Tiqqun (2012) ▶ The Cybernetic Hypothesis


Cyx: “A way of thinking about balance, born in a crisis context.”



  • Lyotard
  • Deleuze
  • Agamben


  • Bernard de Mandeville: Fable of the Bees → liberal hypothesis (that influenced Adam Smith) → obsolete → it’s not worth it any more to critique liberalism
  • Negri: mobiliser
  • Hakim Bey: Californian Ideologist, teacher of autonomy in the sense of without, not in the sense of bonding

2019 preface: Hypothesis on the hypothesis

They are revising their earlier position and re-interpreting their message. It is a retreat from the total technophobia of the original text. They gesture towards hacking as the area where the political alternative to cybernetics could be found!


Why is the cybernetic hypothesis called a hypothesis?[1]

What is the cybernetic hypothesis?

  • The opposite of the liberal hypothesis, e.g. contract theory.
  • Post-1929 “All contracts have to come with controls.” → Risk Society (Beck 1992)
  • Therefore, in the CH, the political moment dominates the economic moment. → Joan Robinson on Keynes.
  • “Capital permeates all living forms.” → In order to extract form from forms-of-life (Agamben’s concept).[2]

Periodisation (regimes of subjection / work regime):

  • Yet, the “cybernitisation of capitalism started at the end of the 1870s with the growing control of production, distribution and consumption. → James Beniger: control came from train collissions (1986)! → Alfred Chandler: the visible hand of capital =”a class of middlemen”.
  • “Fordist capitalism”
  • second age of the technical machine → motorised machines → usage & action
  • third age of the technical machine → informational machines → humans-machines systems → internal communication
  • “valorisation’s centre of gravity has moved to the sphere of circulation” → Debord (2005): The Society of the Spectacle → acceleration → minimisation of friction[3]

→ Post-industrial society (Toffler, Touraine), network society (Castells), knowledge society (Castells), information age (Kline), cognitive capitalism (Boutang), etc.

Characteristics of the third age:

  • Balance of supply/demand = growth → now growth is road towards balance.
  • Value can be extracted as information about information.
  • Terror serves as an occassion for the production of information. → the state of emergency (Agamben) → allows self-regulation to be re-launched
  • Balance from self-regulation[4]

“intangible labour” → Lazzarato (1996): Immaterial Labour → Statistics: 2/3 of the mobilisation of labour (FIXME). → “insecurity” → flexibilisation (Castells 2000)

“all contingent action be dealth with by a combination of surveillance and data capture devices”:

surveillance → ← data capture devices
state capital
state institutions → ← citizen-device systems
prison → ← computer technology (electronic bracelet / community policing in the Anglo-Saxon world, proximity-policing in France)
panoptical visibility → ← decentralised real-time gridding system
Foucault (1977) Galloway and Thacker (2004)
[discipline] → ← [control]
works on individuals → ← works on (risk) dividuals (Deleuze 1992)
centralised institutions → ← tracing devices
sedentary forms of control → ← nomadic forms of control
emergenza hyper-securitarianism
= generalisation of the SoE
exclusion: responsibilisation
- scapegoating
- containment
- enclosure
dissolution of personal bonds → ← self-piloting & piloting others
- “disappearance of communities”
Common intent:
  • total transparency;
  • abs. correspondance between map & territory (Korzybski 1995);
  • will to knowledge accumulated to will to power (Nietzsche).

NB: Yet, the prison is now “guarantor of last resort”.

Control societies
Deleuze (1992): Postscript on the Societies of Control → leaks[5] → “In control societies, nothing is ever finished.” → Hyper-securitarianism[6] → Loïc Wacquan: penal State. → ALL events become a threat.

Final quote: maybe from The Macroscope: A New World Scientific System Front Cover by Joël de Rosnay (Harper & Row, 1979 - Communication - 247 pages)?

X [What is the to be done?]

Opening quotes from Virilio (2006), page 43 and Carles and Comolli (2015), page 187.

T.E. Lawrence: guerilla warfare – kinetic – the guerilla is faster than domination.[7]

1957 Manifesto of the Situationist International: race between artists and police for the appropriation of new tools and environments of conditioning.

Speed and slowness in communications

Critique of the SI strategy [détournement], aka speed:

the revolution should consist in a reappropriation of the most modern technological tools, a reappropriation that should permit contestation of the police on their own turf, by creating a counter-world with the same means that it uses. Speed here is understood as one of the important qualities of the revolutionary political arts. But this strategy implies attacking sedentary forces. → In the Empire,[8] such forcestend to fade as the imporsonal power of devices becomes nomadic and moved around, gradually imploding all institutions.

Promotion of the Luddite strategy [sabotage], aka slowness:

Slowdown tactics thus have a supplementary potential in struggles against cybernetic capitalism because they don’t just attack it in its being but in its process itself. But there’s more:slowness is also necessary to putting lifestyles/forms-of-life that are irreducible to simple information exchanges into relation with each other. It expresses resistance of relations to interaction.

Space of encounters

Encounters: What is an encounter? → “Another possible world.” responds Deleuze.[9]


Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. New Delhi: Sage.

Beck, Ulrich, Wolfgang Bons, and Christoph Lau. 2003. “The Theory of Reflexive Modernization.” Theory, Society and Culture 20 (2): 1–33. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276403020002001.

Beniger, James. 1986. The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Boltanski, Luc, and Laurent Thévenot. 2006. On Justification: The Economies of Worth. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Buzan, Barry, Ole Waeverand, and Jaap de Wilde. 1998. Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Carles, Philippe, and Jean-Louis Comolli. 2015. Free Jazz / Black Power. Translated by Grégory Pierrot. American Made Music Series. Jackson, MI: University Press of Mississippi.

Castells, Manuel. 2000. “Materials for an Exploratory Theory of the Network Society.” British Journal of Sociology 51 (1): 5–24.

Debord, Guy. 2005. Society of the Spectacle. London: AK Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1992. “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” October 59: 3–7. http://www.jstor.org/stable/778828.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus. Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. First edition. New York: Pantheon Books.

Galloway, Alexander, and Eugene Thacker. 2004. “Protocol, Control, Networks.” Grey Room, no. 17: 6–29.

Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Korzybski, Alfred. 1995. Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. Fifth edition with preface by Robert P. Pula. New York: International Non-Aristotelian Library Publishing Company.

Lazzarato, Maurizio. 1996. “Immaterial Labour.” In Radical Thought in Italy, edited by Michael Hardt and Paolo Virno. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Tiqqun. 2012. The Cybernetic Hypothesis. The Anarchist Library. http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/tiqqun-the-cybernetic-hypothesis.

Virilio, Paul. 2006. Speed and Politics. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents Series. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

[1] This is never explained. I think it is called a hypothesis in order to emphasise that it is neither true nor desirable. So, society is not a big machine and neither it should be.

[2] In general we can understand this in terms of real subsumption (Marx).

[3] Virilio (2006): Speed and Politics; Castells (2000): timeless time

[4] This is like reflexive modernisation in Beck, Bons, and Lau (2003).

[5] Justification, see Boltanski and Thévenot (2006).

[6] Securitisation in International Relations (Buzan, Waeverand, and Wilde 1998)

[7] See the famous chapter on Nomadology in Deleuze and Guattari (1987) on T.E. Lawrence and guerilla warfare.

[8] Hardt and Negri (2000)

[9] Where?