Crisis polices the world

Sunday 23 July 2006 11:08

A minor observation in Hardt and Negri’s Empire is that the present geopolitical system is founded on crisis. Crisis is the enabling act of the capitalist power, the instrument by which the states are maintained on a war footing, by which profit is guaranteed, by which recalcitrant or hostile forces are undermined.

These thoughts come to mind as Israel mobilises its reserves to react to the latest crisis in its relations with its neighbours. The bombardment of Lebanon from the air and from the land and the blockading of its ports, the deaths of at least 372 Lebanese, mostly civilians (London Independent, today) have all been occasioned by the kidnapping of three Israeli soldiers. This is the ‘crisis’ that enabled the nuclear superpower of the region to flex its muscles. What the geopolitical purposes of this crisis are remain to be seen. Whatever results from the shakedown is, anyway, immaterial say Hardt and Negri. The perpetuation of ‘crisis’ is essential to the global hegemony of capital.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union the definition of crisis has been enlarged; crises have proliferated so that we now have the good old-fashioned military crisis in which some state or other is threatened, but we also have terrorist crises, humanitarian crises, fiscal crises etc. Crisis generates fear, and fear is the police instrument. States (all states including the superpowers) are powerless to resist the demands of capital and most have thrown in the towel and aligned themselves with it.

Empire, by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri is published by Harvard ISBN 0-674-00671-2

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