Snarl: In Defense of Stalled Traffic and Faulty Networks

TitleSnarl: In Defense of Stalled Traffic and Faulty Networks
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsMiller RA
PublisherUniversity of Michigan Press
CityAnn Arbor
ISBN NumberCloth: 9780472119004; paper: 9780472036219

It is possible to imagine a theory of democracy and a constitutional history independent of human subjectivity.

Ruth A. Miller excavates a centuries-old history of nonhuman and nonbiological constitutional engagement and outlines a robust mechanical democracy that challenges existing theories of liberal and human political participation. Drawing on an eclectic set of legal, political, and automotive texts from France, Turkey, and the United States, she proposes a radical mechanical rearticulation of three of the most basic principles of democracy: vitality, mobility, and liberty.

Rather than defending a grand theory of materialist or posthumanist politics, or addressing abstract concepts or “things” writ large, Miller invites readers into a self-contained history of constitutionalism situated in a focused discussion of automobile traffic congestion in Paris, Istanbul, and Boston. Within the mechanical public sphere created by automotive space, Snarl finds a model of democratic politics that transforms our most fundamental assumptions about the nature, and constitutional potential, of life, movement, and freedom.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Mechanical Constitutionalism

Constitutional History

Constitutional Materiality

Vitality, Mobility, and Liberty


2. Traffic: A Literature Review

Traffic and the Public Sphere

Traffic and Borders

Traffic and Military Violence

Traffic and Rights

Traffic and Civilization


3. Networks: A Literature Review

Networks and the Public Sphere

Networks and Military Violence

Networks and Speech: Machine Code versus

Programming Language


4. Vitality

Excavating the Automotive Public Sphere


Automotive Vitality: Storage and Circulation


5. Mobility

Archiving the Automotive Public Sphere

Bridge and Tunnel

Automotive Mobility: Billboards and Monuments


6. Liberty

Delimiting the Automotive Public Sphere

No Crossing

Automotive Liberty: Intersections and Pollution


7. Drones: A Case Study




Conclusion: Theories of Freedom

8. Conclusion: Stalled Traffic and Faulty Networks

Why Should Humans Care?





Reviews and Endorsements

“Pushes the current notion of materialism to its logical conclusions in ways that leave other, nominally radical materialist theories in the dust.” —James Martel, San Francisco State University“[Miller] makes clear the relevance of non-human entities and systems to human politics and to our enmeshment and embedding in them; these material entities are not external to us and thus must be deemed players in our polities and political theory.” —Samir Chopra, Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York