by McKenzie Wark
The politics of information, the history of knowledge, advance not through a critical negation of false representations but a positive hacking of the virtuality of expression. Representation always mimics but is less than what it represents; expression always differs from but exceeds the raw material of its production.
All representation is false. A likeness differs of necessity from what it represents. If it did not, it would be what it represents, and thus not a representation. The only truly false representation is the belief in the possibility of true representation.
Property, a mere representation, installs itself in the world, falsifying the real. When the powers of the false conspire to produce the real, then hacking reality is a matter of using the real powers of the false to produce the false as the real power, the power of falsifying property’s veriﬁcation of its own false veracity , proliferating new possibilities by displacing the false necessity of the world.
It is critique itself that is the problem, not the solution. Critique is a police action in representation, of service only to the maintenance of the value of property through the establishment of its value. The problem is always to enter on another kind of production altogether, the production of the virtual, not the critical. The one role of critique is to critique criticism itself, and thus open the space for afﬁrmation.
The critique of representational ways maintains an artiﬁcial scarcity of “true” interpretation. Or, what is no better, it maintains an artiﬁcial scarcity of “true”interpreters,owners of the method, who are licensed by the zero sum game of critique and counter-critique to peddle,of not true representations, then at least the true method for deconstructing false ones.“Theorists begin as authors and end up as authorities.”* This ﬁts perfectly with the domination of education by the vectoral class, which seeks scarcity and prestige from this branch of cultural production, a premium product for the most sensitive subjects. Critical theory becomes hypocritical theory .
What a politics of information can afﬁrm is the virtuality of expression. The inexhaustible surplus of expression is that aspect of information upon which the class interest of hackers depends. Hacking brings into existence the multiplicity of all codes, be they natural or social, programmed or poetic,logical or analogical, anal or oral, aural or visual. But as it is the act of hacking that composes, at one and the same time, the hacker and the hack. Hacking re-cognises no artiﬁcial scarcity , no ofﬁcial licence, no credentialing police force other than that composed by the gift relation among hackers themselves.
The critique of the politics of representation is at the same time the critique of representation as politics. No one is authorised to speak on behalf of constituencies as properties or on the properties of constituencies. Even this manifesto, which invokes a collective name, does so without claiming or seeking authorisation, and offers for agreement only the gift of its own possibility.
Within the envelope of the state, competing forces struggle to monopolise the representation of its majority. Representative politics pits one representation in opposition to another, verifying one by the critique of the other. Each struggles to claim subjects as subjects, enclosing the envelope of the subject within that of the state.
Representative politics takes place on the basis of the charge of false representation. An expressive politics accepts the falseness of expression as part of the coming into being of a class as an interest. Classes come into being as classes for themselves by expressing themselves, differing from themselves, and overcoming their own expressions. A class is embodied in all its expressions, no matter how multiple.
The ruling classes maintain a space of expression for desire, at the same time as forcing representation on the subaltern classes. The ruling power knows itself to be nothing but its expression and the overcoming of its expression. And thus it overcomes itself, splitting and mutating and transforming itself from a pastoralist to a capitalist to a vectoralist expression. Each expression furthers in its difference the abstraction of property that generates class as a bifurcation of differences, of possession and non possession. The ruling class, in each of its mutations, needs the producing classes only for the purposes of exploitation, for the extraction of the surplus. It has no need of the recognition of itself as itself.It has need only of the vector along which it mutates and pulsates.The producing classes, likewise, gain no thing from the recognition foisted on them in their struggle with their masters, which serves only to keep them in their place.
The productive classes get caught up in their own expressions as if they were representations, making the representation the test of the truth of its own existence, rather than vice versa. Or worse, the productive classes get caught up in representations that have nothing to do with class interest. They get caught up in nationalism, racism, generationalism, various bigotries. There is no representation that confers on the producing classes an identity . There is nothing around which its multiplicities can unite. There is only the abstraction of property that produces a bifurcated multiplicity , divided between owning and nonowning classes. It is the abstraction itself that must be transformed, not the representations that it foists upon its subaltern subjects as negative identity , as a lack of possession.
Even when representations serve a useful function, inidentifying non-class forms of oppression or exploitation, they still yet become means of oppression themselves. They become the means by which those best able to be the object of the representation refuse recognition to those less able to identify with it. The state becomes the referee of the referents, pitting claimants against each other, while the ruling classes escape representation and fulﬁl their desire as the plenitude of possession.
The politics of representation is always the politics of the state. The state is nothing but the policing of representation’s adequacy to the body of what it represents. That this politics is always only partially applied, that only some are found guilty of misrepresentation, is the injustice of any regime based in the first place on representation. A politics of expression, on the other hand, is a politics of indifference to the threat and counter threat of exposing non-conformity between sign and referent. Benjamin: “The exclusion of violence in principle is quite explicitly demonstrable by one significant factor: there is no sanction for lying.”*
Even in its most radical form, the politics of representation always presupposes an ideal state that would act as a guarantor of its chosen representations. It yearns for a state that would recognize this oppressed subject or that, but which is nevertheless still a desire for a state, and a state that, in the process, is not challenged as the enforcer of class interest, but is accepted as the judge of representation.
And always, what escapes effective counter in this imaginary, enlightened state is the power of the ruling classes, which have no need for representation, which dominates through owning and controlling production, including the production of representation. What calls to be hacked is not the representations of the state, but the class rule based on an exploitative bifurcation of expression into lack and plenitude.
And always, what is excluded even from this enlightened, imaginary state, would be those who refuse representation, namely, the hacker class as a class. To hack is to refuse representation, to make matters express themselves otherwise. To hack is always to produce the odd difference in the production of information. To hack is to trouble the object or the subject, by transforming in some way the very process of production by which objects and subjects come into being and recognise each other by their representations. The hack touches the un-representable, the real.
A politics that embraces its existence as expression, as afﬁrmative difference, is the politics that can escape the state. To refuse, or ignore, or plagiarise representation, to renounce its properties, to deny it what it claims as its due, is to begin a politics, not of the state, but of statelessness. This might be a politics that refuses the state’s authority to authorise what is a valued statement and what isn’t. Lautréamont: “Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it.”* Or rather: Progress is possible, plagiarism implies it.
The politics of expression outside the state is always temporary , always becoming something other. It can never claim to be true to itself. Any stateless expression may yet be captured by the authorised police of representation, assigned a value, and made subject to scarcity , and to commodiﬁcation. This is the fate of any and every hack that comes to be valued as useful.
Even useless hacks may come, perversely enough, to be valued for the purity of their uselessness. There is nothing that can’t be valued as a representation. There is nothing that can’t be critiqued, and thereby valued anyway, by virtue of the attention paid to its properties. The hack is driven into history by its condition of existence—expression—that calls for the renewal of difference.
Everywhere, dissatisfaction with representations is spreading. Sometimes it’s a matter of sharing a few megabytes, sometimes of breaking a few shop windows. But this dissatisfaction does not always rise above a critique that puts revolt squarely in the hands of some representative or other, offering only another state as an alternative—even if only a utopian one.
Violence” against the state, which rarely amounts to more than throwing rocks at its police, is merely the desire for the state expressed in its masochistic form. Where some call for a state that embraces their representation, others call for a state that beats them up. Neither is a politics that escapes the desire cultivated within the subject by the educational apparatus—the state of desire that is merely desire for the state.
An expressive politics has nothing to fear from the speed of the vector. Expression is an event traversing space and time, and quickly ﬁnds that the vector of telesthesia affords an excellent expander and extender of the space and time within which the expression of an event can transform experience and release the virtual. Representation always lags behind the event, at least at the start, but soon produces the narratives and images with which to contain and conform the event to a mere repetition, denying to the event its singularity . It is not that “once something extra-media is exposed to the media, it turns into something else.”* It is that once representation ﬁnally overtakes expression within the vector, the event, in its singularity , is over. Whatever new space and time it hacked becomes a resource for future events in the endless festival of expression.
Even at its best, in its most abstract form, on its best behaviour, the colour blind, gender neutral, multicultural state just hands the value of representation over to objectiﬁcation.Rather than recognising or failing to recognise representations of the subject, the state validates all representations that take a commodity form. While this is progress, particularly for those formerly oppressed by the state’s failure to recognise as legitimate their properties, it stops short at the recognition of expressions of subjectivity that refuse the objectiﬁcation in the commodity form and seek instead to become something other than a representation that the state can recognise and the market can value.
Sometimes what is demanded of the politics of representation is that it recognise a new subject. Minorities of race, gender, sexuality—all demand the right to representation. But soon enough they discover the cost. They must now become agents of the state, they must police the meaning of their own representation, and police the adherence of their members to it.
But there is something else, something always hovering on the horizon of the representable. There is a politics of the unrepresentable, a politics of the presentation of the non-negotiable demand. This is politics as the refusal of representation itself, not the politics of refusing this or that representation. A politics that, while abstract, is not utopian. A politics that is utopian in its refusal of the space of representation, in its hewing toward the displacements of expression. A politics that is “therefore undetectable, not identiﬁable, invisible, not recognizable, stealthy not public.”*
In its inﬁnite and limitless demand, a politics of expression may even be the best way of extracting concessions in the class conﬂict, precisely through its refusal to put a name—or a price—on what revolt desires. See what goodies they will offer when those who demand do not name their demand, or name themselves, but practice politics itself as a kind of hack. In the politics of expression, a hack may deign to unmask itself, to acquiesce to representation, only long enough to strike a bargain and move on. A politics that reveals itself as anything but pure expression only long enough to keep the meaning police guessing. “Here comes the new desire.”*
excerpt from the book: A Hacker Manifesto by McKenzie Wark
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