Ontopower: War, Powers, and the State of Perception
Brian Massumi is Professor of Communication at the University of Montreal. He is the author of The Power at the End of the Economy, What Animals Teach Us about Politics, and Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, all also published by Duke University Press.
The Primacy of Preemption: The Operative Logic of Threat
There is a difference between prevention, deterrence, and preemption. Prevention assumes that causes are knowable. Dissuasion depends on a symmetry of state power (a “balance of terror”) that makes war unthinkable. Preemption, however, assumes an asymmetry between state powers and their opponents, as well as a “threat environment” so complex as to render causes essentially unknowable. Threats, unlike dangers, are objectively indeterminate, and this is precisely what drives the operative logic of preemption. An operative logic is in fact “self-driving”: it becomes self-causing by producing what it fights, and feeding off the conflict. This leads to a situation of permanent, undeclared war that begins to invade more and more aspects of life. The chapter explains how preemptive power becomes self-causing, and because of that becomes the dominant mode of power. Its operation is seen to produce a “surplus-value” of conflict that fuels the preemptive process in much the same way capitalist surplus-value fuels the economy.