Conflicting Logics: Speed and the Moral Imagination

The following excerpt is the introduction to an essay I recently wrote examining the anticipation of war (in the name of freedom, security, and peace) and the anticipation of the Kingdom of God (the peace of Christ).  I didn’t want to fill up the blog with the entire essay, however, anyone wanting or willing to read the whole essay can let me know and I’d be more than happy to send them (or perhaps post) the entire draft. Criticism is quite welcome and encouraged as this essay will likely, in one form or another, appear as a chapter in my thesis.

Conflicting Logics: Speed and the Moral Imagination

The world is at war.  It is a war of time.  With the creation of the atomic bomb and nuclear war dancing on the threshold of the present and future, comes the obsessive anticipatory preparation for war.  And rightly so, the military and bourgeois convince us.  But the war of weapons of mass destruction, writes Paul Virilio, is not so much about the capabilities of the weapons themselves as it is about the speed in which they can be delivered.  Hence, the anxiety and preparation; “the state of emergency” as Virilio names it.[1] In this state of emergency, a society of control, the military strategically deploys its personnel among the proletariat; a disguise perhaps, but also recruitment.  The working class becomes the engine of the war machine.[2] The society of control seeks to grasp the powers of various institutions and structures, (eg: schools, hospitals, factories) and to manipulate their movement and direction.  The goal is automation; that the power running through the veins of multiple structures of society can power the society itself.  Speed is the codification and automation of power.[3] Speed is the logic and technological driver of war.  The society of control is the society of the war of time.  This is, of course, lest we forget, all in the name of defence, security, freedom, and ultimately peace.

But I question the integrity of the society of control and its preoccupation with the automated war machine as the securing of peace.  I would therefore like to explore an alternative logic of peace; one that does not seek to preserve peace by erecting a hegemony of speed, accuracy, and destruction.  This logic of peace forms (and is formed in) a radically different kind of anticipation, the anticipation of the Kingdom of God, whose logic is the peace of Christ.  This anticipation too requires preparation; the pacifist (the soldier of the peace of Christ, if you will) is not at all passive.  Pacifism requires work.  I will, therefore, argue that the outworking of this alternative logic is essentially located in what John Paul Lederach calls the moral imagination. The moral imagination is “the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist.”[4] The capacity for the moral imagination is cultivated by practicing the following four disciplines which must be held together: “the capacity to imagine ourselves in a web of relationships that includes our enemies; the ability to sustain a paradoxical curiosity that embraces complexity without reliance on dualistic polarity; the fundamental belief in and pursuit of the creative act; and the acceptance of the inherent risk of stepping into the mystery of the unknown that lies beyond the far too familiar landscape of violence.”[5] Drawing substantially on the work of John Howard Yoder I will discuss each of these disciplines in light of their formation by various elements of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In doing so, I will also set both the logic and anticipation of the peace of Christ against the logic and anticipation of the war of time (or the peace of the world).  In other words, I will present two conflicting logics of peace: speed and the moral imagination.


[1] Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics, trans. Mark Polizzotti (New York: Semiotext(e), 1986). 46-57.

[2] Paul Virilo, “The End of the Proletariat,” in The Paul Virilio Reader, ed. Steve Redhead (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).25-43.

[3] Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Societies of Control,” October 59, Winter 1992, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, pp.3-7: http://roundtable.kein.orge/node/541.

[4] John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005). ix.

[5] Lederach, The Moral Imagination, 5.

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5 comments on “Conflicting Logics: Speed and the Moral Imagination

  1. Theophilus says:

    Is sloth, of the seven deadly sins fame, addressed in this piece in any way?

  2. Kampen says:

    No, speed/automation would be the sin accused herein.

  3. Kampen says:

    Do you think the essay/the moral imagination (from what you can gather in the introduction) sounds nostalgic?

    • Theophilus says:

      From what I’ve seen so far, it doesn’t sound like you’re saying that the moral imagination existed in the past and has been lost in the present, so I don’t think it counts as nostalgic. And for what it’s worth, it appears to me that the logic of speed is an attempt to get past the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction. This dance between MAD and speed has been ongoing for years. For example, Orville Wright, the inventor of the airplane, thought the power of aerial surveillance would make war prohibitively costly and that airplanes would thus be a tool for peace. That did not so much happen. So if you avoid tying your concepts to the present and the past, respectively, I think you will have avoided the nostalgia trap.

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