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“Atlas Swam: Freedom, Capital, and Floating Sovereignties in the Seasteading Vision”

July 12, 2012

Three professors offer a skeptical and negative take on seasteading in the Antipode. From the (preprint) abstract:

Political actors have long drawn on utopian imaginaries of colonizing marine and island spaces as models for idealized libertarian commonwealths. A recent inheritor of this tradition is the seasteading movement, which seeks to “further the establishment and growth of permanent, autonomous ocean communities [by] enabling innovations with new political and social systems” on semi-stationary, floating platforms. Fueled by a cocktail of ideologies (techno-optimism, libertarian secession theories, and strains of anarcho-capitalism), seasteading is touted as the newest “frontier” in creative, entrepreneurial, and social engineering. Inherent in the project, however, are buried ideals about the nature of ocean space, the limits of sovereignty, and the liberatory role of technology and capitalism in the drive for social change and individual freedom. We explore these notions through an examination of seasteading’s broader philosophical and economic underpinnings, and their deployment through multiple structural, legal, and social frameworks. Although seasteading is a highly speculative, and even fanciful project, it reflects attempts to resolve contradictions within capitalism: between, on the one hand, the need for order and planning, and, on the other hand, the desire to foster and lionize individual freedom.

2 Comments
  1. Jonathan permalink
    July 18, 2012 8:05 pm

    You may want to include this article as well.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/2012711121224166933.html

    Also after reading most of the paper, it seems (at least superficially) that the authors conflate “government” with “state.” In other words, by attempting to demonstrate the “contradiction” between wanting an individualist and anarchistic free state and yet needing to form a governmental structure to support it, they ignore that within libertarian political-economic thought there is a fine line between governance over private property (and voluntary adherence to such governance) and state power as it stands today; forced and interested only in self-propagation.

  2. Abelard Lindsey permalink
    July 14, 2012 7:31 pm

    Of course the three professors don’t like it. Working in academia, they essentially make their living off of the tax payer. Having “new” countries and places for tax payers to emigrate to threatens their livelihood.

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