Natural disaster and terrorism define the poles of disaster. In between stretches a continuum of disaster, a plenum of frightful events of infinite variety, at every scale, coming one after the other in an endless series. […] An association is established between “natural disaster” and “national security threat” […] Tendencies such as these blur the boundary between the policing of civil society and the military sphere, and between natural activity, criminal activity, and acts of war. […] The natural and the human are everywhere co-factors in disaster. They co-compose disaster in a way that can be fiendishly complex. But they are not simply in fusion or confusion. The media-borne affective conversion circuit upon which political power increasingly relies for its legitimation obscures the actual dynamics of this interlinkage. The return to the human personal level short-circuits any collective response that is not already either inscribed in the same logic of exploitative development that has brought the world to this juncture, or in complicity with the national/natural security apparatuses of full-spectrum force that move forcefully against those enacting alternate strategies of collective action in the name of alternate collective futures.

The “The Half-Life of Disater” by Brian Massumi, April 15, 2011

Massumi also wrote:

As long as disaster capitalism reigns – which no doubt will be as long as capitalism itself reigns – the world will be caught in a vicious circle: that of responding by increasingly draconian and ill-advised means to a threat environment whose dangers the response only contributes to intensifying.

This “vicious circle”, as it is described here, could also be called a “positive feedback” or a “runaway process” (or “runaway tendencies” or “runaway chain reaction” if one wants to borrow from nuclear science vocabulary). In this regard, Massumi article can be read as a follow up to Sadie Plant and Nick Land’s essay “Cyberpositive” (1994).
Brian Massumi is professor in the department of communication of the Université de Montréal. Visit his official website to learn more about him.


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