The Accursed Sovereign

“Technological Leadership”

Posted in Criticism, Kibble, Political Philosophy by bradishn on July 19, 2011

I recently attended a panel discussion on New Zealand’s endeavor to vastly expand its broadband fiberoptics network.  At one point, the phrase “technological leadership” was spoken.  I can’t remove it from my thought.

At first approach, I think technological leadership may be a contradiction of terms.  Leadership, if I understand it correctly, falls into the political realm where humans govern their affairs (here I am referencing Hannah Arendt’s work The Human Condition, particularly her distinction between labor, work, and action).  It is distinctly a political form of action.  Technology, on the other hand, is a product of work.  Technological works can be unmade, at least in some sense.

Is technological leadership a leadership that is informed by technology and technological innovation?  Or is it the leadership of technological trends and development.  As in all ‘chicken-or-the-egg’ questions, it is probably both.  I find a distinct lack of the latter, however.  In a world where ebooks may come to dominate education and working from home is increasingly common, we may be laying the technological framework for the removal of distinction between private and public realms.  Theoretically, one could live one’s entire life in a house and be educated, work, and die without leaving a digital world.  Though I’ve no doubt people will dispute the reality of such a claim, the fact is that it is becoming a possibility, just as the creation of the nuclear bomb created the possibility of humanity’s death as a species.

I would like to think that technological leadership involves knowing when restraint should be shown in technological advancement.  I might be wrong.  I feel about technological development roughly the same way I feel about the harvesting of natural resources: if they are there, they will be collected.  Where there is coal, it will be mined, where there is oil, it shall be drilled, and where there are trees, they will be cut down; all for progress.  The wheels of capitalism and technological innovation cannot be stopped.  Perhaps we should take them to their conclusions, rather than trying to stop them.

The Accursed Sovereign: an Aside

Posted in Biography, Kibble, Political Philosophy by bradishn on September 1, 2010

I suppose it’s been long in the coming, but I want to speak briefly about the name of this blog and what I believe to be it’s purposive significance.  To start, the name is clearly a play on the title of Georges Bataille’s The Accursed Share (La Part Maudite), a two-volume work which boils down to Georges Bataille’s take on political economy, which in turn departs from Marcel Mauss’s essay The Gift: the Form and Reason of Exchange in Archaic Societies (Essai sur le don. Forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques).  In La Part Maudite, Bataille claims that the cornerstone to understanding any human society is to understand the way it deals with excessive energies.  These energies are accursed, that is, the only thing one can do is dissipate them.  Otherwise, they accumulate and, given enough time, explode (for example, imagine a nation has a budgetary surplus and decides to allocate these extra funds towards military armament.  Inevitably, this results in conflict, making the investment in war-making tools a self-fulfilling prophecy).  The need to deal with these energies is the burden of society.

In the same way, I consider the position of the sovereign to be an accursed one.  This is perhaps American society rearing its head through my beliefs, but often society dislikes those who fill the role of the sovereign (sometimes to the point of violence, as with the act of assassination).  While the position of head of state is prestigious, it is also accursed in that the individual that fills it is the subject of the worst slander and libel society can create.  In just my few situations of leadership, I have come to hate the uninformed and ignorant masses, while recognizing the importance of the role of the sovereign.  Sometimes I worry my politics have taken a turn for the fascistic.

However, the sovereign, while accursed in the eyes of society, cannot be done away with.  Unlike excessive expenditure, which dispels the energies of society, the sovereign is not done away with as easily.  Though events that channel these aforementioned energies can result in the removal of the sovereign, it is an act so destructive that it is tantamount to the body politic decapitating itself (such as with military coup).  In so doing, society often is presented with the chance to radically reconfigure itself, but it will never again be the same.

The head of state, the sovereign, maintains a social order through multiple facets, all of which are premised on the sovereigns very existence.  In some situations, the mere existence of the head of state is what creates social order, not through any particular will of his own.  Without him, society erupts into chaos.  I suppose Hobbes is next on my reading list.