Little Dramas Staged / Thinking as an Algebraic Mechanist

From the Cosmic City to the Articulated City I – A Psycho-Political Essay

In the Quantum City, it is mainly existentialists who gather. Existentialists of the symbolic. People who know they could do virtually anything, if they wanted to, and if they got organized properly. Yet they feel largely undecided. There is a sense of brute potency all around them, which at one and the same time attracts them and disgusts them. They feel incapable of deciding. As existentialists, they are outraged about all of this. Yet people gather in the Quantum City not because they want to release their outrage into action. They don‘t have an idea about how to realize peaceful conditions, nor about what exactly they should direct their action to on any one of the smaller scales of ambition. Nor do they want to mobilize a revolution against those who have ideas and act in commitment to them – even if this form of considerateness makes them feel awkward and even a bit embarrassed. But they don‘t share the strange aspiration of those who want to liberate practices from complicated and burdening considerateness, fantasizing themselves into the heroic rôle of releasing practices from their formality and turn them into unconsidered and unconsiderable conducts that can be acted out ad libitum; ad libitum, this is precisely the condition that causes the outrage of the citizens of the Quantum City. They feel uneasy about the unresisted brute forces involved in every emancipatory project.

People get stranded in the Quantum City because they trust, somehow, that if nothing else, than at least retaining their outrage may hold the potential for a better life. And yet, they are not looking for a community or a place where they can identify with this trust through some sort of shared faith. What makes them citizens of the Quantum City is their commitment to a constitutive sense of distanced politeness to other beings and their respect for the consideration of the form of things. Yet, the relation they maintain to this trust feels more like a formal sense of hospitality than like a strong emotion taking possession of them. Usually, they do not want to know where it comes from, this trust, nor why it is here, where it aims at or how they could identify it more exactly. They feel utterly unsympathetic to any story which is obliged to testimony, appellation or prophecy. Hence, they do receive the symbolons this strange guest keeps presenting to them through its mere presence. But they don‘t know what to do with those marks of offered ties and bonds of friendship. The symbolons all promise to bring empowerment, if met with commitment. They usually offer invitations to share in, or they are calling things into account, urging to settle ambiguous situations into sentential givenness. And certainly, people in the Quantum City do feel that they understand intuitively some of these invitations or contracts. They may even feel secretly recognized and personally addressed by some of them. Others seem straightforwardly ridiculous. Overall, to the citizens of the Quantum City who are hospitable for no other reason than their appreciation for formalness, every single one of those symbolons is claiming something. This, they perceive as a true impertinence. They can‘t help perceiving their trust as obtrusive, and they do everything to keep it at a certain distance. Maintaining politeness and respect as a form of conduct is not easy. It is possible for them only by managing to retain the outrage they feel about all these invitations to get empowered in one way or another. As polite and respectful Citizens of the Quantum City, the only activity they can actually commit themselves to is retaining their outrage. They want to live actively, but they cannot commit themselves to realizing anything in particular of which they can imagine that it could be the case.

It is a profane fact of everyday life in the Quantum City that retaining one‘s outrage needs a lot of fantasy. It requires to consider the unlikely, even to seek and invent the unlikely – just in order to have something to consider which – when considered – leads not to a release of one‘s outrage into anger, accusation, fear, delight or any other of those more concrete canalizations of the energy mobilized by the initial sentiment. The citizens of the Quantum City desire to be generous for no other reason than because it allows them to maintain a sense of privacy and integrity. Yet they know that generosity, if taken as a moral value, stabilizes formally relations of inequality – and this, they are aware, undermines exactly the sense of privacy and integrity they hold so valuable. It is a paradoxical situation. Any involvement in such a formal relation would render them incapable of restraining their outrage. They would feel obliged to act directed, in one way or another. Furthermore, the people there do not consider themselves as rich in what is given to them, or in what they have. They feel they are who they are because they want to and manage to keep open and expand the wealth of opportunities that could be taken. By themselves or by anyone else. Thus, they cannot help bringing anything they start to consider into abstraction. Not because from an abstract point of view, things considered can be taken into account in a way stripped to the essential, but because they need this vector of abstraction to retain their outrage as outrage, resisting to turn it into stocks and flows of potency. Because this would stratify opportunities that could be taken into hierarchies of paths to follow, with more or less urgency or even necessity. Yet people gather in the Quantum City because they do not want to go anywhere in particular.

In this, there is a conflict felt by every citizen of the Quantum City which arises in relation to their desire to lead active lives, as citizens. This is the basic tension that creates the peculiar pulsatory animateness at the quantum level of where people settle. For no one can actually settle in the Quantum City. It is generic urbanity where people build houses and settle in homes and communities. Generic urbanity is countryside urbanized, it is where people in the 21st century can be, more or less but on a global scale increasingly so, comfortable, safe, and settled. In the privacy of how they decide to live out their individualism. It is the shallowness of this individualism what the Quantum City citizens are outraged about: Everything about life in generic urbanity has become governed by the purely domestic concerns. There is, in every possible regard, a lack of horizon.

The Quantum City, on the other hand, is pure public space. Yet to call it „space“ is perhaps not entirely correct, as it doesn‘t actually extend in any direction, and not a single spot in it can be occupied, appropriated, owned. This also means, crucially, that there is nothing to be known or recognized in the Quantum City. The Quantum City engenders space for thought. For consideration, demonstration, construction. Nothing can ever settle into actual states here. It appreciates the artifactuality of generic urbanity, but its citizens don‘t take the eventuality of potential things as material facts or forces. It‘s citizens have ceased to hassle about what may or may not be the case, with which urgency or necessity. Instead they create a wealth of formally designed – and in that sense, domesticated and polite – vocations for people to elect and articulate. None of these articulations is meant to be eternal or perpetually valuable. The Quantum City knows no foundations, properly speaking. It does not seek to establish an order within the Cosmos, and it does not strive to support the Balance maintained by a secular State. The Quantum City emerges from Generic Urbanity. Which is why, as we could say somewhat paradoxically, it abounds into the finitude of the order it articulates, as a City, where people learn to live with the uncontrollable. The citizens of the Quantum City all strive to articulate a Masterpiece. Nothing more, and nothing less. The Quantum City itself is neither thought of as divine nor as decadent by its citizens. It *builds* on attending to the pulsatory animateness at the quantum level of generic urbanity. As such it *rests* – metaphorically speaking – entirely upon the cultivatedness of people‘s capacity for attending to what is the case, all around them, not only as a fact, but also in the generic eventfulness that insists within every fact regarded in particular. Most of the citizens of the Quantum City are existentialists, after all, and they feel outspokenly disgusted and offended by any manner of affirmed fatalism. It is their outrage which provides them with the intuition necessary for considering such an inversion from the orthography of a general grammar into the scenography of grammaticality: namely that what can be referred to as decadent (by stating that it is the case, form lat. casus, for „fallen“), can also be elevated (by learning to articulate what could be the case). So what they do, in their outrage about the factual state of things in Generic Urbanity, in reconsidering the idea of a specific order not as a representation of what is given, but as a template for articulating what can be taken.

3 thoughts on “From the Cosmic City to the Articulated City I – A Psycho-Political Essay

  1. Pingback: From the Cosmic City to the Articulated City II – Different Paradigms of Cityness | monas & nomos

  2. Pingback: “Die Empörung des Modells // models, outraged“ – abstract for my paper at the Zhdk conference “David and Goliath – Models between art and architecture” | monas oikos nomos

  3. Pingback: The reciprocal double-articulation of »sustainability« and »environmentality« or The mode of »insisting existence« proper to the circular. | monas oikos nomos

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