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Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Equilibrium of Power

For this essay, I’d like to (due very much to the limitation to volume of text) focus on a very small segment of the assigned text The Coming Race, one which I don’t think has been the locus of attention of other essays posted in conjunction with this second lesson. The quotation below is stitched together by segments from page 55 and 56.

“… war between the Vril-discoverers ceased, for they brought the art of destruction to such perfection… If army met army, and both had command of this agency, it could be but to the annihilation of each.”

A disastrously non-fictional perfection of destruction—through which the mere threat of armed conflict would keep the world on its toes (or ducking and covering in bomb shelters, rather)—was, one could argue, realized with the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The following Cold War stands testimony to the power of technology of mass destruction to change utterly and completely the lives of people on a truly global scale.

Interestingly, Edward Bulwer-Lytton describes in his book a scenario where this destructive perfection simply ushers in an era of non-conflict. Not only that, “Man was so completely at the mercy of man,” he continues, “… that all notions of government by force gradually vanished from political systems and forms of law”.

To find a posthuman angle on this segment of text, then, I’d say Bulwer-Lyttons’s book (and not only through the example made here, other means through which technology in the book works socio-political change is for example the means by which the Ana (the name the subterranean hominids have given themselves) light their subterranean world, technological advancements that set them apart from “more barbarous” tribes mentioned in the book to still dwell by volcanic fissures and the like) it quite explicitly renders a depiction of a society in which the unleashing through technology of vast powers come to change irrevocably the balance of power not only between states, but between individual bodies in those social systems. In this sense, it does not make much sense to speak of the Ana as separate from their technological advancements, as those advancements haven’t only come to the define their whole political system and intra-subjective relations, but have also extended and greatly modified (the ubiquitous wings, the restorative healing powers of Vril, a power that apparently grants trance-induced telepathic powers etc.) the capabilities of their material bodies and minds.

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Leon Human
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Hi Sebastian. This is an interesting take on the text and the issue of technology it thematizes. The discussion of the Cold War reminded me of Sloterdijk’s notion of the Bomb as ‘negative enlightenment’ for the West his “The Critique of Cynical Reason”.
Some also see the aftermath of Hiroshima as the Long Peace, an era of non-conflict (at least between Western states). Things then deteriorate rapidly, as in Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of our Nature”, where the persistence of conflicts in the rest of the world is seen as due to their lack of allegiance to Enlightenment ideals, etc.

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