The Brexit Lebenswelt is Dead

Brexit was already a vapid, pointless event, shorn as it was of any meaning by the continued centralisation of power by the government and having its significance removed by the complete lack of a unifying narrative that tied Brexit to any larger structure of meaning or context. However since the vote these tendencies have been further exacerbated by the increasing separation of Brexit’s constituent elements, culture and economics. Brexit as a cultural malaise can be seen as the direct driver of Leave voters at the time of the referendum, superseding economic imperatives and allowing for economic narratives that emphasise such nonsense as free trade and market openness to infest the background positions of Brexit. The socio-cultural predominance of Leave voters meant that culture not only took over economics, but that they were separated as elements of critique. Voters were and are happy to decry the cultural decay of modern Britain, yet fail to seriously make connections with an economic modernity that encourages disconnection and disillusionment, with the economics of advertising creating a culture industry all too happy to fill the void left by communal modes of reciprocity and ethnic bonds and ties. The feedback mechanism of economy into culture means that money can be made out of the de-hierarchisation of modern life, with people laughing at reality TV shows and indulging base fantasies. These then become defining characteristics of modern life, leading to further anomie.

Brexit fits right into this feedback loop, being as it is the attempt to construct a lebenswelt, a lifeworld, within this paradigmatic soup of culture industries and culturo-economic monopolies. A Brexit lebenswelt is an oxymoronic proposition due to the separation of culture and economics. Culture predominated, but only a particular kind of culture that is incredibly amenable to a globalist outlook. It is an outlook that happily supports the ideas of free trade and an open Britain[1], but with the caveats of limited immigration and the provision of some kind of British global dominance. This cultural dominance overshadows a wider critique of modernity, constantly leaving the bitter taste of fake alterity as our wider culture industry that encourages modernity’s proclivity for petty individualism is left uncriticised. This is particularly the case when seeing Brexit as a process of globalism strained through an ersatz form of nationalism. Nationalism in this case is purely directed toward the state, ignoring the micro-political and ethnic framework of culture that truly defines a nationality. The traditions of England, from communal resourcing and legal/litigious history to feudal hierarchies and a political patchwork of municipalities and feudalities have been destroyed long before the European Union came into fruition. A global citizenship is still envisioned through Brexit, but with blue passports that emphasise ‘Britishness’.

In effect, the micro-political elements that make up a cultural critique are themselves minor. The litigious nature of common law that is so defining of British legal history will not return under Brexit. With the Henry VIII powers, processes of centralisation will continue onwards, but will go through Whitehall instead of Brussels. The grand macro rules over the heterogeneous micro. The un-reflexive governance of the modern nation-state is simply re-instantiated with Brexit, as the demo-bureaucratic state is given a new lease of life with talk of parliamentary sovereignty and an unshackled British government.

Going toward the economic side, we see this macro-rule with the emphasis on an open Britain, which in effect means further state subsidisation of corporate oligopoly through centralised infrastructure and investment. The more interesting, almost postmodern elements of modern governance (its hyper-fluid nature, multi-scalar format and increasingly networked positionality) are swept under the rug as governance maintains its two-dimensional veneer. Brexit has re-emphasised this two-dimensionality, attempting to show economic governance as a sledgehammer that can hit Europe at any time (particularly in the event of a hard Brexit). Brexit, particularly its no-deal variant, maintains that feedback mechanism of culture only overlaying the wider neoliberal economy, thus making a wider critique that opens up new socio-economic possibilities an effective pipedream of think tanks and small civil society organisations. Governance is de-political in a thin sense. Its happy to be political when preventing diseconomies of scale or creating regulatory arbitrage, but will emphasise its automatised nature when its governing backdrop is questioned or critiqued. Governing is made a monologic token, and Brexit exists fully within these monological speech acts. When people talk of simply leaving the EU, they speak within this monology, unable to substantively understand or observe wider issues that affect things like cultural decay or economic alienation.

However, the actual nature of governance as positioned across multiple formats and actors means that Brexit will be extremely processual, moving from one stakeholder to the next and constantly evolving as networks, human capital and the divergence of economic power combines with communal modes of relations[2] between and within organisations and complex processes of overlapping jurisdictionality that increase decentral scalar operative frameworks. All elements of society and economy seem to be going through changes that involve this decentralisation and molar scalarisation. While by no means some historical inevitability, as witnessed by concentrations of power across governmental formats, from corporations and states to events like Brexit which present choice as binary, a choice between a petty centralisation of power and a potentiality of difference, these processes do continue to show themselves in a multitude of places, from space exploration and genetic coding done in multiple laboratories in multiple settings, to stock market crashes filtering themselves through cryptocurrencies and blockchains which themselves combine meaningless speculation with meaningful socio-economic projects and possibilities.

As Nick Land describes “As sino-pacific boom and automatized global economic integration crashes the neocolonial world system, the metropolis is forced to re-endogenize its crisis. Hyper-fluid capital deterritorializing to the planetary level divests the first world of geographic privilege; resulting in Euro-American neo-mercantilist panic reactions, welfare state deterioration, cancerizing enclaves of domestic underdevelopment, political collapse, and the release of cultural toxins that speed-up the process of disintegration in a vicious circle.

A convergent anti-authoritarianism emerges, labelled by tags such as meltdown acceleration, cyberian invasion, schizotechnics, K-tactics, bottom-up bacterial welfare, efficient neo-nihilism, voodoo antihumanism, synthetic feminization, rhizomatics, connectionism, Kuang contagion, viral amnesia, micro-insurgency, wintermutation, neotropy, dissipator proliferation, and lesbian vampirism, amongst other designations (frequently pornographic, abusive, or terroristic in nature). This massively distributed matrix-networked tendency is oriented to the disabling of ROM command-control programs sustaining all macro- and micro-governmental entities, globally concentrating themselves as the Human Security System”[3].

The preservation of tradition or identity that is partially codified within particular Brexit narratives must contend with this increasing entropisation of governance and societal connectivity. Through the creation of preserving enclaves (such as the Benedict option as described by Rod Dreher or the development of networks and diasporas as described here[4]) that work through the micro-political nature of a shared lebenswelt we can see organic tradition and shared ethnic bonds working within a system of deterritorialising, de-containerising structures and sub-systems which are adhoc, fragile and fluid. The idea of communal-mode inter-personalisation that exist within corporate and government frameworks exists as an example of this kind of preservation coding, where even in cases of extreme centralisation and disorganisation things still can get done. The nation-state in this regard is at best an extremely poor substitute for micro-political networks of connectivity, and at worst the governing form through which pathetically conservative elements continue to push for some kind of centralised power against rising entropic substratum.

The Brexit lebenswelt was dead from the beginning precisely because its post-imperial imaginary is in effect the dreamed-up bullshit of an exhaustively spun democratic machine whose legitimacy must be filtered through different means. The reality is a lebenswelt as defined by Husserl (“a ‘dimension of being’ that  is defined by ‘face-to-face  interaction, tradition, custom and other extra – conceptual modes of communication'”[5]) can never exist purely within the confines of a nation-state, but must exist across the multiple planes of what can be poorly described as civil society, the heteroglossic set of fluid institutions and the potentialities that exist within these institutions and their actors. The nation-state, particularly within its post-Westphalian character, is a set of centralised protocols increasingly turned into levers of leverage and power. Thus the reliance of a set of multi-national corporations, NGOs and lobbying groups that push for laws restricting the entropic processes of socio-economic breakdown and decentral movement. Laws that limit network solutions through sets of decentralised actors, and laws that limit the potential for innate human and cultural capital to break free of chains set in place by modern legal-political structures that attempt to systematise and normalise their automaticity. Such laws can be seen with US states banning municipal broadband and internet connectivity, the imposition of restrictive covenants for employees, the building of entry barriers through licensing laws and codes (many of which are lobbied for by incumbents) and the raft of capital controls, investor rights and banking codes which make capital scarce and rarefied. Just look at what happened with Catalan independence. Brexit in this sense is not a reimagining of such a global order, but rather a stab in the dark that missed its unknown target. A Brexit for an open Britain is the most useless, pointless thing that can ever be thought up in any political imaginary, and is something that will never work except as an exercise of pure frustration that has nowhere to vent.

Brexit is ironically the dying gasp of a governance that believes its contains what it cannot. It’s the idea of trade between fully-defined and bordered nation-states, of shared civic nationality that can be open to trade and low levels of immigration. Its little more than a joke, but one that has fed into pathetic ideas of democracy, sovereignty and parliamentary government. If Brexit were to mean anything useful, it would mean a processual move toward lower, subsidiarised forms of governing and organisation (that didn’t just strip Brussels of power but Westminster and Whitehall too), one that allows for machinic capital combining with its human variant in weird and interesting ways, producing heteroglossic experimentation rather than a monologic exercise of British patriotism and free trade talk.

[1], 14-15




[5], 5

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