Patchwork: A Minor Introduction

There’s been a buzz on twitter recently about Xenogoth’s writing on Patchwork (specifically a lil reader that has traversed the caves, but not seen the light of (non-cave) day), and I thought it would be useful to create a primer, or just a simple explanation post for people who are trying to grapple with it.

Old(er) Beginnings

While the term we use was coined by Moldbug some years ago, Patchwork begins in 1860 in Paul Emile de Puydt’s essay PanarchyHere de Puydt outlines what they call Panarchism (and we call Patchwork):

The truth is that there is not enough of the right kind of freedom, the fundamental freedom to choose to be free or not to be free, according to one’s preference….Thus I demand, for each and every member of human society, freedom of association according to inclination and of activity according to aptitude. In other words, the absolute right to choose the political surroundings in which to live, and to ask for nothing else. […] In each community a new office is opened, a “Bureau of Political Membership”. This office would send every responsible citizen a declaration form to fill in, just as for the income tax or dog registration: Question: What form of government would you desire? Quite freely you would answer, monarchy, or democracy, or any other… and once registered, unless you withdrew your declaration, respecting the legal forms and delays, you would thereby become either a royal subject or citizen of the republic. Thereafter you are in no way involved with anyone else’s government—no more than a Prussian subject is with Belgian authorities.

Further, in 1876 we can dissect a fragment from Nietzsche’s  Human, All Too Human which creates a speculative notion of governance-to-come:

None of the measures effected by a government will be guaranteed continuity; everyone will draw back from undertakings that require quiet tending for decades or centuries if their fruits are to mature. No one will feel towards a law any greater obligation than that of bowing for the moment to the force which backs up the law: one w ill then at once set to work to subvert it with a new force, the creation of a new majority. Finally – one can say this with certainty – distrust of all government, insight into the uselessness and destructiveness of these short-winded struggles will impel m en to a quite novel resolve: the resolve to do aw ay with the concept of the state, to the abolition of the distinction between private and public. Private companies will step by step absorb the business of the state: even the most resistant remainder of what was formerly the work of government (for example its activities designed to protect the private person from the private person) will in the long run be taken care of by private contractors. […] Viewed from close to, the sovereignty of the people serves then to banish the last remnant of magic and superstition from this realm of feeling; modern democracy is the historical form of the decay of the state. – The prospect presented by this certain decay is, however, not in every respect an unhappy one: the prudence and self interest of men are of all their qualities the best developed; if the state is no longer equal to the demands of these forces then the last thing that will ensue is chaos: an invention more suited to their purpose than the state was will gain victory over the state. 

Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, trans. R. J. Hollingdale, page 172-173

Nietzsche using “Private companies” as an example is interesting as it then situates these ideas in a different realm than de Puydt’s. It pushes us towards the Moldbuggian, and Landian patchwork ideas to come.

Speculative Beginnings

The labour and discussions the Cave has been having about Patchwork as a speculative formula is very much at derived from Deleuze (and Guattari)’s notions of smooth and striated space. To put is shortly and easily, Smooth Space is both everything, and nothing at all times. It is a speculative space from which anything and everything can be formed or created (and even not-formed, and not-created) through the act of striation. Deleuze presents the example of the ocean as smooth space. It is there, and always has been, but was then striated by cartographers, trade routes, and ships thus creating striated space (this can be further understood through the ideas of deterritorialization, and reterritorialization). In the Plateau, the term ‘crazy patchwork’ is even evoked by Deleuze themselves:

[It] fits together pieces of varying size, shape, and color, and plays on the texture of the fabric. […] An amorphous collection of juxtaposed pieces that can be joined together in an infinite number of ways […] It is as though a smooth space emanated, sprang from a striated space, but not without a correlation between the two, a recapitulation of one in the other, a furtherance of one through the other. Yet a complex different persists. Patchwork, in conformity with migration, whose degree of affinity with nomadism it shares, is not only named after trajectories, but ‘represents’ trajectories, becomes inseparable from speed or movement in open space.”

Deleuze, and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 1440: The Smooth and the Striated, trans. Brian Massumi, page 474 – 500

The current form of nation-states and sovereignty can be identified as a striated space, and Patchwork as a global-smooth space.  This was already attempted in some form with the exit-process from the Old World  (Smooth Space) to the New World (Striated Space) and the American tradition of exit and secession is evoked throughout Deleuze and Guattari’s writing in relation to lines of flight and rhizomes as a structure, which all can be connected to Patchwork.

New(er) Beginnings

2008 brings us Moldbug’s first post on Patchwork on Unqualified reservations. Moldbug unconsciously isolates himself away from Panarchism (not that Moldbug knew of Panarchism, he explicitly state he has no knowledge of any other author writing about similar ideas). Moldbug summing up (his version of) Patchwork :

The basic idea of Patchwork is that, as the crappy governments we inherited from history are smashed, they should be replaced by a global spiderweb of tens, even hundreds, of thousands of sovereign and independent mini-countries, each governed by its own joint-stock corporation without regard to the residents’ opinions. If residents don’t like their government, they can and should move. The design is all “exit,” no “voice.”


This paradox is just one more stimulus for a complete replacement of the State. We have had enough. We are done with the present system of government. We want a reboot. And, anarchy being both impossible and un-reactionary, we can’t even talk about a reboot until we’ve specified what operating system to boot next.

So we can think of Patchwork as a new operating system for the world. Of course, it does not have to be installed across the entire world, although it is certainly designed to scale. But, it is easier and much more prudent to start small. Innovations in sovereignty are dangerous.

A patchwork — please feel free to drop the capital — is any network consisting of a large number of small but independent states. To be precise, each state’s real estate is its patch; the sovereign corporate owner, ie government, of the patch is its realm. At least initially, each realm holds one and only one patch. In practice this may change with time, but the realm-patch structure is at least designed to be stable.

This links us back to Nietzsche stating that once the state decays, private corporations will take the role to provide what used to be provided by the government. This is how Moldbug wants Patchwork to be run, and has been dubbed (by him) as Neocameralism.
Xenogoth has outlined that joint-stock corporations aren’t necessarily an inherent part of Patchwork (see here)

Neocameralism and it’s effects on “leftism” have been looked at ever so briefly by Antinomia Imediata, positing that having a sovcorp could potentially create the “Leftist” (read Liberal) paradise, but to put it bluntly I wouldn’t choose to enter a patch that is no-voiceall-exit.

I find, personally (and a lot of other typical “Leftists” would probably agree), Scott Alexander’s notion of Patchwork to be–while utopian–much more appealing. Alexander calls this Atomic Communitarianism, and–excuse the long quote–explains it with a metaphorical example of a Wizard finding an Archipelago that hasn’t been civilized by humans:

He doesn’t want to rule the archipelago himself, though he will reluctantly help kickstart the government. He just wants to give directions and a free galleon to anybody who wants one and can muster a group of likeminded friends large enough to start a self-sustaining colony.

And so the equivalent of our paleoconservatives go out and found communities based on virtue, where all sexual deviancy is banned and only wholesome films can be shown and people who burn the flag are thrown out to be eaten by wolves.

And the equivalent of our social justiciars go out and found communities where all movies have to have lots of strong minority characters in them, and all slurs are way beyond the pale, and nobody misgenders anybody.

First he bans communities from declaring war on each other. That’s an obvious gain. He could just smite warmongers, but he thinks it’s more natural and organic to get all the communities into a united government (UniGov for short). Every community donates a certain amount to a military, and the military’s only job is to quash anyone from any community who tries to invade another.

Next he addresses externalities. For example, if some communities emit a lot of carbon, and that causes global warming which threatens to destroy other communities, UniGov puts a stop to that. If the offending communities refuse to stop emitting carbon, then there’s that military again.

The third thing he does is prevent memetic contamination. If one community wants to avoid all media that objectifies women, then no other community is allowed to broadcast women-objectifying media at it. If a community wants to live an anarcho-primitivist lifestyle, nobody else is allowed to import TVs. Every community decides exactly how much informational contact it wants to have with the rest of the continent, and no one is allowed to force them to have more than that.

But the wizard and UniGov’s most important task is to think of the children.

Imagine you’re conservative Christians, and you’re tired of this secular godless world, so you go off with your conservative Christian friends to found a conservative Christian community. You all pray together and stuff and are really happy. Then you have a daughter. Turns out she’s atheist and lesbian. What now?

Well, it might be that your kid would be much happier at the lesbian separatist community the next island over. The absolute minimum the united government can do is enforce freedom of movement. That is, the second your daughter decides she doesn’t want to be in Christiantopia anymore, she goes to a UniGov embassy nearby and asks for a ticket out, which they give her, free of charge. She gets airlifted to Lesbiantopia the next day. If anyonein Christiantopia tries to prevent her from reaching that embassy, or threatens her family if she leaves, or expresses the slightest amount of coercion to keep her around, UniGov burns their city and salts their field.

But this is not nearly enough to fully solve the child problem. A child who is abused may be too young to know that escape is an option, or may be brainwashed into thinking they are evil, or guilted into believing they are betraying their families to opt out. And although there is no perfect, elegant solution here, the practical solution is that UniGov enforces some pretty strict laws on child-rearing, and every child, no matter what other education they receive, also has to receive a class taught by a UniGov representative in which they learn about the other communities in the Archipelago, receive a basic non-brainwashed view of the world, and are given directions to their nearest UniGov representative who they can give their opt-out request to.

The list of communities they are informed about always starts with the capital, ruled by UniGov itself and considered an inoffensive, neutral option for people who don’t want anywhere in particular. And it always ends with a reminder that if they can gather enough support, UniGov will provide them with a galleon to go out and found their own community in hitherto uninhabited lands.

Moldbug’s theorisation of Patchwork pales in comparison of Alexander’s (in the end Moldbug’s writing universalises a tyranny most want to get away from), and is what I am likely to show to people who are inquisitive about Patchwork, but to not identify its Exoteric Neo-Reactionary origins is just pandering to the Cathedral, or the Vampire Castle (depending on which theorist you prefer).

Future Beginnings; on Patchwork-to-come

If we revisit a section from de Puydt’s essay we can further identify how Patchwork-to-come may work:

In each community a new office is opened, a “Bureau of Political Membership”. This office would send every responsible citizen a declaration form to fill in, just as for the income tax or dog registration

Estonia has been throughout the years moving towards what they have called e-governance A large majority of their government services can be accessed at any time, and–as it is online it can be assumed–anywhere. Currently, there are conversations in the cave about how  e-governed Patchwork would function (in relation to sovereignty), but I am pretty optimistic about the possibilities for electronic governance to work within Patchwork.

Finishing in the words of @realMaxCastle:


Further Reading/Watching:
‘The Only Thing I Would Impose is Fragmentation’ – An Interview with Nick Land


3 thoughts on “Patchwork: A Minor Introduction”

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