Crowd Biography

Biography is a form for describing individuals, and so taking crowds as the object of biography makes for an unstable presentation. An individual life is easy to conceive, since we know roughly how it is determined and the conditions for its existence, but the limits of a crowd are not so easy.  An actual crowd may form and disperse at certain times and places, but it’s virtual doubles do not. After the crowd disperses there is still the possibility of a similar crowd reassembling under similar circumstances, in the same place or somewhere else.

A structure is a function, although it functions towards no other end. Structures are functions which stand as absolute values in the kingdom of means. Functional play proceeds towards the emergence of formal elements – towards meta-stability, or where the play of formal elements expresses style. As meta-stability becomes the absolute value of play functions, we move towards a structural politics where incompatible meta-stabilities conflict. As incompatible meta-stabilities collide there is a forced breakdown of their formal elements and loss of homestasis. Through this conflict elements are reformed and re-gathered into other programs of meta-stability.

A sovereign is one who traditionally has the power to harness the crowd. He proves himself by bringing the wild crowd under his power. Semitic scripture provides schematics for this process, especially in Job and Jonah. Religion concerns the mystery of the crowd and the sovereign. It models the crowd’s dispositions and the projection of absolute power. There are important links between the mortality of crowds, deities, and monarchs – structurally important links in how these reach their limits. These are abstract patterns in existential angst, and insomniac migrations over the uncertainty of what dies.  This is not rumination over what death is, but over what will undergo death. There is wandering around the crack between biological death and cultural death, which bifurcates into endless distinctions between nested life-spans. There is angst about the vulnerability of all life on Earth, but also the vulnerability of certain species, languages, cultures…  the million shades of angst in glorious humanity.

Happiness designates the lucky situation where structure relieves angst. We start with the dynamic conditions of angst, and a play transmutes those conditions into structural symbols. The capitulating formal element is Judgment Day – the general idea of a metaphysical limit which is a structurally necessary fiction.  Our capacity to meta-stabilize is linked to our capacity to contemplate the finitude of imaginary crowds.

The topology of crowd space has layers of memory which are ancient, medieval, baroque, and modern.  A generic crowd space can be constructed by combining the perspectives of student protests over the past century – China in the 1920’s, France in the 1960’s, Thailand in the 1970’s…. a series of structural exchanges between schools, and other institutions like armies and farms. These are various structured masquerades of the emergent commodity, and the generic crowd space is the singular parallax moving between them, shifting from one screen to the next.

A crowd gathers around a tombstone, scaffold, battlefield….. death is always an encounter between  conflicting structures, and the ongoing breakdown where the crowds dissolve and evolve through the global flattening of gregarious sexuality. Longue durée crowd migrations are manifest in patterns of protest, study, pilgrimage, or consumption, which all become financial information. Finance is an institutional structure that arises in the vacancies left by revolutions, and it is linked to rituals of decapitating the sovereign.  Capitalism is the structural fall-out from that decapitation event, and today this resonates against the tired legacy of the American revolution. The financialization of sovereignty has to be delinked from the American models of the demos, and communicate with the patrie of the French Revolution and the proletariate of the Russian Revolution.

The singular ends of sovereignty are important structural conditions – the ends of Rome, Austro-Hungary, Qing, Czar, Ottoman, Bourbon… these ends of sovereignty proliferate crowds and nationalities. The party-crowd that parades in the American revolution can’t handle this angst of mortality, and the inauthentic disavowal of the dead leader is structurally fundamental in today’s capitalism.  The end of this capitalist amnesia seems to require the arrival of form from the space of the dead leader – like the form of the jettisoned deity. The energy of the modern crowd is linked to the disavowal of the dead leader – the crowd orbits elliptically around his tomb charging and discharging itself. The whole dynamic of capitalism terminates when the leader returns from the dead.

The process of capital accumulation runs through all possible structural situations. This is the process that began upon the death of the leader. Only he allows for the representation of a life, and in his absence life’s in-determination is the surplus bleeding of capital.  Sovereignty is the finitude of the structural, which is the code for how life is determined and undetermined.  The structural is advanced praxis – it is where praxis has worked the conditions through to the point where they become structured. The new structure emerges through the endless reworking of conditions – it is a product of hysterical insomnia, and the endless retracing of footsteps back around the empty seat of sovereignty.

Capitalism ends when the representation of a new sovereign can relieve the crowd of its existential burden.  The party-crowd flee from the burden of existence, and are attracted to sovereigns who can relieve them of it. The new sovereign is proven by its structural meta-stabililty, or existential relief. The need for a great crowd (who are adequate to a great sovereign) drives the leveling of all national crowds, and this leveling provides the chance for structure. Class disparity places limits on what a crowd can be, and prevents the crowd from becoming fully structural, as in Russian formalism. Capitalism is the unstructured drift of appetites that follows the death of the leader, where we intuit structural elements to relieve us of our hysterical insomnias and existential burdens.

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