Fire in the territory!

Texas — or at least its politicians and heritage-society members and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas — is in mourning over the almost-total destruction by fire of the governors mansion, allegedly by arson (pictures here). The mansion, which sits just across the street from the Capitol, has been, over the last few days, homilized as a historic treasure and a monument to Texas and its people. But as Faulkner said of Flem Snopes’s water tower, it’s not a monument — it’s a footprint: Located, as per La Maitre (as read by Foucault; see below), in the middle of a city that is located in the middle of the state, the Texas capital complex is above all an assertion of sovereignty and territory. And fittingly for a state for which land and borders are paramount, the stubbornly south-facing (i.e., toward the Confederacy) Texas capital complex is the biggest, the most grandiose, and the most mawkishness-producing capitol in the United States. The mansion itself is the ornate residence of the sovereign, and it must be preserved, everyone says.

Screw that. Raze it, bulldoze it, I say. Sell that block of prime downtown real estate to Amli or some hip urban developer. It needs to make way for progress and the high-rise luxury condos and austere boutiques that come with it. If a program of city- and state-sponsored ethnic cleansing gentrification is good enough for East Austin, surely it’s good enough for glorious state of Texas. Who’s with me?

[T]he sovereign, his officers, and those artisans and tradesmen who are indispensable to the functioning of the court and the sovereign’s entourage, must live in the capital. Le Maitre sees the relationship between the capital and the rest of the territory in different ways. It must be a geometrical relationship in the sense that a good country is one that, in short, must have the form of a circle, and the capital must be right at the center of the circle. A capital at the end of an elongated and irregular territory would not be able to exercise all its necessary functions. In fact, this is where the second, aesthetic and symbolic, relationship between the capital and the territory appears. The capital must be the ornament of the territory. But this must also be a political relationship in that the decrees and laws must be implanted in the territory [in such a way] that no tiny corner of the realm escapes this general network of the sovereign’s orders and laws. The capital must also have a moral role, and diffuse throughout the territory all that is necessary to command people with regard to their conduct and ways of doing things. The capital must give the example of good morals. The capital must be the place where the holy orators are the best and are best heard, and it must also be the site of academies, since they must give birth to the sciences and truth that is to be disseminated in the rest of the country. Finally, there is an economic role: the capital must be the site of luxury so that it is a point of attraction for products coming from other countries,† and at the same time, through trade, it must be the distribution point of manufactured articles and products, etcetera.


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