Article 27: Algorithmic politics

The global financial dictatorship presents us with a paradox: while the economic transactions capable of shifting the destinies of entire countries are the result of performative language, it is language itself that, in turn, is transformed and subjected by the flows of financial markets. Such a paradox may be understood as a negative feedback loop: a relational process in which one of the actors of the relationship is amplified and expanded (the economy) while the other is weakened and submitted (language). The effects of this paradoxical feedback loop on politics are evident and clear: the linguistic exchange which feeds the public sphere, and therefore the possibility of thinking about the democratic organization of society, diminishes and becomes neutralized because of its submission to the market, up to the point of canceling politics itself. Politics, considered as a space where daily life becomes realized, is reduced to an engine which merely executes the algorithms of finance. In this reconfigured field, the common good becomes increasingly unimaginable as individuals are transformed into cellular automata: inside their bodies, the code of economic behavior and the flat, mutilated language that capitalism requires to operate frictionlessly are already inscribed.

Necrocapitalism

Whoever refuses to enter life as a mere cellular automaton will be annihilated by the financial dictatorship, which is currently passing through an extremely murderous stage: necrocapitalism. Achille Mbembe claimed that the ultimate expression of sovereignty lies broadly in the power and the capacity of deciding who may live and who must die. This was known as necropolitics. Today, the dictatorship of finance prescribes a progressive and quick reduction of the sphere of politics, with the aim of canceling the restrictions that laws and codes used to impose on the flow of capital. And governments have indeed shrunk, turning thus into little more than facilitators of the unstoppable progress of capitalism. However, they have not stopped to exercise their operational capacity to kill and let live. True power has been transferred directly into the hands of capital, who now determines which lives should be halted and which should continue. The power of capital has increasingly turned into a murderous one that, nevertheless, is still executed by the officers of the old sphere of politics.

Mexico

Mexico passed from necropolitics to necrocapitalism not by force but by the signatures of the presidents and ministers of finance of Mexico, the United States of America and Canada who, in 1992, signed the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). What has happened in Mexico since then? A chaotic chain of privatizations, looting and crime, all of which have been executed with a hitherto unknown intensity thanks to the almost complete destruction of the former sphere of politics.


After the forced disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa, Elisa Godínez wrote that “it is not surprising that the corporate sector is heading the demands to repress all social protests which directly affect their properties and interests, arguing that the rule of law should be respected.” [1] It is true that, in the post-NAFTA era, such a position comes as no surprise. However, the true novelty lies in the fact that now the Mexican State no longer defends only the interests of national corporations, but also those of multinationals. And this is not a minor novelty: all sorts of extraction industries, for example, have multiplied their concessions and profits thanks to such a defensive stance. And they have done so while devastating lands, ecosystems and people with almost complete impunity. According to data collected by the Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería (Mexican Network of Persons Affected by Mining), 450 tons of gold have been extracted from Mexico, a quantity almost three times larger than the 185 tons extracted during Spain’s colonial domination. This unprecedented looting has particularly benefited Canadian and North American companies, who make up almost 85% of all private mining concessions, while paying back a mere 1% of what they extract to the Mexican government [2].

Article 27

Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution deals with the property of land, water and natural resources. It originally established that “the property of lands and water resources inside the limits of the national territory corresponds to the Nation.” Obviously, this vision had to change radically under necrocapitalism since, instead of recognizing the primordial nature of private property and the right of capitalists to posses it, it indicated that “the Nation” was, in principle, the sole owner. Now, thanks to recent reforms to Article 27, “the Nation” has acquired the right to transfer the dominion over lands and territorial waters (and, consequently, over the humans and non-humans who inhabit them) into private hands. Article 27 is today the red carpet extended by the Mexican State to welcome the financial and linguistic flows and algorithms of necrocapitalism in grand fashion.

The only possible politics under necrocapitalism is algorithmic politics.

The piece “El 27 | The 27th” is an example of what algorithmic politics can be. Far from trying to point to a possible escape from the horror and exploitation of necrocapitalism, algorithmic politics deepens its murderous potential instead. Despite its relative usefulness as a hired murderer, the traditional sphere of politics is terminally ill: it is too old to carry out rapidly and efficiently the demanding tasks of necropolitics. So, once exhaustion has completely died out its powers, politics made by humans will have to be substituted by algorithmic politics, that is: politics made by machines.

In this piece, an algorithm operates directly on the text of Article 27 in the following way: every night, after the activity at the New York Stock exchange has come to an end, a robot obtains its last closing price and its respective percent variation. If the variation is positive, another robot chooses a fragment of Article 27 randomly, translates it into English automatically, and inserts the translation into its corresponding place within the original text written in Spanish. Given enough time, the algorithm will produce a version of Article 27 fully readable in an effective – yet incorrect – English. An automated English that will already have attempted to displace humans brutally, even though they might still be fighting for a territory delimited by language only, and refusing to die. An automated English that will have already eroded a land delimited by language only, rendering it unrecognizable: torn, exploited, almost dead.

“El 27 | The 27th”: http://motorhueso.net/27