Res Publica ex Machina: On Neocybernetic Governance and the End of Politics

In Anna-Verena Nosthoff & Felix Maschewski (eds.), Let's Get Physical, INC Reader. Amsterdam: pp. 196-211 (2020)
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The article critically investigates various approaches to “smart” governance, from algorithmic regulation (O’Reilly), fluid technocracy (P. Khanna), “smart states” (Noveck), nudge theory (Thaler/ Sunstein) and social physics (Alex Pentland). It specifically evaluates the cybernetic origins of these approaches and interprets them as pragmatic actualisations of earlier cybernetic models of the state (Lang, Deutsch) against the current background of surveillance capitalism. The authors argue that cybernetic thinking rests on a reductive model of participation and a limited concept of “the political” (whereby the systemic focus is on adaptive behaviour, stability and self-preservation instead of antagonism and dissensus). This limitation becomes particularly articulate in the aforementioned neocybernetic models of governance, and is even intensified in the contemporary monopolistic digital infrastructure.

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Anna-Verena Nosthoff
Goethe University Frankfurt


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