Commie Nerds

“Paradoxically, publicity as an ideal emerged as a counter-power via associations that were secret and exclusive: the ideals of publicity initially circulated in secret societies like Freemasonry.

Reinhart Koselleck, whose Critique and Crisis preceded and influenced Habermas’s Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, views these secret societies as crucial to publicity’s remaking of the political. They were the means through which the aura of power was transferred from the mysteries of the monarch to the arcana of the lodges. These institutions were secret inner spaces within the absolutist state, spaces that were separated from the political by the very mysteries whose protections enabled the lodges to serve indirectly as a counter to the state. Ritualized spaces of non-familial, non-market relations, the lodges provided forms of association and experiences of connection beyond those established by absolutism. They established their own standards and habits of judgment. Koselleck emphasizes that this new form of social pressure, this new moral force that had to forgo direct coercion, “was always simultaneously an act of passing more judgment on the State.” Because the lodges distinguished themselves from the state, because they positioned themselves as avowedly moral and non-political, they set themselves not simply apart from politics, but above it, in a new domain they were ushering into being. Refusing to acknowledge their actions as political, they subjected the state instead to their moralizing gaze. They were political actors who denied their politics.

Kelty’s geeks function analogously to Koselleck’s lodges. Both are groups that treat their own norms and practices as those to which society as a whole is or should be subjected even as they deny their political investments. Kelty presents “geeks” as outside government and industry even as they work within them, as outside of politics even as they endeavor to serve and enhance capitalism. […]”

– Jodi Dean, Blog Theory

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