by Steven Craig Hickman
A Short History of the City and the Cathedral
Liberalism, from this point forward, means nothing at all like state-happy progressivism. It is defined, instead, as the polar opposite of socialism. Its sole commanding value is liberty. It is individualist, only ever guardedly traditionalist, commercially and industrially oriented, strategically neglectful of care, skeptical in respect to all purported public agencies, and rigorously economical in respect to every dimension of government.
—Nick Land, Pyscho Politics
The mapping and cartography of the world through mathematical grids of longitude and latitude were the first algorithms of instrumental rationality: the temporalization of the world into time-zones that could be dominated. Being able to master time was a prerequisite to not only predicting the future, but programming it as well. During that long century of decline and ruin the dynamics of the City would be reduced to rubble by the formidable power of those gray men who cast a cold eye across anything living. Out of their gaze a Secular Cathedral of power, mastery, and death would encompass the globe in its tentacled reflexes as if some xenothanatropic agent of a zombiefied cold world had descended upon planet earth to infiltrate and capture the desires of humanity. It would slowly adapt its calculating mind to the planetary economy through a process of computational praxis. It’s reduction of the real to the ideal traces of a model would allow it to command and control every last aspect of energetic life on the planet. Nothing would escape its gaze.
Graphical statistics, the flattening of the world into diagrammatic algorithms would allow the world not only to be seen at a glance, but allow the first forecast models. This displacement from literature, history, and discursive practices onto mathematical diagrams brought us the dictatorship of calculable and measured facts. One can see in this the movement from geo-maps to managerial and administrative diagrams to the meta-management of the administrator’s themselves in flow-charts and organigrams. Out of this the Managerial State of the Cathedral would emerge not as some spontaneous order, but rather as the calculated growth of a centralized planning committee of bureaucratic command and control technologies. The world would be programmed according to pre-conceived plans of a military style cartography calculated down to absolute Zero.
Even the famous assembly lines and factory models of the Fordist era would be based on the geo-cartographies of military planning and calculation. The Factory itself as a war-economy under the guise of peacetime initiatives. Mass society seen as soldiers in an ongoing competitive and aggressive world of mathematical calculation and managed programming. During and after WWII central planning and modeling of society would give rise to the Managerial State. Academic, scientific, political and socio-cultural worlds under the command and control of cybernetic programming models would bring all of the world under the matheme: the total abstraction of the world as a model to be managed and controlled by technocratic experts and specialists.
Studying this Fredrich Hayek, Father of the free-market economy, would see in the central bureaucratic programming committee of the Cathedralists the “logics of slavery,” its subterranean tentacles forming the Empire of a Collective Machine. So with the new sciences of the brain arising out of cybernetics and systems theory he would develop a non-centric emergent system of spontaneous economic order to counter the rigid castes of this Managed Society. The self-organized socio-economic order Hayek modeled was based on the inherent crisis and conflict within any natural system, emerging “from the relationship and mutual adjustments between its constituent elements” he based his economic thought on chaos and disorder rather than order: a dynamic system adaptable to the flux and sway of the real world rather than the imposed fictions of the Cathedral’s utopian rigidity. In this way he envisioned a free-market system based on imitating the brain’s own processes: the spontaneous ordering properties of an ideal market which could not be controlled, modeled, or reduced to the Nineteenth century’s representational systems of cartographic, diagrammatic, or managed techniques of central command and control calculation and measurement. Nor to the reduction of the real to mathemes and ideal structures of quantified reason controlled by military planning of the Cathedral’s statist axiomatic. In this way Hayek believed he could circumvent the managed state’s control over and intervention in the free-market economy he envisioned.
This battle between the City and the Cathedral led to a differentiation between the universal notion of the world state of progressive socialism, and the more abstract and localized notions of free-market economics of crises, conflict, and disorder that would be based on the impersonal agency of corporate dynamics emerging out of the thanatropic rigidity of Cathedralism. This breakaway dynamism or accelerating of the inherent tendencies within liberty would revolutionize both the socio-cultural and economic systems of the planet for decades. But even this would not last…
With the advent of the vast apparatuses of the Cathedral’s regulatory tentacles, and the rise of ICT’s (Information and Communications Technologies of Social Control) in the later half of the twentieth century, and the turn toward autonomous machinic intelligence independent of human intervention and decisional processes we are seeing reemerge the totalistic technocratic Cathedral as the dream of total management of the Real. As this becomes more an more apparent under the auspices of the re-doubling of object and its data, reflected in the command and control structures of algorithmic governmentality, a new world of absolute control is rigidifying and closing off the dynamic positive feed-back loops of the time vectored power of the free-market economies. At every point of in the global territory, every object of the subject that inhabits it is being subjected and captured by its data base twin: the dividual. In this the map is the territory, and the active programming of the dividual trace of each and every individual is being reprogrammed into a system of absolute calculability. A Cognitive Gulag is being constructed and the Real virtualized and re-ontologized to give the appearance of freedom even as it dissolves it.
With the erasure of Subject, Free Will, Spontaneous order, chaos, etc. the Cathedral seeks to reduce the human to its inhuman core, the programmable functions of an impersonal process that can supervene upon the now outmoded modes of consciousness and begin to enslave it to the dictates of the central planning committee of a new Secular Religion: the Cathedral. Bypassing the conscious mind the Cathedral seeks to program the deep processes of the brain itself through intervention and control of the very inhuman core itself: the brain’s unconscious neuralnet. Seeking to automate society in both its organic and inorganic aspects the human will disappear into its machines reversing the age old augmentation process into originary technicity. Mindless and robotic the neohumans of this closed world of the Cathedral will perform functionally according to the normative programming of the Hierarchs. Humanity will see itself as free within this sphere of total control bounded only by its memoryless subjectivation in the machinic phylum. Robotic and automated the neohuman will no longer think for itself but will become part of the hive-mind of a central dataworld where its thoughts are activated and tasks are set according to archontic powers outside its grasp of intellect.
An affectless, neutered society will develop as CRISPR and other genome technologies of the convergent sphere come online, and a 24/7 world of pure work as play will evolve in the recycled matrix of a virtualized real. The actual and real world ontologized by the Internet-of-things will by design and deliberation control every aspect of life within the Sphere. These enclaves of the new Mega-Cities, the densified and verticalised cities will be based on strict striation and segmentary caste based claves, divided between biogenetic hybrids and advanced technocratic Cyborgization. Naturals will be invested with bonds from birth to death by branded corporational serfdom, provided for and modulated by interface technologies that will program every aspect of their daily routines. This is the outcome of Hegelianism with a vengeance…
In the end Hayek’s dream of the free-market of spontaneous and uncontrolled disorder is reduced to the mathematical perfection and purity of a diagrammatic algorithm that can be controlled by the data controllers of a new machinic civilization arising in our midst: a managed Empire of Artilects and robots devoid of the human element of passion and personalism. The programmed territory becomes the completed world of a technocratic Cathedral, a order of perfectly controlled and virtualized environments: spheres, policed by the impersonal High Priests of Finance, Mediatainment, Academia, etc. all serving the new Archons of the Artificial Age.
Will the Hayekian disorder prevail over the order of the Cathedral? Will a new City of Pandemonium prevail over the closed world of the Cathedral’s re-ontologization of the Real? Will the blasted spheres of order caught in the meshes of the new Time-Lords break free or collapse within the virtual constructs of the gnostic archons death worlds? Who controls Time, anyway?
In ancient times the Gnostics assumed the world had been constructed by a delusional demiurge, a blind god who did not know what he was doing beyond the calculated measurement of his quantified plundering of the universal harmonium. In their view the universe of decay and entropy was absolute evil. A closed realm of absolute control in which humans were imprisoned and asleep, bound by habit and delusion. The awakened ones acted like anti-bodies in the universal decay, seeking to instill liberty into the dark thoughts of the sleepers. One can see in this a fractured and literalized parable of our situation in the present era of the Cathedral. Asleep in the timeless presentism of this closed world of algorithmic governmentality we are being slowly folded into a machinic phylum from which there will be no exit. Our time is limited, this is the moment of transition in-between times – a brief period of chaotic opportunity when we can accelerate these dark processes and counter the very inverted time-machine of this negative feed-back system, reversing its closure into openness and incompleteness and liberty. The time is short, the ways and means assured: What will you do? The City of Liberty or the Cathedral of Control? As in the parables of old, one is left with the admonishment:
Sleepers, awaken! You have nothing to lose but your chains.
This article is taken from:
Speculating Freedom: Addiction, Control and Rescriptive Subjectivity in the Work of William S. Burroughs
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