Towards a Society of Individuals: On Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End (an excellent, smart title) is about the struggle between a society of individuals and a corporate state structure.

In the film, we can’t separate corporations from the state. The trading company, understandably, wants its trading routes safe (and wants the pirate booty) and hence wants the pirates exterminated. I have no problem with this: let the corporations and the pirates battle.

What gets creepy is that the state, too, wants the pirates exterminated. But why? What this film makes obvious is that the interests of the state are identical to the interests of corporations. In fact, it is not corporations that exist at the behest of the state; it’s that the state exists at the service of corporations. And so rather than there being a more or less equal battle between the trading company and the pirates, we get the battle between the state, its legislation, its mass army and its funds.

From when its army? From whence its funds? From the citizens. But who is harmed by the pirates? Corporations.

(Look at how the Somali pirates were handled — by governments and by the press: it was assumed that the pirates were bad and the corporations were innocent and good. Listen, I know nothing of these pirates. But I was surprised at the assumptions that crimes against corporate property are covered by the press necessarily as crimes and not actions that need to be considered. Which is to say, our press is another wing of corporate interests, of the interests of Capital. I’m not saying the Somali pirates were good or bad. I’m just trying to point out the “environment” — as Marshall McLuhan might say — in which these events happen and how our assumed interests happen to be corporate interests.)

Where does this leave our pirates of the Caribbean? They are radically individualistic, roaming the last terrestrial frontier, the ocean. As the massive corporate sponsored state navy takes to the sea, each pirate in his or her place stands little chance of survival. This is the way of the modern state: total coverage.

And so the pirates bond together, reluctantly. And what I love is that they don’t surrender their differences; they don’t unite to form their own nation: they work together,as individuals, to fend off the State.

Their politics are inevitably complex, not always pretty, and at times violent. But it is not the terrible, merciless violence of the State. TC mark

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  • Fergus Halliday

    Awesome article.

  • I know everything best

    I feel like the most individualistic thing I can do right now is vehemently defend the status quo because, “yeaaaah” — as Kaya Scodelario might say — everyone's a rebel today.

    • Daniel Coffeen

      Really? I want to hang out where you are. All around me, people kvetch. But they still go to work, still read newspapers, still talk about politics as if they mattered, still vote, still think the same old shit about the same old things. Even if they call themselves rebels.

      But, then again, I live in San Francisco, no doubt one of the most conservative cities. Truly. Everyone thinks alike.

  • wackomet

    fuckin' a

  • Nick Medlin

    Everyone is waking up to this. What happened in Egypt is even easier here. What are we even hanging onto?

  • 39dmfk4

    This is some tea party idealism.

    • Matt

      When I think Tea Party, I think Daniel Coffeen. You know how Tea Party folk are always going on about William Burroughs and Michel Houellebecq… Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty.

      Coffeen should be their leader.


    bro, you missed the most important part on all this- gemma ward is a mermaid in the new pirates of the caribbean!!!! cannot wait.

  • Matt Barbot

    I mean. Pirates are thieves. The government enforces the law.

    • Mitch

      When one individual steals from another it's called theft. When the government steals from everyone it's called taxation.

      No, I'm not a teabagger. I understand the necessary role government plays in any sufficiently large society, and the necessity of taxes to fund said government. That said, there's still a kernel of truth to the idea governments can get away with perpetuating what would otherwise be considered petty crimes because they perpetrate them on such a massive scale.

    • Daniel Coffeen

      Yes, obviously. But what counts as thievery? Having corporations count as individuals is odd and by no means necessary and yet it is the condition of the American economy. And then — then! — to have the government draft laws that protect corporations over and against individuals is, once again, not a necessary condition of a society.

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