Felix Stalder | 4 Dec 14:37 2008

Re: Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai

It strikes me that the issue is perhaps less city vs open field, but the  
difference between the function of cities in conventional conflict (state vs 
state) and asymmetric conflicts which the events in Mumbai were a part of. 
The main difference relates to the goals pursued through these conflicts. 
In the first case, cities are attractive, as Ted noted, because they 
constitute the center of administration necessary to take over in order to 
govern the country as a whole. In the latter, cities, or more precisely 
particular segments of (inter)national significance, constitute what some 
theorists call "systempunkt", the critical node that can destabilize the 
entire system [1]. 

Why should the system be destabilized? Not in order to take it over. Al-
Qaeda did not plan to occupy the US after 9/11. Rather, the goal seems to 
be affect the overall dynamics of the system, either in the terms of 
weakening the state so the withdraws from certain areas / functions, or to 
force the state to over-react. In Mumbai, it seems that the goal was the 
latter, with the attacks occurring shortly before elections and in the 
context of a real attempt of both governments to ease hostilities between 
Pakistan and India. If the elections now shift to the nationalist right and 
the relations between the countries deteroritate, the attacks will have 
been successful. If not, they will have failed. 

In a way, it's violent, large-scale system's hacking, ie. use the resources 
of the system to make it do something that is counter to its stated goals. 

[1] 
http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2004/12/the_systempunkt.html

--- http://felix.openflows.com ----------------------------- out now:
*|Mediale Kunst/Media Arts Zurich.13 Positions.Scheidegger&Spiess2008
*|Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society. Polity, 2006 
*|Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks. Ed. Futura/Revolver, 2005 


Gmane