It is working everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at other times it grumbles and grunts. It eats, breathes, gets coded and decoded, straddling the threshold of the physical and the digital but knows the divide is irrelevant. What a mistake to have ever spoken of immaterial labor. Everywhere are the databodies – not separated as an abstract concept, but ones that are in constant states of production, radiating from every action and transaction, connection and disconnection. You swipe the credit card and it’s born a little, flashed through fiber optics to an archive nobody could ever smell or touch. As soon as its there it becomes regurgitated again, maybe in the architecture of the shopping mall or the ad banner on your computer screen. The physical body plugs into the databody, at once nobody and yet everybody. Hence the emphasis on individualism has produced collectivism of the highest order: all wire into all. All is flows, production, data and metadata. Feedbacking loops crossing the borders of the urban and the virtual, the ecological and the disciplinary, leisure time and work time. The Mathematical Man’s mind is on scanning mode. Military vision. And rest assured that it works: the Mathematical Man knows he is a person with a choice over his life, as long as it doesn’t stretch past the baseline of allowance. Something is produced: the effects of a machine, not mere metaphors.
An abstract machine is a better model than tired analyses of neoliberalism, postmodernism, and post-Fordism. A whole outside, pulled into the inside. There’s nothing “neo” or even “post-” about it. The abstract machine is different than everything that came before it, even if it retains the essentials of power relations from its predecessors. One could hide away at the ends of the earth, and still be fully within it. Empire, as long as its taken for the environment it is, no different from the mountain range or the schizophrenic out for a walk, and not as an infrastructure for some juridicial order. Everything is Empire, everything is machines. Entertainment machines, surveillance machines, pharmacological machines, automated machines and hand-held machines – of all them connected to those of the body. The continual war of machines. To be part of that slipstream, to be indistinguishable from the databody, this is the dream of every Mathematical Man, though he doesn’t realize that state has long been since achieved. He does not live nature as nature now, only a process that produces one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.
Now that we’ve observed some aspects of this environment, let us look at what happens when the Mathematical Man experiments with his life. In search of realization with his double, the Young-Girl, he is polymorphously perverse, but the perverse has been sticken out. “Harden, worsen, accelerate decadence.” The logical end point of libidinal economics, where no transgression can go by without being muted and forced into a caged regulation. It is often thought that Control is an easy subject to deal with, something perfectly obvious, a “given” that there is in plain visibility. But that is not so at all: traditional understandings of Control presupposes a fantastic repression of experimentation and expression. Are they really so repressed today? What sort of repression can we speak of when Control is really a series of modulations, with a border and limit-point as flexible and elastic as the Mathematical Man’s labor hours? Given this remarkable capture of the affective, what is Empire but the veneer of freedom cloaking the abstract machine? Can we possibly guess, when so much is realizable with incredible immediacy, what sort of machine could oppose, or even desire to oppose, this force?
This does not mean that we are attempting to eliminate the possibilities or spaces for resistance. What the Mathematical Man experiences, both as an individual, a digital double, a unit, and a wired (or more properly, wireless) collective, is not an absolute – even if the system rushes headlong to this point. Even if his nature is one of endless production, he is forever producing things in excess to the system, the production of noise. What do we mean here by noise? It is probable that not every action aspect of everyday life is capable of being a signal to be transmitted to the machine. Signal from noise, the noise still exists within the channel but acts against, currents moving and above and below all the while degrading their priority. Not all desire can be properly realized on the market, not all forms of collectivism can be constructed without disrupting at least a handful of gears. For every network in the abstract machine, the possibility of a noise machine.