The Conquest of Space in the Time of Power
Internationale Situationniste #12 (September 1969)
Translated by Paul Sieveking
SCIENCES IN THE service of capital, commodities and the spectacle are nothing other than capitalized knowledge, fetishism of idea and method, alienated image of human thought. Pseudo-dimension of man, its passive knowledge of mediocre reality is the magical justification for a race of slaves.
IT'S BEEN A long time since the power of knowledge has transformed itself into the knowledge of power. Contemporary science, the experimental inheritor of the religion of the Middle Ages, accomplished the same functions in relation to class society: it balances the daily stupidity of men with the eternal intelligence of the specialist. It sings in calculations of the grandeur of the human race, when it is nothing more than the organized sum of its own limitations and alienations.
JUST AS INDUSTRY, destined to free man from work by machinery, has done nothing up to the present but alienate people from the work of the machines, science destined to free man historically and rationally from nature has done nothing but alienate them in an irrational and antihistorical society. The mercenary of separate thought, science works for survival, and therefore cannot conceive of life except as a mechanical or moral formula. In practice, it does not conceive of man as subject, nor human thought as action, and it is for this reason that it ignores history as premeditated activity, and makes men "patients" in its hospitals.
FOUNDED ON THE essential fallacy of its function, science can do nothing but lie to itself. And its pretentious mercenaries have inherited from their ancestor priests the taste and necessity for mystery. A dynamic element in the justification of the state, the scientific body jealously guards its corporate laws and the secrets of Machina ex Deo, which makes it a despicable sect. It is hardly astonishing, for example, that doctors handy-men of the power of work have illegible handwriting: it is the police code of monopolized survival.
BUT IF THE historical and ideological identification of science with temporal powers clearly shows that it is a servant of the state, and therefore wrongs no one, it was necessary to wait until now to see the last separations disappear between class society and a science that wished to remain neutral and "at the service of Humanity." In practice, the actual impossibility of scientific research and application without having access to enormous means, has placed knowledge spectacularly concentrated into the hands of power, and has directed it towards the objectives of the state. Today there is no science that is not in the service of the economy, the military and ideology; and the science of ideology reveals its other side, the ideology of science.
POWER, WHICH cannot tolerate a void, has never forgiven surreal territories for being vague terrains left to the imagination. Since the origin of class society, we have always placed the unreal source of separated power in the skies. When the state justified itself in terms of religion, the heavens were included in the time of religion; now that the state wishes to justify itself scientifically, the sky is in the space of science. From Galileo to Werner von Braun, there is only one question concerning the ideology of the state: religion wished to preserve its time, and therefore has not been concerned with space. Faced with the impossibility of prolonging its time, power must restore its unbounded space.
IF THE HEART transplant is still a miserable artisan technique remaining aware of the chemical and nuclear massacres of science, the "Conquest of the Cosmos" is the greatest spectacular expression of scientific oppression. The spatial scholar is to the small doctor what Interpol is to the policeman on the beat.
THE HEAVENS promised once upon a time by the priests in black cassocks have now in fact been seized by the white-uniformed astronauts. Sexless, neutral, super-bureaucratized, the first men to escape through the atmosphere are the stars of a spectacle that floats day and night over our heads, that can master temperatures and distances, and that tramples us from above as the cosmic dust of God. As an example of survival in its most elevated manifestation, the astronauts make, without wishing to do so, a critique of the earth: condemned to orbital flight under pain of dying from cold and hunger they submissively accept ("technically") the boredom and misery of being satellites. Inhabitants of an urbanism of necessity in their cabins, prisons of scientific gadgets, they are the example in vitro of their contemporaries who do not escape, in spite of distance, from the designs of power. Publicity panel-men, the astronauts float in space or leap about on the moon to make men march to the time of work.
AND IF THE Christian astronauts of the Occident and the cosmonaut bureaucrats of the East amuse themselves with metaphysics and secular morals Gargarin "did not see God" and Borman prayed for the small Earth it is because they workship their special "command service" that must be at the core of their religion. Remember Exupery, the "saint," who spoke profundities from a great altitude, but whose truth lay in his three-fold role of militarist, patriot and idiot.
THE CONQUEST of space is part of the planetary hope of an economic system that, saturated with commodities, power and spectacle, ejaculates in space when it arrives, drooling with its terrestrial contradictions, at the celestial cunt. A new America, space must serve the state in place of its wars and colonies: employing the producer-consumers who will in this way make possible the supersession of the planet's limitations. Province of accumulation, space is destined to become an accumulation of provinces, for which laws, treaties and international tribunals already exist. A new Yalta, the apportionment of space shows the incapacity of the capitalists and bureaucrats to resolve, here on earth, their antagonisms and their struggles.
BUT THE OLD revolutionary mole, which today gnaws at the bases of the system, will destroy the barriers that separate science from the generalized knowledge of historical man. The more ideas of separated power, the more power of separated ideas. Generalized self-management of the permanent transformation of the world by the masses will make science a fundamental banality, and no longer a truth of the state.
MEN WILL ENTER into space to make the universe the playground of the last revolt: that which will go against the limitations that nature imposes. And, smashing the walls that separate men from science today, the conquest of space will no longer be economic or military "promotion," but the blossoming of human liberties and realizations, attained by a race of gods. We will enter into space, not as employees of an astronautic administration, nor as "volunteers" of a state project, but as masters without slaves who review their domains: the entire universe put in a bag for the Workers' Councils.