Against the predominant current of 19th century philosophy, Nietzsche contends in the Genealogy of Morality that history, while organic in nature, need not be assumed to be teleological in order to be intelligible. As an organic ‘entity’, i.e. human civilization, produces conditions to which we ascribe meaning (i.e. moral values, political terms, social norms, etc.), but this meaning evolves with changing historical conditions, such that
People down the ages have believed that the obvious purpose of a thing, its utility, form, and shape, are its reason for existence, the eye is made to see, the hand to grasp … [but] the whole history of a ‘thing’, an organ, a tradition can to this extent be a continuous chain of signs, continually revealing new interpretations and adaptations, the causes of which need not be connected even amongst themselves, but rather sometimes just follow and replace one another at random. The ‘development’ of a thing, a tradition, an organ is therefore certainly not its progressus towards a goal, still less is it a logical progressus… (Essay 2, aphorism 12)
Such signs are prevalent in our society, and tracing their genealogy, their historical lineage, can be an important endeavor not only for making sense of our current situation, but also for determining how to conduct ourselves toward the future.
National security is one of those signs, and arguably one of the most volatile. What does it mean to be secure, and how far (i.e. economically, democratically, etc.) are we willing to go in order to be secure? Or is it a question of believing we are secure? What are the social and ideological components of our belief in being secure? What are the material conditions for attaining or maintaining national security?
In the few weeks, I’ll be posting pieces that develop an extended commentary on one such material component of national security: food availability. The multitude of uses and interests involved in the local/national/global production and distribution of food provide a handy lens for discerning how some of our more entrenched economic ideals actually play out, for better or worse.