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We are all Migrants

"The post-modern forms of racism in contemporary Europe can be understood as a regime compromise between the regime of inspiration and the home regime.. People should not be 1set aside' as in the dominant system of post-politics. In this sense, we are all migrants." translated from the German
"We are all Migrants"

Immigration, Multiculturalism and Post-Politics after September 11

By Bulent Dikan

[This article originally published in the journal Alaska July 15, 2002 is translated abridged from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.linksnet.de/drucksicht.php?id=690. Bulent Diken teaches social theory and urban sociology at the University of Lancaster. He wrote "Strangers, Ambivalence and Social Theory". The article "Immigration, Multiculturalism and Post-Politics after `Nine Eleven'" appeared in Third Text, Nr. 57, Winter 2001-2.]

"Why does the World Trade Center have two towers?", Jean Baudrillard asked a few years ago (1). The twin towers of the WTC perfectly mirrored one another to show the meaninglessness of difference and opposition in the post-modern world by eliminating difference as the foundation of politics. According to Baudrillard, the WTC was the symbol of post-politics, of an obscene political system "without historical continuity and dialectical oppositions any more", a "simulacrum" where reality disappears and blurred actions without consequences merge to neutral insignificant "zero-sum signs" (2).

However post-politics is not an order of peace. The exclusion or suspension of the political, the lack of consequences of information, the implosion of the social to mere simulation - all this provokes naked force. Terror is not the product of antagonistic forces representing a real antithesis. Terror, according to Baudrillard, is the product of "indifferent, aimless powers" gaining importance beyond politics in post-politics as the only conceivable form of force (3). Seen this way, it is only logical that terrorism destroyed the WTC.

On one side, the admonition of psychoanalysis is also true for objects like the WTC. "one only lives twice." Physical death is only the first death. The second, the "symbolic death", is removed from everyone or something completely out of the symbolic order of the social (4).

The WTC after its destruction is a much stronger symbol of power than ever before. The WTC survives as a spirit, zombie or fetish. Simultaneously the act of its destruction assumes features of religious transfiguration in the general consciousness. The discourse that defeats all others after September 11 is "security". Security policy is also the dominant form of politics generally in post-politics (5). The language of security policy like the language of terrorism is deterrence: "If you don't want to... " Security policy defines what it means today to be a political subject. Under its model, politics becomes a permanent state of emergency and democracy its scourge. Correspondingly the power to act in terrorist ways can be easily provoked. The political is neutralized; the civil society is intimidated and attacked (6). The categories of security and fear are also bound with a certain way of life. Thus post-politics is not weakened by the attacks of September 11. On the contrary, post-politics is staged and strengthened by terrorism and security policy.

The Regime of Justification

What does this process and the "undead WTC" mean for immigration? What will come of "multiculturalism" after September 11?...

Justification regimes are not normative in Habermas' sense as results of communicative reason. Justification regimes establish different registers of assessments and bring their perspectives on what they find marvelous and what they find hideous into the public debate. Their valuation canon is marketed. The different justification systems cannot "convince" one another or find a common consensus. Consensus can only occur within a justification regime. There are only compromises between the regimes...

Be inspired!

For the regime of inspiration, positive values are inspiration, uniqueness, originality, creativity and movement. This involves liberation from ingrained habits and attitudes and surpassing one's horizon. As in the aesthetic modern age, mobility is vital as an instrument of criticism of static conditions. Terms like nomadism, exile, hybridity, journeys, tactics, deconstruction and desires are connected with forms of resistance and attempts to evade power. Migration, emancipation and liberation from roots are guaranteed within this regime of justification.

In contrast, efficiency and productivity as desirable values are in effect for the industrial regime with its technological objects and scientific methods. Efficiency and productivity guarantee the functioning of social processes and the technical satisfaction of needs. In this world of industrial capitalism, professionalized knowledge is admired and "unproductive" persons despised. Progress, planning and organization are at the top of the scale of values. From the view of this regime, migrants were once useful and made a valuable contribution. With the processes of de-industrialization, migrants have become a burden, the epitome of ineffectiveness, poor performance, and inadequate functionality.

Within the industrial regime, justification and criticism depend on the same ideal of a utopian social engineering. The parts must be connected. "Integration" is the principle value. While people argue about suitable social technologies, the goal itself is above all criticism. The immediate problematic consequences of "integration policy" are defined as side-effects and hardly count.

In the regime of the market, admiration is given to competition, wealth and readiness for risks. Short-term projects are more important than long-term projects. Whoever is "small" is a loser; his products obviously do not sell well. From the perspective of this regime, migrants are only of interest when they are entrepreneurs. Then they are celebrated. All others, even when they are gainfully employed, are regarded as unproductive boarders with "deformed consumer behavior" (11).

Desire for Territory

The regime of public opinion celebrates being seen by others. Standing in public, having publicity, influence, attractiveness and seduction are the prominent values. Being forgotten or only seen as a pale shadow should be avoided at any cost. Having public opinion behind oneself is tremendous. This justification regime is extraordinarily important for populist positions in the migration debate. What is public opinion or what "the population" says is sought, not what is right. In most cases, recourse to "people in the country" leads to justification of repressive or racist positions and practices. Correspondingly one is regarded as an "expert" by saying what everyone already "knows".

Within the home-regime, trust between the members of a collective, a tradition, a community or a hierarchy counts most. Respect for tradition is good; individualism is bad. The intrusion of a "foreigner" in this kind of world always represents a threat. Cultural contact with migrants is disconcerting. Foreignness is synonymous with infection and undesirable global dependence. As in communitarianism, a territory, an inheritance, a nation or a tradition is defended against the threat from the outside, against the de-regulated, uncontrollable flood of global capital and against global migration. In the present worldwide territorial wars, "territorialization" (in the spatial and also social and cultural sense) becomes the magical answer to all uncertainties engendered by increased mobility. "Home" becomes the bunker against the horror of spatial deregulation. For the regime of civil society, in contrast, the popular5 will and equality are regarded as desirable values. The collective and representative structures are central, not individuals. Subordination under the will of the generality in the form of choice and delegation are good. In relation to migration, the regime of civil society emphasizes the importance of general foundations, a common platform for the coexistence of differences.

However this platform cannot be cultural. Culturalism and communitarism are held as dangerous because they misunderstand cultural difference as different cultures. Cultural values alone can never produce the "general foundation". The political is necessary. Therefore migrants should be regarded firstly as political beings, not representatives of different cultures. That the category of the political is itself threatened and dissolved - in the form of the predominant multiculturalism understood by great Britain as "a community of communities" - is ominous in the migration debate.

Neo-racism as a Compromise

The different justification regimes are necessarily in conflict with one another. From the perspective of the regime of inspiration, all other justification regimes are stained by valuing stability as positive. This is most intensely true for the home-regime in which all roots are good and all mobility bad. From the view of the home-regime, in contrast, the regime of inspiration lacks any sense for order and respect for hierarchies and customs.

Nevertheless compromises occur. The most striking regime compromise in the migration debate is between the industrial regime, the home-regime and the regime of public opinion. The prevailing "public opinion" in Europe is communitarian, subdividing the social in "we" and "them" and expecting that the "others" will be integrated in an effective way in a society (still) considered as an industrial community.

The post-modern forms of racism in contemporary Europe can be understood as a regime compromise between the regime of inspiration and the home-regime. Although this racism takes place in a non-antagonistic, non-changeable community, its structure is very mobile and innovative. This structure is so mobile or "rootless" that it can easily flow from neo-racist parties into other contexts including the massive social-democratic and conservative parties, media, universities and so forth. One never knows where racism will turn up next.

Racism is in constant movement and continually mutates. As "micro-fascism", it develops in leaps and bounds like a Rhizom (12). The home that should be defended and of which one is proud is not described further but remains strangely faceless and without qualities. The economic strength of contemporary racism is in its maneuverability, its virus-like character and its inspiration, not in the imaginary, peculiar national identity.

The Project-regime

Compromises between several regimes can establish a very new type of justification-regime (cf. Bollanski and Chiapello in "The New Spirit of Capitalism" (13). We are witnesses today of the genesis of a new justification-system described as the "project regime". This system arises out of a compromise between the regime of inspiration, industry and the market while going beyond this compromise in central points:

Creativity and innovation, different from the regime of inspiration, are equated with flexibility and adaptation. They arise through new connections of existing reality and "sharing", not through individual designs.
The project regime is that justification regime corresponding to contemporary "flowing capitalism". Out of post-modern criticism, a post-fordist normativity has appeared in which management, not left-wing radicals, has the last say, demands drastic flexibility from everyone. Difference only has a commercial value.

The geography of "flowing capitalism" is a geography of streams, not territories. Power consists in agility and is not static. The fast devour the slow (14). A nomadic capitalism justifies itself aesthetically not socially. "Be inspired", the Siemens advertisement says. "Centrality is definitively un-cool today. The center is marginalized and marginality is hip" (15). Contemporary capitalism propagates maneuverable, adaptable and mobile forms of institutions and corporations. The nomadic has nothing subversive any more but is the authoritarian norm. Whoever cannot or will not move loses.
Networks, connections and connectivity are values in themselves within the project regime. Activity counts, independent of content, goal and measurable contributions to productivity. Being always underway to the next project is stressed. One preserves and redevelops oneself as a person on the labor market.

The most important consequence is that politics and society disappear. The power of the network lies in the ability to escape. In the "fluid modern age", power is with those who can travel with a light pack. Reflection and discussion, negotiation and dialogue, the basic elements of politics, are only nuisances for the ideal of speed. Speed lies beyond politics and is post-politics (Paul Virilio). While power is in "flow", politics is a concern of the "entirely local".

1984 is not a nightmare any more but a hopeless longing, as Zizek explains in the example of Big Brother. People are fearful of not observing the whole time any more which amounts to disappearing as persons. Society exists today as a fantasy and dream while the traditional presuppositions of society like territories and temporal periods disappear. The contradictory flexibility of neo-racism is clear again today. On one hand, neo-racism mobilizes this longing as a fantasy of a stable, familiar society threatened by mobility (of migrants). On the other hand, flexible capitalism trains a mobility-racism that mobilizes contempt for those who (allegedly or actually) do not change or "move" whether or not they want to move or can move. Migrants who hold to their cultural difference and people in the Third World who stubbornly refuse integration in the new flexibility like the immobile and inflexible in their own society are examples.

What should be done against the Post-Politics?

The crucial question is "Can politics be reinvented?" Is politics still possible in the network age? Should criticism be revived (Bolanski) as a demand for de-acceleration of the nomads (Baumann) or as affirming even more acceleration (Derlauze)?

Post-modernism and post-colonialism lose their critical function in view of the project regime and "flowing capitalism". Multiculturalism has become the dominant form of migration policy and the new world order, a classic example for post-politics. Post-politics represses certain forms of politics, excluding them from the first before they arise. In praxis, post-politics pursues preventive risk management. Its experts and global social workers are anxious that "nothing really happens". On the ideological plane, post-politics reduces the general desire raised by a certain group into a problem of this group.

Political criticism is turned around into a demand for appropriate preventive social work (16). September 11 is an accident in this policy. Still the dominant political reactions amount to the demand for more post-politics, not for less - up to the statement that "poverty in these countries" is a problem that global capitalism must face.

If multiculturalism is actually the cultural logic of late capitalism, multiculturalism cannot be met with the typical elements of post-modern and post-colonial criticism. The network society is no longer determined by the panoptic forms of rule forcing people to assume certain subordinate positions. The network society is defined by the constant movement where the subject is in becoming all life long. Hybridity, deregulation and mobility do not have any revolutionary flavor any more. They have long become part of the normative demands in the network society. Therefore Hardt and Negri emphasize that the decisive question is the right of the global "multitude" to decide "whether, when and where they move, not mobility as a fact." (17)

The only conceivable political act, the ultimative political "event" in this context, is a new form of universality, one that insists the right to politics is denied by this normative structure where we are all treated as persons who aren't political subjects or part of negotiation. This is a universality "ex negativo" whose binding element is that people should not be "set aside" as in the dominant system of post-politics. In this sense, "we are all migrants".


1. Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, London 1988
2. Jean Baudrillard: Simulacra and Simulation, 1994.
3. Jean Baudrillard: The Transparency of Evil, 1993
4. Slavoy Zizek: The Sublime Object of Ideology, 1989
5. Slavoy Zizek: The Ticklish Subject, 1999
6. G. Agamben: Secret Accomplices. On Security and Terror, Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung, September 20, 2001
7. L. Boltanski and L. Thevenot
8. "Regimes of justification" can also be translated as justification-systems. Boltanski and Thevenot do not have in mind individual or political "value systems" but competing realms of valuation and substantiation competing around expansion to the whole society with homes in different social practices and areas. From a post-modern perspective, there are no ideologies that can be measured by an ascertainable reality but different social logics that cannot be merged and whose difference does not disappear through argumentation.
9. industry, market, civility, opinion, inspiration, domesticity
10. L. Boltanski and L. Thevenot, 2000
11. Z. Baumann, Consumption and the New Poor, 1998
12. G. Deleuze and F. Guaitan: A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1987
13. Boltanski and Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, 1999
14. Z. Baumann, Liquid Modernity, 2000
15. T. Eagleton, The Centre Cannot Hold, The Guardian, June 23, 2001
16. S. Zizek, The Ticklish Subject, 1999
17. M. Hardt and A. Negri, Empire, 2000

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