157B | CCN: 44961

Rhetoric of Contemporary Political Theory

Sovereign Decision in the Technological Age

Instructor: David Bates,

4 Units

This course will explore how the political and legal emphasis on decision as a mark of sovereignty has been threatened, rejected, and reimagined over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as political institutions have become more reliant on bureaucratic networks and, increasingly, on technological systems for administering political communities. And given the importance of war and emergency in conceptualizations of sovereignty, the emergence of technologized and even automated battlefields has put pressure on traditional notions of executive power. We will begin by surveying some recent literature that highlights how forms of sovereignty has been eroded or corrupted by technical automation in the digital age. We will then return to one of the more influential formulations of sovereignty in the interwar period, the work of Carl Schmitt, before delving into the problem of technology in his own writing. Next, we will look at how the rise of computer technology and cybernetics during and immediately after the Second World War influenced political theory in a new global configuration of power. Finally, we will conclude with an analysis of the political dimension of recent theorizations of technology.

Readings from: Schmitt, Concept of the Political, Political Theology, Leviathan in the State Theory of Hobbes, Nomos of the Earth, Dialogues on Power; Deutsch, Nerves of Government; Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus; Stiegler, States of Shock; Massumi, Ontopower; Bratton, The Stack.