Ten years ago, I read an essay in Critical Inquiry entitled “Removing Knowledge.” In it, Peter Galison, an eminent historian of science and nuclear physicist (since for old guard historians of science, you had to be the latter to be the former) tries to make an educated guess about the scope of secrecy in our present day society–USA circa 2003, 2004. What he manages to convey, with a wink and a nod, is this: what the state makes private through secrecy is what corporations make private through intellectual property. And that for the last few decades, the state has LOOKED TO THE CORPORATIONS to establish legal precedent for this power.
I still don’t know which of these entities is more powerful-corporations or nation-states. Or perhaps we’ve invented a whole new category, the corpor-nation (pun away you clowns.) Corporate inversions are happening everywhere, but they are particularly powerful in this American center of power. And a corporeal inversion occurred a few years ago, as we united citizens may or may not have registered. I mark that moment as a poignant reminder of the self-destruction of these economic and political liberalisms and, more than likely, of the ‘democracies’ such liberalisms have conceived.
I will be using this article in the Fall to begin a discussion about openness. And more importantly, I think, I am using this piece to address closed-ness. Because the ways in which things are closed off are increasingly unlikely to be accessible in and by any kind of public until long after significant decisions–whether they be statecraft, or marketcraft–have already been made. Some will say this is the way it has always been. I don’t know, and can’t know, one way or the other. And this I lament. Sigh.