A Weaponized Hydra: Explaining Nina Power’s symbol of hope in political resistance
In the panel Decapitating Capitalism, Nina Power described her symbol of hope as ‘a weaponized hydra’. An image of the legendary multi-headed serpent with “the force and power to decapitate”. The act of beheading capitalism illustrates her idea of ‘decapitalism’ — linguistically and conceptually taking from the concepts deschooling and decolonisation: the point being to take back what is left, and subverting it. Decapitalism is a critical response to accelerationism, a political and social theory which seeks to speed up capitalism in order to reach its end. “Decapitalism isn’t a call to slow down capitalism,” Power says, but is, she explains, the beginning of recognising the damage that has already been done, and which continues to be done, “without lapsing into fatalist despair; desiring to fuse with capitalism and technology; and expecting to somehow come out the other side, but as what?” Resistance faces the perennial problem of locating power, the ruling class hides its face and buries its wealth, but it has not diversified with globalisation: “Remember it was the nation state that bailed out the banks and it’s the nation state that imprisons people,” says Power. Instead she pushes towards a politically strategic understanding of power as a single entity, turning to political philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ 1651 vision of Leviathan as a usable representation. Hobbes’ Leviathan, partly a response to the English Civil Wars, encouraged rule by an absolute Sovereign: centering his iconic image on the figure of the Sovereign King, whose body is both literally and figuratively comprised of the individual bodies of the citizenry, their faces are turned inwards towards the Sovereign and away from the viewer. In the modern era the concept of sovereignty has become misplaced within capitalism’s rights-based political discourse; it is no longer reliant on the church or the outcome of military battles. Capitalism has become sovereignty, it is our Leviathan, and to behead it we need the weaponized hydra.