A "NEW" LOGO FOR A BAR CODE SOCIETY?
WHAT'S IN A BAR CODE SOCIETY?
Ideally, according to the model of communication between production and consumption, implicit at work in Professor Koolhaas' new logo for the EU, production planning will communicate with markets constantly and immediately. Factories will maintain zero stock, and commodities will be produced just in time according to the present demand of the existing markets. This model thus involves not simply a more rapid feedback loop but an inversion of the relationship because, at least in theory, the production decision actually comes after and in reaction to the market decision. In the most extreme cases the commodity is not produced until the consumer has already chosen and purchased it. In general, however, it would be more accurate to conceive the model as striving toward a continual interactivity or rapid communication between production and consumption. This industrial context provides a first sense in which communication and information have come to play a newly central role in production. One might say that instrumental action and communicative action have become intimately interwoven in the informationalised industrial process, but one should quickly add that this is an impoverished notion of communication as the mere transmission of market data.
GIVEN NEW FORMS TO A POLITICAL COMMUNITY?
Indeed, what is at stake here in the making of this logo, is nothing else than to give new forms to a political community. The national form of the political community starts vacillating in its function as an ultimate or exclusive reference. The main characteristic of the national form is a distinction of the citizen and the alien1. We no longer seem to imagine communities as integral nations. This does not either indicate clearly which alternative forms could be advocated, or mean that the very idea of community could be simply abolished.
What is interesting in Professor Koolhaas logo is that what his logo seems to be proposing is precisely, a European communi(cation)ty as the mere transmission of market data.
A LOGO FOR A SOCIETY OF CONTROL: FROM TOLERANCE TO TOLL-ERRANCE?
As such Koolhaas logo seems to suggest a European Community as a version of what Deleuze (1995) has characterized as the society of control and Hardt and Negri (2000) refers to as Empire2. Hardt and Negri claim that the sinews of this polity-its flows of people, information, and wealth- are simply too unruly to be monitored from metropolitan control centres. In control societies, one no longer moves from one closed site to another (family, school, barracks, prison3, etc.) but is increasingly subjected to free-floating, nomadic forms of control (Deleuze 1995: 178). Inclusion and exclusion take place through continuous, mobile forms of surveillance as is the case with electronic tagging, risk management in relation to "networks", or cross-border regulation with respect to divergent sets of flows of subjects and objects. Whereas discipline worked as an "instrument of immobilization", the society of control targets the conduct of mobile subjects (Bauman 1998: 51-2). It is not just science fiction that we might imagine ourselves with an electronic collar. A computer could be made to track our every position and effect a universal modulation of our behavior (What Foucault might have called, an "anti-nomadic technique" that endeavors to "fix" mobilities (Foucault 1977: 215, 218)).
Koolhaas' logo for the European Community suggests that control is digital, that is, control translates everything into the logic of codes and passwords, and thus transgresses the duality of mass and individual. "Individuals become 'dividuals,' and masses become samples,data, markets or 'banks'" (Deleuze 1995: 180). Control transforms "the body into a password" (Lyon 2001: 75). The society of control can interpellate the subject in absentia through electronic lists (see Poster 1996). Regulating a fluid and endlessly divisible, fractal, "multitude" rather than "peoples", control produces a hybrid, metastable subjectivity that no longer corresponds to stable identities of the disciplinary society (Hardt & Negri 2000: 331-2). In this sense control brings with it an infinite intensification of discipline in a smooth space devoid of enclosures; control is discipline without walls, a mobile form of discipline that regulates humans and non-humans "on the move" (Lyon 2001: 63). Nomadism was once a critical tool against discipline, a "line of flight" out of the panopticon, but control society captures nomadic "war machines", accommodating them for its own purposes (see Deleuze & Guattari 1987: 387).
The society of control "knows no outside" (Hardt & Negri 2000: 413). Its logic transgresses the binary logic of the inside/outside distinction for it is a "decentered and deterritorializing apparatus of rule" (Hardt & Negri 2000: xii). Modern discipline had played upon the distinction between inside and outside; post-modern control, in contrast, constitutes an "ou-topia", a non-place (Hardt & Negri 2000: 190).
PROBLEMS OF MISCOMMUNICATION IN THE SOCIETY OF CONTROL?
The society of Control that Koolhaas logo proposes has its own discontents Koolhaas seems to forget that control is prone to immanent problems. As flows traverse the surface of control society, their complex global interdependencies bring forth an inherent danger, that any problem at any singular point may potentially have direct effects on all other points. In other words, the virtual center of control society can be accessed from any point, because every point is potentially its center, and thus any crisis in control society may lead to an omni-crisis (Hardt & Negri 2000: 58, 340). The nightmares of the disciplinary society were entropy (lack of centralized co-ordination) and sabotage (opposition); in control society, "the passive danger is noise and the active, piracy and viral contamination" (Deleuze 1995: 180). "Noise" emerges as a problem of miscommunication between the codes and the programs of the horizontally differentiated function systems (see Luhmann, 1989). The "viral", on the other hand, emanates in the form of metastasis and remains indifferent to control, bringing with it transparency (disappearance).
Threats then emanate from insecurity, generated inside the un-colonised, un-controlled, de-regulated and extraterritorial 'space of flows' (to use Manuel Castells' terms). (Bauman.p.4). The materialisation of such threats draws the invisible within sight and the distant within the neighbourhood. Such threats are translated from the language of global security into the all-too-familiar, daily used and easily understood language of personal safety. One thing that has been made crystal clear is but the present-day mutually assured vulnerability of all politically separated parts of the globe. We are all 'in', with nothing left outside. Or, rather, what used to be 'outside' entered the 'inside' - without knocking; and settled there - without asking permission.
Koolhaas seems to forget to soon that in the society of control there is also inmmigration everywhere and thus a global multitude filling up the world, a global multitude made out of the wretched of the earth, the refugees, the voluntary and involuntary migrants, the 'displaced persons' tout court. A multitude not in the form of a 'people' or a 'nation' but scattered, speaking no common language, and locked into job-cages. A multitude that no longer imagines communities as integral nations.
The society of control that Koolhaas logo proposes, seemingly in control everywhere, is unable to bridle the planetary flow of workers seeking jobs and a better life in rich countries. Reshaping social relations everywhere, immigration on this scale reveals both the hostility of the multitude to the system of national borders and its tenacious desire for cosmopolitan freedom. Like Kant, this multitude also observes that the planet we inhabit is a sphere - and like Kant this multitude also thinks through the consequences of that admittedly banal fact. And the consequences are that we all stay and move on the surface of that sphere, have nowhere else to go and hence are bound to live forever in each other neighbourhood and company. Sooner or later, Kant warned, there will be no empty space left into which those of us who have found the already populated places too cramped or too uncongenial for comfort, could venture. And so the Nature command us to view (reciprocal) hospitality as the supreme precept which we need - and eventually will have to - embrace in order to seek the end to the long chain of trials and errors, of the catastrophes the errors caused and of the ruins left in the wake of the catastrophes. Hospitality is - must be or sooner or later become, the ethically-guided mankind's first rule of conduct.
The multitude must be able to decide if, when and where it moves. It must have the right also to stay still and enjoy one place rather than being forced constantly to be on the move. The general right to control its own movement is the multitude's ultimate demand for global citizenship.
It is important that we build a society capable to resolve the stranger's problem and be able to deal with the presence of strangers. The "available choice" still seems to be 'eating the strangers up'. Either literally, in flesh, or in a more sublime fashion, as in the assimilation practiced almost universally by nation-states so that the strangers are ingested into the national body and cease to exist as strangers. Another solution means 'vomiting the strangers' instead of devouring them either from the realm of the state power or from the world of the living. Just what Oriana Fallaci suggested we should do with people who adore other gods and display baffling toilet habits.
Let us note however that pursuing either of the two solutions made sense only on the twin assumptions: of a clean-cut territorial division between the 'inside' and the 'outside', and of the completeness and indivisibility of sovereignty of the strategy-selecting power inside its realm. None of the two assumptions commands much credibility today, in our liquid-modern global world so well represented in Koolhaas logo; and so the chances of deploying either of the two orthodox strategies are, to say the least, slim.
The tested ways of acting no more available, we seem to be left with no good strategy to handle the newcomers. Since in the times when no cultural model can authoritatively and effectively claim its superiority over competitive models and when nation-building and patriotic mobilisation ceased to be the principal instrument of social integration and state's self-assertion, cultural assimilation is no more on the cards. Since deportations and expulsion make dramatic television and are likely to trigger public outcry and tarnish the international credentials of the perpetrators, the governments prefer to steer clear of the trouble by locking the doors to all who knock asking for shelter. The present trend to drastically reduce the right to political asylum, accompanied by the stout refusal of entry to 'economic immigrants', signal no new strategy regarding the refugee phenomenon - but the absence of strategy, and the wish to avoid a situation in which that absence causes political embarrassment.
In addition to the usually brandished charges of sponging on the nation's welfare and stealing the jobs4, refugees stand now accused of playing a 'fifth column' role on behalf of the global terrorist network. At long last, there is a 'rational' and morally unassailable reason to round up, incarcerate and deport people whom one does not know any more how to handle and does not want to take trouble to find out.
The doors may be locked; but the problem won't go away, however tight the locks. Locks do nothing to tame or weaken the forces that cause displacement. The locks may help to keep the problem out of sight and out of mind, but not to force it out of existence. A Logical, proposal may be the abolition of all immigration controls: papiers pour tous!
The continuing uncontrollability of the already global network of mutual dependence and 'mutually assured vulnerability' most certainly does not increase the chance of such unity. This only means, however, that at no other time has the keen search for common humanity, and the practice that follows such an assumption, been as urgent and imperative as it is now. In the era of globalization, the cause and the politics of shared humanity face the most fateful steps they have made in their long history. A post-national space, as the one formed by the present European Union, tending towards a federal constitution, may approach a cosmopolitic consciousness of solidarity, that is to say, a normative model of a community from which nobody can be excluded.
Bauman, Z (1999) In Search of Politics, Cambridge: Polity Press
Deleuze, G (1995) Negotiations. New York: Columbia University Press.
Foucault, Michel (1977) Discipline and Punish. London: Penguin.
Hardt, M & Negri, A (2000) Empire. London: Cambridge
Luhmann, N (1989) Ecological Communication. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Lyon, D (2001) Surveillance Society. Monitoring Everyday Life. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Poster, M (1996) "Database as discourse, or electronic interpellations". In P. Heelas & S. Lash & P. Morris (eds), Detraditionalization. Cambridge: Blackwell, pp. 277-93.
Schnapper, Dominique (1994) La communauté des citoyens. Sur l'idée moderne de nation. Editions Gallimard.
1.Dominique Schnapper : La communauté des citoyens. Sur l'idée moderne de nation, published in 1994. Editions Gallimard.
2. An acephelous supranational order which the authors choose to call 'Empire'. The term, as they use it, refers not to a system in which tribute flows from peripheries to great capital cities, but to a more Foucauldian figure-a diffuse, anonymous network of all-englobing power (Foucault operates with two images of discipline: first, the enclosed institution "on the edges of society, turned inwards towards negative functions" and, second, a dispositif that improves the exercise of power "by making it lighter, more rapid, more effective" (Foucault 1977: 209). It is the latter image that Deleuze (1995) employs to discuss the emergence of post-disciplinary "societies of control" today, insisting that contemporary technologies constitute a new social topology, in which the geographical/institutional delimitation of discipline, that is, the inside/outside distinction, has become obsolete. As against the persistent image of discipline as an "anti-nomadic technique" that endeavors to "fix" mobilities (Foucault 1977: 215, 218), power itself goes nomadic today.)
3. In the disciplinary societies that Foucault situated in the eighteenth and nineteeth centuries, the individual was continuously located within one closed environment or another, each having its own laws. First there was the family, then the school, then the barracks, the factory, the hospital, and even the prison, each with their own rules and order.
4. A charge eagerly resorted to, with great profit, by ever widening range of contemporary politicians across the political spectrum, from LePen, Pia Kjersgaard or Vlaam Bloc on the far right to the growing number of such as define themselves as 'left of centre'.
Edited and posted on the web on 19th June 2002; last update 6th May 2003
Note: Forthcoming in Archis, 2 (2004)