The Exercising of Power Through the Social Production of Space

“People do not live in the state”  … “The state lives in the people” – Gustav Landauer



The recipe for constructing a democratic state is as follows;

1. Pen off a region of land, henceforth to be termed ‘the state’ using imaginary line boundaries.

2. Recruit a large number of people willing to believe in the ‘existence’ of the ‘state’ in order to get a piece of this valuable real-estate, and who are willing to bear arms and give their lives as necessary, to sustain belief in it, and to ‘make believers out of others’ who would ‘blaspheme’ its notional existence by, for example, transgressing its invisible line boundaries, as if they ‘did not exist’.

3. Convince the people that there is a seat of absolute, unquestionable authority in the centre of ‘the state’ (the seat of central authority can be positioned anywhere within the imaginary line boundaries as it is the ‘centre’ in a ‘soul’ like context; i.e. as the point source of inside-outward direction of the activities in the state. [this emulates the biological science’s model of an ‘organism’ whose direction inside-outward asserting, from an internal point source such as ‘the brain’ in a ‘central nervous system’.

4. Given this conceptual ‘state-machine’ whose domestic space is fully and solely under the control of its ‘central authority’, a view that ignores the greater reality that it is still included within the physical space of the earth’s biosphere and thus included within a continuously unfolding physical-relationally transforming space, the mental imagery will be established that ‘the people live in the state’ and this will take on a ‘greater reality’ than the physical reality wherein ‘the state lives in the people’.

5. Now that the reality of living within an interconnected (finite and unbounded) physical space has been set aside by the concept of the ‘independent state’, the focus can shift to ‘who shall manage’ this absolute power vested in the ‘seat of central authority’.  One could fit a ‘king’ or ‘dictator’ into the conceptual seat of power, but this note is about the case where the notion of ‘democracy’ is brought in from social dynamics prior to conceiving the ‘independent state’, and ‘fitted in’ to the state concept with its mental trappings as itemized in points 1 to 4.

6. Now that the statist collective has chosen, by ‘declaring independence’, to ignore for the moment, or to ‘set aside for the moment’, the reality that the physical reality still ‘predominates’ and holds true and that the physical space is still unbounded, as the birds, beasts, insects, rivers, winds testify (they are not asked to buy into the mind-concept based notion of the state, and are perhaps not capable of trading out physical reality for a conceptual reality, as humans are), … it must fill the vacant seat of central authority with some ‘power-source’ and in this discussed case of the ‘democratic state’, it must be filled by some power that draws ‘democratically’ from the participating collective [the ‘believers’ in the notional ‘existence’ of the state].  [The implicit assumption here is that ‘space is Euclidian’.  Click on that hyperlinked phrase to see this whole story unfold from the entrée of how we conceive of space]

7. The conception of ‘the sovereign state’ was formalized as a device to assist the colonizing initiatives of European kings, as in the historical-legal review by Peter D’Errico in ‘Native American Sovereignty; Now You See It, Now You Don’t’.   And, as such, the organizing schema must serve to control the activities of a diversity of tribes and social collectives that inhabit the area in which the ‘pen’ defined by the invisible boundary lines, is being lowered down and over the region, kind of like a suction pump owned by the ‘global economy’ of the ‘Empire’, to draw on the mineral, vegetable and human resources of the region, but yet to give the inhabitants the feeling that they are in control of this action.

8. The ‘democratic’ mechanism chosen, to allow the collective within the ‘pen’ to reach back up to the top, to the seat of central authority, and exercise power over themselves from the top down (from the inside-outward in a spatial sense), was the concept known as ‘representative democracy’ wherein ‘regional representatives of the people’ were periodically elected on a one-man-one-vote basis, to participate in a concensus-seeking process which would then constitute the ‘power source’ in the central seat of authority.  To avoid deadlock, an overall authority, the ‘first minister’ or ‘president’ would also be elected to break deadlocks

9. As colonization ‘blanketed the physical space on the surface of the earth’, making it appear, conceptually, as a ‘patchwork quilt’, a number of variants were experimented with for a ‘governance architecture’ for ‘the state’, but what was common to all was the putting into [unnatural] precedence, the conceptual space of the state, over the natural physical space which continued to be ‘the real space’ for birds, beasts, insects, winds, rivers etc.  Thus, the primary influence on the development of the form, behaviour and organization of the ‘state’ was seen as being determined constructively by the actions of the participants in the concept of ‘the state’ [the actions of the  ‘believers’ in the ‘existence’ of the state or the actions of those indigenous peoples enslaved within the imposed definition-of-existence of the state. ].

10. Because the state only exists in a ‘concept-based reality’, the management of the state is constrained to operating within that ‘concept-based reality’.  Instead of managing space by responding to one’s experience of being included within a physical dynamic wherein outside-inward influences were inextricably matched with inside-outward influences, the management of the conceptual space of the state, thanks to the absolute boundaries limiting the existence of the state, was instead ‘one-sided’ and proceeding from the ‘direction’ issuing forth from the centre of directive authority.  This made the management system ‘intellectual’ rather than ‘experiential’, with the ‘intellectual program being imposed inside-outwardly’ from the seat of central authority.

11. Because the organizing schema for the state was to be ‘intellectual’ as it had to be since it was using a conceptual space as its operating theatre, those vying to become elected representatives had to compete for candidacy on the basis of their ‘intellectual plans and programs’, advising their prospective electors ‘what kind of intellectual direction’ they would be transmitting (inside-outwardly from the centre of directive authority).  Variants developed in the flavour of these intellectual plans/programs which have been terms ‘political’ variants and these gave rise to ‘political parts’ in the organizing schema or ‘political parties’.  The competition to become a representative of the collective in the central seat of directive authority, evolved in some state collectives, into numerous parties and in others, into a basic mutually opposing duality.

12. It must not be overlooked that all of these ‘state’ based organizing schemas have retained their theme of ‘controlling’ the conceptual space and the dynamics transpiring within the imaginary line boundaries, by way of INTELLECTUAL DIRECTIVES issued inside-outwardly from a central seat of directive authority.  As sophisticated technologies became enfolded within the dynamics of state collectives, the sophistication of the ‘intellectual programs’ offered by candidates seeking to become representatives continually increased to the point that even the candidates had to rely on ‘experts’ in ‘the economy’ etc.  As evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin noted [and evidently accepted];

“It is one of the contradictions of a democratic society in a highly advanced technological world, … to make rational political decisions, you have to have a knowledge which is accessible only to a very few people.”  [Lewontin continues by noting;] “that different people have different interests, and therefore the struggle is not a moral one, it’s a political one.  It’s always a political one, and that’s the most important thing you have to recognize… that you may be struggling to make the world go in one direction, … [while] somebody else is struggling to make it go in another direction, and the question is; who has power?  And if there’s a differential in power, and if you haven’t got it and they have, then you have to do something to gain power, which is to organize. “  – Richard Lewontin

13. Because the organizing schema of the state is based on a conceptual operating theatre and on intellectual-logical organizing concepts, rather than on physical experience, Lewontin’s above comments hold true.  People and programs are voted in for which the voting collective has no direct understanding of.  In fact, the deadlock-breaking presidents and prime-ministers may have no direct understanding of their own topsiding directives, as in the case of an out-of-control global economy.  This degenerate situation results from moving into a conceptual space/reality as established by the entirely ‘belief-based’ concept of the ‘independent state’ with its mutually exclusive [conceptually] ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, where organization is ‘intellectually-driven’ from the top rather than experientially navigated by the in-situ experients.

14. In democratic elections the de facto assumption is that those winning a majority are ‘more enlightened’ than the rest and it is thus there duty to impose their intellectual belief system on the entire collective for the greater good of the entire collective.  In other words, it is assumed that a ‘majority’ has a monopoly on ‘the truth’, since campaign debates are in terms of whose view is the more true view.

15. As technology incorporated in the dynamics of the state collective complexifies, the demands on intellection-based organizing schemas are increasingly challenged.  People who are far from the seat of authority, whose experiences are increasingly difficult, are no longer interested in listening to intellectual arguments over how to balance things out in the established top-down, intellectual program directed manner.  Besides, it is evident that the authorities responsible for these intellectual organizing programs no longer know what they are doing and they can certainly no longer simply take the advice of the ‘experts’ in the intellectual program sphere, because they are debating amongst themselves and throwing their hands up in the air to signal that they, too, are unable to figure out what is going on.  The people at the bottom most negatively effected would like to abandon the concept-based reality of the state with its intellectual program directed organizing approach and revert to a real, physical experience based organizing schema.  Hence the ‘Arab Spring’ and the worldwide spread of ‘Occupy’ initatives.

16. As mentioned earlier, the state was conceptually developed by Imperialism/colonialism to serve as a kind of ‘vacuum cleaner’, to harvest the natural and human resources of the penned in area on which to base the claim of sovereign state ownership.  This ‘cloud’ of imperialist cronies has since been replaced by the ‘cloud’ of owners and traders of investment instruments (the conceptual version of physical assets).  The wealth that was in the real physical economy has been steadily ‘vacuumed up’ into the cloud of conceptual owners that has taken over from the ‘imperial cloud’.  Parasitic draining of the physical economy by the owners of ‘conceptual property’ is now resulting in implosion and collapse of the real physical economy.  As economic philosophers such as John McMurtry explain, in this concept-based organizing scheme, the ability to make money directly from the movement of money (conceptual dynamics) has ‘decoupled’ from the physical economy and is vacuuming money out of the economy and starving the real, physical economy in the process.  ***See ‘The Origins of Decoupling

Conclusion:  The ‘elevating’ of a ‘conceptual reality’ over ‘physical reality’ by way of the colonizing device of declaring the existence of the sovereign state with mutually exclusive inside and outside, to serve as kind of surface ‘dredge’ to vacuum the wealth out of these staked claim areas, into the ‘imperial cloud’ which has now been subsumed by ‘the International Monetary Fund’ and/or the cloud of owners of ‘conceptual property’ within the global economy’, has been eminently successful.  The way has been paved by the popular appeal of the notion of ‘democratic government’, a mode of ‘organizing’  wherein the people within a state can exercise the power of directive control over themselves.  Both the operating theatre and the organizational schema are conceptual and ‘exist only in the mind’, not in the open physical space enjoyed by birds, beasts of the forest, meandering rivers, free-flowing winds etc.

Organizing in the physical space of nature, as occurred prior to the hijacking of ‘open space’ by the imperial powers via the ‘colonizing device’ of the ‘sovereign state’,  is not by the imposition of conceptual/intellectual programs via a central directive authority, but by an outside-inward – inside-outward experiential-physical engaging, something that disappears from view when one declares the ‘inside’ of the state to be mutually exclusive of the ‘outside’ of the state, and declares as well, that the dynamic inside the state are driven, on a first priority basis, from out of the central directive authority of the state.

It is fair to say that the people who originally ‘became believers’, which are the necessary founders and sustainers of ‘the state’, were usually in difficult circumstances and being offered ‘a deal they couldn’t refuse’; e.g in the creating and sustaining of the ‘state’ referred to as ‘The New Colossus’;

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

To be offered a stake in a valuable piece of real-estate (the claimed ‘new state’) when one not only had next to nothing but when was suffering where one was and couldn’t see any way out, … was extremely enticing.  Of course, the price of participation was kind of ‘Faustian’ in that that piece of owned real-estate existed only in the imperialist imagination and what it needed to take on a ‘seeming reality of its own’ was ‘believers’ and ‘sustained belief’, and who would believe in the existence of an ‘owned piece of real-estate’ smack in the middle of Turtle Island?  Certainly not the indigenous peoples who believed that ‘man belonged to the land’ rather than ‘the land belongs to man’.  So, the price of entry in this imaginary-real-estate deal was to swear an oath of belief in the existence of the state, and to bear arms and give one’s life, if necessary, to sustain belief in the existence of the state, and to ‘make believers’ out of any who physically challenged the belief or who threatened to erode belief in the existence of the state.

Currently, more and more people are becoming involved in ‘non-governed organizing schemes’ of which NGOs and ‘sans frontieres’ organizations are only one example.  There are transition town and other sustainable community initiatives burgeoning up all around the globe and the current ‘Arab Spring’ and ‘Occupy’ initiatives are in this category.  The appeal is that the organizing schema are by positive affirmation rather than by imposing top-down intellectual directives, as was common prior to the ‘statizing’ of the world and the associated elevating of conceptual space over physical space, as the ‘opreative reality’.  This can be seen as a return to ‘indigenous tradition’ modes of organizing, as, for example, have been captured in the organizational earning experience of the Zapatistas and in indigenous spirituality traditions.

It can also be seen as the blistering of the fuse on Nietzsche’s Dynamite.

* * *

Appendix I:   How the state exercises its power through the social production of space.




Rosetta-Stone understanding of ‘Occupy’ Initiatives.

Nietzsche, Lefebvre and McLuhan are each difficult to read/interpret.

Meanwhile, they are saying the same thing in their own jargons, and what they are saying pertains to how ‘we’, ‘the masses’ are enslaved by authoritarian logic via the ‘social shaping of space’.

It goes like this;

1. Space is something we understand in two different ways at the same time; we can look at river flow and see the flow (dynamic ‘ground’) and within the flow we see ‘dynamic figures’ such as whirlpools or convection cells.

2. In the case of time lapse animations of satellite imagery of the atmosphere, we might focus in on three such ‘convection cells’ aka ‘hurricanes’ and give them names, objectifying them [‘personifying them’] as ‘things-in-themselves’ and then talking about THEIR developing of form, behaviour, organization.

3. The ‘real’ PHYSICAL dynamic is the ‘dynamic ground’ or ‘the flow’ [the ‘flow’ is nonlocal, not-directly-visible, and non-material; i.e. it is the spatial-relational transformation that is continually underway] while the dynamics of the ‘dynamic figures’ that we have defined and name-labelled as ‘local, visible, material ‘things-in-themselves (e.g. ‘hurricanes’) are MIND CANDY [imagined mental concepts, fictions, not the real thing]

4. Authoritarianism depends on CONFUSING THE FICTION OF ‘DYNAMIC FIGURES’ [captures in noun-and-verb language] FOR REALITY [the reality is continuing spatial-relational transformation].

5. ‘Occupy’ shifts the view of space back to ‘transformation’ [to ‘dynamic ground’ and away from ‘dynamic figures’] which tends to ‘break’ the ‘Authoritarian illusion’ which portrays ‘space’ as something we have deterministically constructed in a ‘materialist’ sense; i.e. ‘the land belongs to man’ instead of ‘man belongs to the land’.   The ‘authorities’ [authority in our own ‘selves’] find this mesmerizing easier in an urban setting, i.e. in a technological shell of our own anthropogenic making.

Nietzsche, Lefebvre and McLuhan are all saying the same thing; space presents as two different ‘realities’ at the same time [physical and mental], and our culture, and thus its Authorities, tries to keep us trapped in the fictional ‘mental reality’ based on ‘concepts’; i.e. based on local, visible, material ‘things-in-themselves’ and THEIR dynamics, wherein the world is seen as a ‘deterministically constructed’ social space; i.e. this non-physical ‘mental reality’ is in terms of the corporations and the sovereign states and the people within this machinery deterministically developing the form, the dynamics and the organization of space [a view in terms of the conceptual ‘dynamic figures’ or ‘things-in-themselves] which ignores the more comprehensive physical ‘dynamic ground’].

The ‘occupy’ initiative ‘suspends’ the authoritarian space illusion.  The occupiers are like ‘jay-walkers’ who pay no attention to the ‘orders’ silently screamed out to us from the constructed forms of the socialized space, commanding us to ‘walk within the lines’ of the flatspace design drawings of the authoritarian system, while the ‘occupiers’ bring in the smell of transformation of that space, kind of like the vandals entering Rome, their movements undisciplined by the by architecture of the socialized space, and signalling the return of the ‘greater reality’ of ‘transformation’.

Lefebvre writes;  it “is that Euclidean space which philosophical thought has treated as ‘absolute,’ and hence a space (or representation of space) long used as a space of reference. … Euclidean space is defined by its “isotopy” (or homogeneity), a property which guarantees its social and political utility. The reduction of this homogenous Euclidean space, first of nature’s space, then of all social space, has conferred a redoubtable power upon it. All the more so since that initial reduction leads easily to another — namely, the reduction of three-dimensional realities to two dimensions (for example, a “plan,” a blank sheet of paper, something drawn on paper, a map, or any kind of graphic representation or projection.”

Nietzsche writes;  “And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by “nothingness” as by a boundary; not something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a space that might be “empty” here or there, but rather a force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there […]”. Frederick Nietzsche, The Will to Power.

McLuhan writes; “Many people would be disposed to say that it was not the machine, but what one did with the machine, that was its meaning or message. In terms of the ways in which the machine [the corporation, the authoritarian government] altered our relations to one another and ourselves, it mattered not in the least whether it turned out cornflakes or Cadillacs.” – Marshall McLuhan, ‘Understanding Media’

In all three cases, these philosophers are saying that SPACE presents itself to us in TWO REALITIES at the same time, except that THE REALITY that our authoritarian culture bases its its deterministic constructivist view of space on, IS NOT PHYSICAL REALITY; I.E. IT IS NOT THE REALITY OF OUR PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE, it is all ‘in our heads’.

The three philosophers of the Rosetta stone are saying that ‘people do not live in the state’, ‘the state lives in the people’; i.e. space presents to us as two different realities at the same time, the physical reality in terms of a continuing spatial-relational transformation, and a mental reality in terms of conceptual ‘things-in-themselves’ that associate with our linguistic definitions and name labels.  ‘The worker is not a cog in the corporate mechanics’, the ‘corporate machine is a cog in the worker’s mental gymnastics’.

The state, by declaring itself ‘independent’, claims to have complete control over its ‘domestic realm’, its ‘inside space’.  The notion of ‘inside space’ as distinct from ‘outside space’ is of course, purely a mental concept which has no authority over the physical reality which is the unbounded dynamic of spatial-relational transformation.   The concept of the ‘state’ and the ‘corporation’ does have authority over those who would put the mental concept based ‘reality space’ into an unnatural precedence over ‘physical reality space’.

Lefebvre in his ‘Production of Space’, is the most direct of the three, in articulating how we can ‘make our home’ in either of the two ‘realities’ that ‘space’ simultaneously presents to us;

“L’espace n’a rien d’une “condition” a priori des institutions et de l’État qui les couronne. Rapport social ? Oui, certes, mais inhérent aux rapports de propriété (la propriété du sol, de la terre, en particulier), et d’autre part lié aux forces productives (qui façonnent cette terre, ce sol), <strong> l’espace social manifeste sa polyvalence, sa “réalité” à la fois formelle et matérielle. Produit qui s’utilise, qui se consomme, il est aussi moyen de production ; réseaux d’échanges, flux de matières premières et d’énergies, façonnent l’espace et sont déterminés par lui

“Space presents itself to us ambiguously as two different realities at the same time, as a category and as a material entity.  It is a product to use and to consume, it is also means of production ; networks of exchange and flows of raw materials and energies fashion space and are determined by it.”

Lefebvre notes that the deterministic-constructivist authoritarian cultural view is ‘mocked’ when the constructed forms in the space are no longer used in a way that is consistent with their authoritarian deterministic constructivist origin;

“A recent and well-known case of this was the reappropriation of the Halles Centrales, Paris’s former wholesale produce market, in 1969-71. For a brief period, the urban centre, designed to facilitate the distribution of food, was transformed into a gathering-place and a scene of permanent festival — in short, into a centre of play rather than of work — for the youth of Paris.” – Lefebrvre

This is kind of like a chess board with pieces that are mice dressed up as pawns, knights, bishops, etc. and as commands come down from highest authority to move the pieces according to the rules of the game, the pieces elect to ignore the rules, and like the vandals in Rome, restore their own movements within the physical space to natural primacy over the regulated movements demanded by the conceptualized space.

‘People do not live in the state, the state lives in the people’ –Gustav Landauer

* * *

Appendix II: (hyperlink)  Core Theory Summary

Appendix III: (hyperlink) Dialogia and Dialectic [discussion: concensus in physical space and conceptual space]