Oikopolitics, and Storms

Angela Mitropoulos*

In his 2009 Inaugural speech, US President Obama spoke of America’s future by not only invoking We the People’s faith in founding ideals and documents, but he did so–by this time, as his signature rhetoricity—by evoking storms. Every “so often,” he remarked, “the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.” He also spoke of an immeasurable “sapping of confidence” in America’s futurity, alongside “indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics,” such as foreclosures, rising unemployment, and a costly health care. The essay that follows was written just prior to that speech, but it nevertheless attempts to understand how the measurable acquaints itself with the immeasurable (desire and the future) through a meshing of gender, race, sex, labour and desire in the accounting of the household–and the oikos, in all its etymological tightening. The question, in one sense, is how the coincidence of crises financial and climatic might unfold and recompose an oikopolitics. The concept of an oikopolitics is offered here as something far more explanatory of the genealogical and familial than understandings of sovereignty through a biopolitical lens have admitted, and something far less subjectively universal than many accounts of affect and intimacy aspire to. It does not simply point to a blurring of the classical distinction between the public realm of politics and the private domain of the household in the trammelling of arousal to labouring, and a socio-political horizon whose possible forms of relation are those of the national state conceived as home. It is also explanatory of the ways politics assumes the task of securing an intimately normative disposition, the raising of a properly political subject on the grounds of the at once familial and national. It is, in another sense then, a post-autonomist contribution to discussions that, thankfully, remain turbulent.

romoting his forthcoming book Ecological Debt on Open Democracy in 2005, Andrew Simms argued that despite decades of political action around


the environment, “the green movement still struggles to find a story [ . . . ] strong enough” to dislodge the attraction of fossil-fuelled economies. What would be persuasive? At that time, Simms indicated that the story might be borrowed from, in his words, the “homely wisdom” of Margaret Thatcher’s government. “Good environmental stewardship [ . . . ] should be the same as good household management,” he wrote; adding: “What could be simpler than the notion of living within our means?” Simple, perhaps. Yet the simplicity of the proposition that the environment should be understood as a household, along with—as Thatcher argued—the nation, requires that each of these be accounted for in the same terms, which is to say: according to the same values and measures, and therefore through a budget. A budget, minimally, is a ledger of assets and expenditure projected into the future. Budgets presuppose quantitative measure, the reduction of everything to a monetary value, and the assumption that what is significant to take account of can be measured by money. In budgets, there are line items; the most curious of which is that of contingencies (variously defined as unforeseen events, or conditions that might void sale and contract). In accounting practices, contingencies are what of the future cannot be predicted, but can nevertheless be measured. Yet, the argument that earth, nation and household are analogous functions not only insofar as there is a common unit of measure at work in each, but that each are (or might be) structured according to the same (economic) principles, and might become, therefore and through this, the object of management (i.e., stewardship). Seemingly indifferent to what is measured, it remains true that the asymmetric logic of equivalency and contract inclines to what is productive, what might be counted to have increased one’s assets. That nation and household present themselves not only as specific economic practices, relatively detachable units of economic organization and labour, but also as the modular horizon of politics implies an indistinction between economics and the very sense of the political, between the precepts of calculation and those of decision. Here, it is productive bodies—and all that this phrase entails and assumes about celestial, political, laboring, and corporeal bodies construed as analogous—which comes to the fore in politics, or as political questions. Nevertheless, what composed a household is no more continuous in history than is the idea that the nation (or the environment) and household are the same, not to mention that nation-states are a strictly modern form of organization. For Aristotle, unlike for most of the world in the present moment, the exemplary household perfectly mirrored the demographics of the city (polis). As Jean-Luc Nancy suggested, “the polis subsists [for Aristotle] on infra-political bases,” but in no sense was it considered the destiny of politics to climax in the political administration of everything (2002:17). More significantly, the household was no more the eminent space of intimacy than did intimacy always culminates in genealogy, or genealogy in sovereignty. By conOikopolitics, and Storms / Angela Mitropoulos Vol. 3:1 67

trast, the exemplary household invoked by Thatcher was that of a nuclear family, conceived not only as a space of intimacy but also genealogy, in its most minimal sense as the cohabitation of love, sex and procreation within a productive unit. What remains of the Aristotelian understanding of the household is its description as a realm of necessity, of the production and reproduction of life (as we know it), and its management, where each of its pertinent figures (guards, women, slaves, animals and so on; or father, mother and children) might be accounted for as line-items in the household budget. This is why the oikos forms the root of both ecology and household (as well as economy), though it might be noted that the former term was coined by the zoologist Ernst Haeckel, as he searched around for a way to articulate a nascent behaviourism (that psychology is a branch of physiology) and biopolitics (his infamous phrase: “politics is applied biology”). This intersection of household and nation coincides with the rise of Fordism, and at a more visceral level, Taylorism. It is a confluence marked by naturalization and dynamism at the same time; an ergonomic vitalism that not only elevates household and nation as political-economic subjects par excellence, but wraps sex, labour and intimacy together with real estate both national and homely, just as it subsumes those desires under the politico-biological nexus of race, gender and heterosexuality. It might also be remarked that, as Elizabeth Povinelli calls it, the “dispersion of the intimacy grid,” through which household appears as the proliferation and democratization of sovereignty, also presupposes a history of colonization, of the eclipse of forms of life and of worth that do not hang, as she puts it, “on the more or less fragile branches of a family tree” (2002:234 and 216). In any case, these ‘units’ of nation and household, and the relations between them, what it is they do, who resides in what are taken to be exemplary of each, and so on—all these and more pose themselves as questions only at the level of their management, and only to the extent that that there are techniques of such available. What brings it all together is accounting, the ledgering of value (and, to the extent that something does not appear on the ledger, non-value, superfluity). Budgets appear to be neutral instruments of measure, infinitely pliable, indifferent to content. Yet their principal statistical index—that of national currencies and their relative standing—increasingly imposed itself, much like the weather and alongside its presentation on the nightly news, as that which must be taken account of but cannot be predicted with absolute certainty. By 2008, Simms’ language had shifted from that of the household standard, albeit not so far as might be supposed. As policy director of the Londonbased New Economics Foundation—who describe themselves as working “to construct a new economy centered on people and the environment using techniques such as social and environmental auditing” –, he rephrased their website’s preamble in an op-ed piece for the BBC:

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The UK and the global economies are entering uncharted waters, and the weather forecast is not just bad, but appalling. The triple crisis of credit collapse, oil prices and climate change is conjuring a perfect storm.

In the meantime, of course, what goes by the name of ‘Katrina’ had laid politics bare in the United States, grimly exposed its preconditions and contingencies, its determinations of value and superfluity. Then-President Bush, trying hard to align Hurricane Katrina with Fortuna, insisted that “the devastation resulted not from the malice of evil men, but from the fury of water and wind” (President’s weekly radio address, September 10, 2005). Simms and Bush were not alone in resorting to the motif of the storm after that hurricane. The ongoing, and flailing, military interventions in the Middle East, ‘felt at the pump’ in the form of oil prices, combined with the collapse of the subprime markets and the much-touted ‘toxicity’ of (as President Bush and others put it) “troubled assets,” to make it seem as if the storm had amplified through coincidence. In any case, the storm turned out, and in no way surprisingly, to be a strong and bracing way of telling a story. It has been echoed in talk, among other things, of a Green New Deal by the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Kimoon and President-elect Obama. Storms happen all the time. From Lucretius to Marx and well beyond, storms—whether ironically rendered as ‘perfect’ in their simultaneity or construed as more eventfully singular—have often characterised various attempts to apprehend the encounter that contingency is. Political writings have been replete with all manner of revolutionary storms, storms of war, desert storms, financial storms. Storms, after all, disturb the earth’s surface, the geographies and architectures of what is given. They challenge forgotten and buried histories of appropriation, their infrastructure and their limits. They are the ubiquitous motif of that which is excessive in its violence, indistinct in its desires, and unpredictable in its consequences. They can bring relief in the midst of drought and heatwave, or they can portend disaster. Storms can, also, be unleashed. To invoke a storm is to raise questions about what presents itself, simply and presumably without finite conditions and histories, as a Way of Life; doing so in the dramatic (and oftentimes naturalising) language of meteorology, whether the effect is to underline—and perhaps embrace—the volatility or to insist on the protection of this Way of Life. Let it be noted that ways of life, in the twentieth century like no other, are thought in national terms, as the Australian Way of Life, and so on. And so, if, as Maarten Hajer put it (2005:4), “whether or not environmental problems appear as anomalies to existing institutional arrangements depends first of all on the way they are framed and defined,” it is also the case that these are enframed within the nation-state superintending households. In the discourses of conservation and protection, given both the composition of the problem and their framing,
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there is the predictable appeal to a normal state to which things might be returned or, at the very least, a call to preservation in the guise of the merely technical or neutral; or, what is much the same thing, as an appeal to civic virtue and the ostensibly empty figure of citizenship. The storm is, to put it briefly, the occurrence of politics, however concealed or expressive. It is the appearance of conflict over and about (as Arendt understood politics) the infra-, being-with-others, the between and beyond of relation (which is also to say, disconnection). Melinda Cooper puts it this way: “Turbulence is the event emerging from an irresolvable relation between two or more ‘flows’ that are themselves relations” (2008:7–8). In this sense, the storm emphasises the ineliminable, incalculable plurality that politics is. In its more conventional—i.e., teleological—presentations, the storm is politics as it appears ‘before’ the decision and the calculus that founds the political, or what is regarded as proper to politics and economics. It is, in any case, the conditional of the political and yet, still, the condition of politics; the con- and the tangere that is neither reducible to its specific articulations, nor swerves, nor their mastering. Within the storm, contingency is in no way the not-yet, the appeal that will necessarily culminate in decision or measure. To be sure, it can serve as pretext or opportunity for mastery, its enjoyments and delusions, but the storm nevertheless persists as trope precisely because the sensorium of politics exceeds the borders and definitions of the political, even in those moments where what is at stake and what is asserted as inevitable are those boundaries and the figures which inhabit them. One could point, here, to the debates over globalization or precariousness, in which the catastrophe was perceived as that of a purported decline of the nation-state in the midst of an actual fortification of its borders or in terms of the never-universal condition of regular, full-time work. In some instances, the presentation of a storm can set off a surge, or trip a panic alarm, where there are no longer questions, in the ensuing terror or mild anxiety, about what is defended, why and how. It is the sensory, indeed sensual, equivalent of the idea of the crisis, often likely to be personified as Fortuna. It arouses. Though, while the storm seems to expose foundations, brings down powerlines and tears apart buildings, or at least threatens to, as with the notion of a crisis, it is when these are already shaking that one is able to sense a crisis at all. It is not, foremost, a question of visibility—unless the sense here is akin to the visibility of a tip of an ice-berg, the complex peak and irreducible coincidence of movements and histories. Which is to say, Hurricane Katrina disclosed the crisis that is the norm in the United States. Put another way: contingency is not reducible to something that might be accounted for as contingencies, as unforeseen but nevertheless capable of being measured, in due course. Contingency is not foremost a question of freedom—or one that assumes a subject who is deprived of godlike foresight but nevertheless capable of deciding, weighing, comparing, eventually; of en70 Vol 3:1 The Global South

tering into contracts and reckoning their conditions—but of touch, though freedom remains at issue. Freedom, in its various incarnations, including factal freedom, presupposes an autonomous (if not entirely conscious) subject, a figure that is—as Michael Dillon (2008) underlines—man. This figure of man has its conditions and histories; is, therefore, contingent. It has its particular affective and geopolitical map, a history from which it was raised up and situated within matrices of relations both intimate and public. Famously, for Machiavelli, Fortuna was simultaneously storm, flood and female. Both feared and seductive, Fortuna is to be embraced and channelled, seized and secured by embankments, cuffs and whatever might be convenient. In such narratives, the feminization of inclemency tends to be suggestive, the presentation of a cliff-hanger moment that is as precariously inclined toward a heteronormative plotting of the ensuing action as it is of the decision that gives rise to the political. Which is to say: it is as canonically pornographic as it is, more often, regarded as the text which inaugurates a particular sense of the political as the mastering of contingency. In Machiavelli’s particular telling of the story, the familial and the political are brought together through recognition or, more specifically, the ability of a man—that is: a would-be-prince—to recognise tumult as opportunity and any peaceful time as one of pre-emptive engineering works. Here, it is desire, and its subjective grids, that are composed, deflected, and called up. In the Discourses, Machiavelli wrote:
Though it may appear that the world has grown effeminate, and Heaven has laid aside her arms, this without doubt comes chiefly from the worthlessness of men, who have interpreted our religion according to sloth and not according to vigor [virtù]. For if they would consider that it allows us the betterment and the defense of our country [patria], they would see that it intends that we love and honor her and prepare ourselves to be such that we defend her. (1965:330–31)

It is not simply that Machiavelli seeks to rouse a masculine subject on the basis of the defence of a feminised country but that, in his quest for a nation-state-tocome, the very sense of virtue becomes intimately acquainted with a moralising injunction against indolence. Productivity and virtue coincide, just as they do in anthropological accounts of labour in which, implicitly or not, potentiality (and the future) becomes restricted to its productivist versions. The mobilization of a gendered, nationalist affect is simultaneously a call to labour. Man might not be omnipotent and omniscient, not quite a secularised version of god, but this figure can nevertheless be attributed with the capacity—not for (as Arendt defined politics) “the infinitely improbable” but—for calculating probabilities and physical exertions that might keep contingencies in check or take advantage of them. This is a figure that, as Georg Simmel remarked of a much later time, is conOikopolitics, and Storms / Angela Mitropoulos Vol. 3:1 71

stantly preoccupied with “weighing, calculating, enumerating” and “the reduction of qualitative values to quantitative terms” (cited in Woodward, 1999:184). By the twentieth century, Machiavelli’s sense of the political and its central figure of the productive, patriotic man internalised the practices of accounting. The climactic, then, as a means for the contemplation or exposition of contingency—but, also, in its non-meteorological definitions, as a narrative form that might give shape to a sense of politics—is nothing new. What might be new, given the current paradigmatic coincidence of environmental and financial turbulence, is a tightening of the etymological slide between the ecological and (to borrow another term from Arendt) the oikopolitical. As something far more explanatory of the genealogical and familial than any understanding of sovereignty through a biopolitical lens has been able to admit, and something far less subjectively universal than many accounts of affect and intimacy aspire to, Arendt’s term does not simply point to a blurring of the classical distinction between the public realm of politics and the private domain of the household—or, put otherwise, the indistinction between politics and economics in the rise of the social, whose contours and versions of possible forms of relation are remarkably and, almost without variance, those of the national state conceived as home. It also invokes the sense in which politics comes to assume the task of securing an intimately normative disposition, the raising of a properly political (i.e., autonomous) subject on the grounds of the at once familial and national as if this were the most natural—and therefore, apolitical, eternal—thing on earth. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner— writing of the modulations of public and private in the intersections of race, border controls and sex—have already argued that “national heterosexuality” is the means through which “a core national culture can be imagined as a sanitized space of sentimental feeling and immaculate behavior, a space of pure citizenship” (1998: 549). The question, here, is similar, if more about how the familial form of the national state and the heterosexually nationalist ledgering of intimate norms— that is, a Way of Life—becomes reconfigured in light of the apprehension of a storm simultaneously financial and climatic. Mick Smith suggests something of what is happening in arguing that new discourses of environmental citizenship seek to oblige, “in a largely ‘apolitical’ manner’ [ . . . ] behavioural norms that facilitate the continuance of the current social/economic system” (2005:51). As the social accompaniment to Taylorism, behaviourism is the application of measure and working up of statistical norms. As Kathleen Woodward argues, the increasing recourse to and circulation of statistics amounts to the amplification of a “structure of feeling,” “the creation of the omnipresent discourse of risk” that “has produced a calculus to avoid that very risk” (1999:196)—though I would add, it is also the case that it is enough for the anecdotal to pass as the statistical so long as it simultaneously incites a sexualised panic toward the
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normative (see the discussion on the “Intervention” in Mitropoulos, 2008a). But if the recourse to state-sponsored behaviourism pivots around the familial household as its basic unit of architecture, while assuming an individuated subject whose motions can be rewarded, punished, contracted and hedged, it is the inducements offered to companies to include a set of indices regarding a finite ecology within their accounting that provides the calculus to accompany the normative. This auditing requires the rendering of ostensibly environmental values as monetary ones. Moreover, according to Hajer (1995:26), “ecological modernization frames environmental problems combining monetary units with discursive elements derived from the natural sciences,” and the problems of the environment become increasingly construed as “a management problem.” Since the 1980s, those organizations purporting to represent the environmental movement have increasingly shorn themselves of a critique of modernization, of progress and technical rationality. Put another way: this is the point from which the traces of anti-capitalism were stripped from official environmental discourse. To be very clear, the suggestion here is in no way that this critique, as it was articulated in various ways, was without its significant problems, depending on where and how it situated the moment at which a supposedly pristine ecology was disturbed or crisis marked, and, critically, noticed to be so. All ideas of a state of equilibrium incline toward a dialectics of the fall and redemption, a temporalization and theologization of what continue to be organized as geographic and spatial matters pertaining to the movements of bodies. It is this temporalization which must locate a significant event, some of the most well-known versions being: at the moment of colonization, or globalization, or in the announcement of an imminent crisis of overpopulation or the more recent concerns over (what is the same preoccupation with productivity) declining birth rates and ageing populations, or the emergence of capitalism as such, or in the shift to real subsumption, or the oil shock of the early 1970s, or the moment of primitive accumulation, et cetera. The question, better put—which is both temporal and spatial—is of the presentation of a Way of Life as the only way of living there is or might be. One does not require nostalgia to criticise the amplification of the actuarial, or to note the ways in which the sense of the future becomes constrained to and by such. Neither past nor future have to be marked as a loss or as the possibility of recompense, but they do signify discontinuity and an incommensurable difference. And yet, notions of progress can be quantifiable (the production of more and better of the same), and so serve to eternalise what is. Or, more utopically, progress can be another name for a deferral that is assuaged by idealising, and therefore holding fast, to what is, in the hope that whatever it might be, it will become better over time. In either case, present political and economic arrangements are projected out into an infinite future, ironically in the name of a finite ecology. And yet, the very idea of a finite ecology is an artefact of claims about the
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scarcity of the means of a specific Way of Life, and not life as such. Indeed, it is difficult not to locate the resurgence of claims about scarcity in intermingled anxieties about peak oil and ‘reliance on foreign oil’ (Caffentzis, 2005), in the revival of appeals to an autochthonous nation-state, or at least one that is deemed to be so because it is capable of forgetting its conditions. But, what the attempts to secure oil supply have long considered to be a question of national security, of violence and diplomacy, the former imagines is a question of the scarcity of a particular commodity to be solved (and apparently non-violently so) by the extension of commodification. That the ecology might be touted as finite, but money’s reach, it seems, as both universal and infinite, may be progress, of a kind. But the much-heralded turn to a soft form of power is, contrary to its adherents, also a soft form of war. In 1939, Walter Benjamin wrote bitterly of the storm blowing in from “Paradise,” the wreckage of an ostensible progress toward that paradise piling high all around (2003:392). Some sixteen years earlier, Carl Schmitt similarly, albeit for divergent effect, noted the fragility of technical rationality in the face of a “a new storm of historical life” breaking loose (1988:68). What Benjamin noted, and Schmitt sought to make self-evident through his attachment to the mythologeme of “a people,” are the presuppositions, conditions and contingencies of any given Way of Life. In 1904, in a short article in Le Socialiste titled “In the Storm,” Rosa Luxemburg insisted that the storm of war, no less than the destiny and zoning of Europe in the geopolitical distribution of war and peace were being played out not “between the four walls of the European concert, but outside it, in the gigantic maelstrom of world and colonial politics.” In each of these presentations of the oncoming storms of war, it was not simply a question of refuting technological rationality and technical solutions, for better or—in Schmitt’s case—for worse. Rather, the technical and the calculable are posed as both the form of the question and its solution precisely because this is the means by which supposed problems become visible without posing questions about their conditions, without reference to histories, and as a form of mastering contingency through the imposition of measure. Here, the presupposition of the national budget and its forms of ledgering are not called into question but, on the contrary, find their apparently indisputable grounds for application and expansion. In this regard, it is not that, as with current preoccupations, the questions of infrastructure or energy or climate become politicised, making their way to the forefront of policy proposals, analyses and the distributions of research funding, against the backdrop of privatization and deregulation. On the contrary, this is the mark of a depoliticization that proceeds only by assuming, as given, secured as that which is beyond conflict, the meshing of genealogy and intimacy throughout, from the organization of households to that of the nation (as household). Its depoliticization proceeds as a consequence of eternalising the aforementioned where the only question that
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remains is budgetary and managerial. Furthermore, the oscillation of debate between regulation and deregulation, as well as public and private ownership, makes little sense without the presupposition of households organized in particular ways and within interlocking systems of the policing of global labour movements. Privatization does not simply imply private ownership of infrastructure and the means of circulation, or of the means and care of life. It presupposes entire histories over unpaid labour situated within the household; of migration policy and its organization of visas, illegality and race; of the gendering of tasks and their distribution across, say, the private realm of the house or the semi-public space of the hospital; of the role of personal and familial insurance in demarcating a proper (also domestic) working class. Privatization no more suspends the inclination to measure and norm than has deregulation implied the diminishing of state controls on how (some) people live, or cannot, from the increasing delivery of welfare as ‘normfare’ to the proliferation of border controls (see Mitropoulos, 2008a; 2008b). As Shu-Ju Ada Cheng argues, writing of migrant domestic labour in Taiwan, “the privatization of care provision illustrates the state’s appropriation of women’s labor and the gendered nature of the national system of care” (2004:48), rather than any contraction or withdrawal of the state. The controls are, then, more intimate, more focussed on behaviours and the ostensibly private realm of the household, and imbued with a sense of personal decision, responsibility and obligation. Moreover, as with, the translation of ‘ecological values’—imagining for a moment they existed in those precise terms, prior to the project of translation—into monetary ones, this implies the amplification not only of quantitative measure but also its assumption of the national currency. Here, politics becomes indistinguishable from and constrained by economics, a question, for the most part, of national and household productivity and its accounting. Family values are indistinguishable from property values—including estimates of bodies as potential labour—and form the basis of authentic citizenship. But, however much this nexus between labour, family and nation might be accounted for, measured, regarded as eternal and natural, contingency remains as its condition. That is, the remarks by Benjamin, Schmitt and Arendt are pertinent not only because they invoke storms—and war—as such, but because in doing so they note the connection between the metaphorics of the storm and the invisible, unassimilable variable that both serves as prompt for the recourse to the nebulous motif of the storm, but also troubles all attempts to account for it in advance. For Benjamin, as with Schmitt, there is no inscription of the civil without barbarity and, it might be added, no citizen without the foreigner— though they had very different ideas about each. But it is Luxemburg who notes the way in which contingency is transformed into necessity, specifically through a forgetting of its finite conditions in the encounter without which
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neither appropriation nor property (nor its accounting or protection) would be possible. The question that follows, as Althusser suggested, is how this encounter takes hold (2006). For Althusser, the epochal encounter was, of course, that “between ‘the owners of money’ and the proletarian stripped of everything but his labour-power” (2006:197). For Luxemburg, it was the processes and relations of colonization and the emergence of the inter-national system. But since these figures do not pre-exist that encounter—neither the “mass of impoverished, expropriated human beings” (Althusser) nor the colonised territories (Luxemburg) –, the question is far less one of identity than of the history through which identities and the relations that constitute them acquire a facticity, the storms and norms that created them dissolved into a self-evidentiary calculus and the technologies that accompany it. When the Reverend Marquis, Director of Henry Ford’s Sociology Department from 1915 to 1921, remarked that “Mr Ford’s business is the making of men, and he manufactures automobiles on the side to defray the expenses of his main business,” he was not merely, if wryly, pointing out the contingency of line-production on certain masculine norms. Though that was true enough. In its early stages, the touted efficiencies of the assembly line were hampered by a pronounced indiscipline that, for the most part, took shape as disinterest and avoidance. At the time, Ford’s car assembly plant had an annual turnover rate of almost four times the total workforce. Levels of daily absenteeism hovered around 10 per cent. The experience of ‘de-skilling’ that came about with the distancing of managerial oversight from line-work, sometimes regarded by floor-workers as tantamount to emasculation, produced an irregularity that, prior to the austerity of the 1929 Depression and the total social mobilizations of WWII, could not be made to harmonise with the routinized monotony of the labor process. And so, in 1914, with the help of his Sociology Department, Ford introduced, most notably, the family wage. Higher than average at the time, paid only to men as a “breadwinner’s wage” and, so, functioning to expel women from the factory, the family wage was also conditional upon remaining in employ for longer than six months and the fulfilment of a moral code around sex, alcohol and “thrifty habits” that extended beyond the factory. While it is important to note that the family wage did not become generalised for some time, and was hardly global in its reach, it nevertheless remains noteworthy that, from the end of the nineteenth century to the mid-20th, in the United States it went from being denounced as a socialist measure to being an article of faith among unions, employers and reformers alike. To be very clear: the social wage that emerged here cannot be understood outside its conditions as a family wage, one premised not only on the joint stock company, but also on the inseparability of heterosexuality, race and nation. Which is to say: it might well be thought outside this complex, but only on the terrain of a politics that seeks out an idealised hegemonial vantage. In any case, where the
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earliest version of the “breadwinner wage,” enshrined by the English Poor Law of 1834, aimed to dissuade the poor from having children (Clark, 2000), Ford’s family wage incited procreation in modes deemed to be both proper and proprietal, gendered and racialized at the same time. Pointing to shifts in the confluences of race and sex, turning around questions of reproduction and production, this change signalled the amplification the oikopolitical in the proliferating registers of domesticity, domestication and (a phrase that is still in use) the domestic economy. From the 1834 Poor Law’s explicitly Malthusian insistence that the impoverished were recalcitrant about improvement toward the ‘melting pot’ assimilationism that, in the Ford factory, was often hinged around instruction in the mundane detail of an idealised familial life, the exemplary Fordist worker was resolutely figured as the reliable citizen-husband. What transported the family wage proposition from the outlandish to the commonplace, and from its exclusionary to assimilatory variants, was, precisely, the intersection of normativity and labour process—which is to say: the reorganization of at once racialized and gendered attachments through a complex redistribution of compensations, exclusions and hierarchies that were as libidinal as they were spatial, monetary and semantic. Significantly however, it was the particular way in which Ford conceived the ledgering, disbursements and elements of the wage that provided the decisive innovation that would recognise and transform the delineations of public and private, economic and intimate, factory and household, citizen and subject and, not least, labour and sex. In My Life and Work, discussing the physical exertions of the socialised man, he wrote:
If only the man himself were concerned, the cost of his maintenance and the profit he ought to have would be a simple matter. But he is not just an individual. He is a citizen, contributing to the welfare of the nation. He is a householder. He is perhaps a father with children who must be reared to usefulness on what he is able to earn. We must reckon with all these facts. How are you going to figure the contribution of the home to the day’s work? You pay the man for his work, but how much does that owe to his home? How much to his position as citizen? How much to his position as father? The man does the work in the shop, but his wife does the work in the home. The shop must pay them both. On what system of figuring is the home going to find its place in the cost sheets of the day’s work? (1922:123)

Nation, factory and household would each have their column in the balance sheet, echoing Frederick Taylor’s eye for the detailed microphysics of time and motion, but in this instance combining statistical norm with a fraternal, racialized heteronormativity—the “making of men”—as its ordering principle. The male line-worker, in compensation for the alienation of managerial
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purview, was to be enticed to instead look upon the nation’s welfare as his personal duty, just as the payment of the wage to him alone invited him to assume a prudent proprietalism toward his wife and, not least, his children’s upbringing as future workers. Yet, the exclusion of women from paid factory work and their relegation to the unpaid work of the household—increasingly defined as work and subject to its own versions of scientific management and industrialization—was not entirely a matter of their expulsion from a strata of higher paid work. Nor were the intersections formed between the “wages of whiteness” and the family wage—where, for instance, non-citizens were paid a percentage of the family wage (Benton-Cohen, 2003)—simply directed toward the reiteration of the border in and at the gates of the factory. It was not only, to put it briefly, a question of the gendered, racialized distribution of economic dependency and property rights. As Lewchuk has suggested, the recourse to the family wage came about because “it was unclear if time could be converted into effort as efficiently in a mixed-gender workforce.” The question being implicitly posed, then, was how to reorient affect, bodies and arousal, toward the simultaneously heteronormative and productive in spheres both demarcated and affiliated through accounting. Put another way: this particular form of ledgering coincided with the rise of statistical norm and and its deviations, pattern and detail, demand management and the virtue of deferred gratification, all swerving off the unassimilable perplexity of (in its Keynesian renditions) unknown probabilities that could not be assigned to any column or measured by them. But if the Fordist approach eventually faltered on bundles of public debt as the fiscal, socialised trace of that epistemically “unknowable” variable, the shift to post-Fordism might well be characterised as the traversal of Ford’s initial separation of management and labour, leveraging the oikopolitical nexus of nation, family and labour around intimate calibrations of riskassessment, accountability, and desire. In what follows, I would like to merely allude to what seems to have taken hold but has yet to assume a facticity, namely: a stridently normative inclination toward the productive (household and nation) erected upon the seemingly indisputable, and crucially transcendental, alibi of climate change. The most pronounced aspect of this is, of course, the campaigns for “green jobs” that underwrites talk of a Green New Deal. It is, however, important to note that “green jobs” already have their precedent in, for instance, work-for-the-dole schemes in Australia which suspend the contractual aspects of the wage, among other things, under the rubric of the combined moral imperatives of work ethic and environmental crisis. In one sense, this increasing recourse to an environmentally ethical coerced labour presents itself as a kind of answer to questions posed elsewhere about the normative unfolding of the precor (prayer) in the midst of precariousness, the desire for a return to a purported (Fordist) equilibrium and regularity that was neither generalised nor universal, and by
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no means without its conditions in violence and war, no matter how much it continues to be mourned by some (Mitropoulos, 2004). In another respect, this confluence of household and nation under the concerted pressures of inclemency both financial and climatic presupposes a history of the ledgering not only of labour, but also of rights that flow from labour (i.e., productivism) that has played itself out in cyberspace as much as landscape, and often through the moral architecture of humanitarian interventions both abroad and internally that are as much sexualised and racialized as they are deemed to be solvable as matters of technology and the instruction in civic virtues (see Mitropoulos, 2007 and 2008a). In a speech on September 1st 2008, in Michigan, then-Presidential nominee Barack Obama remarked that “not all storms get on tv but they are there.” Speaking a day later in Milwaukee, on the themes of “how to sustain the middle class” and the “dignity of work,” he said: “there are some folks who are going through their own quiet storms.” He added:
all across America, there are quiet storms taking place, there are lives of quiet desperation, people in need of just a little bit of help. Now, Americans are a self-reliant people [ . . . ] every once in a while somebody’s going to go through some hard times [ . . . ] we rise and fall as one nation, the values of family and community and neighbourhood and that express themselves in our government, those are national values [ . . . ] the spirit that we need in our own homes and the spirit that we need in our Whitehouse.

Needless to say, the question being posed here was that which had been precipitated by decades of what is usually referred to as neoliberalism (the displacement of risk onto households) followed by the collapse of the subprime mortgage industry and rising unemployment. But if Thatcher and Obama seem to diverge on questions of the extent of, say, union involvement in the procedures of government or their particular emphasis on the line of welfarewarfare that is referred to as state “help,” they nevertheless both articulate the problem as one of unemployment—which is, echoing Machiavelli, the notion of unproductivity conceived as both a moral and political-economic problem— and determine the solution in terms of productive and self-managed households (conceived as analogous to the nation-state). It is all a question of the intimacy of risk-management. The International Monetary Fund stated the question in these terms:
there has been a transfer of financial risk over a number of years, away from the banking sector to non-banking sectors. [ . . . ] This dispersion of risk has made the financial system more resilient, not least because the house-

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hold sector is acting more and more as a ‘shock absorber of last resort.’ (2005:89)

If the modern financial system is premised on the historical emergence of national debt, the late twentieth witnessed the democratization of its risks through the household. And yet, as it turns out, the dispersal of risk opened the door to the cascading effects of subprime instability and default. The idealised household had not taken hold in any generalised sense, much as it imposed itself as norm, and beyond any attempt to assume that all of those who defaulted could not pay rather than had decided not to or, more broadly put, did not budget and toil as they ought. That this cascade (or storm) has, almost without variance, been read as the teleological urgency of a new New Deal that will raise Gross Domestic Product, in the coupled language of post-storm reconstruction and a progressive faith (that is, hope)—not to mention alongside renewed calls for the euthanasia of the rentier, of the dangers of unproductive (fictitious or parasitic) capital, and for the redemption of the US as a de facto global currency—indicates the ubiquity of oikopolitics that is as nostalgic (in its recourse to the language of the New Deal) as it is progressive (in its bid for social and environmental auditing), as reactionary and moralising as it is calculating and hopeful. It also suggests that the celebrated turn to soft power—to note Joseph Nye’s nomination of Obama as the exemplary, redemptive expression of such (2008)—does not imply a turn away from violence, war, death; though it may well indicate something of its redistribution. George Caffentzis, writing of claims about peak oil, argues that:
there has been a capitalist critique of “rent-seeking” throughout the history of political economy. Rent is presumably the epitome of unproductive income. This critique still goes on today in the text-books and among the ideologues of both Keynesianism and neoliberalism. However, for all the critique of the rentier, rent still is a decisive form of income in a capitalist society [ . . . ] But the productivist ideology that has its roots in John Locke’s defense of English colonialism in the late seventeenth century is always waiting on the horizon to be brought in to justify attacks on the rights of the rentier. If the rentier, though his/her right of exclusion, disrupts the productive development of a profitable industry, then there is a right of the “more productive” to lay claim to the right of exclusion. [ . . . ] war is always on the wings of all rental claims. (2005: 172)

In other words, the apparently technical, non-violent appeal of soft power, not to mention the social and environmental audit, remains contingent upon violence and exclusion, war and decrees of superfluity, even and especially where what is secured—under the headings of an exit strategy, environmental citizenship or the liquidation of toxic assets—are the boundaries inside which peace is
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said to reign and outside of which war continues to be unleashed. And yet, if this century began, in the protests that went by the misnomer of anti-globalization, with a call for the defaulting on (mostly, World Bank) debt, it bears some further consideration that the financial crisis was precipitated by such, though with little anticipation that it would, along with newer financial instruments of derivatives and futures trading, be imported domestically into the US, and with such effects. What is the encounter here if not the entanglement, and therefore in a very real sense, the anachronism of any distinction between First and Third Worlds? Very briefly put, and whatever else this signifies, the collapse of subprime was a contingency that was neither widely expected nor, entirely, budgeted for, despite—or perhaps because of—the ostensibly auto-immunising strategy of distributing risk and its management to households. Which is to say: how people live, their inter-dependencies and its architectures, their forms of arousal and attachment, exceeds its accounting and any norm, even as the emerging lines of conflict are increasingly, it seems, around what might rouse (or compel) them to a greater, virtuous productivity.

* With thanks to Melinda Cooper, Sarah Fearnley, the peculiar households of London and Sydney, and the curious Business School of Queen Mary.

Works Cited
Althusser, L. (2006) “The Underground Current of the Materialism of the Encounter”, in Philosophy of the Encounter—Later Writings, 1978–87, eds. Francois Matheron and Oliver Corpet. London: Verso. Arendt, H. (1998) The Human Condition. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Benjamin, W. (2003) “On the Concept of History,” in Selected Writings, vol. 4, 1938–40, eds. Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Benton-Cohen, K. (2003) “Docile Children and Dangerous Revolutionaries. The Racial Hierarchy of Manliness and the Bisbee Deportation of 1917”, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 24.2&3 pp.30–50. Berlant, L and Warner, M. (1998) “Sex in Public”, Critical Inquiry, 24:2, pp.547–566. Caffentzis, G. (2005) No Blood For Oil! Energy, Class Struggle, and War, 1998–2004. Available at: http://www.radicalpolytics.org/caffentzis/no_blood_for_oil-entire_book.pdf Clark, A. (2000) “The New Poor Law and the Breadwinner Wage: Contrasting Assumptions”, Journal of Social History, 34.2 pp.261–281. Cooper, M. (2008) “Infrastructure and Event—Urbanism and the Accidents of Finance”, Presentation at The Center for Place, Culture and Politics, New York. ———. (2009) “Climate Change and the Economics of Turbulence”, Theory, Culture & Society, forthcoming. Dillon, M. (2008) “Lethal Freedom: Divine Violence and the Machiavellian Moment”, Theory & Event, 11:2.

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Ford, H. and Crowther, S. (1922) My Life and Work. New York: Doubleday, Page and Co. Hajer, M. (1995) The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process. Oxford: Clarendon Press. International Monetary Fund (2005) Global Financial Stability Report, April. Available at: http:// www.imf.org/External/Pubs/FT/GFSR/2005/01/index.htm Luxemburg, R. (1904) “In the Storm”, Le Socialiste, May 1–8. Machiavelli, N. (1965) The Chief Works and Others. Durham: Duke University Press. Mitropoulos, A. (2004) “Precari-Us?”, Mute, n.29. ———. (2007) “The Social Softwar”, Mute, 2:4. ———. (2008a) “The Materialisation of Race in Multiculture”, darkmatter, 2. Available at: http:// www.darkmatter101.org/site/2008/02/23/the-materialisation-of-race-in-multiculture ———. (2008b) “Borders 2.0—Future, Tense”, Mute, 2:10. Nancy, J-L. (2002) “Is Everything Political?”, CR: The New Centennial Review, 2.3, pp.15–22. Nye, J. (2008) “Barack Obama and Soft Power”, Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffington post.com/joseph-nye/barack-obama-and-soft-pow_b_106717.html Povinelli, E. A. (2002) “Notes on Gridlock: Genealogy, Intimacy, Sexuality”, Public Culture, 14.1, pp.215–238. Schmitt, C. (1988) The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy. Cambridge: MIT Press. Shu-Ju, A. C. (2004) “When the Personal Meets the Global at Home Filipina Domestics and Their Female Employers in Taiwan”, Frontiers, 25.2, pp.31–52. Simms, A. (2005) “Ecological debt and climate change”, Open Democracy, December 5. (Available at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-climate_change_debate/article_2503.jsp) Smith, M. (2005) “Ecological Citizenship and Ethical Responsibility: Arendt, Benjamin, and Political Activism,” Environments, 33:3, pp.51–63. Woodward, K. (1999) “Statistical Panic”, differences, 11.2, pp.177–203.

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