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In this afterword, Michelsen and Bolt outline the role that the work of Deleuze and Guattari plays in Unmapping the 21st Century. These philosophers inspired the core conceptual framework of the book. The conceptual implications of the approach to reading and deploying Deleuze and Guattari are set out, as well as the benefits of the interpretative moves made in the book.

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This chapter examines the strategic logic of swarming. Swarms are often seen to embody a purely networked form of organization. No leaders, no hierarchies, no commanding elements to be removed. As this chapter explores, swarms have been of long-standing interest to military planners interested in the value of infesting the enemy and the battlefield. In this context, the politics of swarming may be understood as the purest form of the distributed network map. The chapter engages debates around societal resilience and infrastructure in this context, and how this plays out in focoism as a revolutionary approach to the overthrow of the state.

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In this chapter, Michelsen and Bolt argue that the map of state seeks to hide from view the networks and flows of movement and energy that have always characterized human interaction and cut across the sovereign state system. When conventional, lightly manned borders fail to check the progress of population dynamics, trenches, razor wire, and breeze blocks create little more than a temporary pause in this process. This chapter explores borders and walls, and the legacy of imperialism in world politics, and how this plays out as an ongoing faith in mapping.

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This chapter examines how networks and hierarchies are false opposites. The chapter explores the transmission of power through networks, from the history of Christianity to the rise of modern bureaucracies. Turning to communist revolutionary strategy, the insurgency of Mao, and the construction of the US railway network, the chapter shows that networks and hierarchies invariably subvert, intersect, and mutually inform both the modern state and its various challengers.

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This chapter examines how, for Australia’s Aboriginal peoples, lines on a map meant something different to what European elites had come to cherish. This opens an investigation into the role of mapping in the rise of imperialism, commercial capitalism, slavery, and the revolutionary Atlantic. Lines on the map do not necessarily demarcate the inside–outside borders of what Anthony Giddens calls the ‘container of power’ of the modern state. Examining the logic and history of European imperialism, the chapter examines how network maps were continuously at work in forming the politics of empire.

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In this concluding chapter, Michelsen and Bolt argue that the history of the present is not the globalization of the state form from a single European location. Nor is it a story about the rise of the network that displaces and replaces the state as a principle of global order. It is a history of termite-like negotiations between networks and hierarchies, proxy wars and local struggles, settling and resettling the accounts between these two opposed maps. As religious networks gave rise to the modern state in Europe, so too did states nurture networks and give rise to global empires. Which in turn fold back into the state map.

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This chapter examines how the state become the centre of modern history, dividing the world into geographic places bound to national identities. As this chapter outlines, the state is not the only map of social organization in human experience. This is explored though a discussion that runs from the campaigns of Ghengis Khan through Ibn Khaldun’s theory of history, centred on the opposition between nomads and states, to the aesthetics of fascism. Michelsen and Bolt investigate what is lost when we privilege the state in our histories as an ideal form of political organization that shapes the present.

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This chapter examines how, in today’s digital information space, the simplistic idea of there being only senders and receivers, producers and consumers, has given way to a world where receivers are simultaneously producers of knowledge, and consequently everyone has become their own cartographer now. In this chapter, Michelsen and Bolt explore the theory of communication and the history of standardization in relationship to information networks. Examining the politics of technological change from the early telephone to the iPhone, the chapter argues that transnational flows and networks continuously circumvent and interact with state hierarchies within these infrastructures. Yet they have always remained deeply complicit in how states continue to adapt in spaces where information, networks, hierarchies, and markets vie for control.

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In this introduction, Michelsen and Bolt examine how forces of change today seem to be reconfiguring the lines on our maps. In response to migration, pandemics, and shocks of nature, the state is flexing its muscles and seeking to redraw those lines—only more emphatically than before. The authors ask whether our future is therefore fated to be the past of separate nations and sharply drawn borders? Or will networks come to displace the state, as was widely promised after the end of the Cold War. This introduction sets out our attraction to mapping in seeking to make sense of our turbulent age, why the state and the network both provide faulty maps of the present, and why we need unmapping.

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This chapter explores how the network map captured the popular imagination and the ambiguities in the politics of networks. It explores the rise of social networks as well as reactionary movements that build themselves on the network map. Networks of urban protest challenge the state with an alternative mapping, carrying diverse attitudes to visibility and invisibility. The chapter then turns to the challenge that climate change poses to the state system.

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