The Sovereign, The Subject, and Crypto-power

Political life in the digital panopticon of the modern age

“The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no covenant be relinquished.”

-Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

To understand the power of cryptography, we first must understand what sovereignty is and how it functions in modren society. What exactly is sovereign power in the digital age, and how would sovereign digital power project its nature into the world of flesh and steel? What is the process of the execution of power in the non-physical space of the global internet, and how is it directly applied to individual subjects?

Through using the perspectives of Giorgio Agamben, Carl Schmitt, and Michael Foucault we can see that in the current paradigm of law is not that of legality, but of raw authoritarian force of law. The law today functions only through the sovereign exception that is the rule. If sovereign power is suppose to be the protection and guarantee of access to the law, then we must ask what does it mean when anyone, or anything, can be placed outside and beyond the law for whatever ’emergency’ the sovereign may decide?

The origin of sovereign power, as quoted above by Hobbes, is nothing more than the protection that can be offer to one another within a society and the laws that consecrate such protection. People are suppose to meaningfully give up their individual power to a sovereign who can offer a kind of protection that no other can offer. However, the convent that can never be relinquished is nothing other than direct protection, which in this day and age all sovereign powers have forsaken.

Safety is a totalizing concept–it exist in a binary field. The personal and absolute demand for protection and safety for oneself by oneself goes beyond any convent; it is something that can never be relinquished; but only given. Every human has a natural right to protect their own life and to give themselves fully to their own safety and security. There is no god, government, person, or military who can ever take that away for any reason, no matter what ’emergency’ there may be.

Over the course of the last several centuries, the slow chipping away of all essential rights through every kind of transgression through the emergency decree has hollowed out the very meaning of ‘rights’ under the guise of law. Today anyone can be placed outside and below the law, while allowing for others to stand over and above the law. This is the State of Exception, it is the core sovereign function at play within the law, and how state agencies always find themselves and their actors beyond the reach of the law. The law is always-already suspended — just look at the facts of the world and the avarice, corruption, and barbarism from which state agencies function. This is why police kill and it is not called murder, and why politicians steal and it is not called theft, and why militaries commit war crimes and it is called collateral damage. The state can commit any crime it desires, and it can always absolve itself for any reason it sees fit.

All States have re-established bellum omnium contra omnes (‘The war of all against all’) as bellum se ipsum alet (‘the war that feeds itself’). The true nature of sovereign power is not to end the war of all-against-all as a great peacemaker, but rather to subject populations to the parasitic nature of a continuous total war that encompass all of biological life.

Identity and subjugation

“ Isn’t power a sort of generalized war which assumes at particular moments the forms of peace and the State? Peace would then be a form of war, and the State a means of waging it.” 

–Foucault, Truth and Power

Peace is the mode of surveillance through which the state wages a constant war against all people at all times using police, agents, consultants, CCTV, telecom data, and so many more modules of control to act as the eyes and ears of the great panopticon we call global society. It is through the ‘gaze’ of the panopticon that the identity of the subject can be formulated, and then process of selection can begin. The sovereign may label one as enemy, for liquidation, or friend, for continuous exploitation in the camps of life under the slogan ‘arbeit macht frei‘.

Through the mode of war that the state calls ‘peace’, and the laws, police, regulations, surveillance and nearly infinite other technik of repressive state apparatuses that are used to actively wage this war, statism creates the conditions for its permanent unconditional rule. It is the fulfillment of the Clausewitzian doctrine that war is merely the continuation of politics by other means. With the ungodly amount of data that we each produce every day, China is just the first of all states to implement the ‘social credit’ panopticon that has created the digital camps where everyone is labeled as friend or enemy; processed for ‘re-education’ or ‘freedom’ under the murmur of ‘arbeit macht frei‘.

Through the never-ending war of ‘nationalistic peace’ under the slogan of ‘emergency’ that demands we are all watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, and numbered; our identities as enemy or friend is decided under this sovereign decision. The state of emergency is always-already ruling by the very nature of its ability to be called upon at anytime for any reason for any amount of time the sovereign deems ‘dangerous’.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller, 1946

The ability of the law to cloak the absolute nature of sovereign power that is enshrined at its center is the very predicament that puts all people outside of the law, and all government agents beyond all law through the ’emergency’ act. The Patriot Act is this surmised into a single law which can label any human alive as ‘enemy combatant’ thus branding their flesh with the label of death, Homo Sacer, that which ensures they will never encounter the law, just be placed outside of it. Just as important, this also creates a class of men who enforce the law, which allows for them to subjectively choose when and where to put into force the law, which can always excludes them, and their class.

Through this form of law (the state of emergency) both figures — the sovereign and the subject — find their natural, final places outside and beyond the law. The Sovereign is omnipotent, and has the full responsibility to decide on everything in regards to The Subject. Not just one’s biological and physical life, but the very form, make-up, language, memory, cognition, norms and all of the features that encompasses our total being as a human life. The subject is entitled to nothing, not even to die at their own will, or determine any ethical praxis of life based on the care of the self. The state believes the naked biological life of its citizen owes its very existence as a subject to the Sovereign alone–the politicization of bare life itself is hideous hidden secret of sovereign power.

Identity and the Camps

“The state serves as the decisive political entity which possesses an enormous power: the possibility of waging war and thereby publicly disposing of the lives of men. The jus belli (justified war) contains such a disposition. It implies a double possibility: the right to demand from its own members the readiness to die and unhesitatingly to kill enemies”

–Schmitt, On the Concept of the Political

These two figures from the above form the double possibility that creates the two most extreme and isolated figures that can be found within the law. It is only through the capacity of both the sovereign and the subject to be acknowledged to be beyond the law that we can understand them to really exist within a state of total unbracketed war . Both the sovereign and the subject are placed in this zone-of-indistinction beyond the law where the ‘crisis,’ or ‘state of emergency’ rules; which in reality is just a form of total unbracketed war [jus belli].

This possibility of total unbracketed war under the state of emergency is only possible through the politicization of life which creates the friend/enemy distinction. Once the state of emergency has opened the field of war through the emergency, the primacy of identification now takes on a new, sinister, politicized meaning. Identity becomes the primary mode of signification towards the political–who you are as a being-in-the-world is now politicized.

Within the friend/enemy distinction in direct contrast to whatever state of emergency has been declared, the subject, through their being itself (Dasein), creates the emergency. By the very fact of how the subject can be identified and isolated; they become The Enemy, The Other who can be killed but not sacrificed–homo sacer. It is in this same distinction that The Sovereign through their being itself (Dasein) is the only possible response, or decision, to this Being-as-Enemy. It is why the words ‘Big Brother’ lets us understand this most sinister of ‘friendships’ where language must abandon itself for truth-speaking is the identity of the Enemy. This is why the Sovereign-Friend relationship will always postulates itself as ‘The Final Solution’ for the crisis that is always created when the Other-Enemy is identified, so those people may be exploited, raped, liquidated, purged, and totally destroyed.

As a person’s being-in-the-world as a Jew created the Nazis’ ‘State of Emergency’ by their very existence, and thus impelled the Nazi’s Final Solution; so too does anyone else’s existence by the very possibility of being ‘The Other-Enemy’ people. Under the sinister glare of any sovereign power, any person who is labeled ‘Enemy’ may be placed outside of the law through the means of ‘The State of Emergency’. The Other is he who can be made into a non-human — and not just in the sense of being below the law, but above it too. Both The Sovereign and The Subject are beyond the law for the singular identifier, a being-in-the-world that subsumes the law itself; placing naked, raw life as the final objective of power that will always shipwreck any law.

Both The Subject and The Sovereign have the immediate signature of a primary identity as friend or enemy under the systems of legal power that demands they be identified. They are labels branded upon people by the state based upon whatever ’emergency’ may be declared. This makes both the sovereign and the subject beyond being seen as human by the law for the very nature of how they are both addressed in the final hour of sovereign law–a danger and existential threat to the state itself. This is the final inevitable place of all legal systems where there is no longer any law, only decisions to be executed. The very event of the signification of every person within a legal system demanded by the state of emergency to identify friend and enemy–the Jew with their armband star of David, and the Nazi authority with their swastika signifying legal power–demands the open labeling of friends and enemies alike for the process of Selection: work as a friend or death as an enemy.

These primary identities that are inscribed upon us from the outside, displays there is no remnant outside of that of those identities in the state of emergency. Our roles, identities, and names have already been chosen for us; and testify for our lives before a seemingly omnipotent sovereign power hellbent on controlling everything under the guileful slogan society must be defended. It is through this function of identity, and how the state perceives everyone in terms of a paranoid and schizophrenic delusion that all must be labeled friend or enemy for the safety and security of the ‘commonwealth’ is the very nature in how the digital panopticon has been created. However, this also displays is that all that we have left in common of our commonwealth is the guilt and shame of a people who no longer have anything in common; only the poverty of a failed wealth, and law that leaves us with nothing in common at all.

This mode of identification using the state of emergency to label friends and enemies is how the sovereign creates the exception both they and their subjects are beyond. Both have primary identities that put them beyond law into a space of pure sovereign decision where the state of emergency rules totally without bounds. Our identities as a subjects or an authoritarian extensions of the sovereign supersede our flesh—it is how the human body has totally fused into the body politic — the double identities we live, as both biological beings and political objects fused into one through the total subjugation of our bodies, minds, and lives to the temporal power we call law. We are bonded to the empty, idiotic labor of a oligopolist capitalism; our morals to corrupt governments and dead gods; and our private affairs to corporate panopticon machines seeking to know everything just so we can be sold back to ourselves. All of this horror is carried out in the name of safety and security under the banner of the state’s corrupt peace of ash and blood; a false throne of shattered bones, gnashed teeth, and rivers of blood for the temporal and mutilated god they call law.

The Fracturing of The Body Politic

It is within the fusion of our biological bodies to the political community of ‘friends’ that we can see the total extinguishment of the ability to create active civitas as a real political possibility today. By living lives as only subjects underneath the law (which may as well have us be slaves), and not as citizens who can consummate, constitute, and create their own law and agreements with each other; we not only find that we are below the law, but that we are also the Man from the Country who will never have access to the law. 

This is the same fusion that creates a zone of indistinction where zoe (raw biological life, animal life) is fully expropriated into bios (political life, the life of humans); where the polis is obliterated and man becomes totally alienated from both his politic being and his biological body . Now he is ready as vacant and empty machine ready to be subjugated to the infinite exploitation of a worthless and hollow life as a total object for the free use of states which believes themselves to be a gods beyond any men or morals.

While this has allowed for the state of exception to become a broad and sweeping legal concept that encompasses all law and life; it has also created the path towards liberation through showing the total banality of the current socio-political-economic-theological situation of the world. Through the full deprivation of any form of rights to all citizens through the state of exception being applied blankety, we can see the true nature of any form of contemporary sovereign power is TYRANNY.

The Emergency of Cryptography

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “emergency situation” in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve.”

-Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History

The history of computers is the history of cryptanalysis, which in turn is the history of the tactical development of communication under the conditions of total unbracketed war. Asymmetric cryptography is the culmination of the understanding of the phenomenon of “bellum omnium contra omnesand offers a kind of science to which men can ‘protect themselves, when none else can protect them,’ and most importantly is solidified ‘by no covenant be relinquished.’ (Hobbes ¶ 21.21)

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of the personal struggle for life, liberty, and wealth against any and all governments that can only be called tyrannical. Bitcoin and the cryptography it entails offers every person a final kind of protection in the field of total unbracketed war where the term “bellum omnium contra omnes (the war of all against all)” offers its true decrypted meaning: each of us may become homo sacer at anytime for any reason. Nature opens the messianic path through the real state of emergency that is homo homini lupus and the infinite grotesque promise of what that should mean to each and every individual human today, and what Bitcoin offers as a response to it at each step.

Cryptography is the culmination of a cognition of history which recognizes the absolute value and totalizing nature of privacy in the theater of total war of all against all, and the respective role that privity takes in a field of total unbracketed war. In all systems of government, the possibility of a ‘state of emergency [Ausnahmezustand]’ that will always create a ‘just war[jus bellum justum]’ against ‘other [Homo Sacer]’ people who can be killed but not sacrificed, exploited but not robbed, and in bondage but not slaves; can always happen, and already is happening. This is a real possibility under any system of law, and is a hideous fact of the legal genocides, social ethnic cleansings, and political expropriations of the 20th century. Crypto is a history which understands the infinite violence that all sovereign powers have entitled themselves to for ‘Final Solution’ of legal means against man, nature, and life as we know it at all cost — including the rule of law itself. 

It is once we understand that our political problems are first economic problems that our position in the struggle against global panoptic fascism will vastly improve, and we will find the only path towards our exit and the freedom that is intended for only us.

The Final Decision of Cryptography

“The sovereign is he who decides on the exception.” 

— Carl Schmitt

Crypto commands the code alone to be sovereign.

There is no exception to this. There are no laws that can change this fact, nor any amount of violence that can change that either.

Due to this explicit fact that digital expressions exist solely in the realm of ideas in a non-physical space through mathematical expression alone, it cannot be subjugated to the same physical forces that law and authoritarian rule must always entail. Crypto leaves no remainder for any kind of exception.

Crypto is subject only to the laws of mathematics alone–NOT men, institutions, or governments.

If you think otherwise then come and break it!

There is no sovereign exception, nor can there be one. The vicious magnanimity and imperium to which cryptography holds mathematics as its only sacrosant allows for it to consecrate the glory of a singular Spinozian God [Deus sive Natura] to whom there are no exceptions within his machine of mathematics, his immanent laws of the universe, and His passion for a form of wealth that is beyond the power of any group of men. It is the resounding thunder of an idea whose time has come, and that cannot be stopped.

What we need, however, is a political philosophy that isn’t erected around the problem of sovereignty, nor therefore around the problems of law and prohibition. We need to cut off the King’s head: in political theory that has still to be done.

–Foucault, Truth and Power

Crypto presents a political theory which decapitates the sovereign’s head with the resounding declaration of fiat justitia, et pereat mundus [Let justice be done lest the world perish].

Crypto does this by not engaging the the classic stratagem of law, prohibition, and sovereignty that all law demands; but something totally novel and new. Crypto engages in a radically new system of common-wealth and digital social contract by using cryptography as the base technique of this new form of organization. Through this a new political form-of-life, where all people can have their wealth be protected from any form of violence through the power of cryptography; a messianic possibility is opened. The crisis of money becomes apocalyptic, and an existential threat to all nation-states today. It is the final emergency that cannot be stopped, and opens us to the final epoch where man may take his final dignified place as the ruler of himself, by himself, for himself alone.

This allows for something that all people, everywhere, whether they admit it or not, know in their heart of hearts: that things could be different, that radical economic, social, and political change is a real possibility. We could live not only without hunger, but also probably without fear, and freely as well. And yet, at the same time — and all over the world — the social apparatus has become so hardened and calcified that what lies before us as a means of possible fulfillment presents itself as radically impossible.

Together we must choose to make the collective decision to create the real and final state of emergency that will be the final existential threat to the state and their fiat money. By refusing their corrupt money, hollow laws, and false idols we can make the world new again. Together we can choose to create a new form of social life, common-wealth, and law together that is outside and beyond the power of any state or government to destroy–only for them to submit to.

We can choose to create the foundation for a totally new form of political, social, and economic life and the commonwealth that is the new social agreement for our time. With the power of cryptography alone; we can guarantee the privacy, freedom, and liberty that was promised to only us; and we intend to keep it. No fascist decrees, no communist appropriations, no state of emergency from any political banner can stop us! The struggle is real and we will not stop until fiat money is destroyed and the state and money are totally separated as they should to be.

Together we can deactivate fiat money, state law, and shatter the paradise of legal violence and authoritarianism in order to consummate a new form of economic, social, and political life. A life that is beyond the power of any state to destroy, any laws to litigate, and any violence to violated. The state will try to destroy it, and with each blow that they will deliver, crypto will only get stronger. It will prove its inviolable nature more resoundingly, blow by blow, while also showing just how corrupt, wicked, and evil those in positions of legal and state power really are.

The sovereign is the point of indistinction between violence and law, the threshold on which violence passes over into law and law passes over into violence.

— Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer

Through a glitch in the matrix that creates the image of sovereign power through its physical form; we also find the Achilles’ heel from which there is an opening to create Leviathan’s downfall. Leviathan must always have a physical foothold from where he can display his power, a body to which make an example of his sovereign violence.

However, sovereign power cannot actualize the law if it does not have a physical space to render violence within. It needs a physical body it can identify first, so it may subject, dehumanize and objectify in order to display its legal and physical power. If legal power cannot find a physical body or space in which it can carry out it punishment, it risks displaying the incapacity of the law without violence, the sovereign without his subject, the emperor without clothes.

The secret is that the sovereign is as blind as the rest of us if it cannot see.

Blinding the Sovereign

The State is superstructural in relation to a whole series of power networks, that invest the body, sexuality, the family, kinship, knowledge, technology and so forth. True, these networks stand in a conditioning-conditioned relationship to a kind of ‘meta-power’ which is structured essentially round a certain number of great prohibition functions; but this meta-power with its prohibitions can only take hold and secure its footing where it is rooted in a whole series of multiple and indefinite power relations that supply the necessary basis for the great negative forms of power. 

–Foucault, Truth and Power

In order for legal power to secure a footing, the first engagement of power must be one of identification. Through identification, the physical form can be found, and power projected on to the subject in any of the nearly infinite techniques the panopticon can use to project the gaze and its power on the subject. Once identified, the process of selection can begin. The subject can then be labeled as ‘friend’ for inclusion in the camps, or ‘enemy’ for isolation, destruction, and liquidation. However, through the digital, which can only and explicitly be expressed in non-physical medium, there is a territory in which the subject can abscond into a total anonymous existence of its own creating. In making the final turn away from the panoptic machine, and giving oneself entirely as anonymous citizen of the digital cosmos, man once again finds the ideals from which he can create the new order of the ages once again.

Through using cryptography to create a novel and fair economic game of wealth common to all, bitcoin rediscovered the sovereign power that is hidden at the center of what a commonwealth really is: The commonality of wealth to all, with no one able to control or change the system for the betterment of some at the cost of others. In other words, it is commonality of law itself. The capacity and demand for law to remain totally neutral, and completely access to everyone, no matter their station of birth, creed of faith, or political identity according to the state.

With this radical new power of peace, man finds himself back at the start of all political concept once again. However, this time man emerges from the forest of technology, armed with the final weapon of cryptography and the mask of anonymity of which hides the face of the messianic possibility it contains. Man has renewed the opportunity to liberate himself from the concentration camps of modernity; but this time for good, permanently, and forever.

Through bonding our political destinies with with the science of cryptographic protocols and consummating with the machine directly; we can create a new form of commonwealth, law, and power. It is the commonwealth of crypto which will open the next and final epoch for all of humanity and posterity, and what the promise of a money freed from the vestiges of statism, debt, and fiat money looks like. Through the personal choice to totally objectify oneself via code, and giving oneself to it entirely for the protection that it offers when no other sovereign can; the commonwealth of cryptography open the polis to man once again. 

Through giving ourselves over to the power of cryptography over that of any state, and the majesty and imperium to which crypto will always hodl; we find the power to create a real form of The Political once again. Here we have found the power to open the final hour in which state legal power can be deactivated, and all people may be free from it for good. Peace on this earth is not such a radical ideal if we all have the power/knowledge of cryptography at our fingertips, and how to use such a power to protect our lives, our wealth, our honor, our freedom, and our privacy.

Through accepting crypto as a political cause and sovereign power, any human may free and liberate their wealth, privacy, and liberty from the state and fiat slavery once again. With the true nature of what the common-wealth of law rediscovered, magnus ab integro seclorum nascitur ordo (the great series of ages begins anew).

It is the political and theological destiny of all of humanity in the final hour, the final emergency, for all legal systems to shipwreck themselves on the reef of ethics which no decision can avoid. Each ship designed with the same fatal flaw of humanity at the helm; each one damned to follow the captain’s insatiable urge to follow the Siren’s Call. The ship cannot be saved and the captain’s sanity cannot be restored–there is only the abandonment now. The promise that the life raft can offer if we are to leave this madness. We are each free to abandon our positions on the ship of law now, free to sail back to the country from which we came. No longer will we wait before the law, but abandon it in the final hour to free ourselves from it for good. Only then will we see the life that we can live privately, and opening of a new polis that only we can create.

“One day humanity will play with law just as children play with disused objects, not in order to restore them to their canonical use but to free them from it for good.”

— Giorgio Agamben

Erik is a crypto-anarchist, iconoclast, and thinker that has been working in the bitcoin ecosystem since 2012. His primary concerns are the intersections of political, economic, and social theory as they relate to bitcoin specifically and crypto generally.