Ether 7 Los Angeles and the Theology of Ether

In Empire, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt describe the new world order created by the global spread of capital and communications technology. If national governments are withering away under the deterritorializing and liquefying forces of capitalism, Negri and Hardt claim that a new sovereignty is emerging, a transnational order they call Empire. This diffuse network supplants the old imperial model of center and periphery, replacing it with a placeless network of flows and hierarchies.

Empire is not ruled by one country, one people, or one place. Instead its force emanates from the global planetary network itself. Imperial sovereignty functions through three tiers that serve as checks and balances on each other while extending its power to all realms: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. These forms of sovereignty correspond to the Bomb (US military superiority and nuclear supremacy), Money (the economic wealth of the G7), and Ether (the realm of the media, culture, and the global telecommunicational network). Although these tiers are placeless – any momentary fixities are quickly destabilized by the deterritorializing nature of Empire itself – Hardt and Negri suggest that “new Romes” appear to control them: Washington DC for the Bomb, New York for Money, and Los Angeles for Ether.

Ether has an anesthetic quality. It separates the mind from the body, and reduces the dominance of physical sensation while maintaining the consciousness of the patient. Under the spell of its influence, the most intimate and cherished of all physical space, that of the body itself, can be assaulted at will. The use of ether to reduce pain in childbirth was originally banned by the Church, which argued that the suffering of Original Sin should not be relieved.

Los Angeles is the center of production for ether. Hollywood, as both a mythic place and a mode of production is the telematic inhaler for the rest of the world, a sponge so soaked and saturated with ether that it can anaesthetize the entire world. Now that we have Los Angeles, we no longer need other cities. Los Angeles has been designed as a giant stage set, ready for broadcast. As a generic background, it can be exported to any location.