Nation – Large Space – Network

Johan Wahlstrom, Vote for Me. 2015.


Plato’s first noble lie is the moss growing on a skeleton of intersecting street networks, printing presses, telegraph wires, train lines, artillery units. The latter sprout from a state-nucleus which starts off as a simple extraction-accumulation machine: To defeat neighboring violence potentials, the early state carves out, grabs and subjects territory. When it generates stability, it tattoos populations with language and culture. At its logistical limits it generates mimetic processes until metastable historical stalemates are negotiated (“Balance of Powers”).

Prior to the modern state, the king is just another local ruler: His authority does not pervade and penetrate into the city with its own army, navy, diplomacy and currency. To become a modern West European state, the territory needs to first disembowel itself (disarm its own citizens, smash local gangs) a process which takes 500 years until in the 19th century, it controls every street in every city and village as policing. The modern state grows as “organized crime” (Tilly) until it innervates millions as polity with live radio broadcasts to froth up hot emotive conflict mass burning out millenary heroism in 20th century total warfare.

The scholar thinks that since the nation is modern construction (“The Invention of Tradition”), it is somehow false. But the nation at its best is above all a functional and ripe geopolitical entity. It becomes Maximum Stress Cooperation Unit (Mühlmann) and does not simply crack under pressure.[1] In the 19th , 20th century, the nation becomes a medium-sized technology complex approaching autarky only to lose the status again with technological complexification and international division of labor. In the second half of the 20th century particularly medium-sized nations again trade the goalpost of increasingly unattainable technological self-sufficiency for the occupation of select strategic niches.

The original strategy of the nation is mobilization by implosion. The nation knows solidarity because it has turned exploitation inwards necessitating that minimum of cooperation which cannot solely be imposed by force. In the 20th century the nation undergoes total mobilization as an imperative of military morale and to defend against spill-overs of enemy psychological warfare. In the process, Roosevelt, Stalin and Hitler all converge towards default, more or less racially paranoid nationalism: gone America’s freedom in internment camps, gone Soviet internationalism in mobilizations to defend the motherland, gone Germany’s Kulturlandschaft sacrificed to mold the nation into a dense racial security-complex. In the 20th century, the nation no longer just assembles military divisions fighting each other but birthes competing techno-scientific social strata employing armies against each other. The generals are degraded to become a vector for the laboratory which is the truly decisive factor for victory[2] and agent of warfare. It is no wonder that 20th century warfare will erase the distinction between military/civilian because the civilian operates the science- and production complexes necessary for warfare. The most unpalatable truth of modern warfare is that the mass aerial bombing campaigns against civilians have been and continue to be justified.

Precisely because the nation is a narrative, its patience with the historian used to have its limits. Its loyalty was trained in the barracks which trade the blood of the little man for selected pathways to prestige and dignity. In the early 20ths century the nation and its laws are secularization of paternal superegos seeded by the authoritarian father. Paternal domestic beltings trickle down to schoolyard beatings and reproduce the nation, loyalty and obedience as a psychological disposition at any instance. To uproot this characteristic principled single-mindedness with its rigid personal-come-national boundaries, Western occupation technology from 1945 becomes above all psychological: The US deploys its emigré academic apparatus[3] to dismantle the authoritarian personality as a military imperative for Germany and consequently points the psycho-cultural barrel against its own temple: It decommissions and demobilizes collective heroic subjectivities which had become politically suspect and militarily questionable against thermonuclear warfare.

Large Space:

Large space, “Großraum” (German), “pré carré” (French), “ближнее зарубежье” (Russian) – all these terms mean the same thing: Strategic space, security space, plundering space. The large space is the minimal geography for the continuation of politics in the state of exception: It geographically embodies the junction of the trader-strongman, one supplying raw materials for domination, the other protecting the trade routes and exercising technologically transformed raw materials as superior military force. The early 20th century is dominated by the Behemoth (Germany) trying to escape the Anglo-Leviathan by expanding East and inwards. Cut off from the open seas, Germany outperforms colonial Britain and France by becoming the world leader in the chemical industry to replace rubber, fuel and other raw materials with synthetic surrogates but cracks under the Russian winter and has its patents hastily plundered by a victorious US occupying power. In the 20th century the large space becomes global extraction space and corporate incubator for the corporation to exercise control without formal political domination which had become suspicious to US democratic pluralist and Soviet socialist world ideology vying to minimize psychological transaction costs for world empire. The failure of Western corporations to sustainably control the Chinese and Russian markets after 1990 lead to a reconsideration of imperial geographies: This time a Chinese Behemoth challenges a QUAD-Leviathan. It sees the pathway to escape the determinations of space in the development of AI and quantum computing. Just as the history of empire is one of a successive deformalization of control, today the US similarly suspects its territorially expansive political model to be a waste of resources. In the face of a rising China, it considers shifting to a more rewarding approach of internal (technological) expansion proposed by a group of entrepreneurs (Thiel, Musk et al.). They have understood that the stability generating blockade of development for prestige technologies from the 1970s (“Future Shock”) cannot be upheld without effective economic-technological control of the main contenders Russia and China. At the same time, US political elites are using the bargaining chip of their global military to reshore supply chains away from China (unanimously threatened by both Presidential candidates Biden and Trump) to buy time in the technological arms race. In the process, large populations – unless directly employable as military-technological resource – become increasingly suspect, reason why some US Democrat circles are weighing the option of simply seceding from a politically difficult “flyover America”. The option is to carve out the technologically valuable coastal states under political control, strangle the American heartland economically and subject its agricultural, resource and low-level industrial functions to competition with other countries. The large space of the 21st century dreams of kinetic state functions: mobile, outsourceable and reversible. Plato’s moss has become a dried-up dead coating: Scratching its thinning surface reveals a layered steel skeleton of militarized logistics and techno-scientific complexes called critical infrastructure.[4]


The nation grows from the network, the large space turns network again.

I. The network is the fundamental unit of power. II. The core of every network needs to combine (para-)military and (para-)economic components (the real). III. All politics is network politics: As it is impossible for individuals to reach the summits of power in the contemporary mass state, any political analysis portraying power as individual psychology[5] is fundamentally flawed and verging on the irrelevant. Power is fundamentally mediated via expertise and the technological organization of charisma, tasks which need to be deferred to third-parties and are impossible to assume by individuals. To secure their competence and compliance, constellations of more or less stable interest need to continuously consent to the office holder, which is why modern populism has tried to evade traditional channels of mediation and reproduce them with minimal investment. The failure to conceive the network’s power-iceberg below the surface haunts the popular imagination of politics. From it also stems the fantasy which imagines political leaders implementing large scale changes from one day to another without negotiating an alternanation from one political-economic-military power-base to another. No leader will instantly redeem you. Genuine political change therefore always tests the limits of state cohesion which depends on the willingness of elites to abide by political mechanism. 

II. The network is the fundamental unit of power. Since both dominant ideologies of the later 20th century – communism and liberal democracy – styled themselves as isocratic political constellations infused by the myths of 1776 and 1789, their derivative regimes were at constant pain to obscure the network. The power network thus actively resists investigation and presents the researcher with an arsenal of layered threats and innuendos to avert his eyes. While the right-wing political tradition has historically had the candid indecency to name names and pay too close attention to sociological details of power-elites, the left-wing tradition has preferred to refer to the more innocuous capital. Depending on political culture, capital is a stand in for (1) an abstract system and theory-exercise for the student and ivory tower university lecturer, (2) a financial network of concrete persons and practices for the politically experienced and persecuted Cold War hard left. Capital is thus a strange blend of meanings, a cloak, dagger, and void – reason why its critique is tolerated and allowed to persist at the university, which contrary to self perception and with the exception of a handful of historical accidents protected by tenure, would never dream of feeding anyone who poses a serious threat to power.

The 3Cs – Cohesion, Consciousness, Conspiracy (James Meisel) – are the characteristics of an elite as they constitute the law of the network. The most fundamental one of the qualities is cohesion. Every network seeks to solidify cohesion internally[7] while weakening it externally, reason why individualism is the dominant psychology programmer/territorialization tool of the empire whose transnational ruling network is called the “international community.”  This network dreams of presiding over denationalized mathematical stalemates of micropower perpetually neutralized against each other in dynamically shifting coalitions. Ultimately, it seeks to accelerate automation of the means of production and coercion to rid itself of the minimum of popular consent it still depends on (labor) but which – due to sociological reasons – it cannot replace as man-power.

II(All politics is network politics: Today, the seriousness of intra-elite competition has become evident by attempts at personalization and deanonymization of the network.[8] It pits against each other fragmented public spheres in a protracted information war of position while hastily purging the net with “ethical” algorithms.

The network, increasingly awkwardly visible, but concentrating the political experience of centuries, knows when to sacrifice capital reserves and has decided that now is the time.  The chaos of all current political phenomena stems from the fallout of its two investment priorities: (1) The horizontalization of vertical conflict potential and (2) the control of critical infrastructures.

[1] We think of loveless and shoddy Stalinist social engineering of the Soviet Union which fragments in 1990.

[2] Didn’t Hitler also lose the war by chasing out von Neumann and degrading Germany from mathematical to engineering power?

[3] Or, depending on interpretation, vice versa.

[4] Under conditions of aerial bombing, military planners in World War II start thinking of the state as a hierarchy of infrastructures.

[5] The kitchen psychological approach to power which has become popular in the late 20th century: Trump, the id-baby-monster, Merkel, the mother etc.

[6] See, for example, Gary Webb, who tried to reveal the network.

[7] Hence the ritualistic excesses of contemporary power elites (Epstein).

[8] As with the recent unprecedented personalisation of political discourse targeting the network-individual: Soros, Rothschildt, Koch, Kravis, Adelson, or the MEGA network of the Epstein Affair (Pritzker, Lauder, Wexner, Bronfman).