What is it good for

“What is primitive society? It is a multiplicity of undivided communities which all obey the same centrifugal logic. What institution at once expresses and guarantees the permanence of this logic? It is war, as the truth of relations between communities, as the principal sociological means of promoting the centrifugal force of dispersion against the centripetal force of unification. The war machine is the motor of the social machine; the primitive social being relies entirely on war, primitive society cannot survive without war. The more war there is, the less unification there is, and the best enemy of the State is war. Primitive society is society against the State in that it is society-for-war.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War

Easily delineated, our fears

“Once upon a time there was a traveller drawing for the King of Ch`i. ‘What is the hardest thing to draw?’ asked the King. ‘Dogs and horses are the hardest.’ ‘Then what is the easiest?’ ‘Devils and demons are the easiest. Indeed, dogs and horses are what people know and see at dawn and dusk in front of them. To draw them no distortion is permissible. Therefore they are the hardest. On the contrary, devils and demons have no shapes and are not seen in front of anybody, therefore it is easy to draw them.’ “ – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Cart before the horse

“Once there were men of Chêng contending for seniority in age. One man said, ‘My age is the same as Yao’s.’ Another man said, ‘I am as old as the elder brother of the Yellow Emperor.’ They brought the dispute to the court, but the judge could not make any decision. Finally he ruled that the one who was the last to stop arguing won the case.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

And other misfortunes

“If the sovereign does not allow the humble to criticize the noble and the inferior to denounce the superior, but always expects the powers of high and low to balance, then ministers on equal footing will dare to conspire with each other. In so doing he will increase the number of delusive and deceitful officials.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Anti-trust

“The State claims to assume the monopoly of the political, of which the well-known expression ‘monopoly on legitimate violence’ is merely the most vulgar indication. For the monopolization of the political requires the degradation of the differentiated unity of a world into a nation, then to degrade this nation into a population and a territory. It requires the disintegration of the entire organic unity of traditional societies in order to then submit the remaining fragments to a principle of organization.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)

Mandelbrot politics

“The essential function of the representation each society gives of itself is to influence the way in which each body is represented to itself, and through this to influence the structure of the psyche. The modern State is therefore first of all the constitution of each body into a molecular State, imbued with bodily integrity by way of territorial integrity, molded into a closed entity within a self, as much in opposition to the ‘exterior world’ as to the tumultuous associations of its own penchants—which it must contain—and in the end required to comport itself with its peers as a good law-abiding subject, to be dealt with, along with other bodies, according to the universal proviso of a sort of private international law of ‘civilized’ habits. In this way, the more societies constitute themselves in States, the more their subjects embody the economy.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphasis in original)

Hemmed in

“The modern State means, among other things, a progressively increasing monopoly on legitimate violence, a process whereby all other forms of violence are delegitimized. The modern State serves the general process of pacification which, since the end of the Middle Ages, only persists through its continuous intensification. It is not simply that during this evolution it always more drastically hinders the free play of forms-of-life, but rather that it works assiduously to break them, to tear them up, to extract bare life from them, an extraction that is always the very activity of ‘civilization.’ In order to become a political subject in the modern State, each body must submit to the machinery that will make it such: it must begin by casting aside its passions (now inappropriate), its tastes (now laughable), its penchants (now contingent), endowing itself instead with interests, which are much more presentable and, even better, representable. In this way, in order to become a political subject each body must first carry out its own autocastration as an economic subject. Ideally, the political subject will thus be reduced to nothing more than a pure vote, a pure voice.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)

Step by step

“The compassionate mother, regarding her infant child, always strives to establish the child’s well-being. If she strives to establish the child’s well-being, she will endeavour to rid the child of calamities. If she endeavours to rid the child of calamities, her reflection and consideration become thorough. If her reflection and consideration are thorough, she will attain the principles of affairs. If she attains the principles of affairs, she will certainly accomplish her purposes. If she is certain of accomplishing her purposes, she will not hesitate in her action. To make no hesitation is called ‘bravery’.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

No muzzle-loaders left

“Those who do not know the right way to political order, always say, ‘Never change ancient traditions, never remove existing institutions.’ Change or no change, the sage does not mind. For he aims only at the rectification of government. Whether or not ancient traditions should be changed, whether or not existing institutions should be removed, all depends upon the question whether or not such traditions and such institutions are still useful for present-day political purposes.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

It’s nothing personal

“When the cartwright finishes making carriages, he wants people to be rich and noble; when the carpenter finishes making coffins, he wants people to die early. Not that the cartwright is benevolent and the carpenter is cruel, but that unless people are noble, the carriages will not sell, and unless people die, the coffins will not be bought.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

If

“If all officials indulge in studies, sons of the family are fond of debate, peddlars and shopkeepers hide money in foreign countries, and poor people suffer miseries at home, then ruin is possible.

If the ruler is fond of palatial decorations, raised kiosks, and embanked pools, is immersed in pleasures of having chariots, clothes, and curios, and thereby tires out the hundred surnames and exhausts public wealth, then ruin is possible.

If the ruler is greedy, insatiable, attracted to profit, and fond of gain, then ruin is possible.

If the ruler enjoys inflicting unjust punishment and does not uphold the law, likes debate and persuasion but never sees to their practicability, and indulges in style and wordiness but never considers their effect, then ruin is possible.

If the ruler is stubborn-minded, uncompromising, and apt to dispute every remonstrance and fond of surpassing everybody else, and never thinks of the welfare of the Altar of the Spirits of Land and Grain but sticks to self-confidence without due consideration, then ruin is possible.

The ruler who relies on friendship and support from distant countries, makes light of his relations with close neighbours, counts on the aid from big powers, and provokes surrounding countries, is liable to ruin.

If the ruler is boastful but never regretful, makes much of himself despite the disorder prevailing in his country, and insults the neighbouring enemies without estimating the resources within the boundaries, then ruin is possible.

If words of maids and concubines are followed and the wisdom of favourites is used, and the ruler repeats committing unlawful acts regardless of the grievances and resentments inside and outside the court, then ruin is possible.

If the ruler is narrow-minded, quick-tempered, imprudent, easily affected, and, when provoked, becomes blind with rage, then ruin is possible.

If the state treasury is empty but the chief vassals have plenty of money, native subjects are poor but foreign residents are rich, farmers and warriors have hard times but people engaged in secondary professions are benefited, then ruin is possible.”

The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Indeed it is, and a rare thing at that

“The sage is the one who scrutinizes the facts of right and wrong and investigates the conditions of order and chaos. Therefore, when governing the state he rectifies laws clearly and establishes penalties severely in order to rescue all living beings from chaos, rid All-Under-Heaven of misfortune, prohibit the strong from exploiting the weak and the many from oppressing the few, enable the old and the infirm to die in peace and the young and the orphan to grow freely, and see to it that the frontiers be not invaded, that ruler and minister be intimate with each other, that father and son support each other, and that there be no worry about being killed in war or taken prisoner. Such is one of the greatest achievements.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Dating the death of god

“In the West, the unity of the traditional world was lost with the Reformation and the ‘wars of religion’ that followed. The modern State then bursts on the scene with the task of reconstituting this unity—secularized, this time—no longer as an organic whole but instead as a mechanical whole, as a machine, as a conscious artificiality.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphasis in original)

The new and improved new and improved

“The historicity specific to the fictions of ‘modernity’ is never that of a stability gained once and for all, of a threshold finally surpassed, but precisely that of a process of endless mobilization. Behind the inaugural dates of the official historiography, behind the edifying epic tale of linear progress, a continuous labor of reorganization, of correction, of improvement, of papering over, of adjustment, and even sometimes of costly reconstruction has never stopped taking place. This labor and its repeated failures have given rise to the whole jittery junk heap of the ‘new.’ “ – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphasis in original)

It’s obvious

“We can recognize the fragile formations of power by their relentless attempts to posit fictions as self-evident. Throughout Modern Times, one of these fictions typically emerges as a neutral center, setting the scene for all the others. Reason, Money, Justice, Science, Man, Civilization, or Culture—with each there is the same phantasmagoric tendency: to posit the existence of a center, and then say that this center is ethically neutral.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)

The state of affairs

“Because King Ling of Ch`u liked slender waists, the country became full of starvelings; because Duke Huan of Ch`i was by nature jealous and fond of women, Shu Tiao castrated himself in order to administer the harem; because Duke Huan liked different tastes, Yi-ya steamed the head of his son and served Duke Huan with the rare taste.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Long ago and far away

“When the Grand Way was pursued, a public and common spirit ruled All-under-Heaven; they chose worthy and able men; their words were sincere, and what they cultivated was harmony. Thus men did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their sons. A competent provision was secured for the aged till their death, employment for the able-bodied, and the means of growing up to the young. They showed kindness and compassion to widows, orphans, childless men, and those who were disabled by disease, so that they were all sufficiently maintained. Males had their proper work, and females had their homes. They accumulated articles of value, disliking that they should be thrown away upon the ground, but not wishing to keep them for their own gratification. They laboured with their strength, disliking that it should not be exerted, but not exerting it only with a view to their own advantage. In this way selfish schemings were repressed and found no development. Robbers, filchers, and rebellious traitors did not show themselves, and hence the outer doors remained open, and were not shut. This was the period of what we call the Great Community.” – The Li Ki (trans. James Legge)

Put another log on the fire

“The trick of life is never to take the last run, when the mountain is awash in incandescent blue and gold, when the lines and slopes are thinning out and it would be just a quick wait to get on the lift, when your body is spent but you yearn for one last run. This is the time to go home.” – Betsy Lerner, The Bridge Ladies

The old guard

“All of the men go first. Men who went to work every day, smoked cigars and wore fedoras, men who might have strayed but didn’t leave their wives, trade them in for younger models. Played ball with their sons and walked their daughters down the aisle at their weddings. These were men who poured tumblers of scotch and read the paper when they got home. Men who golfed on the weekend, played tennis, pinochle, poker, and couples Bridge with their wives. They didn’t read GQ or Esquire, didn’t need to. They knew how to tie a tie, do a push-up, and wax the Cadillac. They took Polaroid pictures at birthday parties and paid the bills. That their wives didn’t have to work was a point of pride, as was putting their children through college, affording a second home in a gated community in Boca or Palm Beach with automatic sprinklers and manicured putting greens. They left nest eggs and continued to take care of their wives from the grave.” – Betsy Lerner, The Bridge Ladies