Ethnostates and Patchwork

In his NCRAP course ‘Outer Edges’, Nick Land speaks of a productive diagonal of “high connectivity / low integration” for thinking about catabolic geopolitics such as patchwork.

Axxon N. Horror has written a great intro to this framing that is definitely worth a read. They write that Land “outlines two commonly held models of geopolitical organisation: high integration, high connectivity (globalisation, multiculturalism, unions) and low integration, low connectivity (tribalism, xenophobia, separation); and then suggests ‘the positive critical diagonal’ — linked to Patri Friedman’s Dynamic Geography — a low integration, high connectivity option.” Axxon continues: “This terminology is simple, neutral, and outstandingly vivid, lurching right into core issues of sprawling diversity, complex networks, strategies, etc.”

On Saturday, at Consciousness Razing, the call for “solidarity without similarity” was mentioned numerous times throughout the day and what is this if not a leftist, humanist framing of this same diagonal? (More on that in a later post).

The assumption that connectivity and integration or solidarity and similarity are inseparable — which is to say, they must mirror each other — particularly along sociocultural and racial lines, as far as I can tell, is nothing but a regurgitation from the right.

If I really need to be so this clear on this: this is not how I feel.

Solidarity through difference is all the more powerful. Subculturally, it has produced all of my favourite things ever, and let’s not pretend that that sort of collaboration and collectivity isn’t actively subdued by present systems already.

The point of capitalism, as Fisher made clear to us all, is that all alternatives are currently subdued, for better and for worse. Consciousness is constantly and necessarily deflated. Patchwork is a potential geopolitical operating system for addressing this.

Is it really so dangerous to want to shake things up? Or is it not just a sign of the times?

I received a notification from mcs responding to a CuriousCat question on Saturday. I wanted to draw attention to it in another post but doing so threatened said non-patchwork post with complete derailment so I’ll leave it here as an aside to point back to later.

The notification I received was from this tweet:

The other day, I was sent a question on CuriousCat asking basically the same thing: “What would stop patchwork from looking like a million tiny ethno-states?” (In fact, I get this question a lot.)

My response was as follow:

Our current levels of diversity? People aren’t just going to start setting up apartheid and deconstruvting social infrastructure because nations get smaller. That’s dumb. As a devolved geopolitics, it’ll basically just mean better representation on lower scales. London, for example, is the most diverse city on the planet but, politically, it votes pretty consistently. Majority Labour. Remain in EU. Most people outside it see it as another country already because of this different mindset. Patchwork, in some areas, basically redresses the distribution of power and would, for example, allow London to not be held back by the conservative rural areas and allow other areas to not be neglected because of the pull of London. Proxy race wars in deprived areas may likely decrease once people have more local political autonomy. Or at least I think so. Yes, patchwork could give ethnonationalists a chance to put their money where their mouths are, but personally I think they’ll be at a massive disadvantage and won’t keep up with more diverse powerhouses. Ethnonationalism becomes ethno-isolationism and good luck surviving long with that outlook.

I don’t stand entirely behind this hastily written answer — dynamics of preference and neglect are not so simple — but my response to mcs was more specific.

The assumption that patchwork would lead to a bunch of ethnostates seems to come entirely from the fact that its best known advocates are currently on the political right. There are always alternatives and the main attraction of patchwork is, for me, the way it creates a geopolitical foundation for alternatives to proliferate.

The most difficult pill to swallow when considering patchwork is that it will allow those with entirely different goals and dreams to you to have pop at creating their own ideal. For the left, the worst case scenario seems to be the establishment of a kind of ethnostate. For the right, perhaps it’s the establishment of a socialist haven full of hipster-commie slackers. Each is given the right to exist under patchwork and, if either side is able to stomach that possibility, the assumption is no doubt that either side will be unable to function and fade into irrelevance.

For the left, in particular, since that is where these concerns are coming from, the question of what horrors could be allowed to happen if a white nationalist patch opts to eject all non-white persons from their city-state are absolutely legitimate.

The right doesn’t seem to have any concerns and perhaps that’s also a worry. Maybe they just get it? Maybe they just know that the dumbest thing to do when thinking about patchwork is to make assumptions? If you don’t like it, offer an alternative. That’s the idea. Don’t fall back into left melancholic, capitalist realist naysaying when offered a potential do-over…

The silver lining to this ethnostate example is, of course, that all white nationalists will be isolated to a relatively small area. Patchwork, depending on how you look at it, is another way of neutralising that kind of threat. As has been explained so many times, patchwork is an inherently anti-fascist system. It is founded on a “you do you” mentality.

This is not to say that things are so simple, of course. This is rather the patchwork trolley problem and all this is easier said than done. But the potential for the unrestricted progression of other political ideals, and the proliferation of as-yet-unsubstantiated alternatives, whatever they may be, is not something I am willing to sacrifice for the sake of a single patch of shitheads.


I would rather be able to say “you do you” whilst the rest of us, wherever we are, get on with formulating real, productive alternatives to our present circumstances, allowing the ethnoisolationists to fade into obscurity and irrelevance having achieved their blinkered and superficial ideal. I would rather take a punt on my own political biases than continue along the bleak, single-track “progressivism” of neoliberal capitalism. I would rather have the opportunity to experiment.

Call me naive — to an extent, that is inevitable — but I am willing to embrace that naivety for a shot at another existence.


  1. “Each is given the right to exist under patchwork” – [ankle-biting about the question of effective defense] not every mode of social organization will be able to sustain increased competition, some will die out, etc.

  2. How is this not simply another version, albeit of a utopian and technocratic flavor, of the oft-repeated neoliberal econonomic meta-concept of the ‘marketplace of ideas?’ How are you going to ensure that there is some sort of superstructure or essential interconnectedness that creates stability or at least a flux/ non-equilibrium that is not preloaded for a nasty form of future imperialism and future colonialism. It sounds like the implicit solution being suggested here is that market forces will protect from this (my citation for this being your “Ethnonationalism becomes ethno-isolationism and good luck surviving long with that outlook,” quip)? While the patchwork model may indeed be anti-fascist in some sort of imagined original state (ie, the exact moment the system is implemented) it is NOT anti-capitalist, nor is it somehow incompatible with neoliberal subjectivity and, by extension, the commodification of all subjectivities that are not fundamentally economic. The model relies on inherent contradiction and thus will inevitably degenerate to another form of the present capitalist moment, and thus is not in the long run necessarily inkompatible with fascism.

    1. I’m working on a response to this but it’s grown too big for the comments section. Probably going to be a follow-up post. Stay tuned.

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