must replace the current international paradigm of the Nation-State system with a New Map of our world: globalization and multiculturalism are invalidating the Cartesian geography of the Nation-State system, laying the framework for the coming epochal conflict embodied by the paradigm of hierarchy versus rhizome.

A paradigm shift is not a trivial affair.(6) In order to define and utilize this new paradigm it is first necessary to understand the old paradigm of the Nation-State system. Building upon this foundation, I will explain how globalization and multiculturalism led to the breakdown of Cartesian order, and with it the Nation-State. From there I will demonstrate that in the absence of a Cartesian world order it is not discrete state actors, but rather conflicting organizational principles such as hierarchy and rhizome that define our world.(7)These principles, and the inherent conflict between them, provide the paradigm for the New Map. I will conclude by examining how this new paradigm views counterterrorism in a manner that is fundamentally inconceivable to the Nation-State.

I. The Nation-State System

Our international system is founded upon the Nation-State paradigm that has gradually evolved out of developments among Italian city-states during the Renaissance.(8) Within the Nation-State paradigm, the state’s legitimacy is grounded upon its ability to provide security and welfare to a homogenous constituent nation.(9) This legitimacy is measured by the ability of the state to provide continuous, absolute, and relative gains in the standard of living of its nation. Despite the need to create gains relative to other nations, and especially to create gains relative to competing theories of Nation-State during the Long War, it was also necessary for the Nation-State to preserve at least the pretense of internal equality in order to maintain a unified national base. At least in first-world nations, a “[w]elfare ideology had…fostered the nationalist myth of a raceless, classless society."(10) It is the redistributive policies and entitlement programs that resulted from this need for internal equality that are today making the Nation-State so vulnerable to the processes of globalization.(11)

One of the defining features of the Nation-State system is its Cartesian sense of space.(12) National groups are assumed to conform to the exclusive territories and physical borders of the Nation-State. This is a critical assumption, as the legitimacy of a Nation-State is based upon its ability to provide for its nation, something that it can only do effectively if that nation is contained entirely within the borders of its sovereignty. The validity of a Nation-State on the international stage is in turn demonstrated by its ability to exert complete sovereignty over its territory. As long as all states conform to the notions of exclusive territory and total sovereignty, the system is stable. Since the end of the Cold War, most theorists have been attempting to shove the square peg of reality into the round hole of the Nation-State paradigm, but these efforts are “no more than the work of early cartographers . . . [t]hey are products of illusion, and they are faithful to their roots.”(13) In actuality, any process or phenomena that threatens to blur the exclusivity of the Cartesian system, that exhibits multiple and overlapping affinity groups, poses a mortal challenge to the Nation-State system.

II. The Eroding Foundation of the Nation-State

In the latter half of the 20th century, multiculturalism has spread throughout “Western” democracies,(14) with the notable exception of Japan.(15)The unprecedented human and cultural mobility of the latter half of the 20th century has undermined the contiguous ethnic nation that served as the foundation for the Nation-State.(16) It has been proposed under the “melting pot” theory of cultural assimilation the notion of the ethnic nation would dissolve. This would then lead to the rise of a “nation” defined not by ethnicity but by affiliation with a given state and its principles—a self-defining Nation-State.(17) For a variety of reasons, however, this self-defining “Nation-State” has not materialized. Alternative theories of multiculturalism encouraged immigrant groups to maintain their separate identities(18) while racism, lack of prior economic accumulation, international media access, and geographic proximity to parent-nations often conspired to reinforce these national divisions. While the homogenous nation upon which the Nation-State is founded was generally a historical fiction, it had been both sufficiently real and accepted as to serve as a stable foundation for the Nation-State. With the spread of multiculturalism, the contiguous, Cartesian nation that once served as the basis for the Nation-State is steadily eroding.

Globalization, the process of seeking international economies of place and scale, is another assault on the territorial barriers of the Nation-State system.(19) It creates a positive feedback cycle by both benefiting from and causing the destruction of the territorial exclusivity of the Nation-State. While the dissolution of Cartesian limitations facilitates the necessary further intensification of hierarchal structure, it also facilitates the emergence of the competing, co-spatial, contemporaneous paradigm of rhizome that is currently embodied by the phenomena of international terrorism.(20)

The rise in trans-national terrorism is perhaps the final straw that, when combined with the influences of multiculturalism and globalization, destroys the legitimacy of the Nation-State. The Nation-State system is predicated upon the twin principles of sovereignty: a domestic monopoly on the use of violence, and a singular focus for inter-state violence.(21) Terrorism invalidates both claims. Exacerbated by reactionary ideologies (22) and the expanding economic inequality brought by globalization,(23) terrorism undermines the state’s role of security provider.(24) Additionally, as independent international actors, both terrorist organizations and multinational corporations represent their own interests, unconstrained by either a Cartesian notion of Nation-State borders or the prevailing interests of a national constituency. In a world freed of the rigid delineation of the Nation-State system, and with the substantial, overlapping web of affiliation and connectivity created by, among other things, terrorism and multinational corporations, the stage is set for a defining conflict that will replace the last vestiges of the Nation-State with the New Map.(25)

III. Beyond the Nation-State, Beyond Cartesian Order

Fueled by the breakdown of Cartesian order, the spread of multiculturalism, and technological advancements in communication and transportation, the hierarchal process of globalization is forcing the Nation-State to evolve or die.(26) Those states that are evolving to maintain viability are gradually taking the form of the Market-State,(27) an awkward and unfinished formulation where the actors of globalization exert their influence on the state to leverage the remnant allegiances of national populations in their favor.(28) But in the face of the growth of globalization, a rhizome(29) countermovement is emerging.

It may have been Nietzsche who best captured the emergence of rhizome with his famous question. “Problem: where are the barbarians? Obviously they will come into view and consolidate themselves only after tremendous socialist crises."(30) The social crises created by globalization, multiculturalism, and the decline of the Nation-State system has opened the door to a fundamentally new kind of “barbarian” in rhizome’s structural opposition to hierarchy. Hierarchy, an unstable organizational pattern(31) that is constantly evolving toward a more intense, centralized, and interdependent form, is the organizing principle behind globalization. Rhizome, the opposing constitutional system of a network of stable-state, independent but interacting nodes is the animating principle behind both terrorism and the more benign economic processes of localization and self-sufficiency that stand in opposition to globalization.(32) The interaction of hierarchy and rhizome inherently generates conflict as hierarchy’s attempts to create economic dependency through economies of place and scale are mutually exclusive of rhizome’s tendency to devolve economic structures towards localized independence and parity.

In a world largely stuck in the mindset of the Nation-State and oblivious to the emerging conflict of hierarchy versus rhizome, terrorism is the vanguard of a rhizome movement that sits on the cusp of a dawning, non-Cartesian reality. It is what Antonio Negri has called a “diagonal” that opposes hierarchy by confronting its weaknesses, rather than its strengths.(33) Rhizome is out of phase with hierarchy while simultaneously occupying the same point in history. It is emergent, analogous to the emergent intelligence of the human brain(34) compared to the machine intelligence of hierarchy.(35) This emergent nature manifests itself in the unconsciously coordinated action of ideologically linked rhizome nodes, affinity groups that jump the boundaries of Nation-State borders. One example is the complex web of interaction between Middle-Eastern Islamic extremism, South American populism, the struggle of indigenous groups to control hydrocarbon resources, and cross-border drug-trafficking. It is this kind of emergent “nation”—the networked affiliation between groups as diverse as al-Qa’ida, Hugo Chavez and Salvadoran Maras(36)—that is replacing the Cartesian “nation” of the Nation-State system. While the fringes of the United States intelligence community understand the watershed threat posed in combination by these seemingly unrelated phenomena(37), the Nation-State paradigm that dominates state power is not capable of perceiving the greater threat. Perhaps more importantly, because rhizome is oblique to the perception of hierarchy, the actors of globalization do not realize that rhizome terrorism is not fighting the state itself, but that the source of conflict is the fundamental incompatibility of rhizome with the hierarchal engines of both globalization and the state. Proponents of globalization suggest that the leveraging of economies of place and of scale will bring wealth to the worlds poor and one day eliminate the root cause of terrorism. Such theories demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of the cause of terrorism: rhizome movements do not seek to regress to less efficient forms of hierarchy, but rather seek freedom from hierarchy, and its symptoms of dependency, disparity and instability. Rhizome is not merely the struggle against hierarchy, but it is the proposition of an alternate mode of economic organization that is fundamentally more compatible with human ontogeny,(38) and that actually reduces society’s capacity for conflict.(39)

IV. Navigating the New Map

New paradigms present opportunities and demand actions that are inconceivable to the preceding paradigm. Mutually Assured Destruction is an example, a strategy that, while rational to the Nation-State, was entirely incomprehensible to the preceding paradigm of the State-Nation.(40) Similarly, the New Map presents the opportunity to address the fundamental causes of terrorism, but only in a manner that is inconceivable to the Nation-State: defeating terrorism by co-opting its organizational principle of rhizome. This sounds irrational and completely “un-American.”(41) It is. Those within the Nation-State paradigm praise as “American” those things which are fundamental to the constitutional nature of the American Nation-State. Similarly, the principles of the French and American Revolutions were antithetical to the fundamental basis of the kingly states of France and Britain.(42)That did not invalidate the French or American revolutions, and similarly the “un-American” nature of rhizome does not mean that it is not the most prudent course of action at the dawn of a new age.

Within the New Map there are two choices. Existing Nation-States can embrace hierarchy, and transition to the market-state model, as envisioned by constitutional law professor Phillip Bobbitt,(43) or they can embrace rhizome and embark upon the same bold adventure of constitutional invention that created America over two centuries ago. Those that embrace hierarchy will likely continue to face the emergent, rhizome forces of those who must, by definition, reside at the base of hierarchy’s pyramid—terrorists and freedom fighters alike. Those states that choose to transition to rhizome, however, may finally escape this structural violence of hierarchy.

The New Map brings the uncomfortable situation of treading in new and unfamiliar territory, with its fundamental departure from the historical establishments upon which our cultural identities are founded. But it may also provide a source of hope for the future. The absurdity and injustice of national borders that elevate the economic well-being of select groups based mainly upon their race or ethnicity may recede or fade away.(44) Absent the Nation-State bastions of ethnic and racial division, multiculturalism may finally fulfill its promise of tolerance and equality among humans. Similarly, the promise of rhizome structure to reduce social stratification, wealth disparity, and motivation for conflict may create a stable, just basis for international society—a basis that is impossible within the strict confines of sovereignty and territory that define the Nation-State system. With an understanding of the New Map, it becomes self-evident that clinging to the remnants of the Nation-State will only serve to fuel reactionary ideologies and terrorist tactics. It is by accepting the potential of the New Map and fostering the development of rhizome structure that we can hope to disarm terrorism, eliminating the very division and disparity that is its raison d’être.


1. Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus 29 (Brian Massumi trans., U. Minn. Press 1983) (1980).

2. See Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History 7 (2002).

3. The chief theories of Nation-State organization are the democratic-capitalist model, embodied by the U.K. and the U.S., the communist model, embodied in the U.S.S.R., and the fascist model, embodied by Germany under National Socialism.

4. For example, the close of the era of kingly states with the Napoleonic Wars unleashed the forces of national sentiment on the largely unprepared aristocracy of Europe.

5. Kenichi Ohmae, The End of the Nation State 7 (1995).

6. See Denise Breton & Christopher Largent, The Paradigm Conspiracy: Why Our Social Systems Violate Human Potential – And How We Can Change Them 7 (1996).

7. James Rosenau also sees a global conflict, but rather than juxtapose the concepts of hierarchy and rhizome, he uses the term “fragmegration” to denote the opposing tendency of hierarchy to integrate and centralize while rhizome fragments the world through decentralization and localization. See James Rosenau, Distant Proximities: Dynamics Beyond Globalization 2003.

8. The development of absolute sovereignty contained in a discrete state stems from the rejection of Papal authority by Italian city-states, and culminates in the treaties that ended the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), commonly known in their collective form as the Peace of Westphalia. See Treaty of peace of Münster, Fr.-Holy Roman Empire, Oct. 24, 1648, 1 Parry 271 and Treaty of Osnabrück, Swed.-Holy Roman Empire, Oct 24, 1648, 1 Parry 119. The association of a single state with a single nation, forming the modern Nation-State concept, was most significantly advanced at the Congress of Vienna, which laid the foundation for Bismark’s unification of the German nation under the Prussian state. See Final Act (General Treaty) of the Congress of Vienna, June 9, 1815, 64 Parry 453.

9. See Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History 468 (2002).

10. Jane Kelsey, Restructuring the Nation: The Decline of the Colonial Nation-State and Competing Nationalisms in Aotearoa/New Zealand, in Nationalism, Racism and the Rule of Law 177 (Peter Fitzpatrick ed., 1995).

11. See Peer Zumbansen, Quod Omnes Tangit: Globalization, Welfare Regimes and Entitlement, in The Welfare State, Globalization, and International Law 135 (Eyal Benvenisti and Georg Nolte eds., 2004).

12. Cartesian space refers to the contiguous, exclusive territories of Nation-States laid out on a Cartesian plane, as proposed by Rene Descartes.

13. Kenichi Ohmae, The End of the Nation State 8 (1995).

14. See Vernon M. Briggs, Mass Immigration and the National Interest (1996).

15. See Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Xenophobia: Modernization's Curse, 5 European Affairs 51-57 (1991).

16. See Gerard Delanty, Beyond the Nation-State: National Identity and Citizenship in a Multicultural Society, 3 Sociological Research Online (1996), http://www.socresonline.org.uk/1/3/1.html.

17. See Gerard Delanty, Inventing Europe: Idea, Identity, Reality (1995).

18. See Peter J. Pitts, Tossed Salad for the Holiday ,The One Republic, Dec. 22, 2004, http://www.californiarepublic.org/archives/Columns/Guest/20041222PittsTossed.html.

19. See Thomas L. Friedman, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century (2005).

20. See Jeff Vail, Rhizome, Guerrilla Media, Swarming and Asymmetric Politics in the 21st Century, in Politics To-Go: A Guide to Using Mobile Technology in Politics 47 (2005).

21. See Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History 206 (2002).

22. See Robert Wright, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny 232 (2000).

23. See Anuradha Mittal, The South in the North, in Views from the South: The Effects of Globalization and the WTO on Third World Countires 164 (Sarah Anderson ed., 2000).

24. See John Robb, Primary Loyalties, Global Guerrillas, Jan. 5, 2005, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2005/01/primary_loyalti.html.

25. See, e.g., Nico Schrijver, Sovereignty versus Human Rights? A Tale of UN Security Council Resolution 688 (1991) on the Protection of the Kurdish People, in The Role of the Nation-State in the 21st Century: Human Rights, International Organizations and Foreign Policy 347 (Monique Castermans-Holleman, et al. eds., 1998).

26. Where the Nation-State has refused to abandon its national roots, as in Colombia or Somalia, the resulting failed state has not, in turn, failed the processes of globalization. On the contrary, the argument has been made that such total breakdowns of the Nation-State create conditions that are ideally suited to business interests. See John Robb, Guerrilla Entrepreneurs, Global Guerrillas, Oct. 22, 2004, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/10/guerrilla_entre.html.

27. See Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History (2002).

28. See John Breuilly, Nationalism and the State 94 (1982).

29. See Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia 506(Brian Massumi trans., U. Minn. Press, 1987) (1980).

30. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power 465 (Walter Kaufman trans., Vintage Press, 1968) (1888).

31. Any pattern that is predicated upon continuous growth must eventually exceed its resource base and collapse. See Joseph A. Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988).

32. For a detailed account of rhizome as the animus for economic localization efforts by marginalized groups in opposition to the perceived threat of globalization, see Jeff Vail, A Theory of Power (2004), available at http://top.anthropik.net/.

33. Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri, Empire (2000).

34. Rhizomatic intelligence is similar to human intelligence in that uncontrolled, non-hierarchal interaction leads to the emergence of directed action, the direction for which cannot be sourced from the interaction. See, e.g., Howard Bloom, The Global Brain (2000) and John H. Holland, Emergence: From Chaos to Order (1998).

35. For a discussion of the information processing capabilities of Hierarchy and Rhizome, see Robert Anton Wilson, Quantum Psychology (1990).

36. Maras, or Central American street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha-13, now constitute the largest organized crime presence within the United States. They utilize their extensive cross-border ties and their shared ability to identify with a distant homeland to control the majority of the trans-American drug trade.

37. See, e.g., Jeff Vail, Keynote Address at the Summer 2005 Interagency Forum on Infrastructure Protection: The Global Threat Puzzle: Understanding the Rhizome Threat (Jul. 8, 2005).

38. For an in-depth examination of the potential for rhizome structure to better meet the demands of human ontogeny, see Jeff Vail, A Theory of Power (2004), available at http://top.anthropik.com/.

39. See Jeff Vail, Defending Pala: Rhizome as a Mode of Military Operations, Sep. 6, 2005, http://www.jeffvail.net/2005/09/defending-pala-rhizome-as-mode-of.html.

40. Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kenedy, conceived of the concept of Mutually assured destruction, but had a difficult time convincing Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin of the concept, as he was stuck in the mentality of the State-Nation (while Russia is known for nationalist semtiment, the U.S.S.R. was a state that was a diverse collection of nations, and suffered from ‘early-onset fractionalism’ as a result—perhaps the first example of the failure of a self-defining Nation-State). See Mad is not Bad, 17 New Perspective Quarterly, Sep. 25, 2005, http://www.digitalnpq.org/archive/2000_summer/mad_not_bad.html.

41. For example, in President Bush’s address of , he noted that “We will defend the values of our country…we will persevere in this struggle no matter how long it takes to prevail.” George W. Bush, President of the U.S., Presidential Address (Nov. 8, 2001), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011108-13.html.

42. See Caroline Thomas, New States, Sovereignty and Intervention 4 (1998).

43. See Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History 283 (2002).

44. See Paul Treanor, Why Destroy the Nation-State, http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/nationstate.html.

17 comments:

GreenSmile said...

Wow. Sweeping generalization without sweeping anything under the rug. I gotta read more! The patient reader is rewarded here but the one who needs to know WHAT PARADIGM is broken may not be.

Jason Godesky said...

I may be sticking my foot in my mouth here, but I think you're not understanding the current paradigm because it's just so obvious--as every paradigm is to its contemporaries.

There's three basic principles of the modern nation-state, as far as I can tell:

1.) Ein Volk, ein Land. This is actually a combination of two Romantic myths; first, the myth of the "nation" as a real, distinct, ethnic reality, and second, that every "nation" deserves its own country, i.e., the "Palestinians" are a real group and not a sociological myth, and thus "deserve their own country."

2.) "Cartesian space," which, if I'm not mistaken, refers to the notion that a state is in large part defined by its geographical range. A state rules over a contiguous territory. Seems too obvious to us to even bear mentioning, but it is in fact only one of a huge range of organizational possibilities. As multinational corporations and terrorist networks illustrate, not even hierarchical authority need be tied to any specific piece of land.

3.) The state and the nation are one. The Romantic myth of the "nation" in #1 is combined with the Cartesian state of #2, to create the nation-state. Every nation must have its own state, and every state its own nation. This should be 1-to-1. This is the underlying argument made by Kurdish seperatists, who are currently under the governments of Turkey, Iraq and others. Not only do they each wish to seperate from their current rulers to form their own "nations" (as with the Palestinian example in #1), they also want to combine those entities into a single, contiguous state (#2), to form ein Land for the "Kurdish nation." (#1 again)

Needless to say, none of these three principles are quite as obvious or necessary as we might believe them to be.

Jeff Vail said...

If this post seems a bit different than the ususal post here, that's because it was not actually written with this audience in mind, but I figured it should be posted here none-the-less. It was intended to convince people who wouldn't normally be caught dead reading this blog that they need to abandon their current paradigm (of which "they" are generally agreed upon about what this paradigm is, even if it's a bit foggy in this post), and that it is actually more "American" to do so than it is to keep up the pretense of the current "American Nation-State."

That said, I think that Jason is exactly right with his three elements of the "current" paradigm. I skip over clearly defining that initial paradigm right away for two reasons--1) The general definition is broadly understood, even though the specifics are not, and 2) it was my intent to clarify the individual elements of that paradigm at point that I explain why they are outdated. Maybe not the most effective approach here, but it has been my experience that when one wants to fundamentally change someone's mind on a closely held belief, it is best to do it gradually, not by setting up exactly what they currently believe in the beggining and then immediately telling them that their entire belief system is wrong. They have to think that they are coming around of their own volition. Well, that was the intent, at least...who knows if this is in any way effective at doing that.

Devin said...

Thanks for clarifying, Jason. I just didn't know what Cartesian meant -- I knew it was something to do with maps or an equation, or maybe both. Heh.

It's an interesting thing, the development of society and culture. One of the theories I've thrown around is that this society is so successful because it takes natural human emotions and twists them to its own needs. I think I may have actually gotten that from Jeff somewhere. Like how nationalism is just a twist on loyalty to one's own community, and so on. So it seems likely to me that the development of these myths has been successful because they exploit the emergent properties of "nature".

Extrapolating from Jason's post, the abstract "right to property" seems to be a twisted version of "hey I'm using this back off". So it does not surprise me that there is a concept of "national territory" -- it seems to be a twisted version of land the tribe frequently used, or territory of a different sort. Land-owned-by-use. *mutters* Damn english language.

Christopher said...

Thank you for posting this, Jeff.

Do you think that you could expand upon the manner in which a truly rhizomatic organizing principle will be made manifest in this ever intensifying hierarchical gestalt?
International terrorism is not truly rhizomatic. You have mentioned over and over again that rhizomes must be self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency demands food production. Food production requires land. The use of land requires an ability to secure the land. There is not a single piece of land on this wide Earth not within the sphere(s) of influence of hierarchical forces, much less the sphere(s) of concern. Self-interest demands that hierarchies prevent the establishment of true rhizome communities. Given that the quasi-rhizomes that exist today are dependent on hierarchical food production mechanisms (at the very least), how will a truly rhizomatic organizing principle be made manifest? Is the expectation that hierarchy will eventually intensify beyond self-sustainability and during its eventual collapse naturally (with the help of many thousands of like minded people) dissolve and reconstitute into rhizome? Please elaborate.

Christopher said...

Jeff,

Please excuse my ignorance. You have already answered my questions in the post: Rhizome, Communication, and Our “One-Time Shot.” Essentially, the purpose of your work is to help establish the intellectual framework and supportive network foundational to a post-collapse emergence of rhizome, yes?

Jeff Vail said...

Christopher,

I think that my post on Rhizome Communication partially addresses your question, but I think that you still raise a valid point: how is terrorism "rhizome" if it is so often, so obviously hierarchal? There are certainly aspects of Zarqawi and bin Laden's organizations that are clearly hierarchal, although I think that their strengths lie when they utilize rhiozme structures. What I really see that causes me to equate rhizome with terrorism is the emergence of connectivity between widely distributed groups (both geographically and ideologically) that appears to be happening without any conscious effort at coordination. I am having a difficult time giving concrete examples because I think that we are so culturally programmed to think in terms of hierarchy that we often don't even notice the emergence of connections between groups like al-Qa'ida, MS-13 and the ELF. I don't think that people in these groups are consciously working together, but I can see the shadows of their combined efforts. If I could be any more foggy on this point, I'm not sure how, maybe it's as much intuition as visible evidence? What I do know is that--articulated or not--each of these groups is basically fighting against the processes of hierarchy, and often by consciously utilizing rhizome structure. I think that this leads to a kind of coalescence between them that will eventually give rise to a conflict that is consciously phrased in the terms of "hierarchy vs. rhizome". I think that will be a very GOOD thing, because once it is clear that THAT is what we are fighting about, I think that the vast majority of people will then be able to see that the rhizome, not hierarchy, is in their best interest, and the best interest of the planet.

As for the food concern, I think that there are already some areas today where food independence IS a foundation of rhizome structure. The Zapatistas in Mexico, much of the "tribalness" in Afghanistan, indigenous movements in Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia (among other), are all founded upon a very current and real localized independence of the basic necessities... Not to say that the complete lack of this kind of independence in "the West" isn't of great concern.

Tim Keller said...

Another great piece, Jeff. Your stuff never ceases to impress me. I've been developing my own understanding along the same lines as you, but I'm never able to express it as eloquently & lucidly.

One of these days I hope to be opening a portal to coordinate practical research, development & implementation of these concepts into something to something that can facilitate the change from heirarchy to rhizome.

In the meantime, for anyone who wants a look at the mechanics of how this will all work, I maintain a library of papers at CiteULike called NetTraq. Be warned, it's extremely math-intensive, not for the faint-at-heart. Or for a layman's look you can peruse the online book Extreme Democracy.

Tim

Jeff Vail said...

Aaaah, math. You know, I declared history as my undergrad major in September of my freshman year, just so I could avoid taking Differential Equations. I dislike math almost as much as I dislike the Thermodynamics course that I was required to take (yes, b.S. in History...), but now I really wish that I knew more about both...

scalefree.net seems to be down at the moment, but I'll check back soon...

Scats said...

Hey Jeff,

I just got here via a rather circuitous route and have been really enjoying your posts. Will get the book as soon as I can afford one.

Just wondering if you know about and/or have any thoughts on the precarity movement:

http://www.precarity.info/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precarity

Do these groups/networks constitute rhizome as you understand it? If not, why not?

candy said...

The bottom line is that in working the dualism rhizome/trees for your own purposes you lose the complexity and dynamism that D+G were after in drawing up the idea. SEE BELOW:

"If it is a question of showing that rhizomes also have their own, even more rigid, despotism and hierarchy, then fine and good: for there is no dualism, no ontological dualism between here and there, no axiological dualism between good and bad, no blend or American synthesis. There are knots of arborescence in rhizomes and rhizomatic offhoots in roots. Moreover, there are despotic formations of immanence and channelization specific to rhizomes, just as there are anarchic deformations in the transcendent system of trees, aerial roots, and subterranean stems. The important point is that the root-tree and canal-rhizome are not two opposed models: the first operates as a transcendent model and tracing, even if it engenders its own escapes; the second operates as an immanent process that overtuns the model and outlines a map, even if it constiutes its own heirarchies, even if it gives rise to a despotic channel. It is not a question of this or that place on earth, or of a given moment in history, still less of this or that category of thought. It is a question of a model that is perpetually prolonging itself, breaking off and starting up again. No, this is not a new or different dualism. The problem of writing: in order to designate something exactly, anexact expressions are utterly unavoidable... We invoke one dualism only in order to challenge another. employ a dualism of models only in order to arrive at a process that challenges all models. Each time, mental correctives are necessary to undo the dualisms we had no wish to construct but through which we pass. Arrive at the magic formula we all seek-PLURALISM=MONISM-via all the dualisms that are the enemy, an entirely necessary enemy, the furniture we are forever rearranging." (A THOUSAND PLATEAUS (20-1)

M. Simon said...

Borders increase linearly. Area increases as the second power.

Thus the nation state.

What is wanted is an area that can be administered (common language at minimum) and defended. The larger the area the cheaper the defence per capita. This gives economic advantage.

America has a huge advantage because English is now the world language.

Really guys. You ought to read some Hayek, and Milton Friedman as a counter to your socialist utopianism.

M. Simon said...

Hope is more important than equality.

Morale factors are very important in economics.

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