Chapter Four: Toward a Postal Multitude

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I believe that the multitude as proposed by Negri and Hardt is a negative theological concept. In this chapter, I attempt to overcome its faults by proposing what I call a postal multitude (yubinteki multitude). At the same time I will illustrate how the tourist reifies this postal multitude. Postal— Derrida’s term—encompasses the many possibilities inherent in failures of communication. Although Negri and Hardt’s negative theological multitude is an existence born from nothing and connected by nothing (which is also the basic philosophy for their political strategy), my postal multitude (i.e., the tourist) is an existence born from misdelivery (gohai) and connected by misdelivery.

What is misdelivery? In this chapter I use mathematics to clarify the mechanism of misdelivery, a concept I first discussed in Ontological, Postal: On Jacques Derrida [Sonzaironteki, yubinteki: Jacques Derrida ni tsuite] (1998). In network theory it is known that human society has three distinguishing characteristics: large clustering coefficients, small average distances, and a scale-free network. A large clustering coefficient means that there are many similar entities (clusters); a small average distance means that the world is narrow or “small”; a scale-free network refers to the unfair distribution of connections, for example, that of wealth or power, and means that their unfair distribution takes on the same statistical form as many natural phenomena. The two characteristics of large clustering coefficients and small average distances are collectively referred to as a small world. Human society mathematically contains both small-worldness and scale-freeness.

This finding can be philosophically construed as the mathematical basis of the stratified orders explicated in the previous chapter. Negri and Hardt’s contraposition of the order of nation-states and that of the Empire is built upon the theoretical contraposition of the two contrasting social structures of “tree” and “rhizome” proposed by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (1980). However, the concept of the rhizome was too ambiguous to be productive as a foundation for debate. In my study, I propose an update to the work of Negri and Hardt with network theory: here the order of nation-states can be theorized to correspond with human society’s small-worldness while the Empire emerges with the organization of its scale-freeness. The coexistence of two stratified orders of the nation-states and the global Empire is a kind of mathematical consequence of the complicated networks we humans are dynamically creating.

With this update, the philosophical concept that links misdelivery and the political role of the postal multitude becomes clear. Today, any critique of globalism or the Empire must choose between two alternatives of locating its justification, one of which is to believe the value of something historically inherited outside the Empire (nationalism) while the other is to believe in something contemporaneously arising as a self-negating power (multitude) from inside the Empire. However, we can imagine yet a third option if we think of the order of nation-states as the expression of the world’s small-worldness and the order of the Empire as its scale-freeness. Network theory elucidates how the rewiring (tsunagikae) of connections controlled by a given probability is crucial for the emergence of the network’s small-worldness while the supremacy of the scale-freeness erases the randomness of rewiring the operation itself. In philosophical terms, rewiring or misdelivery creates the nation-state while also simultaneously creating the Empire. For this reason, we can think of a third form of political resistance: a strategy by which we do not look for the foundations of the Empire in its exteriority nor continue to dream about its interiority. Instead, we might trace the origins of the Empire and enact a reactivation of misdeliveries. This is the strategy of the tourist as a postal multitude. We should initiate any counter-Empire actions with a reconfiguration of misdelivery: I call this the tourist principle.

In the context of philosophy, the argument outlined above is similar to that of Richard Rorty. Rorty proposed the political position of the liberal ironist in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989). The basis of his claim is a rupture between two principles of public behavior and personal belief; this is consistent with the theory of the stratified orders outlined here. Proceeding from this rupture, Rorty then discusses the possibility of a new solidarity devoid of the universal. He then places at the base of solidarity a singular, contingent empathy between individuals. This concept of contingent empathy is similar to the concept of misdelivery described above; it is also reminiscent of Rousseau’s idea of pity in his Discourses on Inequality. Without misdelivery or pity we have no society, no solidarity. In this sense we can name both Rousseau and Rorty philosophers of misdelivery.