#rpTEN Speaker: Geoffroy de Lagasnerie - Philosophy's Shooting Star

Traitors? Cowards? Heroes?

Assange, the Wiki-Leaks co-founder, is still exiled in Ecuador's London embassy. Manning, who exposed American war crimes in Iraq, is incarcerated in the USA. Snowden revealed NSA surveillance programmes and is still attempting to leave Moscow for exile. These three whistleblowers are considered traitors by some and, in their isolation, could be seen as having failed. For others, they are heroes and Geoffroy de Lagasnerie's current book “The Art of the Revolt: Snowden, Assange, Manning” (Fayard) describes them as prototypes of new political entities.

The French intellectual, now in his early 30s, teaches philosophy at a Parisian arts college. His latest book is dense with theory but getting through it is well worth the time! The three whistleblowers share key experiences: their initial “covert actions”, made possible by digital tools and the internet, and subsequent escape, or rather exile. Geoffroy sees their shared strategies as new way for political action and argues that Assange, Manning and Snowden have newly defined the “political stage”.

“New” in the sense that these forms of resistance are not a form of conventional “civil disobedience”. They are not trying to right the legal wrongs; traditionally, people might practice disobedience, be imprisoned and serve their sentence – all action having taken place within the criticised system. Their form of political action is new in that, with the help of the internet, they remove themselves from the existing political system, whose rules and actions are seen as the core problem.

We can certainly argue that open discussion is critical to political action – something that is often not practised within digital spaces. However, Geoffroy's theories present impressive thought experiments. He connects his analysis of Assange, Manning and Snowden to an idea of a new democratic state, the necessity of which is shown by the form of resistance practised by said whistleblowers. Anonymity and evasion were the necessary means for them to follow their conscience, seeing as the (nation) state not only offered no protection for them to express their critiques but actively responded with criminal proceedings.

The conclusion is clear: political entities must (be able to) criticise the state from the outside, thus have to be positioned outside of the state as a “World citizen”. The “political stage” has to be redefined, people must be allowed to freely choose their communities and national identities are no longer convincing parameters!

Geoffroy is amongst the most sought-after philosophers of the day. His book has been critically well received and he will soon be appearing in a detailed interview on German public television. In early February, he spoke at Transmediale and was interviewed about the terror attack in Paris last Fall. We are pleasec to welcome Geoffroy to #rpTEN.


Photo Credit: Raphael Schneider