I still haven’t solved the problem of governmentality, but I do have some more things to say about the Schmittian sovereign and the status of exceptional powers. If we compare the New Deal with the Patriot Act, we can see that emergencies don’t have to necessarily supply the executive with one-way options for action. It’s not necessarily the case that the Prince will always choose war over compassion, for instance. (Roosevelt seems to have chosen both, though to be fair, we can’t entirely blame him for WWII.) In this way, we can imagine that sequential executives would push their growing powers in vaguely egalitarian/populist directions, and then in more acutely militant or aristocratic ways in about equal measure. This would form another sort of hyper-equilibrium, such that we could sacrifice notions of progress for a roughly acceptable stability.

Yet one of the interesting things about contemporary capitalism is that we have excised the economic emergency as best we can. We have found ways to spread Depressive effects over long periods and to export them to the global South (i.e. Argentina) and various other underdeveloped areas (i.e. Thailand). This isn’t to say that we’ve got economic issues licked; I think the system is relatively brittle with regard to peak-oil or major environmental catastrophe. But especially given the way we handled the crash of the “Asian Tigers” in the late nineties, I suspect that we’ve found ways to manage the flow of currency and investments such that we will never again suffer from a global depression like that of the 1930s.

At the same time, military emergencies seem to be unmanageable in this way. Attacks on civilians, assymetric warfare strategies, and the general increase in explosive destructiveness all suggest that our near future will be filled with alerts and pseudo-alerts that will tempt the executive into action. We can only surmise that the decisions the executive makes will all press the governance towards militance, towards dictatorship. This armed and terrorized mobilization of sovereignty seems likely to continue. This, perhaps, is the genius of the strategy that has embroiled us in imperial occupation of an insurrectionist and internally divided nation half-way around the world. The threats to national security will be a constant well-spring of hawkish rhetoric. Whether it’s combat vets like John Kerry or Wesley Clark, or big-talking Republicans who receive a pass on their non-service like the Great White Beast, our nation’s electoral conversation will be ruled by military issues for the forseeable future.

Second Opinions