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Demononics Leibniz and the antinomy of modern power

Kyle mcgee

The critical ethos that stands behind much of the most impressive and important work on modern forms of power seems to have constructed its own prison. A free and open concept of power – the concept that has guided so many enlightening histories of the present – has revealed itself as yet another technology of foreclosure. Two apparently opposed approaches to power in political philosophy – political theology and biopower – are the contemporary heirs to this critical tradition. Each can be described loosely as a post-Marxist discourse on power advancing something like a theory of radical democracy on its normative edge. Despite the shortcomings I set forth throughout my discussion, and those I omit, these remain the farthest reaching, the most provocative and the most sophisticated theories of power and democracy in circulation today. Together, however, they compose an antinomy. Its resolution would carry us swiftly out of democratic theory and, therefore, beyond the principle of modern power.

Applying pressure to the antinomy yields an alternative concept of power that belongs to a non-democratic discourse. Rather than implanting power in an indeterminate situs, a field of contestation premissed only on the persistence of contestability, in short a fully democratic context, we will see power taking on a fundamentally delimited quality. More concretely, we will see that this form of power is integral to the formation of a macroeconomy of mediations that is inaccessible from the perspective of contemporary political theology or biopower, indeed of democratic theory itself. The antinomy, as I treat it, finds resolution by way of the non-democratic thought of G.W. Leibniz, and pursuing this thought confronts us with the need to reformulate the nature of power, its delimitations and its connections in political space. Although the usual constraints preclude a fully adequate and satisfying elaboration in this text, the outline of a new vision of Leibniz’s political philosophy accompanies this exploration of power. In the process of unpacking these allegations, in fact, the received image of Leibniz’s politics is complicated and a number of minor interventions – most notably a rereading of Leibniz’s theory of sovereignty through his monadology – serve to reconfigure it. The conclusion restates some key findings that gesture towards a finally non-democratic political philosophy for the present.

The structure of the antinomy

Few concepts prove as problematic as that of power.

At once near and far, solid and ephemeral, visible and invisible, power constantly evades the socio-political vocabularies designed to capture and frame it. For this reason, famously, Michel Foucault claimed that it is not properly an object, nor even an ‘it’, so much as a set of constantly mutating relations situated in a context they themselves constantly transform. [1] For Foucault and for a whole host of philosophers, anthropologists and sociologists following in his wake, power could no longer be studied credibly through the matrices of sovereignty, law and the state. Top-down hierarchical structures no longer spoke to the real operativity of power; though they may remain in place, they have shed their archetypicality and have become inert, ossified, inessential. During and after the eighteenth century, the narrative goes, power migrated to microrelations and specific practices, while building up knowledges, institutions and all-encompassing logics of self-regulation that more accurately characterize the late-twentieth-century experience of power. The Church model, or the juridical model, organized around the concept of the sovereign, could no longer describe or explain the complexity of modern power relations and microprocesses disseminated across the social field.

Yet this critical conception of power has, in the view of a growing chorus of dissenters, itself ossified and become dogmatic. More, it threatens to eclipse major processes and events that would otherwise appear as abuses of power (qua authority), and to undermine any justification for political commitment directed towards their extinction. The forest, in other words, recedes into the wood. The 1990s and early 2000s saw an onslaught of theories of power that reintroduced traditional elements – theological, juridical and political – jettisoned by Foucault. Some, like Gianni Vattimo, register the critical pathway explored by Foucault as a cul-desac and basically abandon it, tending to return to those traditional elements and especially to theological sources and concepts. [2] Others, like Giorgio Agamben, claim a Foucauldian inheritance even as they sing the sacred and preach the profane. [3] More generally, interest from all quarters – from radical democratic socialists like Chantal Mouffe to liberals like David Dyzenhaus – in resuscitating certain dimensions of Carl Schmitt’s thought expresses this movement away from the concept of power advanced in Foucault’s writings.

Post-Schmittian thinkers of power – that is, those (regardless of their affiliation with Schmitt) who labour under the impression that all political concepts have a theological origin and history, or a theological future – can be called political theologians. They share at least two commitments: the one just mentioned and one to the effect that the political externalizes the conditions of its operativity; that is, casts them into an opaque and transempirical domain open only to thought. In many ways political theology aspires to locate the traces of sovereign power in a post-juridical environment, a biopolitical environment organized according to managerial governmentality. Thus Agamben: [T]he struggle is not against God or supreme sovereignty … but against the angels, the messengers and the functionaries who appear to represent it.… It is not a question … of a conflict with the divine, but of a conflict with the fabrications of men (or of angels) regarding the divine. [4]

Thus Vattimo: what must be hermeneutically recuperated is first of all the ‘discovery’ that there are no ultimate foundations before which our freedom should stop, which is instead what authorities of every kind that want to rule precisely in the name of these ultimate foundations have always sought to make us believe. [5]

Sovereignty lives in its virtual aftershocks, perhaps, but also in its very real ministers and temporal vicars.

This resurrection of the political theology of sovereign power coexists uneasily with other important lines of research and thought regarding power. Recently, and most prominently, Michael Hardt and Toni Negri intensified their insurgency against the conceptual scaffoldings of political theology in the first part of Common Wealth. [6] Envisioning power as an authoritarian command structure centring on some ineluctably absent transcendent source, whether God, the State, or the People, not only mistakes and mystifies the reality of power but also, in that same movement, provides theoretical grounds for justifying the continued exploitation of the multitude of the world’s poor, the raced, the colonized, the disenfranchised. The second moment of this complaint can be addressed only by correcting the first: the productive and transformative capacities of power, artfully worked out by Foucault in his writings on biopower, need to take precedence once again, this time forcibly removing all traces of transcendence from the scene. On the intimate connections between racism, colonialism and the modern,

Hardt and Negri write:

Recognizing modernity’s racism and coloniality as biopower helps accomplish [a] shift of perspective by emphasizing that power regulates not just forms of consciousness but forms of life, which entirely invest the subordinated subjects, and by focusing attention on the fact that this power is productive – not only a force of prohibition and repression external to subjectivities but also and more important one that internally generates them. [7]

Traversing the capillaries of the social body, the efficacity of biopower is strictly coextensive with the bodies it runs up against, shaping the forms of life they enact and embody in that encounter.

Hardt and Negri conceive of biopower, then, in a way that offers access to the manufacture of subjectivity, which in turn opens onto the political-economic question of biopolitical or immaterial labour, the new hegemonic form of labour under imperial capital. [8]

Hence, the only truly relevant sovereign power is that of transnational corporations – those social beings financing the common production of new affects, knowledges, images, and other immaterial and intellectual properties, and deploying a globe-spanning fabric of non-stop production, service and circulation to swoop up the proceeds – together with the capital markets that loosely regulate them, and their parliamentary and institutional enablers. This idea of power takes Foucault’s key insights more seriously than those of classical political theorists like, say, Hobbes or Rousseau or even historical materialists like Engels, for whom power means a coercive exteriority produced within social structures. Nevertheless, it displays a kind of fidelity to these latter by folding biopower into the structure of Empire, a post-sovereign sovereignty that, while lacking the rigid command structure common to hierarchical state apparatuses, maintains a grip over social life that is indistinguishable in substance from that of the competing model of power. Both Foucauldian biopower and political-theological authority structures inhabit Hardt and Negri’s trilogy, though the former play the more crucial role. [9]

What Foucault does with power entails a sacrifice – self-conscious, to be sure, but no less a loss for that – in which the great general economy of power vanishes.

The political theologians of power, including Vattimo and Agamben, represent an acknowledgment of this, as do, in their way, the critics of Empire. The renascent appeal of political philosophy and of the philosophy of power more generally to an urgent attitude regarding the structure and precise operation of sovereignty in a biopolitically governed, managerialist world expresses something like a consensus about the Foucauldian sacrifice, that it is a gesture to be, in some sense and to some degree, regretted.

Yet, as Jacques Lacan might say, there are at least two ways to fail to recuperate what Foucault sacrifices.

In spite of the fragile consensus outlined above, the two prominent modes of thought about power today are indeed two. Though they share in a historical or philological link to Spinoza in the Tractatus TheologicoPoliticus, and both emerge from a tradition in which power is formulated as that which stands above, the directions explored and the commitments held by the political theologians and the theorists of biopower differ in important ways. [10] For one, the organizing principle defining the very nature of power – crudely, the question of transcendence and immanence – cuts in two ways distinct enough to justify, or at least enable, proponents of either orientation to assert that proponents of the other have abolished politics entirely. [11] For the theological conception of power, as in Agamben’s theory of sovereign power in its relation to bare life, some original caesura or structural noncoincidence, like that between bios and zoe or the norm and the exception, is required to be posited; for biopower, on the other hand, what is required is a modicum of freedom, as biopower weaves itself seamlessly into what is called the will. On the former view, politics and power inhabit a sort of dismal heaven transcending the field of social action, while on the latter it is difficult to locate with precision any well-formed or robust notion of the political at all, or any meaningful distinction between productive biopower and the free subjectivities produced. Call political theology’s failure the infinite mediation thesis, and biopower’s failure the immediacy thesis. (And – in so far as political theology’s infinite mediation thesis, at least as formulated by Agamben, promotes a paradoxical sort of infinite Distance that is also a kind of immediacy; the sovereign standing at once atop and beyond the structures of power, at once incorporated in and subtracted from power, together with the production of sacred man as its inversion and leverage – it fails twice itself. [12] ) These are basically legitimate objections articulable only within the antinomic framework composed by the two theoretical orientations when put into dialogue with one another, and neither has been, or likely can be, convincingly answered.

This, then, is a metapolitical antinomy. To frame it and, a fortiori, to move beyond it is already a political act in which no party is neutral. Of the many sophisticated procedures we might imagine equal to the task – the dialectical negation, the deconstructive deferral, the disjunctive synthesis – here, only a modest and fairly traditional procedure is used: to locate in the antinomy its unthought nomos, or the principle that governs its self-difference.

The jurisprudential and political thought of G.W.

Leibniz can be recruited to locate that nomos and so to resolve the antinomy. Leibniz, a rare mind exhibiting equal sensitivity in matters speculative and practical, is uniquely situated to weigh in on this problem because he begins from classical political-theological premisses, but transforms the question of power in ways that both challenge that framework and provide a unique and underexplored perspective on the political production of subjectivities and objectivities. Debate continues to swirl around the question of power in Leibniz. What is clear is that, early in his career, he endorsed a Hobbesian equation of justice with the will of the powerful. [13] This uncritical, deterministic position dissolves as Leibniz’s thought matures and as Hobbes becomes for him the foremost philosopher of tyranny. Later texts on justice and power offer inconsistent claims that foreclose the possibility of plausibly ascribing to Leibniz one coherent politico-legal theory.

Despite and because of that inconsistency, Leibniz is a fascinating voice on the question of power. Like a kaleidoscope, it seems that his post-Hobbesian texts offer a snapshot of every permutation, a germinal image of every possible figure of power to come.

But given that ambiguous plenitude, one function of Leibniz’s God – that is, selection, choosing the best in order to unfold its potentiality – devolves to us, his twenty-first-century interlocutors. In what follows I select and work with one such image of power, aiming to excavate the governing nomos of the antinomy of infinite mediation and immediacy in order to bring it into question.


As Kant knew, Leibniz’s philosophical project constitutes something like a cosmological continuum. [14]

Leibniz equipped himself with the conceptual equivalents of the microscope and the telescope, peering as deeply into the molecular formations of material nature (‘each part of matter can be thought of as a garden full of plants or as a pond full of fish’ [15] ) and human senseperception (‘a perception of light or colour of which we are aware is made up of many minute perceptions of which we are unaware’ [16] ) as into the intricacies of geologic and cosmic harmonies (‘who does not see that these disorders [deluges and other such terrestrial events] have served to bring things to the point where they now are, that we owe to them our riches and our comforts, and that through their agency this globe became fit for cultivation by us’ [17] ) and international political relations. Every phenomenon bears within it a philosophical conundrum: what is its individuality, its singularity, its distinct placement in the cosmology of nature-society? What portion of the metaphysical continuum does it incarnate, produce or reproduce?

Almost without qualification, this sort of question always underlies Leibniz’s serious investigations – for example those into the nature of matter, of freedom, and of knowledge, even where it fails to show itself as such. It is true as well for those instances in which Leibniz undertook to rethink the concept of power as he received it from Hobbes.

Naturally, the principal expression of this cosmological continuum is the Monadologie. The Monadologie is itself the structure and the language of the continuum: it offers a univocal plane on which the universe of material, moral and spiritual things relate and thus reflects the entire cosmology more completely than any other text. The monads organize the continuum and their logic explains the relations of all things and events.

Yet the Monadologie is a late text (1714), whereas most of Leibniz’s important political work was composed in the decades before the 1710s. What do we make of the fact that moral, legal and political problems are worked out by Leibniz under the metaphysical auspices of pre-monadological frameworks, such as the complete concept doctrine of the Discours or the Neue System of pre-established harmony? To be sure, these are not incompatible with the mature monadology, and they even prefigure it, but they are different nonetheless. In fact, however, their existence only further justifies taking the Monadologie as the key to the practical philosophy articulated between the 1670s and 1710: the inconsistencies that mark Leibniz’s treatment of law, ethics and politics that we have already noted should be considered a by-product of the conditions of his thought; that is, the lack of an adequate formal ontology. At times Leibniz can be seen reaching for concepts that do not yet exist, stretching given concepts to and beyond their breaking points, and ending up with a shadowy set of familiar terms underwritten by radically unfamiliar ideas. The Monadologie alone makes these noir concepts intelligible.

And this is the case with Leibniz’s political theory of sovereignty and power. An important text illustrates as much. Recently, theorists of international law have taken new interest in Leibniz due to a text in which he develops a concept of international legal personality well ahead of its time, and therefore well out of joint with his own. [18] This text, Caesarinus Fürstenerius (De Suprematu Principum Germaniae), claims that the nobles presiding over small German principalities are legal sovereigns for the purposes of international relations. [19] More broadly, the text is a dissertation on the concept of sovereignty and the philosophy of power. In it, Leibniz subjects that concept to a battery of interrogations from multiple perspectives, poking a thousand minuscule holes and finally engineering what amounts to a fragmentation of the right of sovereignty. Though Leibniz’s well-noted counterrevolutionary disposition prevents him from reaping the seed he sows, one conclusion his political dialectic justifies is that power in international affairs, rather than emanating from independent sovereigns enjoying territorial hegemony and thus descending from on high, originates with a plurality of nanosovereigns and ascends by grades. Sub-state nanosovereigns are thus mediators, political monads, that are overlooked in the Hobbesian–Pufendorfian politics of the day. As I explain in this and the following section, Leibniz’s philosophy of power, to which the Caesarinus belongs, can be described as a political monadology adhering to the principles of the Monadologie.

The shift in the Caesarinus – from transcendent sovereign to nanosovereign – mirrors that enacted in the Monadologie itself vis-à-vis Spinoza’s substance:

from one to many. Leibniz, deeply dissatisfied with monism in ontology as in politics, finds mediating agents everywhere and strives to account for them in his various discourses. Moving away from international relations, we see the logic of the monads cropping up in other domains (often avant la lettre).

And the idea of power as a kind of mediation often appears alongside the monadological, likely because the logic of monads is also the logic of mediation.

One of the better-known articulations of power in Leibniz appears throughout the Essais de Théodicée (1710), though the key ideas found therein are mostly recycled from earlier, unpublished works. A famous passage suggests that power is that which converts right into fact, de jure into de facto, in a linear process of actualization. [20] A better way of framing the Théodicée’s basic concept of power is to say: power names the agency mediating or regulating the no-man’s-land between right and fact. God, the finally dominant monad in Leibniz’s chain of being, selects the best possible world based on his understanding and his will, intervening in the ‘land of the possible realities’, [21] or the order of essences, to determine existents. This selection or determination exhibits his power. The passing over of beings from right into fact, virtual and essential into actual and existential, is the creative Act of God. Power operates between two realms of the real, relating them in so far as they are distinct, and maintaining them in their distance.

The structure of this act mirrors God’s monadic structure. Monads, after all, from the lowliest, the most dormant and subservient, to the most rational and dominant, bear the same qualitative features: a capacity for representation and a drive to move, or perception and appetition. [22] For rational and arch-rational monads, like God, the faculty of representation or perception is elevated and called the understanding, as the appetite is elevated and called the will. As God’s power precedes and mediates his understanding and will, the created monad’s power precedes and mediates its perception, knowledge, or other representations and its appetition, desire or other drives. [23] Even in baser monads, even bare or naked monads, this structure is replicated all the way down the continuum of beings: what is called perception in higher monads corresponds to passive sensitivity in baser ones, and appetition corresponds to the similarly less intense conatus that lies at the root of the motion of bodies. Every being, in other words, represents impressions experienced as coming from outside itself, and these constantly change so that their order or continuity is experienced spontaneously as from within. As impressions or representations cross over into actual subjective states, they exhibit the power of the monad. The difference between monadic exteriority and interiority – which, note well, also constitutes the differentiation between monads themselves24 – is controlled by that power. At the heart of the monad lies this mediating power, its own nomos that is irreducible to its perceptions or appetites. Every monad is fundamentally a mediator reflecting and differentiating itself from every other. It follows that every mediator is God, a god.

If we return to Leibniz’s politics and the Caesarinus in particular, we can perhaps begin to make sense of what a political monadology is. [25] The most attentive interlocutors on the question of politics and state in Leibniz typically interpret the Caesarinus and related political writings within the quasi-democratic, protofederalist framework suggested by Leibniz’s discussions of confederation, union and the peculiarities of the hybrid medieval-modern concept of sovereignty. [26]

On that reading, Leibniz promotes an unorthodox vision of governmental organization: It is possible (and the Holy Roman Empire embodies this possibility in fact) for territorial states and principalities to band together in the formation of a superordinate body politic of which the states are the components, without thereby sacrificing their traditional supremacy over their territories. As a consequence, sovereignty is relative or comparative instead of absolute, and multipolar or divisible instead of unitary. A supra-state union enjoying sovereignty over its members does not, in principle, annul the sovereignty such members enjoy over their own subjects and territories; hence Leibniz anticipates modern federalism. As to the quasidemocratic nature of this species of federalism, while no real suggestion of popular sovereignty or consent of the governed appears in the Caesarinus (and while Leibniz is noted generally for his aristocratic disposition, and never a taste for democracy per se), commentators have picked up on the slippage between the pluralization of sovereign power (from one Emperor to several Princes, for example) and the democratization of sovereign power. [27]

But the gradations and relativity inserted into the constitution of sovereignty in the Caesarinus evince a more sweeping movement in Leibniz’s political thought than this interpretation indicates, and one, moreover, that is consistent with his monadological metaphysics.

Relativizing and pluralizing sovereignty does indeed profoundly undercut the unitary absolutism of, for example, Bodin or Hobbes, but the end result – a concept of divided sovereignty – is not necessarily federalistic, and neither is it in any way democratic.

If there is some variety of federalism to be found, it is irreducible to what the Enlightenment generations, or we today, understand by that term. Instead of a neatly confined, dual-tiered governmental structure of legitimate authority, a system of divided but coequal government, ‘federalism’ would have to indicate a more complicated, multi-tiered structure: a multiplicity of power. After all, there is no philosophical justification (though there may be historico-empirical grounds) for limiting the scope of Leibniz’s procedure of proliferation. As a theory of the multiplicity of power, federalism would describe the stratification and segmentation of different regimes of mediators.

The subject matter of the Caesarinus dictates that the Princes occupy Leibniz’s attention in this reflection, but the political-theoretical logic supporting his deconstruction of sovereignty is of far wider applicability.

By rights, all political actors, regardless of their affiliations with a state or an empire, are nanosovereigns like the Princes.

Nanosovereigns are political monads. As bundles of perception and appetition strung together by a thread of power, a singular nomos, monads direct their own course while registering and reflecting the forces of others. As Leibniz often claims, monadic representation is universal in breadth or extension – each monad reflects all the others – but strictly delimited in depth or intensity. [28] That is to say, only a comparatively minuscule portion of the cosmological continuum is reflected with clarity and distinctness; the remainder is expressed obscurely and confusedly. In the vernacular of the Monadologie, a given monad reflects clearly only the subdivision that surrounds it. Likewise, political monads dimly register the entire composition of political space in which they are embedded and which they themselves compose, but distinctly reflect the subdivision constituted in an act of mediation. Monads are political when, and in so far as, they mediate other monads, at once reflect and translate other forces. A subdivision of political space has no other source than this creative act of mediation. Because each monad represents the universe from its own unique point of view, apparent disharmonies and contradictions show up with some regularity; mediation can involve the favouring of one representation over another, for instance. (The precise mechanisms of the various species of mediation are themes best left to separate explorations, however.) Every case of mediation differs.

Now, all monads are linked, every monad reflects all the others, but not every monad mediates between all the others. On the contrary, reflection and mediation are different mechanisms; representation or perception is formally distinct from power, and is itself an object of mediation in the structuration of the monad, as we have seen. [29] The linkage between mediating monads is the only dimension of the cosmological continuum a political monadology makes thematic; the generalized system of all (merely reflective) monads that Leibniz’s metaphysics considers is not at issue.

The Caesarinus makes clear that political monads, like all monads, are simple beings having no parts.

However, ontological simplicity, as Leibniz frequently points out, does not preclude qualitative plurality. A mathematical point is simple yet populated by ‘an infinity of angles formed by the lines which meet in it’. [30] It is this monad logic that best explains Leibniz’s reflection on confederation and union in the Caesarinus. A confederation, Leibniz says, is a relatively inchoate group of states allied by mere words and possibly military cooperation. [31] Philosophically, or monadologically, a confederation is a mere aggregatum, not a being in its own right. It is more like a heap of grain or a herd of sheep than a soul or a point. By contrast, a political union does constitute a new being that is not reducible to its components, that in truth has no components, though it has qualitative plurality.

Like lines and planes passing through a point, the member states to a union localize it, qualify it and give it its determination and singularity, but they are not themselves it. A union, for Leibniz, involves the setting up of an administration empowered to make demands upon the member states. This ontological simplicity of unions, and the corollary ontological compoundedness of confederations, merit a brief further comment in connection with what I have called the multiplicity of power, and what others have called federalism or proto-federalism.

The federal state, or the union itself, is one possible regime of power in one possible organization of the political space. The federalist interpretation of Leibniz’s politics is justified in claiming that, in so far as the Caesarinus manages to shatter the early modern image of sovereignty while succeeding in the evasion of medieval corporatism, Leibniz constructs a sui generis theory of the state whose reflection can be seen in, for instance, the United States Constitution of 1787 (or perhaps post-Reconstruction America). However, the historical trajectory of the concept of federalism need not restrict the philosophical interest of Leibniz’s politics. Given the light shed on various political noir concepts – union, confederation, sovereignty, power – by the Monadologie, the Leibnizian theory of sovereignty is better understood, or at least profitably understood, as a theory about the multiplicity of power. On this reading, a union is a nanosovereign or a political monad that happens to mediate principally between nanosovereigns that enjoy territorial hegemony, and whose representations are furnished by those mediated monads. Those, in turn, mediate others. At least two distinct regimes of mediation are at stake, then: a federal mediation of (what Leibniz would have called) state affairs, and a state mediation of (what Leibniz would have called) private or social affairs. Using conventional political distinctions, the range of mediations can be extended to include the metropolitan, county, municipal, collegial, familial… and a great many poorly institutionalized but very real sorts of association and mediation that legal divisions do not reflect. We can see several strata of mediation coming obscurely into relief, and the following section attends to these.


The metapolitical antinomy of modern power is governed by the principle of mediation. Power cannot but be thought as mediation. Like the classical Kantian antinomies, this one threatens to cripple reason’s creativity and to lead politics into tragedy, as I explain below. However, when we foreground this notion which generally passes sub silentio in political discourses, something happens. By bringing the principle of mediation into relief, we can see that the antinomy is not as asphyxiating as it first seems, that it consists not exactly in the petrifaction of political reason, but more precisely in the generalization of a certain economy of mediation. To circumscribe that economy’s field of application would bring us a long way towards surpassing the antinomy. To that end, let us name the economy of mediation that dominates theoretical politics and that is generalized as a matter of course in political writing; it can be called the economy of the Large and the Small. [32] Within the paradigm that it sustains, power cannot be thought otherwise than as either the Large or the Small. [33] Moreover, these denominations are finally two poles of one system. What is needed, then, is a notion of power as mediation that circumvents this entire circuit: a form of mediation that does not participate in or support the economy of the Large and the Small. Given such a form, the two pinnacle expressions of the principle of mediation – the infinite mediation thesis of political theology and the immediacy thesis of biopower – could no longer dominate the field of politics with their logics of perverse necessity or of biopolitical (un)freedom. The democratic politics of the Large and the Small would give way, despite themselves, to a different kind of politics. Mediation thus remains the locus of power, for every mediator is a god, but the whole general economy of nomoi, of mediators constituting political space, previously eclipsed by the shadow of infinite Distance or glimpsed dimly and confusedly in radical immanence, opens up before us in its radiant interconnectivity.

A politics that does not ground itself in the power principle of the Large and the Small, and that thus evades capture in the metapolitical antinomy of power, materializes in this way. But what is the harm in remaining ‘trapped’ by the metapolitical antinomy?

Aside from propagating doxa, an offence in itself, it is this: a whole universe of political problems remains obscure or disappears entirely, while it should take pride of place if alternative forms of organization are sought; moreover, the collective inability to understand power in any manner other than the prevailing one stifles the creative force that drives political philosophy. My contention is that the Foucauldian sacrifice discussed at the outset of this article – the habitual or systematic neglect of the macroeconomy of power, of the order of nomoi – can be reconsidered, if not undone, by resolving the antinomy in the way outlined in this article. To collaborate in this neglect is, however, to lead politics into tragedy and (unproductive) undecidability.

How so? First, consider the perspective of the Small, or of immediacy. Here, each detail, every bit of mundane minutiae, somehow facilitates a vast objective scheme geared towards the moulding and control – the subjectivation – of individuals. By performing their socially sanctioned roles, individuals reinforce the logic of praxico-discursive entrapment. They thus perform their own enslavement, regarding it as their duty or, indeed, their salvation. One point to note, then, is that the economy of the Small is nothing else but the economy of the Large narrated from a different point of view: all the structures, fields, constraints, dispositifs that shape hearts and minds feed off the micro-social and micro-political relations that in turn constitute those structures, and so on.

Now, consider the perspective of the Large, or of infinite mediation. Here, the absent centre, like a black hole, draws all and everything into a peculiar proximity that is at once palpable and irregardable. Like the Law in Kafka’s fable, nothing lies behind the gates, but its attraction is irresistible, gravitational. And, as in Kafka, the gatekeeper, the functionary, the minister or administrator, is the object of study and critique, the corporeal vessel and intermediary of sovereign power.

Once again, the economy of the Large is nothing else but the economy of the Small, only retold: the bureaucrats and the angels are so many gatekeepers that, as it were, mediate immediately.

The situation organized by the antinomy is thus one of undecidability, but not of the productive variety.

Instead, it is the sterile kind of undecidability that follows from the looming presence of the only game in town, the absence of any meaningful alternative. Call it democratic undecidability: somewhat paradoxically, given the democratic ethos of equality, the most urgent theories of democracy have worked to abolish the possibility of thinking power in any other way. And they succeed absent a treatment of the antinomy.

Returning to Leibniz’s politics and the question of federalism, the nature of the democratic economy of power comes into greater relief. To regard Leibniz as a federalist in the canonical sense valorizes that economy by giving it an axiomatic form. To be sure, federalism and representative democracy generally live, when they live together, on the tension their co existence generates. Federal bodies may, for instance, empower minority perspectives in ways that dilute the voting power of citizens, or create governmental institutions that serve as a brake on the popular will. At the same time, those federal bodies are themselves the product of the popular will (at least, that is, in the political mythology found in Western democracies). But representative-administrative liberal democracy has its being in a register more profound and a tonality far more resonant than that captured in the narrower conceptions of democracy that populate official speeches and public discourses on the efficient management of the state, or indeed many academic debates on democratic deliberation and legitimacy. As I have already suggested, the radical democratic project, shared by the political theologians and the theorists of biopower alike, better expresses the essence of democracy, as it were, by taking its principles and forms of reasoning back to their origins or on to their extreme conclusions. And the democratic power principle, enshrined in the circularity of the economy of the Large and the Small, represents those origins and conclusions. The federalist codification and domestication of Leibniz’s mad proliferation of mediators organizes power in fundamentally the same way, if a bit more dully: sovereignty, bifurcated and stretched across parallel political units, migrates between the transcendent Law-giving beyond and its local manifestations. The dialectic occurs entirely at a level of abstraction higher than the immediacy thesis permits, but the logic is identical.

What would an alternative organization of the political space in Leibniz look like? The metaphor of the microscope and the telescope that framed my discussion of Leibniz’s politics is illustrative here. Avoiding the economy of the democratic power principle does not mean avoiding either the macro-political or the micro-political. On the contrary, it means perceiving them as such, refusing to reduce all mediation to functions of the Large or the Small. Leibniz does this by taking all nanosovereigns or mediators as ontologically univocal, as structurally homologous, as equal in principle, and therefore also as detotalized figures representing nothing. Political space can be glimpsed through the microscope or the telescope, but none of its constituents reduces to or finds its raison d’être in any other – the heart of a political monad is, after all, its self-certifying, self-sustaining nomos.

One mediator receives from another not its singular nomos but ‘only the limits and determination of its own pre-existent striving or power of action’;34 that is, the wider constraining context in which it mediates or exercises power.

In that particular sense, all mediators are linked, and it is this notion which allows us to speak of political space in a precise and meaningful way. As monads, mediators constitute points of spatiality that are positioned by the multitude of reflections converging upon and inhabiting them. As political monads, in addition, the association of mediators among themselves composes a qualitatively distinct form of spatiality within the space of the kingdom of nature. Hence, it can be said that this form of spatialization occurs through the synthesis of political associations or translations of monadic power. Leibniz wrote often of the constitution of space in general, which, for him, relates back to the interconnection of monads and the diffusion or repetition of the material forces they contain. [35] The same principle is valid for political space.

This organization of political space constituted by the association of nanosovereigns opens up the macroeconomy of power sacrificed in Foucault and further obscured in political theology and biopower, in the inaugural gesture of the metapolitical antinomy.

From this vantage point, every case of mediation involves at least two dimensions: first, that of the forces and transformations involved in a mediator’s conjunction with mediated monads; second, that of the associations composing the objective context in which that mediating power is deployed. In every case, then, political-philosophical analysis discerns the nomos conducting the mediation in its complex relationship with its jointly produced environment. In this way, as I have suggested elsewhere, philosophy becomes universal jurisprudence: not moral mathesis, as Leibniz believed, but a kind of case law in which the given is explained by its advent, general principles resolved into their singular forms and logics of production, and every case provided its own concept. [36] The practice of political philosophy, by extension, discloses the macroeconomy of power incarnated in a singular case of mediation by problematizing its elements (the political monads) and grasping their diffusion in the organization of space.


Some of the handful of positive, constructive ideas that this article has offered – the reader will notice that it has been a largely negative effort – have had important cognates in earlier political philosophies other than that of Leibniz; for instance, the political theory of associations reaches back at least as far as Johannes Althusius, and arguably to medieval corporatism. More recent political propositions that belong principally to certain strands of the neosyndicalist and postworkerist, the socialist37 and the anarchist38 traditions are similarly shot through with the vital and volatile concepts of association, mediation and even, occasionally, isomorphic actors (i.e. what I have called monads or nanosovereigns). But in all directions lie emblemata of the Large and the Small; everywhere, power is conceived on the model provided by the metapolitical antinomy. As we have seen, this means that one conception is merely the convoluted restatement of the other. My discussions of demarcated, federated nanosovereignties, political spatialization and the macroeconomy of power are meant to indicate the matters of politics lying outside the confines of the antinomy, but given its entrenchment this has in all probability not taken hold. I therefore would like to briefly explore these ideas on their own merits, apart from the generalized economy of power to the extent that I can in the space of this section. We need to take two short detours to reach them: on the efficacy of relations and on the plurality of modalities of power.

Michel Serres, perhaps Leibniz’s best twentiethcentury reader, likes to point out that the Monadologie is an unfinished masterpiece – not in the sense in which we speak of operas or novels as unfinished masterpieces, like Kafka’s disorganized, incomplete, and unpolished Der Verschollene chapter drafts, but in that of a text, extraordinarily well constructed, that nevertheless calls for continual supplementation by virtue of its vivacity. Unfinished, then, in that it is ongoing, alive, active, not at equilibrium with itself.

In fact, Leibniz gave his Monadologie several supplements – some arriving before and others after it.

Most important for my purposes is the justly famous thesis of the vinculum substantiale or substantial bond that Leibniz advanced (and sometimes retracted) in his correspondence with Bartholomew Des Bosses. [39]

Though much of the scholarship on the historical development of Leibniz’s thought distorts the idea (in the way a museum distorts a piece of art), it is adequately understood if it is taken as a fully real, dynamically productive association between monads.

It is at once substantial in itself and substantiating for others, or substance-conferring (only as such would it arguably suffice as a concept capable of resolving philosophically the theological problem of transubstantiation, which becomes, in the correspondence, the concept’s principal use). As has sometimes been observed, the meaning of substantiality is undergoing a change here – this is probably the first time in the history of philosophy that relations are considered ontologically real and metaphysically primary, that relationality is equated with or at least subsumed under the aegis of substantiality. The vinculum hypothesis served Leibniz in making sense of the existence and transformations of corporeal substances – of having a body, as Deleuze put it. The becoming-Christ of the Eucharistic bread and wine is, of course, the body that Leibniz and Des Bosses have in mind, but Leibniz did not – and we should not – limit the vinculum to that application. ‘To be sure’, he writes, for Leibniz, there exists no place for a transformation of species, but everywhere there are places available for mutations, explosions, abrupt associations and dissociations, or reconcatenations. What Leibniz calls metamorphosis or metaschematism not only involves the initial property of bodies … but also the second property, the fluxion that causes parts endlessly to leave their specified aggregate in order to enter into entirely different aggregates that are differently specified. [40]

For Leibniz as for Deleuze, the vinculum is a metaphysical construct unifying diverse components and making them act as one unit, but the unification is imperfect. It is always possible for some element to slip away, risk its substantiality, unlink itself from the chain and, with luck, find a new durable association. (In the language of the Caesarinus, this being is perhaps more like a confederation than a union, but it combines properties of each.) This fascinating aspect of the vinculum was built into it by Leibniz, if not from the outset then certainly by Letter 48.

Which leads to the second detour. The bondage of elements provisionally achieved by a vinculum is variable. Hence ‘substantiation’ occurs in diverse ways – as great as the number of ways in which elements are attracted to or repelled from the composite. That act of substantiation is the model exercise of power, of mediation in the lost Leibnizian sense that I am seeking to recover. It is the complement to God’s creative act; with this hypothesis, Leibniz makes it possible to traverse the grey zone of the real, the zone of becoming, in either direction. Monads associated in a composite substance acting as a unit under a common vinculum are not uniformly held in thrall by the latter; on the contrary, as Deleuze was invited to point out above, everywhere the substance is leaking, bursting at the seams, at least potentially. The quality of the bonds varies; the intensity with which elements associate varies. The reason for this is simply that not every element belongs in precisely the same way; power materializes in a variety of ways, possesses a variety of modalities, not all of which are captured with conventional notions of power.

A few points can now be clarified. First, it is not the case, as may have appeared initially, that the political monadology with which I am wrestling endorses a might-is-right ethic; for that to be so, the logic of association would need to be predicated on some pivotal conception of might. There is threat, coercion, violence in the assemblage of monads, to be sure. But there is not only threat, coercion and violence; we do not know how many other kinds of bondage may be at work in political association. Perhaps, following Cicero or Hobbes, there are other unjust bonds to be considered:

deceit, trickery, fraud, which are useful in the manufacture of consent and voluntary adhesion. Perhaps there are just bonds: amity, love, variations of which take the form of loyalty, patriotism and so on. Once freed from the shackles imposed by the antinomy, the concept of power is revitalized and reopened. Second, it should now be somewhat clear that the Leibnizian isomorphism of monads (actors or nanosovereigns) goes hand in glove with the thesis of the equality of relations (bonds or vincula). No two relations are identical but all substantiate, all can confer reality, all can compound heterogeneous actors and make them work together. If there are differences – and there are nothing but differences – between the blackboxed units they form, these are achieved through an accumulation of relations and not through intrinsic properties of any actor or relation. [41] Thus if an actor is ‘more powerful’, in the conventional modern sense, than another, or all others, it is because that actor has become more powerful, acquired more alliances, extended its reach further than that other or all others.

It defrauded the first, but combined its force in a unit with the deceived to subjugate the next, or befriended the first ten associates and later lost patience with such courtship. Each case differs. Philosophy is a kind of case law. Third consequence: any association, any event of mediation, is risky and uncertain, in addition to being wholly contingent and relatively unpredictable.

Because a bond of alliance has no guarantee of permanence (on the contrary, it needs to be maintained), and because nothing guarantees that a new ally will obey, perform well or reciprocate, as the case may be, rather than betray, subvert or destroy the association, there is substantial risk and uncertainty at play.

We can return now to the order of nomoi that becomes a new object for politics once the antinomy is defused. This general economy is a distributed network of powers; said better, it is power as distributed network. The monad’s ‘subject or basis’ (Leibniz’s terms), its singular nomos, is not only reflected but also actively seized upon, transported to new subdivisions, modified, and invested in projects remote from the monad’s position by virtue of the extended chain of associations in which it participates. Here, then, is the basis for a recognition of action-at-a-distance in Leibniz! But still there is a plenum, a sequence of media through which a force moves in order to arrive at faraway conjunctures.

Political space is therefore organized not hierarchically but transversally or heterarchically. It extends just as far as its constituents extend. Those constituents may indeed form hierarchies – Leibniz holds, after all, that there are grades of sovereign power, and this is entirely coherent with the political monadology being developed in this article because though all monads share an isomorphic structure, no two have precisely the same set of relations, no two have suffered exactly the same series of mediations in their respective histories, and consequently each has positioned itself, or has been positioned, differently. One can reach further than another; one has more information than another; one can convince another to further its interests, and in those cases there is a kind of hierarchy at work. But that relation has been invented in the midst of a much more general condition of univocity and equality. Elements dissociate just as they associate.

Alliances can in principle fall apart rapidly, though the bonds holding them together often seem made of steel. No nanosovereign, whatever resources it has at its disposal, could succeed in finally and completely overcoding the compass of political space. The extension, the reach, the ‘power’, in the modern sense, of a given nanosovereign is unfailingly a mass product, a product of conspiracy involving the binding and fastening of a multitude. Governing bodies govern to the degree that they have forged alliances with a host of actors – for instance, a military apparatus and/or a voting majority, each of which of course is also a ‘pond full of fish’ composed only of other nanosovereigns. Association or mediation thus lies at the root of all collective invention, of tyranny as of liberty, of privilege as of equality.

To round off this section I want to clarify the suggestion made at the start, that what I am developing is a non-democratic politics for the present. As the radical democrats show, democracy can do no better than the antinomy permits; the antinomy sustains democracy as the metapolitical condition of politics.

To be sure, loaded in that heavy signifier is a set of values that cannot be compromised in any politics worthy of the name – most basically, a commitment to total egalitarianism and an allergy to privilege. The positive contributions this article offers do not contravene such values; on the contrary. But democracy is not reducible to egalitarianism, transparency or other real virtues; it is also loaded with inexorable control mechanisms that generate the direct contraries of those virtues, and not only in times of crisis. It stands behind the manufacture of crisis, a war of peace or pacification carried on at home and abroad. All of this is captured in the –cracy, the *kratus (power). ‘Democratize’ the concept of power and democracy is lost, but from its remains emerge a multiplicity of transitive and creative nomoi that hold out the possibility of political reinvention along more progressive lines.


Because it takes off from the metapolitical antinomy of modern power that is nourished by the (radical) democratic framework of political theology and biopower, the alternative theory of power in Leibniz, together with its organization of political space, can be called demo-nomics. Every mediator is a god, each singular nomos a demon. Demonomics can therefore be made to oppose angelology, a framework advanced in recent writings by the political theologians. But a more interesting semantic resonance is the one with demo-cracy. Demonomics is nothing but (radical) democracy beyond the power principle, beyond the metapolitical antinomy – which means, if my claim about the antinomy’s structuration of democracy is right, that demonomics is democracy beyond democracy. By reading his work on sovereignty through his monadological metaphysics, we can see that Leibniz made available to himself all the resources necessary for a non-democratic speculative politics based on the concepts of mediation and association.

Invoking the structure of the monad, I said above that mediators or nanosovereigns are not merely additional layers on the sovereign onion, as it were, but in themselves an entire regime of perception and appetition, understanding and will, knowledge and desire, bound together by a nomos, a form of power that is always sui generis. Etymologically, a nomos always reflects a separation but, as Leibniz shows, it is a bounded mediation, determinate in scope and range. Nanosovereigns are not Bodinian or Hobbesian sovereigns; relations of power are not embedded in a war of all against all. Yet the word nanosovereign may very well conjure the image of the Small in the sense used above, just as the notion of political spatiality may conjure the image of the Large.

We are justified, then, in asking to what extent the macroeconomy of supposedly delimited mediators is actually distinct from the economy of the Large and the Small. To my mind, the answer to this objection is that political space is not organized hierarchically but transversally or heterarchically, while nanosovereigns, of whatever magnitude, share one and the same ontological determination. There is neither Large nor Small, therefore, but only qualitatively different mediations. Every instance of mediation requires scrutiny for itself, whether the mediator in question takes the shape of a governmental body or its angelic/demonic representative, the sprawling structure of global capital or the office manager, the moral City of God or the little fascist inside each of its citizens. Each is as real as the next, equal in political-philosophical dignity and in ontological status. Each composes an integral part of the section of the continuum of creatures (human and nonhuman) that Leibniz’s politics isolates.


1. ^ For instance, see Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley, Pantheon,

New York, 1978, p. 93; and Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Col ège de France 1977–1978, trans. Graham Burchell, ed. Michel Senellart, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007, pp. 1–27.

2. ^ For such a theological reappropriation, see Giovanni Vattimo, After Christianity, trans. Luca D’Isanto, Columbia University Press, New York, 2002. Vattimo’s theologico-political hermeneutics endorses the essentially juridical construction of power as distinguished from Foucault’s construction, and innovates in this connection by treating it from a new perspective, namely that of ‘weakness’, which renounces the totalizing drive for mastery characterizing the juridical absolutism of political theologies past. For a juridical-political reappropriation, see Martin Loughlin, The Idea of Public Law, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003, which argues that ‘The modern idea of sovereignty remains the most appropriate framework for grappling with the tensions between power and domination in the contemporary world’ (p. 98).

3. ^ E.g. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen, Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 1998. On his Foucauldian inheritance, see also Agamben, ‘What is an Apparatus?’, in What is an Apparatus? and Other Essays, trans.

David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella, Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 2009, pp. 1–24.

4. ^ Giorgio Agamben, ‘K.’, trans. Nicholas Heron, in The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law, Literature, Life, ed.

Justin Clemens, Nicholas Heron and Alex Murray, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2008, p. 25.

5. ^ Gianni Vattimo, ‘Nihilism as Emancipation’, trans.

Lorenzo Chiesa, in The Italian Difference: Between Nihilism and Biopolitics, ed. Lorenzo Chiesa and Alberto Toscano,, Melbourne, 2009, p. 32. See also Gianni Vattimo, Nihilism and Emancipation: Ethics, Politics, and Law, trans. William McCuaig, ed. Santiago Zabala, Columbia University Press, New York, 2004.

6. ^ Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Common Wealth, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 2009, pp. 4–5, 57–8.

7. ^ Ibid., p. 80.

8. ^ On immaterial labour, see Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 2000; and Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, Penguin, New York, 2005, pp. 103ff.

9. ^ ‘At the highest level, one could say that only Empire (and no longer any nation-state) is capable of sovereignty in a full sense.’ Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, ‘Adventures of the Multitude’, Rethinking Marxism, vol. 13, no. 3/4, 2001, p. 238.

10. ^ ‘Democratic materialism’ would be a preferable term to describe the theorists of biopower, were it not already used for purposes that overlap but do not coincide with mine. See Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II, trans. Alberto Toscano, Continuum, London, 2009.

11. ^ Jacques Rancière makes this objection against Hardt and Negri; see Rancière, ‘The People or the Multitudes:

Interview with Eric Alliez’, in Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, trans. Steven Corcoran, Continuum,

London, 2010, pp. 84–90. (Though not a political theologian per se, Rancière is a thinker of the politics of transcendence more aligned with that form of inquiry than with the theorists of biopower.) Inversely,

Paolo Virno charges political theology with offering only mystifications and obscurities that equate with withdrawal and political apophaticism or fatalism; see Virno, ‘Interview with Paolo Virno: General Intellect,

Exodus, Multitude’, trans. Nate Holdren, [archive]

12. ^ Agamben’s Il regno e la gloria (2008), which claims to move away from political theology and sovereign power towards ‘economical theology’ and the vicarious power of governance as oikonomia, does nothing to call the infinite mediation thesis into question. If anything, in fact, it exacerbates the line of reasoning rooted in that principle and takes it further into theological obscurity.

13. ^ For instance, see G.W. Leibniz, ‘Elements of Natural Law’, in Philosophical Papers and Letters, 2nd edn, trans. and ed. Leroy E. Loemker, Reidel, Dordrecht, 1969, pp. 131–8.

14. ^ Kant’s transcendental cosmology in the Critique of Pure Reason (cosmologia rationalis) rearranges Leibniz’s cosmological continuum by inserting the rational idea of a world at its base. For Kant’s related discussion of the ‘law of the continual gradation of beings’, or the ‘ladder of continuity among creatures’, see Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. and ed.

Paul Guyer and Allen W. Wood, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998), p. 604 (A668/B696). See also Kant’s related discussion of transcendental cosmology’s ascension in the progression of speculative metaphysics in his ‘Cinderella’ text, ‘What Real Progress Has Metaphysics Made in Germany since the Time of Leibniz and Wolff?’, in Theoretical Philosophy after 1781, trans. Gary Hatfield, Michael Friedman, Henry Allison and Peter Heath, ed. Henry Allison and Peter Heath,

Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2002, pp. 376–84.

15. ^ G.W. Leibniz, ‘The Monadology’, in Philosophical Papers and Letters, p. 650.

16. ^ G.W. Leibniz, New Essays Concerning Human Understanding, trans. Alfred Gideon Langley, Open Court, La Salle IL, 1949, p. 135.

17. ^ G.W. Leibniz, Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil, trans.

E.M. Huggard, ed. Austin M. Farrer, Open Court, La Salle IL, 1986, p. 278. See also G.W. Leibniz, Protogaea, trans. and ed. Claudine Cohen and Andre Wakefield, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2008, pp. 1–13.

18. ^ See Janne Elisabeth Nijman, The Concept of International Legal Personality: An Inquiry into the History and Theory of International Law, TMC Asser Press,

The Hague, 2004, pp. 29ff. Nijman reads the Caesarinus alongside Leibniz’s later preface to the Codex Juris Gentium Diplomaticus, but I will focus mainly on the former.

19. ^ An excerpt of this text appears in G.W. Leibniz, ‘Caesarinus Fürstenerius (De Suprematu Principum Germaniae)’, in Political Writings, trans. and ed. Patrick Riley, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989, pp. 111–20.

20. ^ See Leibniz, Theodicy, p. 217. Leibniz writes of God’s three faculties (understanding, power and will): power ‘precedes even understanding and will, but it operates as the one displays it and as the other requires it’. In other words, the power of God mediates the relation of understanding and will, reason and volition, possible and actual. The same claim appears in Leibniz, ‘Preface of the Codex Juris Gentium Diplomaticus’, in Philosophical Papers and Letters, p. 423, penned in the 1690s, and Leibniz, ‘Meditation on the Common Concept of Justice’, in Political Writings, p. 50, penned in 1702–03. In the latter text, Leibniz writes: ‘[W]isdom is in the understanding and goodness in the will. And justice, as a consequence, is in both. Power is a different matter, but if it is used it makes right become fact, and makes what ought to be also really exist, in so far as the nature of things permits. And this is what God does in the world.’

21. ^ Louis Couturat, ‘On Leibniz’s Metaphysics’, in Leibniz: A Col ection of Critical Essays, ed. Harry G. Frankfurt,

University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame IN, 1972, p. 28.

22. ^ See Leibniz, ‘The Monadology’, p. 644.

23. ^ See ibid., p. 647: ‘There is in God the power which is the source of everything, there is also the knowledge which contains the variety of ideas, and finally, there is the wil which makes changes or products in accordance with the principle of the best. This corresponds to what is in created monads the subject or basis, the perceptive faculty, and the appetitive faculty.’ Emphasis in original.

24. ^ See ibid., p. 644. Monads are distinguished by the series of affections (perceptions and desires) they undergo, which registers the distinctive point of view that they, at base, are.

25. ^ For other attempts to develop political monadologies, both of which differ rather starkly from my own orientation, see Jon Elster, Ulysses and the Sirens: Studies in Rationality and Irrationality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984, which develops a methodological individualist philosophical economism employing a monadic understanding of individuals; and Frank Ankersmit, ‘Political Monadology’, Theory & Event, vol. 8, no. 3, 2005, which draws on a Leibnizian vocabulary to inform an essentially systems-theoretical approach to social relations.

26. ^ See, for instance, Heinz H.F. Eulau, ‘Theories of Federalism under the Holy Roman Empire’, American Political Science Review, vol. 35, no. 4, 1941, pp. 643–64, especially pp. 654ff.; Patrick Riley, ‘Historical Development of the Theory of Federalism, 16th–19th Centuries’, doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, 1968, and Riley, ‘Three 17th Century German Theorists of Federalism: Althusius, Hugo, and Leibniz’, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, vol. 6, no. 3, 1976, pp. 7–41; George G. Constandache, ‘Fédéralisme politique et universalisme philosophique chez Leibniz’, in Leibniz und Europa: VI Internationaler Leibniz-Kongress, ed. Herbert Breger, Schlütersche, Hanover, 1994, pp. 128–34.

27. ^ See, for instance, Nijman, The Concept of International Legal Personality, pp. 76–9. As part of Nijman’s project is to trace the emergence of democracy and the rights of the individual in international affairs, she locates Leibniz’s proto-federalism within that trajectory, while noting that for Leibniz ‘[t]he people did not have [international legal personality].… Leibniz had no sympathy for democracy, as, in his view, democracy was a political order that was all too susceptible to chaos and instability and was incapable of serving justice well.’ Ibid., p. 78.

28. ^ See, for instance, Leibniz, ‘The Monadology’, p. 649.

29. ^ This notion gives the lie to any political, legal or social philosophy developing a methodological individualism based on (Leibniz’s) monadology.

30. ^ Leibniz, ‘The Principles of Nature and of Grace, Based on Reason’ in Philosophical Papers and Letters, p. 636.

31. ^ Leibniz, ‘Caesarinus Fürstenerius’, p. 117.

32. ^ Thus lifting an image, if not a concept, from François Laruelle, Au-delà du principe de pouvoir, Payot, Paris, 1978.

33. ^ The case of Alain Badiou’s political philosophy, which surely haunts this article’s exploration of the antinomy, requires a separate treatment. Badiou’s theory of power, especially as developed in Being and Event, Metapolitics, and various shorter articles, conceives political power as errant magnitude (consonant with the ‘Large’ dimension of the economy being discussed) until a subjective intervention marks a terminal point, a point beyond which power may not trespass. This hybrid middleway formulation may in fact mark a break with the economy of the Large and the Small; closer scrutiny is required in order to say. The present article is designed in part to make that enquiry possible.

34. ^ Leibniz, ‘On the Correction of Metaphysics and the Concept of Substance’, in Philosophical Papers and Letters, p. 433.

35. ^ See, for instance, Leibniz, ‘Specimen Dynamicum’, in Philosophical Papers and Letters, p. 445, and ‘A New System of the Nature and the Communication of Substances, as well as the Union between Body and Soul’, in Philosophical Papers and Letters, p. 460.

36. ^ See Kyle McGee and Laurent de Sutter, ‘A Brief Reflection on the Universality of Jurisprudence’, in Kyle McGee and Laurent de Sutter, eds, Deleuze and Law, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2011.

37. ^ For instance, Paul Q. Hirst, ed., The Pluralist Theory of the State: Selected Writings of G.D.H. Cole, J.N. Figgis, and H.J. Laski, Routledge, London, 1989.

38. ^ For instance, Jonathan Purkis and James Bowen, eds, Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age, University of Manchester Press, Manchester, 2004.

39. ^ G.W. Leibniz, The Leibniz–Des Bosses Correspondence, trans. Brandon C. Look and Donald Rutherford,

Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 2007.

40. ^ Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley, Continuum, London, 2006, p. 132.

41. ^ For a remarkable treatment of similar themes in the context of the social sciences, see Michel Callon and Bruno Latour, ‘Unscrewing the Big Leviathan: How Actors Macro-structure Reality and How Sociologists Help Them Do So’, in K. Knorr-Cetina and A.V. Cicourel, eds, Advances in Social Theory and Methodology: Toward an Integration of Microand Macro-Sociologies,Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1981, pp. 277–303.

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