Violence, Security and Metaphysics

Its been confirmed that I’m going to perform a paper for the Second Annual Critical Theory Conference on the theme of “Violence and Reconciliation“, on Friday 24th September. Read the details here;

The details of the paper are below. Whilst the day will be a lot of fun, I’ll be mildly disappointed if we don’t start a riot and then make up before the buffet.

“Violence, Security and Metaphysics: Reframing the politics of security.”

Robert Jackson Kurator / Arts and Social Technologies Research Faculty of Arts University of Plymouth

The contemporary philosopher and media theorist Wolfgang Sützl, asserts that a relevant critique of violence must be aligned with a contemporary critique of security. Following Giorgio Agamben, Sützl argues that security has become the guiding concept in contemporary politics. Differing from Foucault’s critique of discipline and order, security enacts violence by securing disorder, often with insecure consequences that lead to more of the same. As McKenzie Wark suggests, “The threat to security is […] security itself“. Sützl identifies this political form as inherently metaphysical.

Sützl aims to connect these abstract assertions to media theory. In what specific way does violence in security manifest itself through media and technology? Influenced by Heidegger’s criticism of technology, Sützl argues that a critique of security and its resulting violence can be formatted within a critique of technology as metaphysics. For as Heidegger argued repeatedly, there is nothing technical about technology. Technology should not be regarded as a neutral instrument, but as “the culmination of the metaphysical drive of western culture”.

Sützl suggests that security instigates modes of violence by shaping two opposing realms; ‘Empty Talk’ and ‘Telling Silence’. Empty Talk is the noise of senseless chatter within popular culture that reduces human potential; it is secure and neutralised. Telling Silence is the hidden realm of security securing itself, the site of real politics. Language becomes technical, calculable and coded. Human rights are silenced, views are censored and like metaphysics, this is a barrier where one cannot go. A real critique must begin with creating a poetic language which moves beyond silence and noise, leading to a privileging of artistic projects which aim to create peaceful insecurity using software as a political act.

The paper will attempt to reframe Sützl’s argument, agreeing that the political form of violence and security is metaphysical, but suffers from a continued historical misreading of Heidegger. The misreading occurs from confusing the two Heideggerian ontological realms of relation / non- relation and presence / absence. If critiquing the metaphysical stance of technological security is to be helpful, it must be appropriately engaged as a entity altogether separate from its relations.

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