The line and the margin #2

March 27, 2015

The outside and the beyond

A key determinant, then, a crucial classifying factor in understanding where a specific site, a locale, a neighbourhood, a borough lies in relation to sovereign power, is agency.

Is its non-classification as a space belonging to sovereign neoliberal order involuntary, so to speak? In this first case, the space in question is outside this order; it is marginal, in term’s sense with which we are the most acquainted.

But what happens when it is voluntary? In this case, I would think, the space in question lies beyond this order; beyond in the sense of being strong enough to antagonise and eventually — however temporarily or partially — to surpass neoliberal sovereignty.

To think of the two as binary may be as obfuscating as it is illuminating. A chronological/historical order of thought would be potentially more helpful and apt.

If we are to think of spaces in the succession by which they were formed, historically, then there are the spaces of institutions that precede capitalism (let alone its current culmination, in the shape of neoliberal sovereign order) and which could therefore potentially, to an extent, negate its full force. A space such as the university comes to mind here. Unfortunately for this thought process, Foucault has already done a pretty good job in showing how these spaces much less negate and much more complement and co-constitute the plexus of sovereign order that is still with us to date. Even so, as the case of the academic asylum in Greece does show us, there is a — however small — potential of some of these spaces being shaped by sovereign order’s own, internal contradictions: in the Greek case, it was the temporal incompatibility between the spatial articulation of democratic order’s consensual façade, on the one hand, and  neoliberal sovereign order’s demand for spatial control that allows for no exceptions, on the other. Somewhere in-between, for some limited time and space, some spaces did exist that were placed by sovereignty itself outside, and spaces that did in some kind of way reach this magical beyond.

But there must be a more complete way to think of the potential for spaces within neoliberal sovereign order to surpass this. The historical is one factor to keep in mind, to be sure. But beyond this, there is the actual geographical position of certain spaces that would make them more culpable and capable for the surpassing in question.