Patchwork Q&A

I thought it might be useful, for both myself and others, if I tried to field some patchwork questions, many of which warrant answers longer and more rigorous than CuriousCat is really tailored for.

I’m going to pin this to the sidebar and add to it over time. All of these questions, unless otherwise stated, were sent in via CuriousCat. If you have questions of your own, feel free to click there and do the same.

How will we get to patchwork?

We’re already on our way.

Secessionary tendencies, fragmenting subjectivities, technological innovations in communication and space…

Patchwork, for me at least, is less something concrete to achieve and more of a signifier for certain tendencies within geopolitics and its collective subjectivities.

To speak of patchwork is sort of like speaking of accelerationism: it’s an object of thought that allows us to consider some of the potential results of certain currently existing conditions. Whilst accelerationism in its various modes can be considered to be generally postcapitalist (in both positive and negative respects), I see patchwork as being post-nationalist, postcolonial, post-individualist, etc.

What will stop one patch, or several patches, from destroying another patch? e.g. a collection of right-wing patches destroying a far-left patch

Hopefully, the system itself… In theory, it roots around so many of the contemporary causes of geopolitical conflict.

So much conflict around the world and throughout history has been the result of various forms of imperialism and colonialism. The way I see it, patchwork is a decisive step beyond these historic tendencies, made possible and sustainable by the tech innovations of the present and the near-future.

Patchwork is a better alternative than civil war. Secession is not something to be resisted.

A global patchwork would probably mean no more big governments interfering abroad; no more strained governments struggling to keep order within their numerically increasing and culturally diversifying populations. Patchwork, explained as glibly as possible, is a system based on a policy of “each to their own”.

It is a system that is built to scale and starting small is the best way to go. A patchwork is generally considered to resemble a network of city-states and the reduced size of these states is important.

I think it’s worth noting how the few city-states that currently exist in the world are very peaceful, often being the states to declare themselves neutral in the world’s conflicts. Why? Perhaps because they’re more content with their lot than our dysfunctional nation-states which always want to be as big as possible, at the expense of all else.

When tensions arise within states it is usually a symptom of this imperial expansionism and the general inflexibility of nation-states themselves and their governments. Patchwork encourages experimentation and adaptability. It also, of course, encourages competition.

Patchwork is unlikely to bring about world peace, but I think it has the potential to improve things by allowing people the freedom to adapt their situations — a freedom that our current Westphalian constitutions actively repress.

Isn’t any patchwork system necessarily underpinned by a right to exit and how is that supposed to be guaranteed?

This is perhaps the knottiest of issues raised around patchwork, perhaps because it is the most difficult to imagine within a political landscape defined by an unprecedented refugee crisis and widespread xenophobia.

However, related to the answer to the last question, the rescaling of sovereign territories to city-state size has the potential to revolutionise things.

Moving patches should be as easy as moving cities is today. The dissolution of nation-states and their borders undermines present hardships. There are also versions of patchwork which make “exit” virtual rather than spatial. Again, this is guaranteed by the adoption of the system in itself.

This question comes from @great_old_ones_ asked in light of a previous post:

How does patchwork defend itself from becoming a form of micro-identitarian politics? One could say that: “Yes, it multiplies the identities which hold the sacred Nation together, but it doesn’t get rid of them”.

I think that this is a really interesting question but I don’t entirely agree with the way its formulated. “Micro-identitarian” is an interesting thing to consider but all I think of is Deleuze and Guattari’s minoritarianism — their becoming-minor which is inherently linked to becoming-revolutionary.

The democratic state generally produces homogenised subjects and so this minoritarianism is rather what current states are trying to resist. Patchwork is pro-minoritarian. It is this process, negatively conceived at present, which is a sign of patchworks-to-come.

Micro-identitarian politics is perhaps a good name for minoritarianism as it is captured and neutralised by our wider circumstances. The Left’s minoritarian signalling is often derided but in some instances it has very real dissenting affects. Patchwork would, I think, root out the minoritarian from the micro-identitarian. It is a system that demands you put your money where your mouth is.

It what way wasn’t the whole history of human civilisation up until now a patchwork that presumably ended up with the best (so far) mix of political possibilities — and wouldn’t any kind of patchwork political agenda be some form of “market intervention”?

This is the sort of denialism I’ve tried to address in previous posts, particularly here. It sounds so much like the criticisms Mark used to get about capitalist realism which inadvertently proved his thesis of widespread consciousness deflation.

I wouldn’t describe human civilisation up to now as a patchwork in anyway whatsoever. Various things resembling patchworks have existed throughout history — Ancient Greece and Renaissance Italy are the most frequently cited — but these have collapsed, often due to the imperialist tendencies of some of those in power.

To say we have ended up with a good mix of political possibilities couldn’t be further from the truth. Possibilities are, in fact, entirely absent. The history of human civilisation, through general processes of state consolidation, has led to the shutting down of possibilities. Possibilities are precisely what are now more diminished than ever before.

Patchwork offers, through the unshackling of nationalist realism, possibilities new and old to proliferate.

Do you think that the CCRU stuff about calendric secessionism connects to both 1) Fisher’s thoughts on the outside and egress and 2) Land’s latter-day interest in secessionist politics

Absolutely. So much of this came together for me in a lecture on Lemurian Time War that Robin gave.

My first post for Vast Abrupt dealt with Fisher and Land’s late thought as I see it. There are obvious connections between their later positions and their Ccru days. Land may distance himself from his old stuff but Mark’s trajectory is unbroken.


  1. when the modern states finally implode why won’t the people with the biggest guns take what they can as they always have done before?

    1. It’s precisely the people with the most guns who seem to be doing most of the fragmenting.

        1. Yeah, for now, but it’s doubtful the traditional state model will hold out long term and that’s becoming ever clearer.

          When a state collapses, sure, things spill out all over the place. Again, it’s that same discussion again. We’re not talking about collapse here. State collapse is often the result of an unsustainable, dogged approach to state consolidation. State consolidation can and should be undermined. It is possible to do that in a controlled way without everything going to shit.

          What you are insisting on being the worst case scenario of patchwork is actually the worst case scenario of what we’ve got now. Patchwork is opposed to that as well.

        2. just tracking what’s actually occuring, more descriptive than prescriptive if you will, would welcome any accounts of counter happenings of any scale/significance and an answer as to why the people with the means to rule by force would give that up to have much less power?

        3. Yeah, generally, big states don’t like to shrink but the more they resist, the worse it will be in the long run. Big states will give up on territory before little states give up on the hope of independence. We’ve seen that already and secessionists are increasingly gaining more ground. Minorities have always had the power to rebel and sometimes it works. Catalonia is a case in point of how bad resisting secession can look for the bigger state these days. As patchwork’s proliferate on smaller scales — its most likely and best that they start small — bigger states may feel the pressure of a wider and better connected state-eating superstructure.

        4. major modern reconstructions have only come after economic-crashes and or wars, Spain may look bad to us but they are winning, there is no superstructure out there in the ether, we are just witnessing the end of post WW2 industrial capitalisms, bring on the vulture capitalists (and other extractors) to pick the bones and global warming to wash them clean.

  2. I have a question: How a patchwork is different from a tribe?

    Besides, of course, that racial/blood lines doesn’t work the way it used and that now “the thing that holds the tribe together” is more like an actual interest i.e. “stop global warming” or “get rid of foreigners”.

    1. A patch could be tribal or subcultural or political or whatever.

      The question shouldn’t be how is a patch different from a tribe — a patch is whatever you make it — but rather why is a tribe a preferable way of organising my life outside of these other options which this system now makes tangibly available to me?

      The dictionary definition of tribe I just got from Google describes “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.” A tribe could describe literally any social gathering but patchwork seeks the outside of traditional society. It’s looking to experiment and innovate.

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