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« March 2017 »
Revolutionary transformation of capitalism into anarchism
Human nature is anti-capitalist; human nature is anarchic and wants to be free.
By overthrowing capitalism we overthrow the state and religion, this will terminate ideology and nationalism.
1) Capitalism causes mental and physical disease and suffering.
2) Capitalism is the basis of violence and poverty.
3) Make capitalism history and the state too.
4) The poverty of capitalist way of living, the boredom of an organization.
5) The ugliness of capitalist society and environment, make the religious comeback his-story as well.
6) Make god and nationalism history, make money his-story, an end to global ignorance.
7) Capitalism maintains all the ills of the world and exasperates them and is directly responsible for all the mass suffering it reproduces in everyday life.
8) Capitalism is big and small prisons wherever you are, it destroys lives and nature everywhere and very fast and without mercy.
9) The business of domination, exploitation and mass oppression, is the business of calculating profit and expanding impoverishment.
10) Capitalism is an accumulated wealth by the few at the cost of eco-human destruction and colossal disaster.
If I was god and would have asked the devil to design the most horrific hell he could imagine, it would not be as horrific as capitalist reality today and as it was always.
Micro-capitalism = personal misery and despair.
Macro-capitalism = social war and violent poverty.
The people of the world are the total victims of capitalist domination over a prolonged period of time.
1. Slavery = master = religion + private property.
2. Serfdom = feudal = religion + private property.
3. Worker = boss = politics + private property.
4. Capitalism = ideology = socialism = state/private property where property is theft.
5. Capitalist social relations are based solely on canning and deceit.
A – Primitive capitalism = barter and exchange.
B – Mid-era capitalism = gold and trade.
C – Modern capitalism = labor and revolt.
* Socialism = reformed capitalism
* Capitalism = reformed socialism
By the destruction of capitalism we destroy misery and pain; we end for ever all human suffering and all the ills and violence, by simply turning all our creative efforts towards humanity and not to the accumulation of private profits.
Lest relief humanity and nature from this imperial parasite called capitalism, capitalism is theft and exploitation of humans and natural resources for the benefit of the few alone. Capitalism causes mass hate and brutality resulting in suicide bombers too.
On blood and sweat capitalism stretches its grabbing arms further and deeper till it devours all and everything; it has done that for centuries, first in the name of god/empire and now in the name of capital/democracy.
Enough is enough, you cannot fuck the people all of the time, there will come a time when these people will rebel and get rid of this historic-quasi-evolutionary phenomenon.
The biggest democracy is the most violent one; it creates wealth for the few at the expense of the rest and robbing nature bare thus destroying in unprecedented rate the geo-biological sphere.
Disobey all authority and demolish all hierarchy – destroy the pyramids of organization and power – eliminate the state and political economy.
We don’t want capitalism, we abhor it, and it is inhuman and should be stopped and transformed. We don’t want Marxism either, what we want is anarchy which connote lack of authority and lack of governance.
Anarchy means complete equality and permanent freedom and an end to private ownership of labor, land and the means of production.
Armed with a bag of weed and some time, I have locked myself into a room, reading the tiresome history of primitive accumulation. Not the actual historical of process, but the concept. Not the noblest of occupations for a militant with time…
Immersed in this stuff I began wondering (prodded by Negri and a friend’s challenge) what a ‘immaterial common’, which does not make reference to the notion of public could consist in philosophically. My obsession over the last month, or more, has been non-payment and the possibility of its being seen as a common (particularly in so far as it has as its consequence, decommodified access to water). The problem is posed as follows:
In what sense are potentially unrelated acts of non-payment a common. If my usage of the common does not require ‘common’ intent on the part of the (commoning) participants, is it not potentially flawed? Certainly intent is implicit in the concept. And would this not allow the researcher/Negri-head to insert his or her own undertanding as the master arbiter of the common. Perhaps the question can be asked another way. Does a value-creating network (in so far as the numerous acts of non-payment become an affective netork) require that each individual part share the same representations of the network as a whole (philosophically this seems impossible).
But perhaps the objection is less a matter of concept as much as the political usage of a concept. The tradition of the last 100 years (at least) of left politics teaches us that to negate the private (to common) is to affirm the pubic (the common). As we have already noted our own common lacked an appropriate institutional notion of the public (it should be noted that in our age of postmdernism/real subsumtion the concept of the public is in decline - in fact, this is the context in which Negri reworks the concept of common)
Perhaps here we need to ask a philosophical question, that is, what would a non-dialectical common look like?
In our own case we have literally millions of people united by a single negation – non-payment with arguable very different reasons. Neibour doesn’t pay so that he can buy a carton of cigarettes, or neibour b says “well I can get away with so why not” or the guy across the road thinks it more important to send his daughter to a model c school and uses the money for transport costs or, or... (The way these things are mediated however would be far more complex). That is, there are whole ranges of things that are being affirmed.
Consider as well that it this common act, non-payment, when it came under threat, spawned a series of defensive movements and continues to dictate the path of cost recovery initiatives. A ‘common’ slogan in the anti-globalisation movement (particularly amongst its anarchist and autonomist currents) is One no Many yeses. It’s a great slogan that invokes D&G either or, or,…and although our humble “refusal to pay common” may not have been what the Zapatista’s had in mind, the slogan is now ‘common’.
If we move with this formulation we can say that the act of non-payment is the common. It should also be clear how this act, this strategic possibility, may be link to the payment boycotts (organised) struggle. And intent cannot be inscribed because the condition of claim is clear.
Capitalism as State Terrorism
Capitalism is the root of all inequalities and injustices of the whole world. Nothing good can come out of this kind of anti-human system which causes only poverty, war and mass mental sickness. Capitalism stimulates only the ugliest traits of human character thus encouraging only greed and deceit.
Capitalism perpetuates only hate and suffering, business is a criminal activity of cheating and manipulating our instinct of survival creating the hierarchy of mass misery.
Capitalism will be abolished by voluntary anarchism before it succeeds in completely enslaving us and fully ruining the planet.
Capitalism, like feudalism and slavery before it, causes plenty of suffering and brutalizes the populace bringing with it havoc to the community and complete destruction of nature.
Everywhere people are unhappy, everywhere the majority is poor and oppressed and the few continue to profit and prosper at the expense of the rest. This will not last for ever; the capitalist system will soon come to an end. The rich will have to learn to live with us on equal terms, without this, resistance and class revolution will expand.
Religious terrorism is part of capitalist terrorism; it is good for state security and for the diminishing of human and civil rights.
The vast majority of the world population wants to live in dignity and in equality, but there can never be a true and real peace unless there is a factual equality and concrete distribution of wealth. Capitalism forbids good living to the majority of the people, a sufficient reason for revolting. Capitalism is a never ending war against all the people of the planet, uniformed mercenaries in a rampage against life and nature in the name of the rich and the leader.
No more, the people are beginning to rise, they are beginning to insurrect and will one day soon participate in the universal anarcho-social revolution. We are fed up with this kind of un-living; we are sick and tired of this sort of imposed alienated social existence, which is miserable, dull and permanently vanquished.
The world and people have to completely and radically change or they will die and vanish. But life is stronger than slavery and capitalism and anarchy awaits us all - Capitalism is a primitive cruel idea with a modern technological cover up.
This is a beginning: a way of getting started as I think through the last 30 years of struggle and crises in South Africa. But it’s also more than that (or maybe less). It’s a contribution to completing my masters.
When asked by the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal to describe my research project in a single line, I wrote the following: “The research will examine the relationship between Johannesburg’s restructuring of the delivery of basic services and Marx’s concept of primitive accumulation (PA), through a survey of the effects of neoliberal cost recovery practices on the life strategies of urban poor communities.”
Reading this sentence again, I am struck by its narrowness and inability to represent the scope of the kinds of stuff that I want to talk about.
One tendency in recent usages of the concept is to invoke the PA in relation to neoliberalism in order to narrativise - within a Marxist framework - aspects of capital’s accumulation strategy that occur outside of the ‘traditional sites of production’ and operate through extra economic strategies of dispossession. That is, the project tends to be an exercise directed at theoretically rescuing the explanatory power of Marxism for the current context, and as such, tends to be an ideologically driven intervention . Secondly, there is a real sense in which the concept describes a specific historical moment in the history of capitalism . Finally narratives of the process of primitive accumulation, particular the histories of the development of capitalism in the south, have often done tremendous violence to local contexts and histories. That is, the history of the concept is not a good one.
Against (or different from) these usages of the concept, my own thinking has focused on the ongoing process of primitive accumulation in relation to the idea of separation , and is explicitly situated on the terrain of subjectivity. Still, I can’t ignore the nagging question, why use the concept at all then? And with that we arrive at the first task of this project i.e. to determine the extent to which the concept of primitive accumulation is useful in approaching “the effects of neoliberal cost recovery practices on the life strategies of urban poor communities”.
A very smart friend of mine visited a while back. At the time I was writing a report for the CSVR where I used the concept of PA. Because my friend is really smart, I used the opportunity to get his take on what I had written. He liked it except for the fact that I had used this concept (PA) and he told me as much. My friend is a Deleuzian, or at least he was on this occasion, and as such, he suggested that instead of PA I should use the concept deterritorialisation. Like my friend I like the concept, and like him, I agree that it would work in this context. At the time however, I wondered whether the usage of deterritorialisation might not alienate my co-author on the project. Another reason for not using the concept deterritorialisation on this occasion was the fact that outside of a very small community of very smart people, the concept is either not known or completely misunderstood, and the labour of the usage would need to be carefully explanatory, first in a general sense and then in the specific sense of PA. I chose against my friend’s advice to stick with PA.
Our current project has no such restrictions (except maybe not being smart enough) so the notion now presents itself as a very real alternative.
DeAngelis? In his essay, ‘Towards A Theory Of Globalisation As Strategy’, Massimo De Angelis, offers a means for characterising aspects of neoliberal restructuring within the broader narrative of capitalist strategies of accumulation (De Angelis, 1998a). Following Perelman, De Angelis argues that the notion of primitive accumulation, used by Marx to describe the emergence of the preconditions for capitalist production, may be understood, not simply as a particular historical phase of capitalism, but as a “continuous phenomenon within the capitalist mode of production”. The term ‘primitive accumulation’ was used by Marx to describe the process of separation and dispossession of people in relation to the social means of production and reproduction, creating a section of the population with no means of survival but their labour power. De Angelis argues that in contrast to the accumulation strategies associated with, for instance, factory production, primitive accumulation does not rely on the “silent compulsion of economic relations”, but is instead imposed through ‘direct extra economic forces’ such as the state (De Angelis, 1998b: 9).
An important element of this analysis is its demonstration of the relationship between strategies of primitive accumulation and worker struggles. De Angelis, building on the work of Polanyi, argues that capitalism is characterised by a double movement of the market and struggle: “On the one side there is the historical movement of the market, a movement that has no inherent limits and therefore threatens society’s very existence. On the other, there is society’s natural propensity to defend itself, and therefore to create institutions for its protection”. For De Angelis the second movement often involves processes of commoning, which may be characterised as the creation of “social spheres of life” aimed at providing “various degrees of protection from the market”.
The commodification of all life and the dismantling of the protections won through worker struggles may therefore be understood as the creation of “new enclosures” in so far as the process implies the ‘enclosure’ of what would otherwise be held in common. In other words, such ‘enclosures’ bring about “a separation between people and their conditions of life, through the dismantlement of rights, entitlements, etc … The aimed end result of these strategies of enclosures share the same substance: to forcibly separate people from whatever access to social wealth they have which is not mediated or co-optable by the market … New enclosures thus are directed towards the fragmentation and destruction of “commons”.
Under neoliberalism, people have been separated from those basic resources considered essential for all life, such as water, housing, electricity, health care, education, and so on, that have been made into areas for greater accumulation by a few. Whereas people previously had unlimited access to a naturally occurring resource such as water, today water has become big business with individuals having to now pay for it as a commodity. In this way, people have been forced to hand over the control of their individual and collective lives to the rule of profit and the market.
In the context of neoliberalism and the crises in capitalism, primitive accumulation strategies become the primary means by which neoliberalism addresses the limits posed to accumulation by the successive protections won by workers and communities.
Another very smart friend of mine – this one is fond of discussing every single theoretical discovery he has come across with me – insisted I read DeAnglis?, and I did. I immediately liked it and was grateful to my friend who indirectly is responsible for setting me along this path. The thesis seemed to explain well what was happening in relation to South Africa’s experience with neoliberalism. That is, the commodification of basic services was a process that had at its end the separation of people from the means of social reproduction. How could the forced mediation of access to water and electricity be anything else? Certainly this was as perniciously a process of dispossession as the hut taxes imposed a century earlier (even if the crisis wasn’t the same) ?
However, De Angelis’s frame of reference was the welfare state, the context in South Africa is however extremely different. In short I needed to understand what is being enclosed. What was the common?
This is how I approached this problem when writing up the CSVR report.
During the 1980’s the struggles of communities worked to create various protections against the market. While these struggles were largely concentrated in townships, they had a significant effect in de-legitimising the apartheid regime and profoundly affected the life strategies of communities. In particular, township resistance of the 1980s utilised strategies, in particular service payment and rent boycotts, that would contribute to the augmenting of household social income. Thus resistance allowed for the elaboration of life strategies under apartheid that allowed for people’s survival in this system and articulated a social common held and reproduced in struggle. The refusal to pay for the basic conditions of reproduction (water, electricity and housing) became a dynamic front in the struggle against apartheid, enjoying almost universal support and massive participation in many townships across the country (decades later these life strategies would come to present the central challenge to the new government and its attempts to remove the barriers to “the natural working of the market” in a neoliberal South Africa).
The near insurrectionary mood of communities and the local economic crisis, saw the apartheid state implementing several reforms aimed at removing obstacles to accumulation and the free movements of the market while attempting to pacifying resistance. Such reforms sought to address these problems through a two-pronged strategy of ‘total onslaught’ and ‘inclusion’ – complete repression of Black resistance as well as the gradual inclusion of parts of Black communities in aspects of governance, the improvement of services to certain parts of Black communities (e.g. the electrification of parts of Soweto in the early 1980s) and attempts to restructure the labour market. With the apartheid state’s strategy extending to include concessions to the liberation movement, by the early 1990s, with the release of political prisoners (including Nelson Mandela), and the unbanning of political organisations, the road to change became that of a negotiated settlement. For the liberation movement, however, this new configuration of strategy was to dramatically alter its vision of the post apartheid future. Concepts like ‘people’s power’ began to disappear or were harnessed towards the ends of assuming state power in a neoliberal world order. Thus, when the African National Congress (ANC) ‘came to power’ through electoral democracy in 1994, it intensified the restructuring of the South African economy along neoliberal lines.
Notably, however, the most profound limit to this process is the life strategies of township communities. Thus, the deepening of the commodification of basic services depends, to a large extent, on the transformation of these life strategies. As noted by McDonald? and Pape, the role of local government shifted, under GEAR, from a redistributive one (imagined in the RDP and probably partially elaborated in the first two years of democracy) to an ‘enabling’, or ‘facilitating’ one (McDonald?, 2002: 4). In this way, the central social responsibility of government has become one of establishing the means for increasing redress rather than delivering access directly. Under this model, real access has come to be determined by market forces, with the state becoming the facilitator of this logic. However, as facilitator of this logic, the state is tasked with disciplining these life strategies as the limit to the free working of the market.
The limits of the transition have meant that neoliberal orthodoxy defines the parameters of the state’s approach to service delivery. What has emerged, as a result, are two conflicting narratives of the social commons created in the payment boycotts of the 1980s. For the state, cost recovery programmes have necessitated a de-legitimation of the ‘commons’ in the interest of restructuring parastatals and state institutions along lines appropriate to its macro-economic priorities. For many communities and critics of the government’s growth path, by contrast, the commons have come to represent the central redistributive challenge of the new state and need to be institutionalised.
In the first narrative the payment boycotts of the 1980s were merely a means of leveraging the position of the liberation movement in relation to the apartheid state. The persistence of non-payment in this context has been characterised as a pathology of ‘a culture of non-payment’ that requires the intervention of the state only in restoring law and order (i.e. payment). The second narrative, in contrast, treats the commons as a fundamental part of the reproductive needs of poor communities, and the social income secured therein, as one of the few protections the most vulnerable have in relation to the capitalist market. The clash of these narratives represents the conceptual basis for the contemporary conflict between the state and communities in relation to basic socio-economic services and their ‘delivery’
The CSVR narrative was very attractive . Primarily, it allowed me to frame the entire thrust of the restructuring of basic services in terms that placed struggle at its centre. This approached also presented, in a reasonably original manner, the limits of neoliberalism in South Africa , and a narrative of the South African social movements in terms of a profound continuity between the struggle against the commodification of basic services and the struggle against apartheid. The argument was, however, open to a number of obvious criticisms. Firstly, it simply assumes the link between people’s life strategies and the payment boycotts. Secondly, it tends to homogenise these life strategies and township communities in the process. Finally, it moves too quickly and so that the logical leaps are not always easy to follow. Although the bulk of these problems could be dealt with through a longer and more directed project (like my MA), some of them, at least, could be addressed by developing the concept of life strategies.
The concept presented itself while reading Foucault’s ethics and thinking through the resistance to prepaid meters in Soweto. With respect to the latter, while we had a sense that the entire history of cost recovery interventions were converging and becoming clarified through the installation of these meters, the only concept we had to describe what was being transformed was the “culture of non-payment”. Of course subjectivity was an option, but who knows how to deploy such a concept, and so much work seems to precede it (hopefully this work is a contribution to getting some of that work done). At the time prishani’s writings were focusing on life, and the manner in which neoliberalism generally, and the meters specifically, were commodifying it. It was also clear to us that the meters were not just the product of governmental rationalities but were specifically pedagogical in their approach to life. The meters were about teaching new life strategies, which at the time initially meant something like ‘the strategies people have for taking care of themselves’. One only needs to look at the promotional information that Johannesburg Water distributed to realise that this was an explicit aim of the programme.
In what sense were the payment boycotts a common?
Without emphasising any spatial connotation, the payment boycotts were maintained in part through the creation of no go areas that were facilitated through the development of a complex networked response to the presence of state officials. It is, as Andy Clarno would say, the creation of an ungovernable space. Essentially, through a whole range of tactics a particular condition is created, an affect whose effect is the commoning of services. But even if we move beyond the spatial affects, and acts of collective solidarity, to individual acts of the refusal to pay - and the significations of that act, which allow for its valorisation and reproduction – we recognise an effect, the commoning of services .
The fact that these services are about accessing the means of life, the strategic investments made in obtaining them can be considered part of the strategies people construct in taking care of themselves - that is life strategies. Further, the fact that such strategies often involve investments in collective action and shared meanings clarifies their potential social investment. That is life strategies may converge through their creation of common meanings and networks. The common is essentially created in the creating of these networks and meanings.
In what sense is the installation of prepaid meters an aspect of primitive accumulation ?
In so far as these life strategies imply the creation of common meanings and networks aimed at accessing the means of social reproduction, the transformation of these life strategies has the effect of separation implied in the definition of primitive accumulation. That is separation from the social means of (re)production.
Transforming township life strategies becomes the primary task of overcoming the limits of the neoliberal restructuring of basic service delivery. But this is no easy task. In the last ten years the state has variously experimented with a series of ideological and punitive interventions aimed at this task. At the ideological level, campaigns such as Masakhane were launched emphasising good citizenship through the payment for services. That is, it attempted to remake the meanings of non-payment. On the other hand, cut-offs and the attachment of property were used as retroactive measures to ensure compliance. However, in comparison with the strategy that would succeed it (prepaid meters), the elements of these two aspects of the state’s response seemed dislocated. Where government and parastatal public relations departments carried out the ideological interventions, cut-offs and attachments were treated as administrative actions and presided over by low-level officials. The introduction of operation Gcina ‘manzi, in many ways, marks the evolution of neoliberalism’s strategy in this regard and explicitly brings these together - the prerogative to save (implicit in the name of the programme) and self-disconnection.
Subjectivity, a far more difficult concept, tends to animate life strategies and determine how they invest different acts (for instance, the non-payment for services). We should also note that while life strategies tend to imply subjectivity, they are not coextensive. Instead, I tend to think of life strategies, as an effect of subjectivity; however, in following the paths of a strategy, subjectivity is also remade. This also seems to imply that life strategies are a negotiation of available freedom and ideas of self. However, life strategies do not simply encounter “available freedoms” as a closed set, but are potentially the means through which the limits of the latter are marked or opened up. I also want to pose this concept (life strategies) against that of survival strategies. The latter seems far too narrow, and reactionary, in the sense that its objects are externally given. From this perspective, the most attractive aspect of this concept is that it allows me to say a few things about subjectivity without it having to be the explicit focus (which seems to me to be an impossible research task).
Our definition of life strategies as ‘people’s strategies for taking care of themselves’ no longer describes the direction in which the concept is developing. We have already seen its relation to social means of production and its elaboration of collective investments. For now the following formulation will have to do: by life strategies, I imply that which is constructed, as a negotiation of people’s available freedom and notions of self, through assuming various strategic positions as a means towards creating the conditions of life.
Hardt and Negri’s Empire takes up the theme of Primitive Accumulation as well. However, where theorists such as David Havey have tended to invoke the concept in relation to notions of inside/outside, Hardt and Negri offer an analysis of a properly postmodern form in which the distinction increasingly becomes untenable.
Their analysis contrasts postmodern PA with the figures of modern primitive accumulation that highlight the relations between inside and out and wealth and command. In relation to the latter, they argue that processes of PA were experienced differently depending upon mediations of the geographies of imperialism. So, for the type of PA described by Marx (ostensibly European), wealth came from outside while command arises internally. On the other hand in Europe’s colonies, wealth came from inside, while command came from outside.
In the postmodern era, what disappears is not PA (“capitalist relations of production and social classes must continually be reproduced”) but the play between inside and outside (or rather, it declines). Further under postmodernism, social wealth - the subject of appropriation - increasingly becomes immaterial: “social relations, communication systems, information and affective networks”. Equally as “the proletariat is becoming the universal figure of labour, the object of proletarian labour is becoming equally universal. Social labour produces life itself.”
They go on to argue that information (the figure of postmodern wealth) carries through its networks both wealth and the command of production such that “informational accumulation destroys or at least destructures the previously existing productive processes, but immediately integrates those productive processes in its own networks and generates across the different realms of production the highest levels of productivity”
Negri’s conception of postmodern primitive accumulation, in spite of a few deficiencies opens up a whole new set of questions that we can discuss when we meet. But a few connections should become clear 1. Firstly that the common of our life strategy thesis is in fact a product of immaterial labour. 2. Such a conception of PA opens up a whole range of possible narratives that speak to the manner in which the post apartheid context has facilitated the widespread appropriation of common . 3. In South Africa the intensive integration of labour (through technologies such as prepaid) elaborate forms of biopower that reconstitute township life strategies as a means to facilitating their insertion into the collective biopolitical body. 4. The forms of reconstitution of life strategies take the figure of entrepreneurialism as an all encompassing master narrative of social production , forcing our thesis into dialogue with various pieces of research on governmentality (not least of which is the work of AvS)
This is where things start getting interesting. However this was only a begining and maybe u can already see where I am taking this…
The following is an outline of the practical process of researching life strategies in relation to water and prepaid meters.
The research will develop a narrative of the various cost recovery interventions led by the South African state over the last ten years, with a specific focus on the introduction of prepaid water meters. It will try to identify the manner in which these interventions have been shaped by, or have responded to community resistance and what has often been referred to as the 'culture of non-payment'. From this perspective the research will also seek to identify the manner in which the actual introduction of prepaid meters has altered the strategies through which people create the conditions of their lives. In addition, the research will attempt to understand the relationship between instances of resistance and these life strategies.
Through the above process, it is intended that we begin understanding the effects of neoliberalism and commodification on people's reproduction (including the whole range of social relations embedded therein). Finally, it is hoped that through this research the concept of life strategies may be developed with a specific focus on its relationship to subjectivity.
With these broad objectives, the research will attempt to answer the following questions:
o What was the specific economic and political context of the ANC government’s adoption of an ostensibly neoliberal approach to the delivery of basic services?
o How did this approach specifically alter the provision of water?
o What were the challenges faced by municipalities in rolling out this process?
o How was 'prepaid' framed in relation to these challenges?
o What were the specific challenges encountered in the roll out of prepaid technology in Soweto?
o What is the relationship between these challenges and various acts of resistance against commodification (including non payment)?
o What is the relationship between these challenges and the social history of Sowetans (eg. the payment boycotts of the 1980s), in particular their experiences of water delivery?
o To what extent do such social histories mediate people’s practices in relation to approaches to non-payment before the implementation of prepaid water meters?
o How do the social histories of Sowetans mediate their responses to prepaid water meters?
o What other factors mediate people’s responses to prepaid meters?
o How has the delivery of water though prepaid systems altered people’s approaches to essential activities such basic hygiene, sanitation and nutrition?
o How has the introduction of prepaid affected peoples approaches to ‘non-essential’ activities such gardening and recreation?
o How has the system effected the financial planning of households, in particular the household budgetary regimes and priorities?
o How has the introduction altered the relationships within the household and with the broader community?
o What has been the effect of these meters on what is often called ‘housework’ or feminised work necessary for the reproduction of the household (e.g. cooking cleaning fetching water)?
o What kinds of strategies do people develop in order to resist or navigate the effects of the system in the relation the categories outlined above? Literature Review A detailed survey of literature related to the above themes and research questions will be conducted. In addition, audio-visual material will be sourced from Indymedia-SA.
Household Critical Ethnographic Studies Five households will be selected in Phiri, Soweto. The researcher will spend a substantial amount of time with each household, interviewing members, observing their behaviour, and initiating conversations, debates and discussions with and amongst them to understand their approaches to life and living. The households will be selected to illustrate differences with regard to the nature of Phiri (representing the different sections), and differences with regard to the responses of households to 'cost recovery' practices.
The researcher will attempt to construct through the above a social history of each household, and map household strategies for living over time. In particular, attention will be paid to access to income, employment strategies, payment for basic services, differentiation of roles in the household, decision-making, etc. These themes will, however, be expanded on through interaction with the five households.
The researcher will construct a specific set of questions for members of households to understand their strategies with regard to prepaid meters. These will be designed in such a way as to understand the effects of prepaid meters on the social histories that would have already been constructed in the manner outlined above.
The researcher will try to draw 'rhizomatic maps' from the information gathered in the above manner to pull together similarities and differences of experiences amongst the five households, in this manner allowing the local experiences to determine the answers to the overall research questions.
It will be difficult to set from the beginning a finite number of interviews as the process of interaction that will have initiated this project will also determine who and what exactly the interviews will focus on. In summary, this project will involve a number of semi-structured interviews with various members of households about various issues related to their choices and strategies for living. It could be said that this project will be a series of 'conversations' with members of households in Phiri about life.
Notes for another possible interview...
In reading your work, I find myself wrestling with the term ‘biopolitics’ and ‘biopolitical’, which you lay out [find reference and quote] as power taking charge of life. As I understand you, the becoming biopolitical of production is what makes the new political project of the not-yet multitude possible. You are not alone in this, some friends from Spain and Argentina have taken up the term as well (reference Precarias and Franco Ingrassia), as part of both mapping the present and proposing new political projects. The understanding of project they lay out sees designated workplaces as contiguous with other spheres of life, and the politics proposed is characterized by a movement – and the attempt to build and exercise power – across these times and spaces.
My initial response to term and the turn it is related to in theory and in political struggle is enthusiastic. On the other hand, I have become more ambivalent about the term. To say that biopolitics has to do with power taking charge of life seems to be vague, as all political power is power over instantiations or modalities of life. Paolo Virno has written that he has a friendly disagreement with you and Negri over biopolitics, because the very concept (and material existence) of labor power implies a taking charge of life (or, as Panzieri writes, planning the labor process means planning living bodies) [cite and quote both]. This would mean that capitalism is biopolitical from its inception. I assume you do not agree with Virno, or else you would not use the concept of biopolitics the way you do. Can you clarify your use of the term, and how it differs from what Virno claims about the term?
In the book Guias, Negri distinguishes between biopower – as the set of techniques of managing populations – and biopolitics – as the production of subjectivity [cite, quote]. In this regard, biopower seems a very important historical development, and an important category for understanding the present and history. On the other hand, biopolitics as the production of subjectivity is harder for me to grasp the importance of. Perhaps I misunderstand the terms, but it seems to me that organizing and social struggle always involve the production of subjectivity. I can think from my own experiences with workplace organizing, there is a big change involved in becoming part of collective activity. It seems to me that all collective activity of resistance and refusal is a process of becoming-collective in a new way, becoming-resistant, which is a production of subjectivity. Or am I using the terms differently than you are? If so, how?
On a related note, as part of the becoming-biopolitical of labor, I understand you and Negri to have laid out a picture in which capitalist production is not limited to remunerated worktime or designated workplaces, and that this (biopolitical?) condition, wherein work occurs across the social field, is part of the new political potentials found in our moment. I wonder about this, though, about what register this idea operates on, the idea that production doesn’t just happen in the factory – are you innovating Marxian categories, or diagnosing a change in the present world? Do you mean that what was once nonwork time has become worktime (in the sense of producing for capital, value production) such that there is now (a greater quantity of) unpaid work happening that did not happen before? Or do you mean that today, because of the arrangement of production today, we understand that capitalism has always involved unpaid work outside of designated workplaces? (I am thinking here of writers like Dalla Costa, Federici, and Fortunati, who argue that the wage has always commanded unwaged labor as well, so that housework by women has always been work for capital since capitalism began.) A similar question was asked of you the last time, when we did the interview by email for aut-op-sy, but the question wasn’t adequately clear. To try and ask this question more directly: do you and Negri see reproductive labor as having been productive of capital (and thus a site of struggle analogous to paid workplaces) since the beginning of capitalism, or do you see this a new phenomenon? If housewives work, for instance, have they worked since capitalism began, or beginning at some later point in time?
In the last interview, in response to similar questions, you said (among other things) “Another way to approach this question would be with Deleuze and Guattari. In Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, all is production. Think of desiring-production as a way of expanding what is considered labor.”
When I hear you say ‘desiring production expands what is considered labor’, I am not sure how to hold onto a distinction that I think is important, namely, the difference between value production and other production, between work for the boss work for one’s self (at the office I work in - the work of data entry that I should have been doing vs the work of typing up these questions for you which I did instead). It seems to me that there are several ways to understand the phrase ‘expands what is considered labor’. One sense is the recognition of activity that is productive of capital but is not or has been recognized as such. (The labor of housewives, for instance, which Fortunati says has been able to be made productive for capital in large part due to the denial of the fact that it is productive for capital.) Another sense is that certain activities that were not productive of capital become integrated into the production of capital. I am thinking here of artistic production: people who play music, write, etc for their own enjoyment who then find themselves able to sell their creative work – work they would do anyway – to get paid enough money that they don’t have to do anything else, at least for a while. This seems to me to be something like a voluntary submission to enclosure at the cultural level, in return for payment. (Something which, perhaps despite the terms here, I have no problem with. I would love to be able to do such a thing!) With this last, it seems to me that nonwork activities become work, become value productive (analogous to the sense in which Marx says that factory work is not productive of value if the goods rot on the dock – value production is (productive of) a social relationship above all else. Similarly, when a band sells its record or a novelist sells her manuscript, activities are or become part of value production, become valorize – conversations had with friends, nightmares and daydreams, moments of emotional and physical intimacy. If the record or book is not sold, or is sold to a company but then does terribly in sales, then value is not realized and those activities are not valorized.
Can you expand on your remarks on the relationship between value production (labor productive of capital) and desiring production, and the relationship of desiring production and the common? (In the above examples I tried to give about aesthetic production I kept thinking about the common – if a band sells its record then it is valorizing part of the common, producing the common as part of capital, if it doesn’t sell then those moments of the common are not valorized.) Insofar as I understand the terms, I understand the relationship of value production and desiring production as follows – value production and desiring production relate to each in a mobile and transverse fashion. Sometimes desiring production and value production are in line with each other, sometimes value production combats desiring production (the imposition of work, the dead time that the Situationists denounced) and sometimes desiring production ruptures or escapes from value production.
In the last interview, in response to these questions you also said “I should note also that "productivity" might not always be the right way to think of this. (…) We need to think about what is productive of social relationships, of society itself.” This interesting, and reminds me of remarks (which I’m not sure I understand) by Jean-Luc Nancy, about being-with. But, in thinking about what is productive of society itself – this is a variation on earlier questions – how can we also think about the production of capitalist society, and the production of communism? We don’t live in society itself, society as such, we live in a capitalist society, a capitalist epoch of society that we want to exit from. And so, in the production of society itself, it’s important to think about … vectors, for lack a better term … trajectories that point back into the production of society as capitalist society, and trajectories that point beyond capital – productions of communism (building the new society inside the shell of the old, as the saying goes.) This is part of what is at stake in the questions about reproductive labor and so on: parts of the Marxist tradition have seen only industrial factory workers as being capable of pointing (producing social relationships) beyond capitalism, the industrial proletariat as bearer of (potential) communism. Part of what I like about your expansion of the concept of labor is that it can serve as a move in (and against) the Marxist tradition, expanding who is part of the production or bringing on of communism, and thus working against strategies which have subjugated different class sectors behind a hegemonic sector (and its official representatives). Do you have thoughts on any of this?
You spoke at the Society for European Philosophy conference, on the theme of ‘resistance’, in London in [when?]. You began by commenting on the idea that power is prior to resistance, which had come up in some of the conference presentations. You laid out three different versions of this idea – Deleuzian, a philosophical and ontological conception wherein it is only resistance that has the power to act creatively; Trontian, in which the actual historical forms that capitalism takes on are produced by the working class; and a third identified with Subaltern Studies and British social history, a ‘bottom-up’ (re)reading of history showing that those assumed (by a certain reading of history) to be without agency, to be fully determined by power, were in fact active subjects. I wonder how you would place your idea of multitude, always-already multitude in this schema. I am partial to thinking that we can interpret ‘bottom-up’ history as historical research which shows that bodies presented as homogeneous were actually heterogeneous, that ‘bottom-up’ history is a history that shows the working class and others as being, in a fashion, always-already multitude. Virno argues that Marx’s depiction in the end of v1 of Capital [find reference] is a description of the working class as (becoming-)multitude. Can multitude be read back into history in this way, or is it only to be found in the present? If not, then how and why does your use of the term multitude differ from that of Virno, who does read it back into history?
Along the same lines, you and Negri talk about moving beyond thinking which takes identity and difference as its central categories, categories which exist in opposition, in an either/or relationship. Instead, you propose the categories common and different, which exist in a both/and relationship. This is very interesting, and I can see how this, at a philosophical level, connects with both your understanding of the present and your political proposals. If you’ll pardon a poor intellectual joke, I think this relationship of common/different characterizes most of my questions for you, which I feel are all different variations of a common theme. I have another such question for you here: is the shift from identity/difference to common/different an innovation in philosophy, or a change in the present world? This leads to my next question, which is, does the change from identity/difference to common/different change how we read prior history?
To make a political parallel, and to pose questions at a more clearly political register, you and others have claimed that the political task is not to seize power, to seize the state. The goal is to exercise power, rather than to seize power as I believe Marcos said, to change the world without taking power like in the title of John Holloway’s book. I wonder at how to interpret this politically, and I think this wondering is at the root of most of my other questions. It seems to me that there are two different understandings of saying “the goal is not to seize power but to constitute power”, which, if you will pardon what may be a sectarian turn of phrase, I think of as either a post-vanguardist/post-statist position or a non- or anti-vanguardist/-statist position. I admit that I am not entirely sure what current political importance rests on this distinction – both positions agree, after all, that the goal today is not seize power. But there does seem to be a difference with regard to the reading and understanding of earlier moments in the history of struggles. The post-statist view seems to say that the goal is not to seize power any longer. That is, the old political forms and strategies aimed at the state are exhausted. This implies a past efficacy – a past communist content, if you will – which is now lost today. This position implies a valorization of past hegemonic working class strategies in past historical moments. The anti-statist position here would be that the goal has never been to seize power, which implies that there was never a positive efficacy – a communist content – to the project of seizing power. This position implies a critique of past hegemonic working class strategies and perhaps identifying/sympathizing with currents which were not hegemonic within the class.
Now, before I ask you what you think of this, I would like to say that I understand that, as my friend Keir says, it is possible to do almost any task with almost any tool. That is, I understand that people sometimes accomplish worthwhile outcomes with limited ideas (just as people with great ideas sometimes accomplish very little else) – the seizure of power, its attendant organizational forms, and the political imaginary bound up with it was an important moment of class struggle for a very long time. That is, I mean to say that the hegemony of statist/vanguardist ideas/strategies within the working class may have had some positive results, but this does not mean that other ideas/strategies may not have had similar or better results if they had become hegemonic.
And so (if you can still remember what I was saying!), I would like to ask, when you and Negri advocate that movements act in ways which are not state centered, would you consider yourselves as articulating a post-statist position or a nonstatist position, with respect to the reading of history in light of the categories you deploy and elaborate in the present?
Part of why I am hung up on this matter is due to experiences with people in vanguardist political organizations who acted in nontransparent and manipulative ways in antiwar and other political activities. I also ask because I have trouble understanding the role of newness in your work and elsewhere, politically speaking. For example, in Empire you and Negri call for new rights, based on the present arrangement of capitalism. You call for free movement, because of the role of migration. But migration and flight has been practiced for centuries. You call for the right to reappropriation – this has also been practiced for centuries, in a class struggle over what will be common and what will be enclosed. And you call for a general income – I would love to get paid simply for existing, but I don’t see how this is something which only now becomes a right. It seems like a variation on the old communist slogan ‘to each according to need’ – a universal income supplying to everyone what they require in order to meet these needs. To make sure I am being clear, I would be happy to see these rights instantiated. But when you offer arguments for these rights based on the characteristics of contemporary capitalism – characteristics which I understand you to be saying are unique to our era – I hear an implied position that prior to our era there was not a good argument for these rights, that is, that these have become rights or have become possible rights. Am I reading into your argument too much?
Similarly, with regard to conversations around the issue of precarity today, positions are put forward calling for organizational forms which I agree with. My friend Franco wrote a short article calling for what he calls ‘biopolitical sindicalism’. But, as far as I can tell, much of this position involves ideas similar to ideas proposed in nonhegemonic sectors of working class movements for a very long time. (The same can be said of the position that we aim for something other than the seizure of state power.) The IWW has been thinking out and practicing alternative forms of worker organization for one hundred years. Today we call it ‘solidarity unionism’, as opposed to the ‘business unionism’ predominating in the official leadership of the official labor movement. I see much in common with what the IWW has been saying and what people are saying around precarity today, and with a certain reading of your work, but the difference is that I don’t see anyone in the IWW saying that this is a particularly new set of possibilities, it’s a set of possibilities that has been around since at least 1905. The main difference, in my mind (I don’t speak for the IWW of course), is that you and others (like the Precarias a la Deriva) seem to be saying that what the IWW wants – in terms of class strategies and movement organizational forms – is only now becoming possible. Is that a fair characterization, or have I misunderstood?
Draft under revision, please don't circulate. From my friend Franco Ingrassia.
In spanish at -
11 Precarias Ideas for a Biopolitical Sindicalism
To speak of precarious labor is to speak, to begin with, of half the workers in Argentina: those who work in the black economy. To continue, it is to speak of the multitudes of un- and undermployed who, despite working outside the wage relation, also produce a type of wealth which, in many cases, is directly linked to the survival of hundreds of millions of people. To those must be added those who work under the so-called “garbage contract”. Contracts for services, temporary, without recognition of minimum labor rights. Neither holidays nor vacations nor sick days. To those must be added, in addition, a multiple variety of [becarios - grantees?], [pasantes], ad-honorem [??] workers, volunteers, etc.
This is the precariat. The workers not recognized as such by outmoded conceptions that assign the condition of worker based on a type of contractual relation that is increasingly exceptional. Workers invisible to the State which does not recognize their rights and also to the majority of the unions, which do not permit them to affiliate or participate for themselves. This is the precariat today: the vast majority of the class that lives from its labor.
The precarization of labor, the permanent instability of the conditions of life profoundly alters the very notion of project of life in young workers. Our parents had project of life with contents distinct from those of our grand parents. The conditions of life for the one and for the other were distinct, but in both cases these conditions were relatively stable. For our generation it is not a matter of elaborating distinct contents but rather of reinventing the very notion of project of life. How to project when instability becomes a point of departure? In what way can singular and collective trajectories be constructed that avoid remaining subject to disperion and the aleatority of market flows? To reinvent the notion of project is a task that connects immediately with the task of reinventing the spaces of collective organization that allow us to materialize said projects.
What is sindicalism or what could sindicalism be after precarity? What type of transformations in its organization, in its dynamic and its modes of action would tend to be introduced by a union that [plantee dejar de desconocer a - arose ceasing not to know?] the most significatn portion of the present workforce [note: the Spanish, fuerza de trabajo, can translate into English as both 'workforce' and 'labor power'. In English 'workforce' normally indicates an existing group of people in a specific workplace or labor market, while 'labor power' is a more abstract (which is not to say unimportant) marxian category. The use here is in the text is closer to 'workforce', but the term also includes 'labor power' in a linked set of meanings which it is difficult to express in English - tr.]
This writing attempts to propose some precarious ideas, tools, and hypotheses that contribute to the labor of reinvention and relaunching that the worker organizations most committed to social change are attempting to carry forward. It is a matter above all else of a set of sketchs, fragments, or clues that will have value in as much as they are able to stimulate the collective process of debate and thought.
The laboral instability proper to precarity produces a constant fluidification of the workforce. The individual itineraries of each worker begin to resemble a species of laboral dispersion in which one passes from one job to the next, from manual tasks to intellectual tasks, from complex labors and intense hours to periods of under- or unemployment. Is there an alternative to this which would not be simply reactive, that is to say, the attempt to rigidify the labor market? Perhaps the key is identifying this mobility as a characteristic common to an increasingly broad sector of the class and to being to intervene upon this mobility, in order to change it, in certain conditions, into a militant practice. To migrate from one center of labor to another permits constituting relationships with dissimilar compañeros. It also permits knowledge of some situations to resurge in other parts. Additionally, mobility as a central characteristic supposes the reformulation of the union organization which, until know, that thought of itself following schema of permanence. The forms of organization that continue separating workers by branch or by center of work continue losing, in a tendential form, their relevance to the degree that the workforce makes itself more and more flexible.
In the everyday life of the precariat the periods of employment are found to alternate with periods of unemployment and/or underemployment. Waged labor, previously a full presence, is an intermittence in the life of the precarious worker. As such, the categories of employed worker and unemployed worker are increasingly fluid. A biopolitical sindicalism, a sindicalism that wants to empower (potenciar) the antagonistic capacities of the precariat, can not think itself in the same way, then, as a space of organization exclusive to employed workers. The biopolitical union presents its first hybrid figure: the crossing of organizational forms and modalities of collective action of the mass union and of the movement of unemployed workers. That is to say, the question remains open, what type of union organization could group together the precarious worker, that is to say, the intermittent worker?
03. autonomous cooperation
Precarious workers, subjected to instability as a permanent condition, only survive through the permanent generation of relationships, of networks of contacts in distinct instances of the productive territory. This capacity, in the light of discontinuity in incomes which intermittence produces, can bring us to conceive the idea of a new type of sindicalism, which would be able to organize these capacities for the configuration of forms, these capacities for cooperation, orienting them toward the productionof more or less autonomous forms of existence of the workforce, beyond the wage relation. With that, the biopolitical union presents its second hybrid figure: the crossing of the union with the productive experiences of the cooperative workers.
04. recombination: militant task in dispersion
Intermittence, mobility, discontinuity of incomes and laboral instablity have changed the social existence of the precariat into an experience very distinct from the pre-existing forms of the workforce. Since 30 years ago, against the permanent and [inconsulta] structuration of laboral activity brought forward by the boss. This structuraction extended to the disciplining of the rest of social life, from the time of nonwork. This industrial worker struggled against domination understood as fixation of the body to one place and to one task. For its part, the precarious worker sturggles against a very distinct form of domination: instability. This laboral instability has an extralaboral correlate: social dispersion. In conditions of stable structuration the militant tasks are to break, negate, subvert the rules. In conditions of social dispersion, the militant tasks are to invent autonomous modes of cohesion and recombination of resources and of human bonds that always threaten to escape, to disperes. In a certain sense, the present militant task of those that concentrate in intervenint inside the precariat could be considered as the slow and intricate process of subjective reconstruction of the working class, taking the objective conditions of generalized dispersion as point of departure.
Contemporary capitalism produces fragmentation and introduces heterogeneity (in assigned tasks, forms of contractual relations, incomes, continuity/discontinuity in the job, etc) and the individualization of the precariat. It is necessary to produce new forms of action that take advantage of this multiplicity. If the mass union constituted its power (potencia) on the basis of the growing homogeneity of the life of workers, biopolitical sindicalism should find its force in the wealth of differences, in the capacity to politically articulate the contemporary heterogeneity, in the will to carry this process of hetereogeneization beyond the logic and the projects of capital.
Biopolitical sindicalism has to propose producing horizons of confluence of living labor in its multiple current forms of existence: stable work, precarious work, long term unemployment, etc. The project of construction of a non-state public sphere as much as the general income (or minimum guaranteed income) could become collective projects. Beyond the visibility of immediate implentation of proposals like the basic income, it is a matter of producting common horizons, territories of cooperation in which the different forms of existence of precarious work can recognize, recombine, and articulate themselves.
07. instability and self-organization
Instability, mobility, and heterogeneization define the characteristics of a fluctuating class composition. The conditions of life of the precariat are in constant change. A biopolitical sindicalism would be able to construct flexible organizational dispositifs capable of accompanying this mobility constitutive of precarization. The models of organziation that base themselves on fixed structures reveal their limits. The union should function as a permanent space of self-organization and recombination for the workers that move in a productive and labor context in constant change. The capacity of organizational innovation becomes fundamental in order to be able to respond to the variable problematics that arise in struggles at each moment.
08. new topologies of conflict
In conditions of laboral instability, the same economic dynamic situated the place of antagonism and of struggles inside the factory. The analysis of the productive cycle specific to each productive unit permitted discovering which were the key points, the seccions that, by being halted, had the capacity to paralyze the whole set of production. In conditions of precarious work, this is never defined beforehand. In passing from a logic of structures, that is to say of fixed places and relations, to a logic of processes, where there are flows of capital, information, and resistance that redefine themselves at each pass through places, productive relations, and their occupants, [de lo que - such that?] it is a matter alway, in the first instance, of being able to produce, construct the conditions for the localization of the conflict. Inside or outside the productive space? In the street or in the media? In the places of production, in the avenues of distribution or in the spaces of consumption? A biopolitical union would have to be able to have the tools of analysis to be able to situate, in each concrete case, in each concrete struggle, where it would be best to localize and deepen collective conflictivity and action. Many times a creative and innovative approach to the problem of the localization of the conflict is defined in large part by the type of prior struggle.
If the strucutre was a system of fixed relations, proper to contexts of stability, the organizational form that will be most effective in situations of instability is the network. Without predetermined relations, open to the permanent incorporation of new elements, without a centralized command structure, the network permits a collective to be able to reconfigure itself successively following the changes of its environment, in order to always be able to act with the greatest transformative capacity. Unions up until now adopted structural organizational forms, in consonance with the structural organization of production proper to the industrial era. Presently the productive spaces, in agreement with the postfordist and toyotist theories, have initiated processes of transformation of structures into productive networks. A union that has the capacity to act taking into account the new forms of labor would be a network-union, an organization with the capacity to transform the characteristics that constitute the precariat (mobility, intermittence, heterogeneity, etc) and change them into tools for struggle, into mechanisms of political aggregation.
Since the workers inquiry by Marx for the International Workingmens Association, there have existed numerous experiences of appropriation of diverse tools of research on the part of the worker movement. Today the fluid characteristics of precarity lead us to intensify these practices, proposing a labor of permant self-inquiry. The biopolitical union would also be the dispositif starting from which the working class could investigate its own technical and political composition: the characteristics that define it, the tendencies and countertendencies that pass through it, the everyday resistances susceptible to recombining themselves into an antagonistic project. Biopolitical sindicalism as process of though, of collective elaboration of knowing about own conditions and potentialities. It is a matter of producing the passage from action-research to participative union research.
11. mixed models
The biopolitical union is a diffuse project today, a set of hypotheses on how there can be thought a union organization inside precarization. The term "biopolitical" indicates to us that it is a matter of being able to respond to a type of capitalism that is misunderstood [se dentiende - should this be 'misunderstands'?] [de] the problem of reproduction of the work force (as the dramatic closeness of the average wage in our country to the line of indigence defined by the INDEC [??]). It is a matter of being able to think how to collectively construct conditions of life, cooperation, resistance, and social invention. In the present conjuncture, biopolitical sindicalism could be thought following a mixed model, which can recombine in a dynamic form elements stemming from the three great dispositifs of organization created by the worker movement: the union, the cooperative, and the worker party. Economic struggle, autonomous organization of productive capacities and political struggle will function as articulated dimensions of the biopolitical labor of a new sindicalism able to confront the challenges of the new contemporary forms of exploitation. And to transform them.
I’ve been thinking about the history that gets told of changing class compositions, with different technical compositions and corresponding political compositions of the working class. In my understanding, this is a story of hegemonic class figures who act in/on/based on a given technical composition. The technical composition is modified by the bosses in order to decompose (undercut the efficacy of) the political composition. In a new technical composition the challenge is to effect political recomposition adequate to the technical composition. The story goes professional worker then mass worker then (for some) socialized worker then multitude, with each ‘then’ indicating the breakdown of the at-the-time hegemonic figure and the construction of the new hegemonic figure.
I find this story convincing, though less than I used to. I’ve started to wonder what gets left out in this story. In this regard I’ve been thinking about hegemony. If the mass worker was hegemonic in the working class, then it’s safe to assume from the concept of hegemony alone (in as much as I understand it), a three place relationship within the class: the hegemonic figure, those upon whom the hegemonic figure was hegemonic (that is, those who were not part of the figure but were part of its hegemony - people who ‘enlisted in’ or were convinced – fellow travelers, so to speak, traveling in the wake or line of force defined by the hegemonic figure), and those whom hegemony was exercised against (those excluded by the field of force of hegemony, those dissident from the hegemony, or subjugated by it).
I’m thinking here more concretely of women, gays and lesbians, and other subaltern groups within the class… the history of workers movements is littered with ‘wait till later’ and denunciations of groups who didn’t want to wait. Feminism exploded the New Left in much of the world, in part because the organizational forms were predicated on a gendered division of labor that broke down when women started refusing their prescribed roles. This seems to get left out of the story of shifting hegemonic class figures. That is, it seems to be left out that hegemony within working class movements is a relation of power, exercised by some class sector(s) on others.
The hegemony of the mass worker sometimes gets spoken of more as a homogeneity of the class, in crudest form as if during that time there were only mass workers, or as if the class was homogeneous in being united behind and under the mass worker. It also sounds to me like sometimes there is an assumption of automaticity in the becoming-hegemonic of one class figure, that one class figure was best suited to the era (as in the phrasing of a political composition ‘adequate’ – or ‘giving adequate expression’ – to the technical composition. As if the hegemonic figure became hegemonic because it was most effective, most in the ‘interest’ the ‘class as a whole’. Perhaps. But perhaps instead hegemony is due to intra-class power (power over other class sectors, ability to win in conflict with other class sectors) rather than necessarily being a priori the most effective sector for the disruption of capital. That is, just because a figure becomes hegemonic inside the class does not mean necessarily that it will be the figure most suited to conflict with the capitalist class. (And in any case, this formulation seems to imply a representational moment – struggling on behalf of others, subordinating other class sectors to the dominant sector.)
There’s another sense of hegemony that Negri deploys, when he says that ‘immaterial labor has become hegemonic in production’. This is a technical hegemony. I’m not sure I understand the point, or the relationship between this and political hegemony. Negri says that the importance of immaterial labor in production does not guarantee political hegemony, but I think it’s very clear that Negri is for the hegemony of immaterial laborers politically, in his use of the term multitude. Of course, the argument goes that all labor is becoming immaterial, so it could be read as a dissolution of hegemony or the position of hegemonic class figure as such. I like that idea, except for the ‘dissolution’ part.
It seems to me that there is an important difference between the politics of hegemony (the strategy of gaining hegemony both within the class and between classes) being ‘over’ and articulating a critique of the politics of hegemony. What I don’t like about the idea, where my reservations are, is that ‘over’ seems to say that people in prior moments, times before the ‘end’, who contested the hegemony of the dominant class figure were wrong and were doomed, that they could only fail, and that, perhaps, it’s best that they did. (Benjamin says somewhere, the theses on the philosophy of history I believe, that the historian sympathizes with the victors – that’s what this history sounds like to me, a history of victors within the class movement. Not only that or simply that – I am still keen on some aspects of this history, and the critique of aspects of the worker movement doesn’t vitiate the whole movement [just the so-called leadership!] - but I think there’s a moment of this victor’s history in the periodization of class figures...) I keep getting hung up on this, and I’m not sure what hangs on it, other than the reading of history. Perhaps I’m a sectarian, an anarcho-cliché harping on about Kronstadt?
Anyway, because of all this thinking on hegemony and suchlike, I’ve culled some Gramsci quotes off the internet and pasted them here for future use.
Antonio Gramsci Reader: VI Hegemony, Relations of Force, Historical Bloc -
12 Observations on Certain Aspects of the Structure of Political Parties in Periods of Organic Crisis
SPN, 210-11; 167-8 (Q13§23), 1932-34
(To be connected to the notes on situations and relations of force.) At a certain point in their historical lives, social groups become detached from their traditional parties. In other words, the traditional parties in that particular organizational form, with the particular men who constitute, represent, and lead them, are no longer recognized by their class (or fraction of a class) as its expression.
These situations of conflict between ‘represented and representatives’ reverberate out from the terrain of the parties (the party organizations properly speaking, the parliamentary-electoral field, newspaper organization) throughout the state organism, reinforcing the relative power of the bureaucracy (civil and military), of high finance, of the Church, and generally of all bodies relatively independent of the fluctuations of public opinion. How are they created in the first place? In every country the process is different, although the content is the same. And the content is the crisis of the ruling class’s hegemony, which occurs either because the ruling class has failed in some major political undertaking for which it has requested, or forcibly extracted, the consent of the broad masses (war, for example), or because huge masses (especially of peasants and petty-bourgeois intellectuals) have passed suddenly from a state of political passivity to a certain activity, and put forward demands which taken together, albeit not organically formulated, add up to a revolution. A ‘crisis of authority’ is spoken of: this is precisely the crisis of hegemony, or crisis of the state as a whole.
This order of phenomena is connected to one of the most important questions concerning the political party — namely the party’s capacity to react against force of habit, against the tendency to become mummified and anachronistic. Parties come into existence, and constitute themselves as organizations, in order to influence the situation at moments which are historically vital for their class; but they are not always capable of adapting themselves to new tasks and to new epochs, nor of evolving pari passu with the overall relations of force (and hence the relative position of their class) in the country in question, or in the international field. In analysing the development of parties, it is necessary to distinguish: their social group; their mass membership; their bureaucracy and general staff. The bureaucracy is the most dangerously hidebound and conservative force; if it ends up by constituting a compact body, which stands on it own and feels itself independent of the mass of members, the party ends up by becoming anachronistic and at moments of acute crisis it is voided of its social content and left as though suspended in mid-air. One can see what has happened to a number of German parties as a result of the expansion of Hitlerism. French parties are a rich field for such research: they are all mummified and anachronistic historico-political documents of the various phases of past French history, whose outdated terminology they continue to repeat; their crisis could become even more catastrophic than that of the German parties.
One point which should be added to the note on economism, as an example of the so-called intransigence theories, is the rigid aversion on principle to what are termed compromises — and the derivative of this, which can be termed ‘fears of dangers’. It is clear that this aversion on principle to compromise is closely linked to economism. For the conception upon which the aversion is based can only be the iron conviction that there exist objective laws of historical development similar in kind to natural laws, together with a belief in a predetermined teleology like that of a religion: since favourable conditions are inevitably going to appear, and since these, in a rather mysterious way, will bring about palingenetic events, it is evident that any deliberate initiative tending to predispose and plan these conditions is not only useless but even harmful. Side by side with these fatalistic beliefs however, there exists the tendency ‘thereafter’ to rely blindly and indiscriminately on the regulatory properties of armed conflict. Yet this too is not entirely without its logic and its consistency, since it goes with a belief that the intervention of will is useful for destruction but not for reconstruction (already under way in the very moment of destruction). Destruction is conceived of mechanically, not as destruction/reconstruction. In such modes of thinking, no account is taken of the ‘time’ factor, nor in the last analysis even of ‘economics’. For there is no understanding of the fact that mass ideological factors always lag behind mass economic phenomena, and that therefore, at certain moments, the automatic thrust due to the economic factor is slowed down, obstructed or even momentarily broken by traditional ideological elements — hence that there must be a conscious, planned struggle to ensure that the exigencies of the economic position of the masses, which may conflict with the traditional leadership’s policies, are understood. An appropriate political initiative is always necessary to liberate the economic thrust from the dead weight of traditional policies — i.e. to change the political direction of certain forces which have to be absorbed if a new, homogeneous politico-economic historical bloc, without internal contradictions, is to be successfully formed. And, since two ‘similar’ forces can only be welded into a new organism either through a series of compromises or by force of arms, either by binding them to each other as allies or by forcibly subordinating one to the other, the question is whether one has the necessary force, and whether it is ,productive’ to use it. If the union of two forces is necessary in order to defeat a third, a recourse to arms and coercion (even supposing that these are available) can be nothing more than a methodological hypothesis; the only concrete possibility is compromise. Force can be employed against enemies, but not against a part of one’s own side which one wishes rapidly to assimilate, and whose ‘good will’ and enthusiasm one needs.
Antonio Gramsci - The Modern Prince: Some Theoretical and Practical Aspects of "Economism"
though hegemony is ethical-political, it must also be economic, must necessarily be based on the decisive function exercised by the leading group in the decisive nucleus of economic activity.
An Antonio Gramsci Reader: VIII. Passive Revolution, Caesarism, Fascism
1 The Problem of Political Leadership in the Formation and Development of the Modern State in Italy
SPN, 55-85 (Q19§24)
The methodological criterion on which our own study must be based is the following: that the supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, as ‘domination’ [dominio] and as ‘intellectual and moral leadership’ [direzione]. A social group dominates antagonistic groups, which it tends to ‘liquidate’, or to subjugate perhaps even by armed force; it leads kindred and allied groups. A social group can, and indeed must, already exercise ‘leadership’ before winning governmental power (this indeed is one of the principal conditions for the winning of such power); it subsequently becomes dominant when it exercises power, but even if it holds it firmly in its grasp, it must continue to ‘lead’ as well.
Antonio Gramsci - The Modern Prince: Spontaneity and Conscious Leadership
"pure" spontaneity does not exist in history: it would come to the same thing as "pure" mechanicity. In the "most spontaneous" movement it is simply the case that the elements of "conscious leadership" cannot be checked, have left no reliable document. It may be said that spontaneity is therefore characteristic of the "history of the subaltern classes", and indeed of their most marginal and peripheral elements; these have not achieved any consciousness of the class "for itself", and consequently it never occurs to them that their history might have some possible importance, that there might be some value in leaving documentary evidence of it.
Hence in such movements there exist multiple elements of "conscious leadership", but no one of them is predominant or transcends the level of a given social stratum's "popular science" — its "common sense" or traditional conception of the world. (…)
The fact that every "spontaneous" movement contains rudimentary elements of conscious leadership, of discipline, is indirectly demonstrated by the fact that there exist tendencies and groups who extol spontaneity as a method. Here one must distinguish between the realm of pure "ideology" and that of practical action, between scholars who argue that spontaneity is the immanent and objective "method" of the historical process, and political adventurers who argue for it as a "political" method. With the former it is a question of a mistaken conception, whereas with the latter what is involved is an immediate and vulgar contradiction which betrays its manifest practical origin — i.e. the immediate practical desire to replace a given leadership by a different one.
At this point, a fundamental theoretical question is raised: can modern theory be in opposition to the "spontaneous" feelings of the masses? ("Spontaneous" in the sense that they are not the result of any systematic educational activity on the part of an already conscious leading group, but have been formed through everyday experience illuminated by "common sense", i.e. by the traditional popular conception of the world — what is unimaginatively called "instinct", although it too is in fact a primitive and elementary historical acquisition.) It cannot be in opposition to them. Between the two there is a "quantitative" difference of degree, not one of quality. A reciprocal "reduction" so to speak, a passage from one to the other and vice versa, must be possible. (Recall that Immanuel Kant believed it important for his philosophical theories to agree with common sense; the same position cam be found in Croce. Recall too Marx's assertion in The Holy Family that the political formulae of the French Revolution can be reduced to the principles of classical German philosophy.)80 Neglecting, or worse still despising, so-called "spontaneous" movements, i.e. failing to give them a conscious leadership or to raise them to a higher plane by inserting them into politics, may often have extremely serious consequences.
There exists a scholastic and academic historico-political outlook which sees as real and worthwhile only such movements of revolt as are one hundred per cent conscious, i.e. movements that are governed by plans worked out in advance to the last detail or in line with abstract theory (which comes to the same thing). But reality produces a wealth of the most bizarre combinations. It is up to the theoretician to unravel these in order to discover fresh proof of his theory, to "translate" into theoretical language the elements of historical life. It is not reality which should be expected to conform to the abstract schema. This will never happen, and hence this conception is nothing but an expression of passivity.
Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci -
First Published: Gramsci, Antonio. 1949. Gli intellettuali e l'organizzazione della cultura, Edited by F. Platone. Turin: Nuovo Universale Einaudi;
Source: Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. “The Intellectuals”, in Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Translated and Edited by Q. Hoare and G. N. Smith. New York: International Publishers, page 3-23;
I - The Formation of the Intellectuals
1. Every social group, coming into existence on the original terrain of an essential function in the world of economic production, creates together with itself, organically, one or more strata of intellectuals which give it homogeneity and an awareness of its own function not only in the economic but also in the social and political fields. The capitalist entrepreneur creates alongside himself the industrial technician, the specialist in political economy, the organisers of a new culture, of a new legal system, etc. It should be noted that the entrepreneur himself represents a higher level of social elaboration, already characterised by a certain directive [dirigente] and technical (i.e. intellectual) capacity: he must have a certain technical capacity, not only in the limited sphere of his activity and initiative but in other spheres as well, at least in those which are closest to economic production. He must be an organiser of masses of men; he must be an organiser of the “confidence” of investors in his business, of the customers for his product, etc. If not all entrepreneurs, at least an élite amongst them must have the capacity to be an organiser of society in general, including all its complex organism of services, right up to the state organism, because of the need to create the conditions most favourable to the expansion of their own class; or at the least they must possess the capacity to choose the deputies (specialised employees) to whom to entrust this activity of organising the general system of relationships external to the business itself. It can be observed that the “organic” intellectuals which every new class creates alongside itself and elaborates in the course of its development, are for the most part “specialisations” of partial aspects of the primitive activity of the new social type which the new class has brought into prominence.[A]
What are the “maximum” limits of acceptance of the term “intellectual"? Can one find a unitary criterion to characterise equally all the diverse and disparate activities of intellectuals and to distinguish these at the same time and in an essential way from the activities of other social groupings? The most widespread error of method seems to me that of having looked for this criterion of distinction in the intrinsic nature of intellectual activities, rather than in the ensemble of the system of relations in which these activities (and therefore the intellectual groups who personify them) have their place within the general complex of social relations. Indeed the worker or proletarian, for example, is not specifically characterised by his manual or instrumental work, but by performing this work in specific conditions and in specific social relations (apart from the consideration that purely physical labour does not exist and that even Taylor’s phrase of “trained gorilla" is a metaphor to indicate a limit in a certain direction: in any physical work, even the most degraded and mechanical, there exists a minimum of technical qualification, that is, a minimum of creative intellectual activity.) And we have already observed that the entrepreneur, by virtue of his very function, must have to some degree a certain number of qualifications of an intellectual nature although his part in society is determined not by these, but by the general social relations which specifically characterise the position of the entrepreneur within industry.
All men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals.[D]
When one distinguishes between intellectuals and non-intellectuals, one is referring in reality only to the immediate social function of the professional category of the intellectuals, that is, one has in mind the direction in which their specific professional activity is weighted, whether towards intellectual elaboration or towards muscular-nervous effort. This means that, although one can speak of intellectuals, one cannot speak of non-intellectuals, because non-intellectuals do not exist. But even the relationship between efforts of intellectual-cerebral elaboration and muscular-nervous effort is not always the same, so that there are varying degrees of specific intellectual activity. There is no human activity from which every form of intellectual participation can be excluded: homo faber cannot be separated from homo sapiens. Each man, finally, outside his professional activity, carries on some form of intellectual activity, that is, he is a “philosopher”, an artist, a man of taste, he participates in a particular conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and therefore contributes to sustain a conception of the world or to modify it, that is, to bring into being new modes of thought.
The mode of being of the new intellectual can no longer consist in eloquence, which is an exterior and momentary mover of feelings and passions, but in active participation in practical life, as constructor, organiser, “permanent persuader” and not just a simple orator (but superior at the same time to the abstract mathematical spirit); from technique-as-work one proceeds to technique-as-science and to the humanistic conception of history, without which one remains “specialised” and does not become “directive" (specialised and political).
What we can do, for the moment, is to fix two major superstructural “levels": the one that can be called “civil society”, that is the ensemble of organisms commonly called “private”, and that of “political society” or “the State”. These two levels correspond on the one hand to the function of “hegemony” which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand to that of “direct domination” or command exercised through the State and “juridical” government. The functions in question are precisely organisational and connective. The intellectuals are the dominant group’s “deputies” exercising the subaltern functions of social hegemony and political government. These comprise:
1. The “spontaneous” consent given by the great masses of the population to the general direction imposed on social life by the dominant fundamental group; this consent is “historically” caused by the prestige (and consequent confidence) which the dominant group enjoys because of its position and function in the world of production.
2. The apparatus of state coercive power which “legally” enforces discipline on those groups who do not “consent” either actively or passively. This apparatus is, however, constituted for the whole of society in anticipation of moments of crisis of command and direction when spontaneous consent has failed.
The political party, for all groups, is precisely the mechanism which carries out in civil society the same function as the State carries out, more synthetically and over a larger scale, in political society. In other words it is responsible for welding together the organic intellectuals of a given group — the dominant one — and the traditional intellectuals. The party carries out this function in strict dependence on its basic function, which is that of elaborating its own component parts — those elements of a social group which has been born and developed as an “economic” group — and of turning them into qualified political intellectuals, leaders [dirigenti] and organisers of all the activities and functions inherent in the organic development of an integral society, both civil and political. Indeed it can be said that within its field the political party accomplishes its function more completely and organically than the State does within its admittedly far larger field. An intellectual who joins the political party of a particular social group is merged with the organic intellectuals of the group itself and is linked tightly with the group. This takes place through participation in the life of the State only to a limited degree and often not at all. Indeed it happens that many intellectuals think that they are the State, a belief which, given the magnitude of the category, occasionally has important consequences and leads to unpleasant complications for the fundamental economic group which really is the State.[G]
That all members of a political party should be regarded as intellectuals is an affirmation that can easily lend itself to mockery and caricature. But if one thinks about it nothing could be more exact. There are of course distinctions of level to be made. A party might have a greater or lesser proportion of members in the higher grades or in the lower, but this is not the point. What matters is the function, which is directive and organisational, i.e. educative, i.e. intellectual. A tradesman does not join a political party in order to do business, nor an industrialist in order to produce more at lower cost, nor a peasant to learn new methods of cultivation, even if some aspects of these demands of the tradesman, the industrialist or the peasant can find satisfaction in the party.
[The following is a rambling loose reflection, in part, on some of the effects of certain types of work on speech and relationships. It’s part of my own trying to understand some of the claims made about immaterial labor, and the differences between different types of this labor, and its effects on those of us who do it for a living…]
“For too long some of the most influential disciplines in the humanities - disciplines such as politics and economics, which determine the course of nations and the human possibilities of millions – have shared more with the enterprise of "Newspeak" in which the boundaries of the thinkable perpetually contract and ossify. As Orwell implicitly understood, this is a serious political danger, both for the practice of democracy and the enterprise of policy. It reduces knowledge to an instrumental tool, a political commodity, and mouths an arrogant rebuke to the liberal premises of the university as a free space of intellectual inquiry. Yes, knowledge needs structure and logic, but it also needs freedom and surprise, sudden disjunctions and conjunctions, caution and daring at once. Theory needs to be constantly challenged, both on its own epistemological terrain and at the crossroads of its intersection with history and practice. Theory needs to find itself surprised by events, even as it breaks up their structure of obviousness and commonsense.”
Borderlands is a fine entity. I pasted in this quote from their manifesto mainly because I like it. The quote also resonates with some conversations my partner and I have been having lately.
Recently on a long car trip we started talking about speech. The conversation started off talking about when we lived in the UK, about different phrases that have different meanings in the UK vs the US. Then we start talking about the circle of friends we had there, which included a number of exchange students who were not native English speakers. In order to converse with some of those friends we had to monitor our speech, avoid colloquialisms and certain metaphors, including ones that we didn’t recognize as metaphors (“take a right on Dalkeith then head south”, “I’ll fix you a cup of tea”, etc).
I quite enjoyed aspects of this, being deliberate about word choice and so on. For years I have periodically decided upon new terms and phrases to introduce into my regular parlance. (My most recent favorite is “interweb”.) I used to do this in high school, train myself to use new terms and phrases until they became habitual, then I would see if my friends would pick up on them, and I would then decide whether or not I wanted to keep using the term. (I started saying “swingin’!” in high school, in place of “cool!”. It took two or three weeks before I stopped being embarrassed and before it stopped being forced. After another 2 weeks most of my friends had picked it up, and in another month the phrase had entered the vocabularies of people from entirely different subcultural units.)
This conversation turned into a conversation about friends and family. We both are at the higher end of the formal education spectrum for our families. We have some friends who are grad students and professors, and many who are not. We have both had the experience of using terms that others didn’t understand. When we first starting reading Marx we would have annoying go-rounds with people where we’d be trying to make points about, you know, The Man, and people wouldn’t get what we meant. “Estrangement? Externalization?” Being honest, it was sometimes a type of maneuver – a powerplay within the language game. Certain modes of speech can serve to place one on a hierarchy. (Of course, this hierarchy is somewhat relative – some people are wowed by polysyllabic phraseology, others are dismissive and unimpressed.) In my experience this has occurred most frequently around lefties – big words and name- dropping can be a way to win an argument.
On the other hand, it can be particularly frustrating to try and talk to someone and to accidentally make a conversational move that is interpreted as a powerplay. This can happen with theory/philosophy and politics, and in my circles of friends used to happen with indie music. (Luckily we’re mostly all grown out of deliberately trying to score points by knowing obscure bands’ discographies and changing member line ups.) Someone would be talking about a band they’ve become very excited about, and someone else would think they were trying to impress people, to be an expert on indie music. It’s certainly happened with me and members of my family. People have asked me what I like to read, or what I was studying when I was in university. I would explain in the terms given in the books and courses. Afterward what I had created was not clarity over my interests, but a communicative misfire (ie, they didn’t understand me and I felt frustrated either at their inability to get it or at my inability to explain). Of course, misfires are themselves productive of other effects – they can be performative actions to place at a position on a hierarchy. (“You don’t understand me because I am smarter, better read, more sophisticated.”)
There’s a great essay by HP Grice called “Logic and Conversation”, argues that conversation is basically structured around a pragmatic principle of agreement. At the very least, an agreement to converse, which, more fully fleshed out , includes agreements or rules like ‘be relevant’ (don’t make non sequiturs), ‘be clear’, and so on. These rules can be violated sometimes in the spirit of agreement – non sequiturs can be a form of humor, for instance. Grice doesn’t address that the rules can also be violated in order to produce other effects, like jockeying for position. What’s particularly frustrating is when one does this by accident, when one is genuinely not trying to jockey for position but has mistakenly violated a rule (since clarity is relative) so that the other person thinks that one is playing a game of one-upsmanship.
When I first went through organizer training at the AFL people would make this mistake – lefty studenty types like myself, using phrases like “this exploitive situation can be rectified if you and your colleagues act collectively”. This type of misfire can be a big problem during a home visit, when one is trying to establish initial rapport with someone. If people don’t learn to stop doing this, they don’t last long on the job.
On rapport building… My partner works as a nanny. I have worked in a variety of ‘nonprofit’ organizations, as an organizer, canvasser, etc. Both of these involve linguistic labor: rapport building (with the child and with the parents; with workers and with union bosses), asserting authority (over the child; to the workers to establish oneself as an expert who should be obeyed when necessary), and establishing competency (to the parents with regard to one’s ability to understand and care for the child, and to hand emergencies; to the union bosses as a ‘loyal soldier’, as someone who can both build rapport with workers and who can assert authority over them as needed, and as someone who can strategize). Each of these areas has its own competencies.
It’s useful to think of each of these areas as a set of goals and techniques for maneuvering oneself into a position on a conversational hierarchy. Rapport building for a nanny and an organizer, to be successful, requires establishing a horizontal relationship, a relationship between relative equals who can plan and converse together in a situation of trust, confidence, and ease.
Typically when dealing with children and workers rapport building is an operation of climbing down a hierarchy, one starts from a position of perceived superiority and asserts that one is not (or does not think oneself to be) so much above the other after all. In some settings, though, depending on the child or the worker, there may be an initial assumption on the other’s part that one is inferior in some fashion (not cool, too old; overeducated, too young, too white, etc). This rapport building, when successful, places one in a horizontal relationship with an option upward: one is not just an equal, but an equal who can be superior. That is, one occupies a position of equality on a hierarchy with the flexibility to rise to a higher point as needed (ie, one can, as needed, assert authority/expertise in order to be listened to). When dealing with one’s employers, rapport building is a matter of establishing an inverse horizontality: an equality that recognizes it is an equality as the behest of the employer. One ascends to this equality, but does not assert without tacit approval. That is, the boss is still the boss.
Asserting authority is the placing of oneself in a superior position on a hierarchy. In dealing with children and workers this is an authority which allows one to give orders, to be listened, to dictate strategies and behaviors. One uses different terms, different body language, and different tones of voice to do this. One speaks differently when disciplining a child and explaining behavioral expectations (asserting oneself as in charge and to be listened to) than when one is praising or simply chatting or playing. One speaks differently to workers and tenants when one is explaining legal knowledge or campaign strategy (and such explanation is often as much a performative expression of one’s right to explain and to dictate strategy, that is, an assertion of oneself as an expert to be listened to) than when one is chatting, getting to know someone, learning their concerns and grievances, etc.
In dealing with employers, one also asserts oneself as an authority, but this is not the ability to make decisions. Rather, it is the ability to make decisions as authorized by the employer (the boss is still the boss). The authority is a form of expertise, not command. It is the establishment of competency. At times, this competency or expertise may be greater than that of the employer or lesser than that of the employer (it may be genuinely greater or lesser, or perceived as greater or lesser). This can vary depending on the situation and the employer – some want to be the greater expert, others want the employee to have a greater expertise.
Both of these jobs involves not only being good at the competencies of the specific areas above but also at being able to move from one type of linguistic labor to another fluidly.
My partner works as a nanny for people who are relatively educated and who have enough money to afford a nanny. She has to be able to converse with them, in a way different from how she converses with the children. The ability to change between these types of conversations is an element of her success in the work. The speech used to converse with the child is very important, but she will not be allowed to use it for long if she does not have a different, preferred mode of speech when dealing with the parents.
It’s the same with my experience in union and community organizing. One must be able to talk to workers and residents. One must also be able to talk to the bosses about those conversations, in a mode of speech that is sometimes taken to be superior to - but always held to be inappropriate for – the way one talks with workers and residents. And of course, there are different aged children with different backgrounds and parents with different backgrounds and temperaments. There are residents and job classes with different educational and other backgrounds. One can’t talk to each of them in exactly the same way, or rather, one will be less successful in the work if one does so.
So, a large portion of the work (of being perceived as competent in the work, which is what determines one’s degree of success) involves a pragmatic flexibility: the ability to shift between idiolects in order to be able to converse with many different – and different types of - people (and, of course, to accomplish required tasks in/when using a given idiolect, ie, one mush be able to converse successfully with different types of people, successful as defined by the ends of the job [and just to make sure I’m clear, by ‘idiolect’ I mean something like ‘idiosyncratic dialect’, basically the individual and relatively unique way that each person talks, which includes word choice, sentence structure, body language, tones of voice, and which people usually vary from setting to setting]). Success in each work related idiolect has a set of skills and techniques that must be acquired (we used to roleplay home visits, in order to be able to be more successful at them).
Flexibility in changing between idiolects is also a skill, and one for which, in my experience, there is less pedagogical technique developed. That is, there was less – certainly less deliberate and recognized – training in shifting gears between modes of conversation, than there was in certain specific modes of conversation. (Personal aside: I have found this flexibility of idiolect tremendously useful in my social and familial life. Misfires happen much less often, and much less often by accident. I have also found the techniques of rapport building very useful – In some settings and moods I tend to be reclusive, nervous, and shy, particularly when meeting and getting to know new people and in large group settings. From my work experience, however, I have gotten practiced at asking a set of questions to show interest in someone, and to get them talking about themselves or some subject of interest to them. I have also gotten practiced, though this skill is harder to maintain, at pay attention to cues – body language, tone of voice and diction, as well as conversational content – which indicate where to ask follow up questions, to get someone to speak further and to elaborate on some topic. )
Among our friends who are professors and students it strikes me that sometimes they have less flexibility of idiolect. My hunch is that this is because the labor of professing and studying involves less rapport building, and certainly less rapport building downward. That is, professors (like doctors, lawyers, other teachers, other experts) work in a setting where part of the work is establishing and maintaining oneself in a superior position on a hierarchy, both superior to those one works on (students, patients, clients) and superior to those outside the realm of that work (ie, smarter than those outside the academy, more in touch with health than the rest of the popular, etc. I suspect there’s much in common here with clergy – a relation between clergy and laiety, in which laypeople are defined in part by the clergy’s access to/use of certain language and texts.) The rapport building that does exist is less of the rapport with those who are below one, like rapport with children and workers for the nanny and organizer, rapport with an upward option (though perhaps this is overstated, and perhaps it changes with trends in pedagogy and customer service – trying to get know one’s students, having a good bedside manner, etc) and more rapport with colleagues – fellow professors, doctors, and lawyers, where one must define oneself (and one’s discipline/area of expertise) as equally (or better yet, more) competent and worthwhile compared to others, rapport that is also (is predicated on) establishing competency, rapport that resists any downward motion, the nonvoluntary placement of oneself at a lower place in a hierarchy. I think the linguistic labor of students mirrors this, but I’m not entirely sure.
What is most interesting to me in all of this, and which I haven’t really touched on, is the relationship of work and nonwork here, and some of the occupational hazards of immaterial labor (and, given that there are different sorts of linguistic and relational work, claims about the political possibilities of immaterial labor must be further qualified, as some of the relationships produced by immaterial labor are not of they type that one wants to see continue). The work on the clock certainly impacts the time and life off the clock (and some of the time off the clock is unremunerated work – reading and writing for students and teachers, for example, not to mention the effects of stress etc.) When I worked as an organizer I became decidedly unsocial in my personal life – spending my time building and maintaining relationships for a living for me meant that I had less energy and interest (and given the god awful work hours, very little time) to spend my little free time on similar pursuits off the clock. My partner leaves work hungry for adult conversation and to be on the receiving end of caring attention, rather than the giving end. It strikes me that one effect of graduate student and perhaps of professorial and other expert labor (an occupational hazard, so to speak) is a rigidity of idiolect, with regard to the terms, style of speech, and contents of one’s conversations. This is why I include the Borderlands quote – the mention of ossified language, and the dangers it poses to thought and democracy. I’m not sure about the thought and democracy part in this particular case, but I have seen this rigidity cause tension in relationships (friendship, familial, and romantic). Partly there is a disconnect – a tendency toward unintended misfires. These misfires can sometimes be taken as attempts at powerplays, at jockeying for position on hierarchies. And sometimes they are powerplays – the operation of producing oneself in the position of an expert can become habit, and can be corrosive to horizontal relationships in the rest of one’s life. (Of course, this is not to say that these particular damaging effects of work are worse than others, but there is perhaps a different wrinkle… being too tired or too stressed to go out because of work can be damaging to relationships too, but it is recognizably linked to work. Habits that one has because of work, habits of interaction, can be taken at times as being less as work related behaviors than as character or personality traits, as part of ‘who one is’, and so can perhaps be a different sort of challenge to deal with.)
Iwas born and raised in the desert southwest, aproduct of Route 66 and all the atavistic mothballs that come along with the rural romanticism of cars pavement and heat. I spent the first 6 years in Needles, Ca. Then move about 70 miles up the road to Kingman, Az. there I recived my pitiful excuse of an education, developed a massive panic disorder and social anxiety. So being the completely Irrational person that I am, I decided that I wanted to be an Artist, a gig that really puts you on the spot. On top of that I decided at about the age of 12, that Dada and Surrealism were the only artforms that seemed to make sense to me. I Had origionally planned to become a writer, but poetry seemed so much more direct and to the point, more bang with fewer words. My Father is a Vietnam Combat Veteran, and Truck Driver from a family of 13 kids. They all came to Oregon in the early 1950's as migrant farmworkers. One branch, my Great Aunt Violet's family stayed back in the Ozarks. My grandmother and Aunt Were all trained as Luthiers, my Grandmother became one of the first female 'Straw Bosses' stringing Hops in the Willamette Valley. My Grandfatherworked as a Brakeman on the now defunct Valley and Siletsz Railroad. My Aunt Violet still plays every year at the Silver City Folk music festival in Arkansas, She plays her handmade fiddles and has been featured on several Traditional folk music compilation albums, as well as an appearance on The Bevely Hillbillys. One of Her Handmade fiddles is now on disply in an Arkansas Meuseum. My mother was Typical Hippie and her side of the family came from uptight Mormon Farming folks in Colorado. My Grandfather on my mom's side was stationed in Nagasaki 6 months after the Atomic bomb was dropped. He Spoke Very little about what he saw, but when he did what he saw was horrifying to him. He would say " Those Poor people didn't deserve that kind of attack" my Dad spoke alot about his experiences in Vietnam and taught me early on to think for myself and don't buy into the Patriotic bullshit that his generation fell for. My father, by the way, volunteered to go to Vietnam thinking he was doing good for his country. He learned very quickly that what he was told was crap. So I became at an early age a Pacifist and shyly and timidly questioned everthing. My Grandmother on my mom's side was a Housewife and a painter. Her principle subjects seemed to be barns and outhouses, most of which where half painted, which I find very intriguing. I inherited all of her Art supplies and paintings after she died. Growing up in a rural town where people really believed it was the old west was strange. I remeber going grocery shopping with my mom and the ranchers would come in wearing holstered pistols and looking as if they just got off the set of a Sergio Leone film. among that social contingency we had the Mexican Immigrants and we lived close to both the Hualapai and Supai reservations. If you ever wan't to feel guilty about being a white American, Go to the Rez. It is truly a sad sight, but strangely beutiful to see how much people will endure to try to have an enjoyable existance. So, I met my Former Girlfriend and current bestfriend in my last year of High school. we went to an Alternative school, and finished there. We decided to move to Flagstaff, Az. because it was in the mountains and it was a college town. We were always curious about Art and Politics, and she, Being a Mexican Immigrant was struggling to find her place. We happened upon a flyer one day about a group that was showing a film about EZLN and we both were instantly captivated. I remember her Being in tears watching what was going on, the Massacres the School of The Americas, she was watching her people being opressed;her grandmother was a full-blood Yaqui I believe, and that was the germ of Her and My Activism. She later went on to help start up an infoshop And traveled to Ft.Benning to the S.O.A Protest. We atteneded several lectures at the University, one was with Father Ray, of the soa watchgroup, and she had lunch with Christian Parenti, whom I only was able to breifly say hello to, but I did manage to read a Portion of his book the title escapes me at the moment, but it was about the prison industrial complex and militirization of the police. I fumbled for a couple of years with American Communism but my Chaotic perspective filtered through my Surrealist lens couldn't accept replacing one government for another. So Anarchism seemed to fit so well with the Ideologies of Dada and Surrealism, that It just felt right. And that leaves me here, still looking Still learning. My Art has never been overtly political by any means, but I have always felt a Solidarity with anyone in the Social Movements, the labor movements (I worked many a year as a janitor and seasonal Landscpe laborer) and I am Militantly opposed to Fascism in any disguise.
I chose to put Art first as hopefully an encouragement to others to express themselves and If that's what I accomplish I will Die a happy satisfied person. Leave fame and fortune to the corporate drones, I choose freedom and creation.
Global resistance to capitalism
1) Resistance to foreign occupation.
2) Resistance to local occupation.
3) National resistance – religious resistance – class resistance.
4) It is not human nature that causes all this human misery but the system of capitalism and the people who mostly benefit from it.
5) The alternative is a contemporary anti-capitalist anarchic society, based on a gift meta-economy.
6) The rulers of this world, in whatever form or shape must be overthrown now.
7) We will immediately terminate all capitalist social relations through the abolition of money, rent and prices.
8) Working people will be liberated from their mean wages and from class discrimination.
9) Liberation from the poverty of every day consumer life, the boredom and misery of work, poverty, monotony and the horror of war.
10) The misery of permanent alienation and routine, which only an anarchic revolution can resolve.
Dismantling all governing institutions and in its place we will have a decentralized distribution of power.
Power to the people means without power at all, power to the people means the abolishment of work, wages and prisons.
Freedom means living without war-lords and states and their law – police – army security complex.
Equality means that life will be without rich or poor, without privilege for some and misery for most.
Revolution means the termination of centralized power and its dismantlement by distribution of material wealth in total equity.
Wealth belongs to all those who made in the first place which is us all and our ancestors.
Anarchy means the abolition of the state and capitalism immediately, thus creating abundance to all the people of the planet. Liberty must be for all, the liberty to live without privilege or oppression.
Peace will never exist on earth as long as classes exist and by abolishing classes we abolish capitalism and vice versa.
The state is the guardian of capitalists and capitalism is the guardian of the ruling rich. This has to be stopped by an anarcho-social revolution that will once and for all terminate this intolerable human condition forever.
Where there is capitalism there is terrorism, terrorism is just another form of aggressive capitalism.
War, terror and crime are some of the physical ingredients of capitalism.
Religion, politics and ideology are some of the mental ingredients of capitalism.
Anarchy has nothing to do with this; anarchy knows only freedom and happiness to all instead of what we are experiencing today.