David Theo Goldberg
Humanities Research Institute
University of California
Why, one might ask, has modern state formation been predicated principally upon the artifice of homogeneity as an idee fixe? Recall that in posing the challenge of state formation at the outset of modernity, Hobbes characterized the state of nature as driven by individualized force and fraud. Force and fraud framed the supposed sources of the natural condition, and in doing so revealed the ‘rational necessity’ of modern state formation, namely, the capacity to make war and to develop capital’s resources. Force and fraud, for Hobbes, are the resources of survival in the absence of state control, the abilities and facilities rational choice would have us maximize in the absence of social security and in the drive to individualized survival. Well, if force and fraud are the virtues of pre-social nature, comfort and control are the social conditions--the virtues of state formation--rationality would have the state maximize as (re)sources of establishing social security and abating the perceived need for individualized force and fraud. Comfort and control--comfort as a form of control, and social control as the underpinnings of social comfort--are to the modern state then what force and fraud are to lonely and threatened individuals in the state of nature: the virtues of survival, individuated and social. Comfort, feeling at ease with one’s surroundings and so neighbors, is both presupposition and rational implication of commitment to minimized state intervention to sustain public security. And comfort, so the story goes, is most easily reproduced in the setting of those one best knows, kin and extended kin, family and friends, cultural brethren and common citizens.2
Race is taken to be the ‘natural’ extension of this social narrative, questionable not least because, once the circle extends beyond those one literally knows, comfort becomes at best an artifice, in the intermediate a rationalization, and at worst the grounds of exclusion and expulsion, material and moral. And, of course, sometimes those one knows best, those closest to one, might make one feel the most uncomfortable. Homogeneity, and in particular racial homogeneity, thus is considered as among rationality’s most effective means of social control, a key governing bio-technology in what Gramsci came to characterize as the reproduction of consent in one’s social conditions and surroundings. What I have elsewhere characterized and analyzed as racial naturalism—-the longstanding racial claim that those not European or of European descent are inherently (naturally) inferior to those who are--as a prevailing mode of modern bio-governance grew out of this set of assumptions. Racial naturalism gave way later to the mandates and management of racial historicism, what ultimately took over as the prevailing presumptions of racially predicted rule not of inherent inferiority but of the historical immaturity of Europe’s others (Goldberg 2001).
So what sort of state best represents the commitments of heterogeneities, demographically and culturally, politically and economically, socially and legally? What, in short, might be the shape of contemporary and future states, their principal modes of rule and representation, their social contours and lines of governance in the absence of and resistance to racist formation and in the aftermath of homogenizing logics? This is a question connected to but emphatically to be distinguished from that of the shape of raceless states (Goldberg 2001, ch. 8; Goldberg 2002-Macedo).
One way of posing this question of post-racist states is to address what modern social formations might have emerged had they not been racially conceived and weighted. How, one might ask in other words, would modern states have formed but for race as an ordering principle? The shape of this question, however, as hinted in the close of the previous paragraph, is consistent with the presumptions of racelessness I have noted elsewhere (Goldberg 2001, ch. 8), now universalized not just geographically but as a matter of nostalgic retrospection, historical memory in denial. The obvious response, if the question is taken on face value, is that class formation and exploitation would now be barer and balder, perhaps less mitigated, more intense on its own terms but precisely for that reason less sociologically defensible and defended. If that were so one could imagine that class conditions without the modalities and arrangements of racial configurations conceivably would have conjured more explicit, vigorous, sustained and ultimately successful counters. But conceivably because balder and bolder and so more questionable and questioned, they also might have been tempered in ways making such class distinctions more palatable because less expressly and extremely exploitative, divisive and exercised.
The deeper point here however is that it is impossible in the final analysis to tell which way it would have gone had race not so marked modern state and social formation. So the very call to imagine the alternatives to a history racially turned serves discursively to draw us away from the more compelling question of imaginative politics in the present facing the future. Here the concern is not with what might have been but, given how we now understand what indeed has been and now is, with what the possibilities of transformation to social conditions and spaces of justice could yet be. So the question is not whether we can erase race--as we have seen, that only renders the structures of racist exclusion and derogation less visible--but with how we might be able to shape race and its social orderings in ways that are socially attractive and interactive. How, in short, can we transform racial configuration from the dispositions of homogenizing exclusion and exclusivity to the disposing towards heterogenizing openness and incorporation, social engagement and shaping to reflect the interests and conceptions of all?
In asking to what states without racism might amount, notice then that a number of concerns are being raised. First, what is being placed in question is the common contemporary call, at least as the first level commitment, the causal condition, to erase race from our conceptual apparatus and frame of reference, from all state characterization and concern (Gilroy 2000; Appiah and Gutmann 1996; McWhorter 2000). The historical invocation of race by the state to exclusionary and discriminatory purpose or outcome ought to be eliminated from state design and practice, implicit or explicit. It does not follow from this critical commitment, however, that racial record-keeping for the sake of monitoring and redressing past and present forms of historical discrimination ought to be abandoned as a consequence, as Ward Connerly would do in the Californian context (Selingo 2001). The point is not so much the bald concern with racial reference and invocation, no matter the implications, but the purpose to which race is invoked and the work to which it is being put by and in the name of the state. The principal aim is--or ought to be--states without racism. Whether that commitment entails states without race will turn on whether race inherently or instrumentally causes or conspires to racist states, racist conditions of being and rule. So second, the principal concern is to withdraw the state from exclusionary racial definition and arrangement, to render state instrumentalities and instrumental state and institutional apparatuses unavailable to discriminatory racial usage. This entails, third, that it remains an open question whether and how race is usable or invokable outside of state force or enforcement, state determination or orchestration. Is it possible to engage racial arrangement, as Foucault suggested in his lectures on racism, sometimes as a counter-history (contre-histoire), a critical counter-history to dominating state formation, a mode of self-determining political and cultural resistance (Stoler 1995, 68-72), or indeed as a creative but non-exclusionary mode of cultural (re)formation? Or is racial arrangement, wherever and whenever, inherently an imposed mode of controlling governance and self-surveillance?3
The Race to State Homogeneity
One thing could be said with confidence, consequently: a state without racism would be one in and for which whiteness has retreated, has been fractured and fissured, has dissipated and dissolved. If, as I have argued elsewhere, whiteness stands for the relative privilege, profit and power of those occupying the structural social positions of whites in a hierarchically ordered racial society, racist states are states of whiteness (Goldberg 2001, ch. 7). The elimination of such states accordingly must mean the demise of the associated privilege, profit, and power. But, it must be emphasized, a state without racism in the wake of the long and vicious racist histories of the present cannot simply be a raceless state. Post-racist (in contrast to merely post-racial) states must be those for which state agencies, and most notably law, are vigorous both in refusing racist practice and in public representation of the unacceptability of all forms of discriminatory expression. I am not so naive or romantically utopian as to think this would amount to the end of all social privilege, power and profit. But it would mean the end of a particularly vicious variety, the sort that has served both as modality of expression for and a kind of multiplier of class, gender, national and indeed state-based advantage and disadvantage. It would mean, in short, a very different sort of state personality, a different demeanor to those inside and outside the state cast(e), a different disposition to population definition and characterization, to law and law enforcement, to power and policy-making, to kith and kin, 'legitimate' family and the shape of class, to socio-spatial configurations and schooling, social engagement and accessibility, to national culture (most notably in and through language, the 'mother tongue') and historical memory (Balibar 1991b, 98-100).
States after racism would mean in short a deep transformation in state personality (Goldberg 2001, ch. 9). Etienne Balibar is right thus to insist that “[d]estruction of the racist complex” requires “the transformation of the racists themselves” (though not just in any way), and so “the internal composition of the community created by racism” (Balibar 1991b, 18). Implicit within Balibar's imperative is more than just an exhortation to individuals to change their racist ways. Balibar here hints by extension at the social dynamics by which modern 'community' is composed. And in the context of nation-formation, these dynamics bear the label, the (not so) hidden hand (Comaroff and Comaroff 2000) of state juris-diction, of the forms and contents of legality and (in)justice, in national self-narration. But post-racist states would mean also very different dis-positions to other states, states of otherness, and state othering. Entailed would be not simply some extended circulation through racisms' polyvalent mobilities (Stoler 1995, 69), reinscriptions of racist modes and manners, racist 'bearers' and 'targets' mobilized from one crisis moment to another (Balibar 1991c, 219). They would mean, rather, a different set of global arrangements where racial dispositions or calculations no longer determined or set the formative background to international relations, no longer determined or even descriptively characterized the general flows of capital, commodities, workers and executives, refugees and im/migrants, or the radically uneven distribution of human and economic costs of AIDS and its treatment. It is these radically transfigured sets of assumptions and dispositions, characterizations and (institutional) arrangements, spatialities and chronicities that I mean to reference in urging the shift from prevailing presuppositions of homogeneity and fixity in state conception and personality to those of heterogeneity and flow.
Modern states, by their (modern) nature, systematically produce and reproduce 'political and cultural homogeneity' (Parekh 2000, 184) as a matter of their institutional logic. The modernity of the state turns on the drive both to codify and to represent a general will, on the classification schemas invoked to order and administer (to) the population masses that make them up. This homogeneity is a function, by extension, of the bureaucratic insistence on formal equality socio-politically and legally (though perhaps less so economically).4 States thus assume their modernity in and through producing and reproducing sameness, definitively squeezing out the different, the very heterogeneity which modernity's logic of spatio-temporal compression (Eagleton 1998, 50; Harvey 1989) has been instrumental paradoxically in effecting. In the name of justice, democracy and equality--of a people with a common will, interests and character--the modern state creates a population, a 'community,' cut from the same cloth.
Modern states administratively promote coherence of civil society and social structures, and through them the cohering of their populations. This coherence is ramified throughout the economy, polity, law, culture, modes of representation and social narratives. In this sense, the modern state is a form of institutional reinforcement, the enforcing mechanisms of institutional arrangements and conditions. The state thus conceived is a sort of conductor. It orchestrates but also serves as a conduit and symbol for the conduct--the disciplinary consistencies--of the institutions and individuals in virtue of which it is constituted, over which it ranges. But the state, in addition, is a conductor of culture--of institutional and social values and meanings, the generator and shaper of historical memory through schools, museums and monuments, public art and ceremonies, rituals and symbols. And as a conductor shapes the orchestra and arranges the score without necessarily making the music, so the state fashions citizens, those representative individuals at once able to play responsibly by themselves but in concert (Lloyd and Thomas 1998). States accordingly are at once spaces and media of affiliation between governing bodies and populations. Race, as I have argued, is the oil between state and society, the black and white formal wear turning critical attention away from the players and towards enjoyment of the music, the social welfare of the 'audience.'
Modern states are thus “structured in racial (and interactively in gendered and class) dominance” (Hall 1980). So the state is not neutral but structurally reproduces and regulates the hierarchies it has helped institutionally to constitute. The liberal state professes neutrality between its members--between groups ethnoracially defined, between men and women, and members of social classes--and enacts laws and regulations predicated on such assumptions. It follows that state apparatuses such as law can be invoked to mobilize for more equitable treatment on the part of those the state hitherto has served to dispossess or disenfranchise, to disqualify from equal treatment or to disempower. In insisting on materializing what otherwise is projected as ideological rationalization, the marginalized are able to empower themselves though always subject to the limiting and homogenizing terms of state definition and design. Angela Davis (1998) comments that when those once actively resistant to state imposition, control and definition of the political and socio-economic arrangements later become representatives of state institutions--morphing in effect into state agents--there is something about the state apparatus, about its definition and functions, that delimits, constrains and transforms the disposition and outlook of even the best intentioned. Thus, former Black Panthers or members of SNCC have become political representatives in Congress, and anticolonial revolutionaries such as Robert Mugabe, Kwame Nkrumah or ANC leaders have assumed state power. They are constrained in their agency not just by the fact of their electoral representation but also by the institutional logic of state formation, agency and incorporation into the modern world system.
Hence there are inevitable ambiguities in modern state commitments. For instance, a commitment to freedom for all may be discounted by interpreting it as opportunity, not outcome. The expressed commitment to equality may be discounted as the formality of rights to speech or property with no attention paid to the substantive conditions rendering materialization or manifestation of those rights possible or even probable (cf. Waylen 1998). In insisting on equal treatment before the law, equal state promotion or resources, those subjected to state or social exclusions may advance their interests by invoking the neutrality principle of the liberal state in behalf of those not so readily benefited in the past. Of course, the formalism of state neutrality leaves it open equally to those hitherto in control or benefiting from the state of patriarchal whiteness to extend or redefine the structures of opportunity in their favor. The (at least implicit) characterizations of the state as black or as representing the interests of those not white are deeply connected to the now common call for shrinking state power and influence. The contemporary insistence on state commitments to racelessness is a case in point (Goldberg 2001, ch. 8).
Two points follow concerning characterization of modern racial states. The first is to note a distinction between strong racial states and weak racial states, or between strongly and weakly racist states. A state unambiguously committed to insistent and reductive racial definition, a state in which racial definition is routinized through its state apparatuses and penetrates its agencies, is likely a state committed to strongly explicit and enforced forms of racist exclusion. A state that is weakly racial--that may invoke racial classification in record-keeping, say, with an eye to tracking historical discrimination--does not necessarily promote racist exclusions, though it may sustain (at least by ignoring) a culture of racist derogation in civil society and social institutions. Obviously the particular shapes and expressions of racial and racist states run the gamut between these two poles.
Second, I do not mean to suggest modern states lack all virtues. Unlike pre-modern states that rested on multiple sources of authority and rules applied differentially to various social classes, modern states at least in principle rest on a singular authoritative body and source of law applied equally to all citizens. Modern (at least liberal) states enshrine a unitary code of rights protecting all members positioned and placed in suitably similar ways. Individuals are both equally incorporated into the state and reasonably protected not just from each other but from state incursion. The so-called arbitrary characterizations of individuals--in group terms such as race, gender, class--are deemed at least juridicially illegitimate considerations in state disposition and treatment of individuals. Goods and services, rights and powers, the distribution of burdens and responsibilities are to be open to all at least to compete (cf. Parekh 2000, 181-3). And modern liberal democracies seem more ready than most contrasting societies to tolerate if not to promote criticism, challenge and revision, even if within implicit and definitive limits. There are accordingly wide and deep benefits of state modernization, both in the principles of arrangement and materially, that it would be silly and self-defeating to deny or to overlook. The virtues of liberal modernizing are real, to be sure, even as they are partial (Hall 2000, 228).
These virtues of modern states are considered to represent indices of progress over earlier state forms, and in many ways they can be considered to do so. And yet, the celebration of modernization also denies its inevitable burdens, either by ignoring them completely or discounting them as inevitable but limited costs of progress. Bearing this very consciously in mind, it must be pointed out that the claim to racial progress trades on a misconceived metric as a consequence. The state of racial progress--the progress of states now on race--is not to be measured against states of racist repression in the past.5 That calculus too easily produces contemporary complacency and self-congratulation. The proper measure of 'racial progress'--of the distance from racially fashioned or indexed exclusions--concerns assessment at the common historical moment ('the present') of the relative experience and conditions of each group racially defined and positioned, refined and conditioned against each other one. The historical contrast can only tell us how far we have come and convey a sense of what still has to be achieved, not that we have completed the task. Looking exclusively to the rear blinds us to seeing both how far there is to go or indeed to a reconsideration of what routes to adopt and signposts to pursue. Historical reconstruction and retrospection are crucial not as a fixation nor as contemporary celebration or rationalization but as indicating how we have come to the present, what the contemporary moment amounts to and on what it rests, and for revealing roadmaps to the future.
Given my characterization of the modern racial state, the pressing question accordingly is not some version of the currently popular one in liberal circles, namely, whether a modern constitutional state can “recognize and accommodate cultural diversity” (Tully 1995, 1; Kymlicka 1996; Kymlicka and Norman, eds. 2000). That question presupposes as more or less given the very set of suppositions and structured ordering of the state marked so deeply by the histories of racial conception and formation. The question looks to embrace into the very fabric of social arrangements those hitherto excluded and denied, defined in cultural terms as 'strange multiplicity,' as outsiders or strangers. It leaves unquestioned the prevailing assumption of institutional and structural homogeneity, and the accompanying codification of existing racial powers and frames of reference. It manifests recognition of difference in speech and cultural expression, in “a just form of constitutional discussion in which each speaker is given her or his due” (Tully 1995, 6). But it is open to addressing only indirectly at best the institutional structures and material conditions shaping social possibilities and access, actual political arrangements and constitutive practices, and their long histories of constitution and reproduction. These histories have been marked constitutively for the most part by racially predicated exclusion and marginalization.
The counter-question, I am suggesting, from an assumption of radical and reiterative heterogeneity, of unsettlement and entanglement (Tully 1995, 11), is not simply one in the reactive frame concerning recognition and accommodation of and into the state's own historically limiting schemas. It concerns the grounds of its constitutive conditions themselves. Can a state be predicated on assumptions of heterogeneities? Can a state constitutively be open to the flows not simply of capital but of human beings recognized equally and with equal sensitivity, on and in equal terms, as belonging in their flows to the body politic, when both here and there, so to speak? Can heterogeneity in social arrangements coexist with the justice of the state and fair treatment of its citizens? What would state citizenship in a state so conceived come to look like? Indeed, what would such a state itself look like?6
Conceived thus, the question is less about belonging than it is about the state and its form. Or at least it is about the relation of citizenship to state form and shape. Is citizenship necessarily a condition--a state--of the state? Is the notion of belonging, both cultural and administrative, that citizenship implies tied inextricably to the structures of the state as we have come to know that institutional arrangement? For if it is so connected then there may be very distinct--indeed, undermining--constraints on a notion of 'flexible citizenship' (Ong 1999). These limiting assumptions may pose sharp limits to the possibilities of conceiving citizenship predicated on flows rather than fixity, on mobilities (Urry 2000, 159-187) rather than on the given of modern stasis and the static implications of statehood. Is it possible, in short, to speak of citizenship in a robust sense in relation to multiple and intertwining ('entangled') commitments--social, familial, economic, cultural, political? And to what would such commitment amount institutionally, administratively, socially, personally?
Now deracializing concerns undoing the processes and structures of white dominance and rule through antiracisms. It involves the unstitching of white rule, picking apart the fabric of worldwide whiteness, decolonizing global imaginaries of white dominance (Pieterse and Parekh, eds. 1995). And it calls for reimagining a world in which norms, standards, practices, relations and structures fashioned historically by and associated with white dominance and dominating whiteness are no longer (conceived and ordered to be) singular. Deracializing amounts to de-homogenizing the state, heterogenizing forms of governance and being, loosening if not splintering the grip, the vice, of the racial imaginary on the state and of the state on racial configuration. So a state without racism(s) would be part of a global arrangement of states not marked by racial configuration. And this, it would follow, would be a world breaking dramatically with the global racial orderings of the past half-millenium, processes that began with decolonization a half century ago in checkered and all too often checked ways. If a contemporary state without blackness (in the extended political sense) would be one subjected to a terrible holocaust, biological or cultural, a state without whiteness would be one, in a worldly scheme of things, without racism as historically configured. It would not be a state in which black (or white) people necessarily would not be recognized as black (or white), nor one in which the norms of regulation and governance were set by and in terms of 'black' interests, whatever they might amount to. Rather, such a state would be one in which people of color in general, like white people generally, would be recognized as fully human (Fanon 1965, 250; Gordon 1995, 60). The salient point here is not the self-absorption of whiteness in its own demise, as is so much the case with whiteness studies, but the undoing of states of racial being and forms of governmentality in their global profusions. The aim is to deroutinize and desystematize interlocking worlds of race historically produced and the racially figured exclusions and derogations they entail.
In the latter sense, post-racist states would not only abandon state-prompted, -based, or -promoted racial taxonomies, categorizations, and censal classifications (save in the latter case for tracking discrimination, past and present). States after racism would demand that the debilitating and distorting impacts of the histories of racial exclusions, institutional and individual, be transformatively addressed, with sensitivity and civility. Thus deracializing the state entails critically evaporating the hold of race on state powers over defining borders, the profiles of immigration, and on the body of citizenship. It requires undoing the hold of race on policing and incarceration as well as on the shape, scope and implementation of law. And it means 'eracing' the determinations of race on the space, place and design of residence and education, work and recreation.
All this, in turn, presupposes a dramatically altered conception of citizenship. The question with which I am concerned thus becomes how we can conceive of state engagement and citizenship (of citizenship as state engagement and interaction rather than as state belonging and identification) outside of the constitutive oppositions identified above. Here citizenship is to be premised rather on openness and flows than on stasis and fixity, on heterogeneities rather than homogeneity. Aiwha Ong (1999) has begun usefully to theorize these concerns in a critical context as 'flexible citizenship(s).'
Crossing borders must now be understood a staple both of social and economic arrangements and of political debates. Transnational population movements are engaged in a dynamic of sending and receiving, prompting new networks of demographic circulation and transformed conditions of existence at each end of the movement. These conditions include changing implications for settled communities as well as compressed impacts on lived conditions for those left behind in sending societies and hometowns. Lives are affected through job and service provision, the experiences of everyday racism in receiving societies, family formation and dissolution, community networks and the composition of religious groups. Established social values are impacted dramatically, as well as material and lived cultures (Hannerf 1996; Portes, et al 1999; Essed 1991; Menjivar 2000; Agamben 2000). The new im/migration studies have offered valuable insight into the political conditions and impacts of these dramatic population movements in both sending and attracting societies, played out in debates concerning changing immigration law and conditions of settlement and movement, as well as policing practices and prison demographics.
The ‘push-pull’ conditions of earlier migrations are no longer simple or simply uni-directional (Roberts et al 1999). The political concern over transnational population movements in the past twenty years or so, in contrast if related to the economic considerations, principally has been about the composition of citizenship. It has concerned who properly belongs in and to the society and who does not, of the constitution of the social fabric and the implications for social formation. The modernist model considered people to belong statically to just one nation-state, to have interests in, obligations to and principal political and economic rights in a single state. This national belonging was both predicated on and served to reify the underlying assumption that nation-states were institutional manifestations of cultural homogeneity, natural developments of an inherent commonality pre-existing among groups imagined to have some extended form of kinship to and so common understanding of each other.
Modern nation-states can no longer be considered homogeneously constituted, if they ever could. Heterogeneity is not new, only so much more dramatic and evident. Nation-states are made up more or less dramatically of various groups and cultures, ethnically and racially conjured and constituted, as the 2000 U.S. census data has begun to reveal, for instance. Groups and cultures are themselves internally dynamic and often at odds in assumption and practice, sometimes with multiple citizenship allegiances, constantly moving between countries and cultures (Faist 2000), if not individually certainly where the family, nuclear or extended, is taken to offer the basic social referent point. For two centuries now the state has fashioned as the license of national projection a conception of state personality as singular, as fixed fast. No longer can that myth be sustained.
Political theory and social thought of late have been consumed with reconsidering the bases of citizenship and political and cultural commitment. These renewed concerns are of course directly linked to concerns over globalization and the forms of transnational migratory mobilities, movements and settlements thus prompted (Castles and Davidson 2000; Parekh 2000; Kymlicka 1996; Soysal 1994; Baubock ed., 1994). The presumptions of homogeneity and stasis underpinning the modernist conception of citizenship have been undermined by the processes of intensified globalization and the spatio-temporal compressions fueled as a consequence. Questions of equal membership have become especially pressing in the face of the fact that globalizing economic, social and geopolitical processes have so exacerbated the divides between the wealthy and the poor, not just on a global scale but within especially the wealthiest of nations such as the United States. These divisions have assumed even more complex ethnoracial composition than the old model dividing black from white.
The container state of Fordist capitalism produced a conception of citizenship as inherited or insistent belonging. The container state, in contrast to the segregating state of the late nineteenth century, enacted a rationality of state control expressed through encapsulated containment. It enacts an evacuation of the space of those regarded as racially dangerous or threatening so long as the periphery of that space is fenced off by a ‘military cordon’ (Taussig 1997, 56-7; Agamben 2000, 39-42). Because the boundaries are clearly cordoned off and ringed, militarized and policed, symbolically as much as concretely, the interior for the most part can be abandoned to its own anarchic and self-destructive practices.
The modernist conception of citizenship, accordingly, has built into it as a constitutive (if not foundational) condition the identification of individual citizen with the state. Implicit in this identification is a triple logic: first, of the disposition to frame citizenship in identity terms; second, of the state taken as a coherent, a singular entity; and by implication third, of citizen-members as settled and more or less statically located within the space of the state. Settlement was supposed the rule, movement and mobility exceptional, exciting and excitable. National character equates with state personality in the figure of the citizen. The classic modern conception of citizenship, then, most effectively articulated in T. H. Marshall's famous lecture (Marshall 1950), concerns the claim to represent the social heritage of the nation-state. Citizenship in these terms is the abstract embodiment of the complementary right--liberty, interest, claim, empowerment--to participate in and benefit from social practices, collective benefits and responsibilities of state belonging.
This classic conception of citizenship (what I have characterized as the modernist one) is predicated on stasis and state territorial sovereignty, on borders and interiorized burghers, spatial fixity and introspection. The modernist sense of citizenship is stat-ic, at basis immobile. It also, in a sense, bristles at its borders, antagonistically excluding those taken not to belong, not already a member. By contrast, I am asking with John Urry (2000, 167ff.) what a conception of citizenship (and by extension the state)--of civic engagement and commitment, interests and investments, powers and responsibilities--would amount to if taking as first principles social flow and flexibilities, mobilities and movements, transformativity and transition. What conception of citizenship and state fabric might one offer as a horizon of possibility for post-racist, post-regulator, post-regulated states on such assumptions?
Restrictions on capital movement and on the class of financial managers guaranteeing capital flows increasingly have evaporated. At the same time, traffic cop states have maintained more or less firm restrictions on the movement and mobility of those marked as ethnoracially different or threatening: 'Muslim or Arab terrorists,' 'helpless (if not sometimes murderous) Africans,' 'economically challenged or trafficking Central Americans,' 'over-abundant Asians,' and indeed any and all mis-taken for these cut-out characters. A postracist cosmopolitanism will have to face up to open movements of people unhindered by ethnoracial restriction. Such open movement and mobility cannot be realized without the prospects of full socio-material, socio-cultural and socio-political participation locally and globally. This includes the prospects for developing vigorous social movements to represent general interests in the face of powerful opposition from those who continue to exercise the power to shape economic, political, legal and cultural representation. Above and beyond all else, perhaps, the power of social movements serves as the limit to the self-arrogation of those commanding significant socio-material and political resources. Such concerns link up with interests in developing and sustaining relatively risk free environments of habitation and work wherever people pass their lives. Where risks and dangers do exist they would be distributed as evenly and representatively (materially and demographically) across classes and powers as factors reasonably beyond control allow. This likewise necessitates a commitment to educational access, definition, encouragement and the conditions for self-advancement for all wherever people might find themselves. And it presupposes openness about cultural expression without the privileging of some and the degradation of others, as well as mutual cultural interactions, engagement and influence.
Seriously civil commitments are now interwoven, as Urry indicates (2000, 174-5), with sets of global dispositions and commitments. For one, they presuppose a global or planetary in contrast with a parochial outlook and range (rather than frame) of reference. Risks and dangers as well as rewards and benefits, it follows, are to be considered on global and interactive scales rather than provincially and in isolation. Sources of meaningful information are increasingly diffuse and expansive regarding social impacts and implications of significant events, natural and social, and most every significant event now impacts well beyond the reach of its local occurrence. Ecological considerations necessitate, even from a local point of view, that resources be used sustainably and with planetary implications in consideration. The concerns in turn suggest as a presupposition that people individually and collectively consider each other with a sensitive respect whether in direct interaction or in extended and more distanced socio-cultural reference.
Sensitivity within the circle of ethnoracial considerations, as more generally, is deeply intertwined with civility and trust (Sommers 1999). Social sensitivity, respect and civility presuppose and promote trusting those with whom one interacts. Trust--especially ethnoracial trust historically located--has traditionally been localized to those in some more or less literal or abstract sense close to one, those about whom one has experience and those one takes to be like one, who speaks the same language linguistically and culturally. The mobilities prompted by and (re)generating globalizing dispositions call forth expanded circles and cycles of civic trust by recognizing and acknowledging the (re)sources of their promotion. By contrast, we increasingly lose trust in states whose leaders express or convey ethnoracial disdain of one sort or another, for this disdain, if sustained, is often identified with state personality. Consider Yugoslavia under Milosovic.
It has been popular recently, as much in cultural as in commercial terms, to conceive of regional and transregional connectivities, net-works and lines of (inter)relation, to conjure, in short, nets that capture and captivate but also the open lines that work to instill sensitivity, civility and trust. There are no magic pills here. Every disposition to closure and self-absorption threatens and is threatened by the lure of heterogeneous polyvalence. Every call to hybridity and the transformative is open to challenge in light of the limits of our collective visions and vocabularies, by existing structures and forms, and ultimately by the threat of the anarchic and formlessness.
The line of critical and promissory argument I have pursued throughout, then, leads not so much to anarchic conclusions, though the radical tensions between bald state terror and romantic anarchism offer always the limit cases that likewise require rethinking in the wake of global pressures. The state, as James Scott notes, “is the vexed institution that is the ground of both our freedoms and unfreedoms” (Scott 1998, 7). The response to racist states is as little a call to anarchism as it is to racelessness. Rather, it is the call to rethink again and again, without end or closure, the modern(izing) terms of social relation: of statehood and citizenship, of race and its intersected modalities, of democracies and public spheres; of freedoms and private spheres; of rights and responsibilities, civilities and incivilities.
Individuals as citizens of the state continue to be endowed racially (there is a sense in which as citizens they consensually are made to endow themselves as such, most notably under conditions of racelessness), just as racial configuration acquires individuated expression through the media of the state. What 'modern' state does not conceive itself, or is not conceived by others, in ethnoracially tinged terms? It is this notion of self-endowment and self-regulation that raises the question of democracy in relation to racially conceived states and their global arrangement.
Democratizing Race, Heterogenizing Democracies
Wendy Brown (1995) characterizes democracy as about governing together that we may govern ourselves. The (self-)regulation at the heart of governmentality is made obvious by inverting this neat formula: to govern ourselves so that we may govern together. That logic of (self-)regulation is already there, one might say and as Brown's book makes clear, in governing per se. So democracy is about ways of governing that (either) delimit the impositions of regulation or render governing acceptable--justifiable--precisely because more or less non-coercively (or uncoercively) engaged. I have expressed democratic governance thus without reference to self-governance (the imposition of governance upon oneself by oneself) not simply because of the difficulties in formulating a coherent conception of the self (Taylor 1992). Rather, it is because self-governance may be mediated--informed, encouraged, imposed--by externalities internalized, through the self on the self, so to speak, thus blurring the distinction between self-regulation and imposed regulation (cf. Butler 1997b).
Roughly speaking, a democratic state would be one where all the competing interests share state power, resources and media of representation in a repeatedly renewable negotiation of balance (Dolan 1994, 55) without any one, or any alliance--racially or otherwise configured--dominating to the exclusion of or control over others. And a democratic state so conceived would be part of a global web of similarly conceived states. A totalitarian state involves the domination of all institutions and culture in and of the state by a single representative interest over all others. One could give similar readings, for instance, in conceptualizing authoritarian or fascist or racist states. A racist state would be one where a racially (self-)conceived group (usually the one controlling the terms of racial subjectification, including definition) dominates the power, resources and representational media of the state to the relative exclusion, subjection or subordination of other groups racially conceived. And, as we have seen, such a state is sustained by global networks of similarly ordered and ordering states, or at least of states easy with interactions with such states, what I have called 'states of whiteness.' A state engaged in racial configuring (a 'racializing' state in the contemporary cliché) is one where groups within the state are racially conceived and defined especially by the state and its agents to various purposes and ends.
It is important to contextualize modes of democratic states in relation to relative access to and power over resources and voice, to the media to speak and be heard or listened to. There are many ways of being democratic, related in part to questions of how accessible are channels of expression, how even the distribution of resources and power and how (how heavily and in what ways) such access and expressibility are mediated (Cunningham 2000; Gould 2000; Mills 2000). But there is also an outcome consideration that needs to be attended in considering the nature of democratic states that has to do with what elsewhere I have conceptualized under the name of 'incorporation' (Goldberg 1995). Here the question becomes whether and in what ways, thin or thick, less powerful interests and groups have been able to transform the principles, rules, norms, modes of organization and terms of conception and expression--in short, the material culture--of state formation.
Instead of speaking of racial democracies, an antiracist politics might better speak of democracies in more or less heterogeneous societies, of heterogeneous democracies. Homogeneous societies either are or certainly remain homogenous via imposition, through enforcement in modern states not the least racially configured.7 And so the question becomes how the definitions of various state types offered above can be tailored to reflect degree and kind of access and expressibility on the part of heterogeneous groups (sometimes racially characterized) and heterogeneous populations homogenized (through restricting racial configuration). More generally, how might democracy for heterogeneous conditions be fashioned in non-foundational terms?8 How do we think anew the shifting spaces and expressive conditions for democracy in ethnoracially heterogeneous societies? Democracy is understood to have no fixed foundations, no settled center, only the more or less unstable balance of shifting, negotiated and revisable interests and powers within and beyond state purview, locally and regionally, state-bounded and globally. The constant negotiations, cultural and political, economic and legal, take place precisely in the wake and face of 'split affiliations' and radical 'undecidabilities' attendant to so much of everyday life in the 'slipstreams of late capitalism' and the cross-sections of millenial regulator states (Bhabha and Comaroff 2001). Here the interests and powers are rendered more complex precisely in and through their racial making.
To these ends, I conceive of rights as generalizations of claims and interests, expressions of liberties and drives to powers of and from local customs and practices. As these generalizations face increasingly outward, as in their broadening they embrace more and more of the generally human (which is to say not the individual but the social characteristics of human being), I am suggesting that rights so conceived are projections outwards of the 'human in us.' And in re-turn one could say the local and specific in part is the inward imbrication or instantiation of the general or generalizable, the specific embodiment of general social conditions. There are no absolute universals ontologically outside of abstraction from particulars, and no local instance (not even the radically idiosyncratic or idiolectic) completely cut off from representing manifestations of more generalized conception (Hall 2000, 234-5). The relation between the individual and the social, the social constitution of individuals and the social horizons of individuality, encourages as a result a conception of 'cosmopolitan connection.'
This picture amounts to a social citizenship constituted by a specificity and generalizability. It requires a connectedness both locally to those about one, to those sharing a culture more or less broadly ('cultural rights'), but also more and more outwardly to those linked together by the broadest of social--which is now at the very least to say global or planetary--conditions ('human rights'). So the insistence on rights locally, at least normatively, is at once also the realization of rights more generally, tentatively more globally. If rights are generalizations from local practice and local embodiments of generalized extensions, then my right--the right of those like me, of 'my people'--at once contains the kernel of the rights (or their restriction and lack) for all. The challenge is to open up those self-interestedly invested in their own (restricting) rights to the claims, interests, liberties and powers of others not just similarly situated but equally embodiments of extended social spaces of 'overlapping, multiple and intersected modernities' (Ong 1999), developed and developing, we now call the planet.
I am pointedly not claiming that the connections and commitments I have identified here will magically reconfigure the state in their image, will open up the state to the erasure of its own bounded limits. State powers massage rights to their definition and purpose. I mention these rights and configurations as parameters of possibility. If we are to learn anything from reading in tension the likes of race critical theories (Essed and Goldberg 2001) and John Rawls (1971) together, it is that the available means are to be deployed to advance the interests of the most dispossessed and degraded in the society. In doing so, the very character, the personality, of state formation will be transformed. But it is also that the parameters, the 'repertoires of meaning' (Hall 2000), no matter how diminished or expansive, are to be enlarged through collective and individual efforts against the grain, in the face of regulation and repression (Scott 1990). Throughout modernity those most dispossessed and degraded have tended overwhelmingly to be positioned as such through the stated configurations of race. And it is now undeniable that 'society' has global reach, and the global has local social embodiment. These efforts accordingly assume racial reference and global reach.
Rather than conceiving states as 'pastoral regulators' committed to controlling social conditions and populations, is it possible to reconceive states as facilitators coping and coordinating social practices, as the nodal points and contact zones between flows? Can we think of states to be not as structures of imposed governmentalities but as the principal terrains in which social life is played out in all its cultural--what one might characterize as ethnoracial--thickness? In this context, “flexible citizenship is not limited just to the case of 'refugees and business migrants who work in one location while their families are lodged in 'safe havens' elsewhere” (Ong 1999, 214). What Aihwa Ong properly captures by this characterization is the ethnographic description of increasingly widespread practices prompted by and expressive of global lures and pushes. But the characterization requires an opening up to a more general set of conditions as a consequence of all sorts of flows, political and existential terror, commercial and work-seeking opportunity and recreational lure. It raises the possibility of giving to the conception of 'flexible citizenship' a valence of desirable because valuable normativity.
In this light, it is possible surely to be a part of and play a part in multiple sites of identification. Here the commitments would amount to respectful and sensitive consideration in the free flows and movements at and between each of those sites. Responsibilities and commitments as well as freedoms are (to be) exercised both at and between the point(s) of residence. Flexibility to date has been exercised more robustly by those economically best positioned to be mobile, as Ong points out. I am suggesting that the claims on, commitments in relation to and responsibilities regarding citizenship are to be opened up to reflect the dramatically transformed conditions now facing much of the world's population. And to do this requires thinking in a different light, in more open(ed) and flexible forms, about both state and ethnoracial definition.
Modern political theory, at least in the social contract strain from Hobbes onwards, restricts heterogeneity to the state of nature (or in more contemporary terms, to one side of a veil of ignorance). The challenge this delimiting assumption poses is to find a form of social order excising what are perceived on the account as the dangerous challenges of the different. The resultant structure came to be understood as the modern state, homogeneously fashioned. Much of contemporary liberal political theory regarding multicultural states has sought to open outwards the defining principles to make them responsive and responsible to what has been understood as the demanding diversity, the descriptive 'multi-cultural' (Hall 2000, 209), of latter-day social life. I have been concerned throughout to challenge the very presuppositions of this picture. The principal questions with which I close, by contrast, concerns whether it is conceivable to conjure social conditions--a 'state'--against the formative background conditions of constitutive, contrasting and fluctuating heterogeneities, of flexible citizenships and mobile or 'fugitive' democracies (Wolin 1996)? And how far would these conceptions bring us toward not just post-racial but post- and renewably anti-racist states, public spheres and modes of governance?
I close by posing the dilemma critical to these entanglements of ethnoracial and state formation. Against the thick hierarchical and exclusionary histories of racial configuration, potentially any invocation of race in state creation and formation is implicated in reproducing, extending and renewing racist exclusions and derogations. As I have hinted here and argued at length elsewhere, against this background even raceless commitments ignore the history of racially predicated exclusions and the fact that contemporary racially skewed conditions were produced by such histories. Thus any undertaking to address these exclusions and the skewed conditions they (re)generate must be predicated on recognizing and redressing racially prompted and indexed exclusions. The seemingly paradoxical pursuit is that the 'adjectival' (Hall 2000, 209) and causal categories of subjection and subordination are necessarily implicated, though as media of redirection, in the conditions of addressing and redressing the grounds of such subjection and subordination. A vigorous commitment to root out all forms of racist discrimination would be hard pressed to abjure any use of racial categories. Setting agendas by states in racial terms limit possibilities of conception and action to those terms, but absent those terms the programmatic address will tend to miss the mark. The terms accordingly seem to delimit possibilities even as the state’s recognition of its own restrictions is a necessary condition for its transformation.
My concern then has not been with laying out the details of a counter-conception of fugitive or mobile cultures of democratic social arrangements. By fugitive democracies (Wolin 1996) I am suggesting democratic cultures in flight, in all of the complex meanings thus conjured. This includes flight from the histories of ethnoracial constraint; forms of social existence outside of the law of racial derogation and exclusion as well as from cloning cultures individually, biologically and institutionally fashioned; mobilities between worlds of belonging and commitment, work and social relation that mark the histories of almost all in the world now. Fugitive democracies would seek sets of social arrangements hospitable to flight and flux, mobilities and motilities, multiplicities and 'metis-friendly institutions' (Scott 1998, 352 ff.), the complexities of counter-memories vested in cultures of the heterogeneous. “Democracy is a rebellious moment,” Sheldon Wolin (1996, 43) rightfully insists, open to the transformative and unbounded, heterogeneities and uncontainability and to limitless and reiterative negotiation (Hall 2000, 235).
I have been concerned consequently to shift the space of presumption in social conception, intellectual and material, from heterogeneity as state externality, as the outside of modern state formation, and homogeneity as the given, the infrastructure, in state grounding and foundation. My aim has been to reveal the racial forms of state erected upon those presumptions and the logics of modern political theory licensed in those terms. And to press the counter-question about the implications for social arrangements and political theorizing of the pervasiveness of heterogeneities as following from global flows and interfaces, of erasing the imposed boundaries between inside and externality, of group belonging and the spatial grounds for citizenship. How are we to conceive both formatively and substantively the shapings of heterogeneous social worlds beyond racial states without leaving racist states unaddressed? What will states and world systems of states amount to that are no longer regulated through race? How are we to elaborate social commitments and arrangements open to global flows, multiple and overlapping and interfacing modernities, 'multi-identifications' (Essed 2000, 53-56) and flexible citizenships while sustaining trusting and respectful, sensitive and reasonable, just and equitable, free and fair social arrangements? For these are the marks and manifestations of the social beyond not just race but racist states.
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1 This is a much shortened version of the concluding chapter, "Stating the Difference," to my book, The Racial State (Goldberg 2001).
2 Sheldon Wolin argues that already in Locke, homogeneity had been read back into the state of nature as an initiating assumption, but a homogeneity, he writes, "that turns out to have been the suspension of heterogeneity" (Wolin 1996, 40-41).
3 James Scott's terrifically insightful reading of the 'public' and hidden transcripts of resistance to domination is suggestive of the various responses that might be made, individually and collectively, to racist imposition (see especially Scott 1990, 39-40). But the book leaves open a response to the questions I am raising here.
4 The variability and proliferation in the content of contemporary economic practices has taken itself to require for its own sense of possibility and stability precisely the sorts of political and bureaucratic homogenization we are now witnessing. Contemporary economic practices in turn seem to transform the very cultural heterogeities they seek out for new opportunities into the sorts of bland homogenization with which economic managers appear most comfortable.
5 Stephen Steinberg makes this point usefully in a thorough critique of American social science, albeit interpreted strictly in terms of cultural difference, and offers an account of constitutional transformation in post-liberal democratic societies vested solely in these terms.
6 James Tully (1995), to his credit, recognizes the contemporary manifestations of heterogeneity, albeit interpreted strictly in terms of cultural difference, and offers an account of constitutional transformation in post-liberal democratic societies vested solely in these terms.
7 I suspect this enforced imposition is quite deeply related to what Dolan (1994), following Lyotard, characterizes as the "pietistic" theory of politics and what by extension I might refer to as piety in modern state conception.
8 Dolan (1994) provocatively though in perhaps problematic historical terms calls this the "pagan" conception of the political.
Publications by the Author, David Theo Goldberg:
The Racial State
by David Theo Goldberg
Edited by David Theo Goldberg and Ato Quayson
Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning
by David Theo Goldberg
Anatomy of Racism
Edited by David Theo Goldberg
Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader
Edited by David Theo Goldberg
Edited by David Theo Golberg and Michael Krausz
Racial Subjects: Writing on Race in America
by David Theo Goldberg
Ethical Theory and Social Issues: History Texts and Contemporary Readings
by David Theo Goldberg
Race Critical Theories: Text and Context
Edited by Philomena Essed and David Theo Goldberg
Between Law and Culture: Relocating Legal Studies
Edited by David Theo Goldberg, Michael Musheno, and Lisa C. Bower