The Young-Girl is not always young; more and more frequently, she is not even female. She is the figure of total integration in a disintegrating social totality. --from Theory of the Young-Girl
First published in France in 1999, Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl dissects the impossibility of love under Empire. The Young-Girl is consumer society’s total product and model citizen: whatever “type” of Young-Girl she may embody, whether by whim or concerted performance, she can only seduce by consuming. Filled with the language of French women’s magazines, rooted in Proust’s figure of Albertine and the amusing misery of (teenage) romance in Witold Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke, and informed by Pierre Klossowski’s notion of “living currency” and libidinal economy, Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl diagnoses—and makes visible—a phenomenon that is so ubiquitous as to have become transparent.
In the years since the book’s first publication in French, the worlds of fashion, shopping, seduction plans, makeover projects, and eating disorders have moved beyond the comparatively tame domain of paper magazines into the perpetual accessibility of Internet culture. Here the Young-Girl can seek her own reflection in corporate universals and social media exchanges of “personalities” within the impersonal realm of the marketplace. Tracing consumer society’s colonization of youth and sexuality through the Young-Girl’s “freedom” (in magazine terms) to do whatever she wants with her body, Tiqqun exposes the rapaciously competitive and psychically ruinous landscape of modern love.
Historical conflict no longer opposes two massive molar heaps, two classes—;the exploited and the exploiters, the dominant and dominated, managers and workers—between which, in each individual case, it would be possible to differentiate. The front line no longer cuts through the middle of society; it now runs through each one of us. . . "
—from This Is Not a Program
Traditional lines of revolutionary struggle no longer hold. Rather, it is ubiquitous cybernetics, surveillance, and terror that create the illusion of difference within hegemony. Configurations of dissent and the rhetoric of revolution are merely the other face of capital, conforming identities to empty predicates, ensuring that even "thieves," "saboteurs," and "terrorists" no longer exceed the totalizing space of Empire. This Is Not a Program offers two texts, both originally published in French by Tiqqun with Introduction to Civil War in 2001. In "This Is Not a Program," Tiqqun outlines a new path for resistance and struggle in the age of Empire, one that eschews the worn-out example of France’s May ‘68 in favor of what they consider to be the still fruitful and contemporary insurrectionary movements in Italy of the 1970s. "As a Science of Apparatuses" examines the way Empire has enforced on the subject a veritable metaphysics of isolation and pacification, "apparatuses" that include chairs, desks, computers; surveillance (security guards, cameras); disease (depression); crutch (cell phone, lover, sedative); and authority.
Tiqqun’s critique of the biopolitical subject and omnipresent Empire is all the more urgent as we become inured to the permanent state of exception that is the War on Terror and to other, no less intimate forms of pacification. But all is not lost. In its unrelenting production of the Same, Empire itself creates the conditions necessary for the insurrection to come.
"Society no longer exists, at least in the sense of a differentiated whole. There is only a tangle of norms and mechanisms through which THEY hold together the scattered tatters of the global biopolitical fabric, through which THEY prevent its violent disintegration. Empire is the administrator of this desolation, the supreme manager of a process of listless implosion."
—from Introduction to Civil War
Society is not in crisis, society is at an end. The things we used to take for granted have all been vaporized. Politics was one of these things, a Greek invention that condenses around an equation: to hold a position means to take sides, and to take sides means to unleash civil war. Civil war, position, sides—these were all one word in the Greek: stasis. If the history of the modern state in all its forms—absolute, liberal, welfare—has been the continuous attempt to ward off this stasis, the great novelty of contemporary imperial power is its embrace of civil war as a technique of governance and disorder as a means of maintaining control. Where the modern state was founded on the institution of the law and its constellation of divisions, exclusions, and repressions, imperial power has replaced them with a network of norms and apparatuses that conspire in the production of the biopolitical citizens of Empire.
In their first book available in English, Tiqqun explores the possibility of a new practice of communism, finding a foundation for an ontology of the common in the politics of friendship and the free play of forms-of-life. They see the ruins of society as the ideal setting for the construction of the community to come. In other words: the situation is excellent. Now is not the time to lose courage.