In Empire, Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt describe the new world order created by the global spread of capital and communications technology, a transnational order that has emerged to supplant the bipolar era of the Cold War and the superpowers. With national governments withering away under the deterritorializing and liquefying forces of capitalism, Negri and Hardt claim that a new sovereignty is emerging. Like Baran’s ideal system, this diffuse network of Empire 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 D.C. for the Bomb, New York for Money, and Los Angeles for Ether.
Ether is the most historically advanced of these three forms of power. An anesthetic, Ether 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.
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 with Ether that it can anaesthetize the entire world. Now that we have Los Angeles, we no longer need other cities. Designed as a giant stage set, Los Angeles is always ready for broadcast. As a generic background, it can be exported to any location.