The Rittenhouse Effect

In the theory of fifth generation warfare there is a concept called the super empowered individual. “A super empowered individual, in my view, is autonomously capable of creating a cascading event that grand strategist Dr Thomas P.M. Barnett has termed a ‘system perturbation’; a disruption of system function and invalidation of existing rule sets to at least the national but more likely the global scale. The key requirements to become ‘superempowered’ are comprehension of a complex system’s connectivity and operation; access to critical network hubs; possession of a force that can be leveraged against the structure of the system and a willingness to use it”[1]. This is an extension of non-state warfare beyond the paradigm of fourth generation warfare, where the battlespace moves beyond the control or comprehension of the nation-states with the introduction of non- or sub-state actors that challenge sovereignty.

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Lockdowns are the Norm

I wrote a few months ago about how we are seeing the development of a perma-lockdown situation[1], where the decreasing efficacy of vaccines and the failure of measures like masks or social distancing to meaningfully dent COVID case numbers has led to the call for greater restrictions and lockdown-like policies from our increasingly-powerful medical networks. Now, with cases rising substantially in Europe, we are seeing this come to fruition. Austria has instituted a lockdown against the unvaccinated, with Germany potentially following suit. The Netherlands and Belgium have introduced partial lockdowns[2]. And in Gibraltar, where the population is near enough 100% vaccinated (with 40% having received booster doses), there are potential curbs on social activity on the horizon as cases spike.

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Vaccine Black Holes

The increasing evidence of the COVID vaccines’ leakiness and reduced efficacy, both in terms of waning immune efficiency and in terms of vaccine escape through variants, show the folly of vaccines being the only substantial tool being used to tackle coronavirus. The vaccines we currently have are primarily designed to prevent severe infection and fatality, with the efficacy against transmission reducing substantially with variants compared to the trial data. Against the Delta variant in particular, vaccinated populations have similar levels of viral load compared to unvaccinated as well as similar protection levels as natural infection[1].

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Exit is Always Partial

“Exit can be similarly blunted. As was shown, organizations and firms that are ostensibly competing and are normally sensitive to exit can learn to play a cooperative, collusive game in the course of which they take in each other’s disgruntled customers or members. To the extent that the game is played successfully by competing organizations or firms, exit, compensated as it is by entry, ceases to be a serious threat to the deteriorating organizations”[1].

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Perma-Lockdown and the Pharmacy

Lockdowns and coercive mandates have moved from a position of extraordinary intervention in the face of a novel virus to an increasingly used catchall to deal with complex problems, including potential new viral outbreaks, climate change and existing respiratory illnesses. Before, these were recognised as problems of systemic action, with incentives designed to produce negative externalities while concentrating wealth at the top. The disequilibrium of medicinal practice or the effects of climate change were never simply the product of individual decisions but the lock in of multiple imperatives, from consumption to product sourcing based upon principles of profit, cost-cutting and limited spatio-temporality.

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Post-COVID Dispositions

Crises present the mechanism through which new dispositions, new discourses can be established and expand. Inverting societal dynamics and opening up established power to challenge allows for the multitude of potentialities to overwhelm the governance of ordered multiplicities, upending the “small acts of cunning endowed with a great power of diffusion, subtle arrangements, apparently innocent, but profoundly suspicious, mechanism that obeyed economies too shameful to be acknowledged, or pursued petty forms of coercion”[1]. However, by their very nature, the subtlety and microscopic scope of these various elements means they are adaptable, making the crisis double-edged in that it both cracks the ground of established power while allowing dynamics attenuated to that power to fill them in. The power of dispositions is in their fluidity. Crisis is the ground for this fluidity, bending and reshaping dynamics for further dispositionality.

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War Entrepreneurs

Libertarian theories of international relations (IR) are limited in their codification and explanation, tending to be afterthoughts in wider social and economic treatises that premise the development of a libertarian society. The central figure of the state or sovereign in most IR theories goes against the grain of libertarianism’s insight that economic action moves beyond the boundaries of states through markets and non-state institutions. However, this view leads to myopia as the importance of IR and particularly of warfare in the construction and delineation of societies, as well as the character of state and non-state institutions, means a whole field of action that libertarianism must engage with if it is to posit a praxis.

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Violent Machinations: Capital & Revolution

“The eternal absolute is the immobile point of reference around which temporal figurations circulate, their presupposition; however, precisely as such, it is posited by these temporal figurations, since it does not preexist them: it emerges in the gap between the first and the second”[1]. Zizek, in conceptualising the relation between the virtual and its actualisation, shows how the requirement of the ideological (symbolic) presupposes the proposition of the (un)attainable ideal. The progressivisation of history in its various guises follows this procedure, positing the objet petit a as the ultimate desire while also then sublimating this desire into a desire for the desire itself. From the virtual desire of utopia (“the utopic attempt to remove struggle is simply the attempt to instantiate a devalued mechanism of meaning”[2]) there emerges the actualisation of a fundamentalism to instantiate the ideological desire. The struggle is no longer neutered, instead becoming the primary locus of violent action against prevailing power.

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Pragmatic Libertarianism, Autonomous War Machines and International Relations: Part IV

Pragmatic Libertarianism and Pessimistic Agorism

“Transitions from one system of social organization to another, in the real world, are piecemeal and partial, with a considerable variety of subjective visions and motives among those involved. So Murray Rothbard’s vision of a stable majority of an entire society converted to the nonaggression principle, operating according to essentially the same libertarian law code, and with some set of model libertarian institutions, is probably as close to the literal meaning of ‘utopia’—nowhere—as we could imagine”[1].

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Pragmatic Libertarianism, Autonomous War Machines and International Relations: Part III

Decentralisation and Transversality

In taking a structural-materialist analysis that takes context as a primary variable for the formation of international orders (second anarchies), a libertarian ideology or commercial sovereignty must exist within the prevailing context of international relations, both shaping and being shaped by it. As previously noted, the autonomous forces of commerce and/or war are partial actants in their own right, with any ethical foundation only being achieved through the combination of forces to produce a stable order. Any order is only relative, and is only contingent, reliant on the maintenance of forces that may degrade and parts of assemblages that may dislocate. As Deleuze & Guattari noted with the war machine, the state apparatus’s co-optation of it creates instability, as the forces of war, that violence entrepreneurism, reshape and disperse the capabilities to control it. In contrast to Deudney, the developments of order from disorder do not developmentally scale upward to the ultimate second anarchy, a world federation or integrated international governance structure that finds itself with no established enemy, no periphery to which violence is externalised. Indeed, the actualisation of such a proposition would inevitably create instability, as the very forces of war contained within such a vast structure would turn inward, degrading it and causing it to decentralise and dissipate into its constituent elements. The development of order is thus cyclical and temporary.

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