Imperialism post-ex-ante

 Avenir Institute. 'Imperialism post-ex-ante', installation/lecture-performance, Projeto Fidalga, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2017).

Avenir Institute. 'Imperialism post-ex-ante', installation/lecture-performance, Projeto Fidalga, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2017).

Thomas Hobbes introduced the idea of Leviathan as a corporeal representation of a nation state. The sovereign, as a unified body of all, represents the common consciousness of a nation state and possesses the ultimate political power which converts into the exclusive right of legal violence against its parts. The body is, as any other objects, a subject to gravity - but in this case to anthropological gravity. The nation as a man is mortal and vulnerable to psychological and physical sickness. The syndrome of post-ex-ante, or freaktional imperialism, has a history of recurrence in nations that went through the imperial stage of development.

After the Age of Discovery and consequential creation of the truly global empires, the man became global with his components being the various elements-states in the interconnected system of political economy. Before we get to specificity of post-ex-ante imperialism let us look into the stages of imperial development.

An empire is different from a nation state by the desire of expanding and dominating the rest of the Oikumene, the world as it’s known to them. An empire seeks ultimate power to define the norm in social, political and cultural life across the whole. For example, The Persian Empire looked into the conquest of the Ancient Greek polises as an opposing lifestyle and The Roman Empire desired to ‘civilise’ the Barbarians all around known Europe.

 Avenir Institute. 'Imperialism post-ex-ante', installation/lecture-performance, Projeto Fidalga, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2017)

Avenir Institute. 'Imperialism post-ex-ante', installation/lecture-performance, Projeto Fidalga, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2017)

Empires start with an ambition. Much like Brazil in 19th century, new empires seek to be reborn from their shallow past and create new symbols of the great beginning: with the myths of life-giving rivers, such as Ipiranga, or sacred trees. The Neo-imperial ambition is the lungs of the Leviathan: they breathe with fresh energy, devotion, readiness to sacrifice and to make the leap forward to achieve the next stage of development - the status of the present empire.

There can be only one present empire in the Oikumene at time. It exercises complete ethical, political, moral, economic and cultural superiority over all new empires, transcendent empires (which we will discuss later) and nation states. The present empire dominates over them actively through a dictation of the modes and the mechanisms of normalisation. The current present empire, the United States, does not need to justify itself: the Hollywood, just as the model of the liberal democratic political system, must be imposed or copied.

Present empire always lives in the condition of an everlasting present. It takes its dominant position as constant, never-changing reality by default. It tries to extend this present to eternity, offering only one future world and therefore being in conflict with the very idea of possible, alternative futures. There is only one future for a present empire - where ‘now’ is permanent.

All present empires, sooner or later, regardless of their desire, fade into the condition of a transcendent empire. At this stage, the empire enters the state of being a former holder of the position of defining the normal. Russia has a population of around 140 million people and accounts for less than 3% of the global GDP (2017), but the so-called ‘Russian world’ is about 0.5 billion people strong. Reappropriated Russian culture is spread all over the globe: Russian literature, ballet, and political history are researched in the universities abroad with more authority than at their origin. The transcendent Russia flows far beyond its physical borders. To some extent it can control how, by whom, where and when its heritage is appropriated, used and analysed, but in general it loses the authority.

The Freaktional syndrome of transcendental empires relates to a condition in which the empire desires to return to its present condition in the past - and regain the control over defining itself and the ‘normal’ for everyone else. It desires that so much that it wants to skip the neo-imperial stage of a new formation, and rather base its acceleration to a present state on the basis of nostalgia and reclamation of the heritage. It can initiate strategic and tactical tricks in order to amplify its position - if not through real resources then via symbolism and image-making. Those tricks could include fueling regional conflicts and distorting the balance within immediate perceived adversaries by activating and supporting crippling internal conflicts. Freaktional transcendent empire returns from the condition of being asleep into aggressive actionism.

It is important to mention though that not all transcendent empires inevitably obtain freaktional syndrome. German Empire had it at least twice in 20th century, but after the Second World War it actively tries to stop its resurgence in any form by legal, cultural, educational, economic and political means.

 Avenir Institute. 'Imperialism post-ex-ante', installation/lecture-performance, Projeto Fidalga, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2017).

Avenir Institute. 'Imperialism post-ex-ante', installation/lecture-performance, Projeto Fidalga, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2017).

You have already noticed that empires related to here as sentient beings, as if they had consciousness and feelings on their own. They are Leviathans inside of meta-Leviathan of geopolitical magnitude, which is in itself not a sentient being but rather a pastiche of powers where dominating one defines ‘the weather forecast’. China is the world’s labourer and engine of its economic growth, and it might be claiming quickest transition from neo-imperial to the present state. South Africa and India, on the other, could be at the point of entering the neo-imperial stage of self-realisation.

The process of transformation, establishment and diminishment of empires is circular and repetitive. The avenir, the potentiality, of an exit out of this circle into a space of multiple possibilities exists in the currents of an institutional twilight. Global corporations, such as Google or Facebook, accumulate power that could eventually allow them to challenge the hierarchy of the distribution of power relations - including the current geopolitical imperial order. The border between institutional forms within and outside of the imperial form becomes more and more blurred. Can the new, post-imperial paradigm of actualising, sharing and defining the ultimate power be born out of it? It could be a kairos, just like Perseus grabbing of the Aegis of the goddess Athena: a unique intuitive opportunity seized by the global society, which could turn it into a kind of a rhizomatic meta-state. But it can be a thanatos as well, and instead of using the shield to hide from Medusa aka Apocalypse and cut her head, we will end up being turned into lifeless stone.