The last one standing kills itself

“Fascism is designed to destroy large groups of people based on their identities and to control everyone else, with a state apparatus that legitimates and empowers ultraviolent individuals and groups who further the ends of nationalist authoritarianism. Killing is not a side effect of fascism; it is its method.” – Micheala Brangan, J.D., The Atlantic, Jan./Feb. 2018

Neither high nor low

“The Welfare State, which first took over for the liberal State within Empire, is the product of a massive diffusion of disciplines and regimes of subjectivation peculiar to the liberal State. It arises at the very moment when the concentration of these disciplines and these regimes—for example with the widespread practice of risk management—reaches such a degree in ‘society’ that society is no longer distinguishable from the State.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War

Everyone’s downwind

“What an intimate brotherhood is this in which we dwell, do what we may to put an artificial remoteness between the high creature and the low one! A poor man’s breath, borne on the vehicle of tobacco-smoke, floats into a palace-window and reaches the nostrils of a monarch. It is but an example, obvious to the sense, of the innumerable and secret channels by which, at every moment of our lives, the flow and reflux of a common humanity pervade us all. How superficial are the niceties of such as pretend to keep aloof!” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Outside Glimpses of English Poverty”

Party time

“In taking the place, over the centuries, of all the heterogeneous mediations of traditional society, the State ended up with the opposite of its aim, and ultimately fell prey to its own impossibility. That which wanted to concentrate the monopoly of the political ended up politicizing everything; all aspects of life had become political, not in themselves as singular entities, but precisely insofar as the State, by taking a position, had there too formed itself unto a party. Or how the State, in waging everywhere its war against civil war, above all propagated hostility toward itself.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphasis in original)

The party has decreed

“There is an official history of the State in which the State seems to be the one and only actor, in which the advances of the state monopoly on the political are so many battles chalked up against an enemy who is invisible, imaginary, and precisely without history. And then there is a counter-history, written from the viewpoint of civil war, in which the stakes of all these ‘advancements,’ the dynamics of the modern State, can be glimpsed. This counter-history reveals a political monopoly that is constantly threatened by the recomposition of autonomous worlds, of non-state collectivities. Whenever the State left something to the ‘private’ sphere, to ‘civil society,’ whenever it declared something to be insignificant, non-political, it left just enough room for the free play of forms-of-life such that, from one moment to the next, the monopoly on the political appears to be in dispute. This is how the State is led, either slowly or in a violent gesture, to encompass the totality of social activity, to take charge of the totality of man’s existence.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)

Line ’em up

“The sage in governing the people considers their springs of action, never tolerates their wicked desires, but seeks only for the people’s benefit. Therefore, the penalty he inflicts is not due to any hatred for the people but to his motive of loving the people. If penalty triumphs, the people are quiet; if reward over-flows, culprits appear. Therefore the triumph of penalty is the beginning of order; the overflow of reward, the origin of chaos. Indeed, it is the people’s nature to delight in disorder and detach themselves from legal restraints. Therefore, when the intelligent sovereign governs the state, if he makes rewards clear, the people will be encouraged to render meritorious services; if he makes penalties severe, the people will attach themselves to the law. If they are encouraged to render meritorious services, public affairs will not be obstructed; if they attach themselves to the law, culprits will not appear. Therefore, he who governs the people should nip the evil in the bud; he who commands troops, should inculcate warfare in the people’s mind. If prohibitions can uproot causes of villainy, there will always be order; if soldiers can imagine warfare in mind, there will always be victory. When the sage is governing the people, he attains order first, wherefore he is strong; he prepares for war first, wherefore he wins. Indeed, the administration of the state affairs requires the attention to the causes of human action so as to unify the people’s mental trends; the exclusive elevation of public welfare so as to stop self-seeking elements; the reward for denunciation of crime so as to suppress culprits; and finally the clarification of laws so as to facilitate governmental procedures. Whoever is able to apply these four measures, will become strong; whoever is unable to apply these four measures, will become weak.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Shock-haired bad boy

“Suppose there is a boy who has a bad character. His parents are angry at him, but he never makes any change. The villagers in the neighbourhood reprove him, but he is never thereby moved. His masters teach him, but he never reforms. Thus with all the three excellent disciplines, the love of his parents, the conduct of the villagers, and the wisdom of the masters, applied to him, he makes no change, not even a hair on his shins is altered. It is, however, only after the district-magistrate sends out soldiers in accordance with the law to search for wicked men that he becomes afraid and changes his ways and alters his deeds. So the love of parents is not sufficient to educate children. But if it is necessary to have the severe penalties of the district-magistrate come at all, it is because people are naturally spoiled by love and obedient to authority.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Philosopher kings

“In the age of remote antiquity, human beings were few while birds and beasts were many. Mankind being unable to overcome birds, beasts, insects, and serpents, there appeared a sage who made nests by putting pieces of wood together to shelter people from harm. Thereat the people were so delighted that they made him ruler of All-under-Heaven and called him the Nest-Dweller. In those days the people lived on the fruits of trees and seeds of grass as well as mussels and clams, which smelt rank and fetid and hurt the digestive organs. As many of them were affected with diseases, there appeared a sage who twisted a drill to make fire which changed the fetid and musty smell. Thereat the people were so delighted that they made him ruler of All-under-Heaven.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Faking the news

“An unreal thing, if its existence is asserted by ten men, is still subject to doubt; if its existence is asserted by one hundred men, its reality becomes probable; and if its existence is asserted by one thousand men, it becomes undoubtable. Again, if spoken about by stammerers, it is susceptible to doubt; if spoken about by eloquent persons, it becomes believable.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

But who shall rule the ruler

“What parents desire of children is safety and prosperity in livelihood and innocence in conduct. What the ruler requires of his subjects, however, is to demand their lives in case of emergency and exhaust their energy in time of peace. Now, parents, who love their children and wish them safety and prosperity, are not listened to; whereas the ruler, who neither loves nor benefits his subjects but demands their death and toil, can enforce his orders. As the enlightened sovereign knows this principle, he does not cultivate the feeling of favour and love, but extends his influence of authority and severity. Mothers love sons with deep love, but most of the sons are spoilt, for their love is over-extended; fathers show their sons less love and teach them with light bamboos, but most of the sons turn out well, for severity is applied.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Slight of many hands

“Imperialism and totalitarianism mark the two ways in which the modern State tried to leap beyond its own impossibility, first by slipping forward beyond its borders into colonial expansion, then by an intensive deepening of the penetration inside its own borders. In both cases, these desperate reactions from the State—which claimed to encompass everything just as it was becoming nothing—came to a head in the very forms of civil war the State claims preceded it.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphases in original)

Get in under the hood

“In general, the principal way of government does not solely mean the justice of reward and punishment. Much less does it mean to reward men of no merit and punish innocent people. However, to reward men of merit, punish men of demerit, and make no mistake in so doing but affect such persons only, can neither increase men of merit nor eliminate men of demerit. For this reason, among the methods of suppressing villainy the best is to curb the mind, the next, the word, and the last, the work.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

There are no atheists in rehab

“Those over whom their desires are victorious do not find it difficult to believe in the gods. Desires are true gods so long as they rule; they are proved to be false only when the unity of despotic reason has already supplanted them. It was the invention of morals that turned Olympus into a desert. Monotheism exists in man before it becomes a god outside him. Man serves one or several gods in himself before he projects his faith into the skies. Paganism and Christianity were first psychology before they were metaphysics. Paganism was at one and the same time the triumph of individualism and the belief that man cannot become other than he is.” – André Gide, “The Evolution of the Theater” (trans. Jackson Mathews)

The unwatched watcher

“The State that ‘wishes to govern just enough so that it can govern the least’ must in fact know everything, and it must develop a set of practices and technologies to do it. The police and publicity are the two agencies through which the liberal State gives transparency to the fundamental opacity of the population. Witness here the insidious way in which the liberal State will perfect the modern State, under the pretext of needing to penetrate everywhere in order to avoid being everywhere in actuality, that in order to leave its subjects alone it must know everything.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphasis in original)

Setting elements freely against one another

“The liberal State is a frugal State, which claims to exist only to ensure the free play of individual liberties, and to this end it begins by extorting interests from each body, so that it can attach them to these bodies and reign peacefully across this new abstract world.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War

The comedy of pomposity

“There is something so essentially grotesque about gendarmes that I cannot help laughing at them; these upholders of the law always produce the same comic effect on me, and so do attorneys for the king, magistrates, and professors of literature.” – Gustave Flaubert, “Over Strand and Field” (trans. unknown)

Just a tad

“Man was made to enjoy each day only a small potion of food, colours, sounds, sentiments and ideas. Anything above the allotted quantity tires or intoxicates him; it becomes the idiocy of the drunkard or the ravings of the ecstatic.” – Gustave Flaubert, “Over Strand and Field” (trans. unknown)

Running the tables

“The police is that force that intervenes ‘wherever things are amiss,’ that is to say, wherever antagonism appears between forms-of-life—wherever there is a jump in political intensity. Using the arm of the police ostensibly to protect the ‘social fabric,’ while using another arm to destroy it, the State then offers itself as the existentially neutral mediator even in its own coercive excesses, as the pacified landscape for confrontation.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War (emphasis in original)

Divided and conquered

“The inability of the State’s juridico-formal offensive to reduce civil war is not a marginal detail rooted in the fact that there is always a pleb to pacify, but appears centrally in the pacification procedure itself. Organizations modeled after the State characterize as ‘formless’ that which within them derives in fact from the play of forms-of-life. In the modern State, this irreducibility is attested to by the infinite extension of the police, that is to say, of all that bears the inadmissable burden of realizing the conditions of possibility of a state order as vast as it is unworkable.” – Tiqqun, Introduction to Civil War

Try it and see what happens

“To be truly hospitable you don’t ask someone if they’re thirsty or hungry—you offer them food, you offer them drink. They will not turn down what you put in front of them if they’re hungry and thirsty.” – Patrick Glenn Jeffries, “A Mother’s Earth”

Taking care of business

“If in doing any kind of work people look after the harmony of the positive and negative factors; if in planting trees they follow the suitable periods of the four seasons; and if at dawn and at dusk there is no suffering from cold or heat; then revenue will be enormous. If important duties are not obstructed by small profits; if public welfare is not injured by private interest; if men exert their strength to tillage; and if women devote their energies to weaving; then revenue will be enormous. If the methods of animal husbandry are improved, the qualities of the soil are examined, the six animals flourish, and the five cereals abound, then revenue will be enormous. If weights and measures are made clear; if topographical features are carefully surveyed; and if through the utilization of boats, carts, and other mechanical devices, the minimum amount of energy is used to produce the maximum amount of efficiency; then revenue will be enormous. If traffic on markets, cities, passes, and bridges is facilitated, so that needy places are supplied with sufficient commodities; if merchants from abroad flock to the country and foreign goods and money come in; if any unnecessary expenditure is cut down, extravagant clothing and food are saved, houses and furniture are all limited to necessities, and amusements and recreations are never over-emphasized; then revenue will be enormous. In these cases, the increase in revenue is due to human effort. Granted that natural events, winds, rain, seasons, cold, and heat are normal and the territory remains the same, then if the people can reap the fruits of the abundant year, then revenue will be enormous too.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

An ancient dilemma

“Once there was a man of Ch`u selling shields and halberds. In praising his shields he said, ‘My shields are so solid that nothing can penetrate them.’ Again, in praising his halberds, he said, ‘My halberds are so sharp that they can penetrate anything.’ In response to his words somebody asked, ‘How about using your halberds to pierce through your shields?’ To this the man could not give any reply.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

Hence the emoluments clause

“Kung-yi Hsiu, Premier of Lu, was fond of fish. Therefore, people in the whole country contentiously bought fish, which they presented to him. However, Kung-yi Tzŭ would not accept the presents. Against such a step his younger brother remonstrated with him and said: ‘You like fish, indeed. Why don’t you accept the present of fish?’ In reply he said: ‘It is solely because I like fish that I would not accept the fish they gave me. Indeed, if I accept the fish, I will be placed under an obligation to them. Once placed under an obligation to them, I will sometime have to bend the law. If I bend the law, I will be dismissed from the premiership. After being dismissed from the premiership, I might not be able to supply myself with fish. On the contrary, if I do not accept the fish from them and am not dismissed the premiership, however fond of fish, I can always supply myself with fish.’ “ – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)

The ruler can have no friends

“Order and strength are due to the law; weakness and disorder, to its crookedness. If the ruler understands this principle, he must rectify reward and punishment but never assume humanity towards his inferiors. Rank and emolument are due to meritorious services; censure and punishment, to criminal offences.” – The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu (trans. and ed. W. K. Liao)