Richard Gilman-Opalsky, "Beyond the Old Virtue of Struggle"

Beyond the Old Virtue of Struggle: Autonomy, Talent, and Revolutionary Theory
Richard Gilman-Opalsky

(For the precarious people of Egypt, Tunisia, Greece, and Elsewhere - 4/26/2011)


[1] The concept of "struggle" has occupied a central place in the radical imagination. For Frederick Douglass, all progress requires struggle, and for Karl Marx, human history consists of human conflict and class struggle. Struggle has become an integral substance, and is often the crux, of transformative projects and politics. Even today, influential thinkers like the autonomist Marxist John Holloway understand that, fundamentally, revolution begins with a scream of sadness. From an affective point of view, however, people do not want to struggle or to scream with sadness. I explore the contradiction of desire embodied in wanting a different world without wanting to struggle. I argue that there is an intractable absurdity at the heart of any politics that valorizes struggle: If the narrative on virtuous struggle is not deconstructed, it shall always be ultimately undesirable to make the world that we desire.

[2] In 1979 Raoul Vaneigem—who in many ways wrote the philosophy of autonomy that helped to articulate Italian and French movements in the late 1960s and 1970s—sharply observed the general problematic as follows: "When the struggle against misery becomes the struggle for passionate abundance, you get the reversal of perspective. Doesn't each of us dream of making what gives him intense pleasure the ordinary stuff of everyday life?" [1] Vaneigem is right to call for a reversal of perspective, but the old focus on struggle has not simply been the intellectual and existential error that his polemics make it out to be. That everyday life is full of multifarious forms of struggle is not a fact of the world that can be "reversed" by taking on a different perspective. And, while Vaneigem is also right that most (and sensibly all) individual persons would prefer an everyday life of pleasure to an everyday life of pain no single individual can make it so within his or her everyday living.

[3] The problem, I shall argue, is better understood through a consideration of the conditions of everyday life, the field on which everyday life takes place. That field is colonized (though not absolutely) by capital, which means that a critique of capitalism and its culture remain indispensable.

[4] I draw on works in the autonomist Marxist tradition—mainly, key concepts from Félix Guattari and Franco "Bifo" Berardi—and on the joyful and even ecstatic disposition of the Egyptian rebellion of 2011. I utilize these resources to make the case for an autonomous conception of collective action that decenters struggle as a virtue. Struggle happens. But theory must speak instead to the cultivation of human talent in micropolitical projects and must aim to uncover the real desires obscured by everyday life.

[5] Very generally, this article advances three distinct yet linked reversals of perspective relating to the questions of autonomy, struggle, and pleasure. (1) Autonomy as a form of freedom (or as freedom itself) is not reducible to the freedom of capitalism, to the unbounded flow of capital and its arbitration. On the contrary, the logic of capital seeks to organize everyday life such that autonomy is severely limited and even extinguished as our creative energies are increasingly relegated to an almost-disappeared "leisure" time. In the actually existing context of everyday life, then, autonomous action antagonizes the expectations of capital. (2) Autonomous action is not incompatible with collective action, but its relationship to the individual person must be made clearer than it currently is in the major works of autonomist Marxism. (3) While capitalism does make autonomous action expendable in the harshest realizations of precarity, autonomous action remains the possible and optimal mode for the displacement of struggle. All of the technical terms of these preliminary gestures will be clearly defined below.

[6] In short, I aim to work out the parameters for an autonomous theory of revolution that can help revolution overcome its historic fixation on struggle. Despite the reality of struggle, the virtue of struggle must be overcome, and pleasure must play a part in displacing the worn out logic of paying for everything with pain.


[7] The mainly diagnostic approach of the critical theorists of the 1940s did not complete—and could not have been expected to complete—the task of analyzing the problems of capitalism and its culture. Just as one hundred years earlier, Karl Marx's work did not and could not complete that very same task. This is not because of faults in The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 or the Dialectic of Enlightenment of 1944, to mention two examples. [2] These works and all of the theories of capitalism that surround them can certainly be criticized, but capitalism's formal developments are frequent and radical enough to outflank any analysis of a period, no matter how precise the analysis in its place and time. Good diagnostic works, like those mentioned above, retain much of their explanatory value, but capitalism always outgrows them in important ways. Note that I mention the "formal developments" of capitalism; this is because capitalism's internal logic remains unchanged (to accumulate capital), while its organizational modes are always changing in order to evolve the capacities of capital to organize culture, communication, production, style, work, and consumption. Very simply, capitalism's operational logic is the same, but its organizational mode is changing.

[8] It is for this reason that, for as long as there is capitalism, we shall never be done with diagnosing it. We cannot discuss antidotes to a problem without precise understanding. Still, one can only go so far in diagnostic work before bumping into the question of "What is to be done?" And often the question of "What is to be done?" is posed disingenuously. The question is not always posed in pursuit of a good answer. Many times, the question of "What is to be done?" is asked in order to invalidate critique, to point out that it has no practical recommendations, to reveal it as being "merely" negative. I know that many times when my students demand to know what is to be done, it is not always because they want a solution to the problems observed by Michel Foucault or Jean Baudrillard, but rather, because they want a concrete reason to abandon lines of inquiry they perceive as, and hope will prove to be, dead ends. Or, more simply, their only means of rejection is to show that the theory cannot solve the very problems it diagnoses—if we cannot act on it, critique is useless.

[9] However, critique, if it is any good, is never "merely" negative, even if it proposes no confident solutions to the problems it studies. In purely logical terms, a good diagnosis is not falsified by the absence of a certain cure, nor is it ever useless. No doubt the absence of a certain cure is frustrating, as anyone who has been to many doctors knows well. But as frustrating as this can be, the diagnosis may still be right. What is the use of a diagnosis without a cure? The "use-value" of diagnosis, if you will, is as a necessary preliminary, or as a prerequisite to the best courses of action. No confident course of action is possible without a good diagnosis. Sticking with the medical example, I do not think I'm alone in not wanting a surgeon who is ready to do a heart transplant who cannot say for certain that the heart is the problem. What is common sense in this case is also common sense in the case of social and political problems, despite common obfuscations about practical politics having little to no need for theory.

[10] Let us consider capitalism as a problem. In the midst of extant and emergent global crises, capitalism aims to reconcile a 3% compound growth rate with instabilities in the growth model on every level. [3] The imperative of growth refers only to capital accumulation and therefore not to humans directly. Human societies generally are only ever the inadvertent beneficiaries of private accumulation. I have argued elsewhere that capitalism's internal logic is fundamentally problematic and immoral. [4] For now, it shall have to suffice to say that as of 2007, more than 80 percent of the world's population lives in countries where income differentials are widening. The poorest 40 percent of the world's population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent of people account for three-quarters of world income. [5] The number of children in the world is 2.2 billion, and the number in poverty is 1 billion (every second child). [6] Capitalism is the dominant logic of world economic relations and most of the world's people are poor.

[11] Hence, I am operating on the premise that capitalism, which has dominated globally since the industrial mass production Marx diagnosed in the middle of the 19th century, has not managed to remedy or reverse the worst trends of impoverishment and maldistribution. This view rests on the claim that the so-called communist projects of the 20th century were themselves capitalist states, but they were bureaucratic capitalist states which implemented state capitalism over the free market form that developed in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. [7] Whichever way one looks at it, one cannot simply select the most luxurious instances of abundance and personal well-being as the benchmarks of capitalism to the exclusion or neglect of the far more widespread and much bleaker global picture without doing some violence to the truth. As one such narrative goes, the current financial crisis and the BP oil spill have nothing to do with capitalism's deficits, but new communications technologies and new medical breakthroughs have everything to do with capitalism's empowering tendencies. This is the worst form of apologetics. The present article identifies capitalism as a root problem. And, if we are to solve the problem of capitalism, we must diagnose it well.

[12] But since we can justify diagnostics in perpetuity, shall we never allow ourselves to consider the question of "What is to be done?" If we wait until after we have gotten the diagnostics right on a unit of analysis that is ever-changing, we will never be done with the preliminaries. We must therefore break with the logic of diagnostics from time to time, for the sake of human action. We can learn this better from the Egyptian people in rebellion in January and February of 2011 than from any of my arguments. Yet the same lesson is also contained within the surgeon analogy. At certain points, the surgeon will say that even though she does not have a perfect diagnosis, she must consider acting anyway, for to perpetually wait for certainty is to possibly act too late.


[13] In the spirit of the set-up above, I shall now address the question of "What is to be done?" However, I want to rephrase the question as "Who should do what?" And, to be fair to this line of questioning, it is not always a disingenuous quip against theory. Most radical critics of capitalism want a theory of praxis of some kind, even if their idea of revolution is more Foucauldian than Marxist.

[14] Looking out at the diverse field of humanity, we encounter a multifarious state of potentia, as Enrique Dussel calls it. [8] On the political field, we find many different actors, including potestas, potentia, and hyperpotentia. Potestas refers to the organized institutional political organs of a society, such as governments and all of their parts—executive, judicial, legislative, electoral, military, etc. Potentia refers to the capacity for political power that lies within and throughout the community. Hyperpotentia refers to the realization of the power of the community of people, which exists, for example, when the community enters into a state of rebellion. In Egypt, we recently saw potentia become hyperpotentia and clearly why that matters.

[15] Now, within the field of potentia (which is where I shall focus my attention) we immediately hit upon a certain fact. People have different talents, capabilities, proclivities, or, we might call them, "gifts." I shall use the terms "talent" and "gift" synonymously and alternatively. But what do I mean by these terms? Not everyone has, or can be made to have, the same talents. At a rather young age I came to the realization that I could never be made to draw very well, nor could I be made to desire sufficient learning for high-order mathematics. With drawing, I did not have any natural talent. I could see the world, the human figure, the objects of nature, but I could not draw their lines to reproduce their shapes. I tried. Sometimes I came a bit closer, but I had little control. Often, the very first line that I drew would determine the fate of the whole, and I knew it. I took classes as a young child, which had no significant impact. Perhaps other classes would have helped me more. However, there seems to me, and there has always seemed to me, to be a certain gift that some people have for drawing, a gift I do not have.

[16] With mathematics, I could do it. I could struggle to learn the logics of various modes of calculation, and I could memorize and apply certain complex formulae. But I didn't want to. I had no desire for the work, no innate feeling for it, if you will, beyond the ulterior motivations pertaining to my grade in a class or degree requirements. There are so many ways mathematics relates to human life, but none of them interested me. And desire is not all. I also noticed that it took me a great deal more effort to understand basic concepts and equations than it did many of my classmates, who seemed to "get it" quite naturally. I am not suggesting that I couldn't get it with hard work, only that the level of work required to do well far exceeded my desire to do it, and the distance between the two made it even harder work indeed. With philosophy I also worked through certain difficulties, but at least there I had the passion to sustain my efforts. Does one really need more evidence than is abundant in their own lives for the existence of multifarious gifts?

[17] It is possible to object to this particular bit of common sense, for example, if one sees in it a vulgar version of the Aristotelian view on natural talent, as Aristotle discussed in his Politics and Metaphysics. But, if one could distinguish Aristotle's discussion from the offending context of slavery (in Book I of Politics) and a subsequent history of eugenics and race-thinking, his basic observations seem both convincing and compatible with the view I am outlining here. Simply put, not everyone is a philosopher, not everyone an athlete, nor would everyone make an equally good carpenter, and these "differences" are not all simply and wholly a matter of training. We do not even need, as Socrates suggested in Plato's Republic, to tell people that they are mixed with various metals that make them more or less suited for one form of work or another. Without any such manipulations, we spend much of our lives discerning our talents in a rather autonomous manner. [9]

[18] Immediately, this appears as the old nature/nurture debate, though we should be done by now with taking either of those faulty sides. Both dimensions account, in various ways, for the differentials of talents we see across potentia. The whole range of difference can neither be described as a purely materialist exposure to experience and education, nor as a matter of the human soul (if any such thing exists) or human biology. Neuroscience and biology no longer stand categorically opposed to sociology, as Frans B. M. de Waal has conceded. [10] There has indeed been substantial work on "sociobiology" since the 1970s. [11] Different people use different parts of their brains, sometimes in response to the same stimuli. There are genetic and biological aspects of the issue as well as cultural and experiential ones, and one must never leave out desire, passion, and feeling and our distinctive psychological comportments. Because of the complexity of biological and cultural diversity, the diversity of human talent is a complex field that is almost impossible to sort out. And although social and cognitive scientists will nevertheless continue to sort out the causes of this diversity, I have no interest in unraveling the whole mystery.

[19] For the time being, I only ask the reader to follow me to this conclusion: Certain activities that give you great joy may be a misery to others, as philosophy or mathematics may be a joy to one and a misery to another, as sports may be a pleasure to you and a torment to me. In short, I ask that the reader acknowledges the multifarious nature of human talent, regardless of its complex genealogy. For it is in relation to this diversity that I ask: Who should do what?

[20] When theorists think about action against capitalism and for something else, whether that better destination is named and described or left an unspecified liberatory future, they are sensibly led by the scale of the problem. This has been particularly true in the Marxist trajectory of thinking through the grand antagonisms capable of setting the stage for world-historical transformations. Capitalism is a big problem and thus calls for a big solution. Thinking dialectically, its antithesis, or from a historical materialist point of view, its real antagonist, must be of equal or greater power—power meaning not only a physical critical mass, but also an antagonist who is reasonable, convincing, and widely appealing.

[21] Hannah Arendt and Jürgen Habermas have argued well that real power, as opposed to force or violence, comes from and rests on those who occupy spaces outside the formal offices of power. For example, Arendt holds that "political institutions are manifestations and materializations of power; they petrify and decay as soon as the living power of the people ceases to uphold them." [12] And Habermas argues that, in its best moments, the "public sphere as a functional element in the political realm was given the normative status of an organ for the self-articulation of civil society with a state authority corresponding to its needs." [13] Arendt thus insists that the apparatuses of political power, whether individual public officials or state institutions, require a power outside of themselves that must empower them. They require the agonistic and active affirmation of the everyday people on whose behalf they act, or else, as many of the leaders in the Middle East are seeing today, their only "power" is the formal apparatus of the state, and mainly the military—to which they would not need recourse if they possessed real power. Habermas gave the name "public sphere" to this agonistic space of real power. For him, the public sphere is the mechanism through which civil society articulates its collective will and interest, so that it can substantively steer or throw into question the legitimacy of institutions and power holders.

[22] It is critical to point out that however we define power—from that of the proletariat to that of the public sphere—the radical imagination has gravitated toward the organization of a critical mass of some kind. And, as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have imagined with the "multitude," theorization of the grand revolutionary subject continues. What we always get is a united front of some kind, large mechanisms like international unions, political parties, or something more spontaneous and "bottom-up" like the outbreak of widespread rebellion, social and cultural movements, and the organic emergence of global solidarity. To be fair to this inventory of radical imaginaries, thinking on such grand scales reflects much of the truth of the matter. Capitalism cannot be undone by isolated and atomized acts, no matter how contentious. Even from the perspective of capitalism, such acts appear temporary, aberrant, and ultimately as perfectly permissible within the limits of capital. In fact, capitalism looks forward to allowing such aberrations because they serve as occasions to demonstrate the tolerance of the existing system.

[23] For some time, revolutionary theory has required a new imbrication, one capable of moving beyond the desperate or delusional scale of isolated and atomized acts, but which does nothing to standardize political action or constrict autonomy in the process. When Félix Guattari and Antonio Negri collaborated in the 1980s, they came close to just such an imbrication:

From a molecular point of view, each attempt at ideological unification is an absurd and indeed reactionary operation. Desire, on a social terrain, refuses to allow itself to be confined to zones of consensus, in the arenas of ideological legitimation. Why ask a feminist movement to come to a doctrinal or programmatic accord with ecological movement groups or with a communitarian experiment by people of color or with a workers' movement, etc.? Ideology shatters; it only unifies on the level of appearance. [14]

The above passage is so important because it rejects any attempt to view distinct molecular revolutions as part of some unified revolutionary program. It is an ideological sleight of hand, for example, to say that the recent revolution in Egypt is orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, or by a Google marketing manager, or by anarchists, or by people disaffected with capitalism. Guattari and Negri point out that desire, on a social terrain, does not express a cohesive ideological consensus. It can only be made to look "communist" on the level of appearance, and this serves as a critical reminder to Hardt and Negri, who have retrieved the Marxian revolutionary subject position and refigured it in the multitude. I am afraid that the molecular point of view gets lost in the aggregate points of view of the multitude.

[24] But Guattari and Negri do go on to recommend a multiplicity of "molecular revolutions" that can link in clear and concrete ways, even if only for a limited time. [15] I take this to mean the following: Real revolutionary activity is autonomous, sporadic, particular, unpredictable, and demanding, but the impact of such activity ultimately depends on culminating intersections that can rise to the challenge of forcing or provoking transitions and transformations on social and political terrains. Thus, while we must move beyond the old virtue of class struggle, we must also get over the self-glorification embedded in heroic notions of living a revolutionary lifestyle.

[25] Today, only the most delusional of so-called anarchists insist on the "revolutionary" character of their individual lifestyles, which mostly amounts to nothing more than slight modulations on the exchange of capital through consumption patterns. I aim to decenter struggle without shrinking to a lifestyle politics of consumption.

[26] Indeed, some recent theories have aimed to decenter struggle, but at the same time make a different kind of fatal mistake—that of decentering political agency and collective action. Take, for example, the radicalism of primitivism. Primitivists often distinguish themselves as the apex of the radical milieu. No position, they insist, can match their radicality. In fact, what constitutes primitivism is (1) accepting the premise that all highly technological contemporary civilizations will collapse and (2) looking forward to that collapse as possibly being an emancipatory transition to a sustainable primitive future. [16]A good primitivist, in other words, believes in and waits for the inevitable collapse of civilization, talking (or reading or writing) about it while waiting. But human action only factors into this radical view symbolically. Primitivists such as John Zerzan keep inventory of the social and psychological problems and illegal acts that indicate civilization's inexorable march toward its own end. Zerzan even recommends direct action, but the absurdity of his recommendation is revealed in his unwavering assertion that—action or no action—the emancipatory end of civilization is coming.

[27] The truth about Zerzan's primitivist point of view, which he confesses in various ways, is that the courageous acts of the Black Bloc and other "elements of refusal" have only a thin gloss of nobility, for they are ultimately quite unnecessary. [17] Primitivists observe acts of civil disobedience and property destruction (and school shootings) as signifiers of a better future on the horizon, but even without such acts and incidents the system remains doomed by its own designs. Simply put, human action is dwarfed into irrelevance by the long, deep-rooted history of a human civilization that will do itself in. Primitivists do find dignity in certain forms of collective action, especially those acts that can be interpreted as attempts to say something against civilization. But in the end, Zerzan continually reminds us, civilization will accelerate its own collapse far more than, and regardless of, any human action.

[28] From the primitivist point of view, capitalism is a red herring. Civilization is worse than capitalism, and if you leave civilization intact, capitalism will only grow again as if you were to cut down the weeds leaving the roots in the ground. Hence, according to primitivists like Zerzan, critics of capitalism are all too Marxist (even if they're not Marxist at all) and old fashioned. Yet, despite Zerzan's disdain for Marxism, the primitivist approach inadvertently reifies the worst elements of Marxist scientism. Like Marx's crisis theory of capitalism, civilization is pregnant with its own end, but unlike Marx, there is no revolutionary subject position, not the proletariat, the indigenous, the anarchists, the students, the multitude, or anyone else you might imagine in that role. And far more than Marx, primitivists like Zerzan find the inevitable future always forthcoming, all fatalistically determined by the present state of affairs. Ironic, to say the very least, that Zerzan despises Marx so vehemently, when his own determinism mirrors Marx's but runs even deeper.

[29] Having made these rather mean comments about the metanarratives of Marxism, lifestyle politics, and the passivity of primitivism, I want to point to a more promising pathway beyond the old virtue of struggle. What I am after here is a direction that reflects neither the impossible "bigness" of the grand revolutionary schemes of the past, nor the delusions that mistake school shootings as the death knells of human civilization, nor do I seek a path felicitous with capitalism, one which happily allows capitalism to prove its own virtues.

[30] We do need to get away from the "size requirements" of Marxist dialectics. If we always look for a massive counter-position, the multifariousness of human talent and desire appears as a kind of impediment. Even autonomist Marxist thinkers have conceptualized a massive revolutionary counter-position, such as Hardt and Negri's concept of the "multitude," or the "working class" as an open and heterogeneous category, as the term has been deployed by Holloway. [18] These authors in particular make major contributions to a better articulation of Marxist critique, but unfortunately, they theorize the antagonist as a refurbished, but equally impossible, transnational class.

(a) Revolutionary Class:

[31] Let's consider Guattari's conception of the "molecular" or "micro-revolutions" of "micropolitics" and Franco "Bifo" Berardi's conception of the "precarious class," or "the precariat." [19] But first, consider that "multitude" and "working class" only indicate a compositional content, by which I mean they specify a revolutionary demographic, even if that demographic is not simply drawn over class lines. Like "proletariat," these terms do not indicate any particular comportment or contestatory activity. "Multitude" and "working class" do not tell us about the condition or comportment of the group (or, as it were, the group of groups) in the world. Nor do these terms indicate any particular modes of action. As a result, revolutionary theories that use such placeholders as these typically move to prescribe or predict the condition, comportment, and action of the revolutionary group. The failure of this method becomes clear when—if ever the group is found anywhere in the world (and I have not yet found the "multitude")—the group does not identify or act as prescribed or predicted, because it is not in fact the theorized group.

[32] In 1985, Guattari and Negri theorized the revolutionary subject from its singular characteristics instead of from generalizations, arguing that "[e]ach molecular movement, each autonomy, each minoritarian movement will coalesce with an aspect of the real in order to exalt its particular liberatory dimensions." [20] Thus, rather than prescribing or predicting how a cohesive revolutionary class may act as a critical mass, various subsets of the exploited, oppressed, neglected, and despised will show us directly how they act in their actual and diverse modes of revolt. So, taking the molecular point of view as a start, we begin with concrete and particular moments and modes of revolt. This helps us to understand the conditions of each movement, and their particular proclivities for action.

[33] Next, the theory of precariousness does better than class analyses that cannot indicate any particular comportment. The precarious class (or precariat) is distinguished as a social class by virtue of its actual comportment within (and as a result of) capitalist society. The precariat is not told that it is (nor does it need to be described as) precarious, for it expresses the anxiety of its precarity directly in everyday life. Simply put, the precariat is the class of people who lead precarious lives, whose everyday life is set within a permanent state of anxiety about the future. The precariat cannot be given any guarantees about their tomorrows, for they know too much about our societies to believe such promises. The system (in all countries), from the point of view of the precarious, cannot be trusted to deliver on promises for a good life. Some people's lives are more precarious than others. "Precariat" is better than "proletariat" because the former specifies an actual point of view—which is also the content of its condition—whereas the latter does not.

[34] So, if we add Guattari's conception of molecular politics to Berardi's class analysis, we not only get a better class analysis—a class with an actual point of view—but also a class with a multiplicity of modalities of action whose challenges cannot be predicted. We cannot predict where they will come from, what they will look like, or even what they will demand.

[35] For Guattari, molecular politics involves interventions and transformations on a small scale. But molecular politics within and against capitalism can have no grandiose promise on their own. They are molecular and function as a contamination or an interruption rather than as a revolution in any classical sense. Molecular politics can include rebellions of the precarious, as in Greece, Tunisia, and Egypt, but may also include transformations in personal and group identity, not only with regard to race, gender, and sexuality, in the usual ways, but also with regard to the typical fixed poles of each (i.e. male or female, black or white, homosexual or heterosexual). [21] The molecular or "micropolitical" field is certainly biopolitical, which is perhaps one of the reasons why Foucault wrote such a glowing preface to Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. But Guattari was no individualist, nor was he interested in the merely micropolitical. Rather, he was always interested in their possible culminations. As Guattari puts it:

Will these micro-revolutions, these profound examinations of the relationships within society only remain divided into limited spheres of the social arena? Or will a new "social segmentation" manage to connect them without imposing hierarchy and segregation? In short, will all these micro-revolutions finally initiate a real revolution? Will they be able to take charge of not only local problems, but also administrative larger economic configurations? [22]

Guattari's questions in the above passage express an accurate sense of the problem of politics in our time. First of all, revolutionary activities are not global or unitary, but appear instead in a fragmentary and often isolated way, like the saturnalias of upheaval in Greece and Tunisia. Revolutionary activity is typically sporadic and affective, ebullient and insurrectionary, and is mostly suffocated or unsustainable. Nevertheless, Guattari wonders if such activity could spread in an organic and unitary way, if certain culminations may be possible that could make that which is micro-revolutionary into that which is "really revolutionary." In juxtaposing "micro-revolution" to "real revolution," it is clear that Guattari retains a notion of revolution that is both world-historical and non-local. Only, Guattari does not think that the activity of such a real revolution will be coordinated and executed as such.

[36] We end up, then, with an anxious, precarious class with uncertainty as the only confident content of tomorrow, mixed with practical and possible contentious activities that are actually existing and recurring. Thus, even though our new antagonist subject does not appear capable of any sweeping negation, it at least embodies the real point of view of our uncertain times and appears amenable to action that is both possible and happening. None of my proposals here for a better way of thinking about "revolutionary class" helps to restore the dead determinism of certain strains of Marxism (and certain parts of Marx's own writing). Determinism is dead, autonomism is not.

(b) Talent and Autonomy:

[37] So, within the context of the micropolitics of the precarious, what is to be done and who should do what? In conventional revolutionary narratives, our personal gifts and passions are indefinitely subordinated to the overarching tasks at hand. It may be hoped, of course, that one's talents and desires could be an asset in the service of the revolution, but if that is not possible, the virtuous will always do what ought to be done, no matter how painful and undesirable that may be on an affective level. I argue that if such narratives are not deconstructed, it shall always be ultimately undesirable to make the world that we desire. That is the central problem.

[38] Vaneigem was right to emphasize an approach from pleasure, to insist that autonomous action unifies the talents and passions of the actors. Revolution must be desirable. "With attractive ease as the most natural thing in the world, our common desire for autonomy will bring us together to stop paying, working, following orders, giving up what we want, growing old, feeling shame or familiarity with fear. We will act instead on the pulse of pleasure, and live in love and creativity." [23] The difference between Vaneigem's comportment and that of the conventional revolutionary narratives is clear. Vaneigem inverts the politics of self-sacrifice and struggle, rejects the logic of an exchange of suffering for freedom, and calls for a creative and pleasurable politics. But, he does not outline this position only because it makes revolution more desirable. Perhaps more importantly, Vaneigem insists that it is more effective. He proclaims, "I will strike harder and more accurately if pleasure demands it. Fires of desire burn fiercer than torches of rage or despair." [24]

[39] In Paris in May-June 1968, and in Italy in the decade from roughly 1968 to 1978, capital could not keep desire in abeyance. While Vaneigem and Guattari have much in common, I find Guattari's analysis particularly useful here, because his consideration of the place of desire is more complex and more explicitly political. Micropolitics is playful in a dangerous way but it is not a simple expression of desire. The micro-revolution of Guattari's "becoming-woman," to take one example, is not teleological for any one desired end of identity. Becoming destabilizes what is, and on a macropolitical scale such destabilization is revolutionary. Guattari's psychoanalytic understanding of human desire makes a critical intervention in various forms of Marxism, and particularly autonomist Marxism: Desire can be disfigured in various ways, it can be repressed or buried in everyday life, but desire and its disfigurations can nevertheless be understood. Psychoanalysis can help with this understanding. Desire is never completely disintegrated, and can be let loose in micro-revolutionary political moments. As such, desire decenters struggle.

[40] But struggle has long been considered a virtue. Beyond Marx's centralization of class struggle, Frederick Douglass famously said, "If there is no struggle there is no progress." [25] Douglass's observation of the facts of the world, a fundamental fact of human history from Marx's perspective, has contributed to the fetishization of struggle (as has much of revolutionary theory). But who wants to struggle? Should anyone want to struggle, even if at times they must? Doesn't struggle already define much of the everyday life of the precarious class, and isn't struggle precisely what makes it so painful? Does it make any sense psychologically to make struggle the centerpiece of a revolutionary project? If ever one can find some way forward without struggle, won't that path always offer a special and sensible temptation? It is time for revolutionary theory to stop glorifying struggle.

[41] However, struggle is sometimes the cry, or the scream, of the oppressed and exploited, of those who must fight for self-determination. As Holloway says, opposition to capitalism starts with "a scream of sadness, a scream of horror, above all a scream of anger, of refusal: NO." [26] How long can we sustain such a scream of sadness, horror, and anger, and how long should we wish to? All living persons seek relief from sadness, horror, and anger, and they seize upon such relief at the first opportunities. And capitalism provides enough opportunities for a temporary respite from the miseries of everyday life to squelch the scream before it turns revolutionary. So, can revolutionary aspirations find some other impetus than the scream of struggle to supplement and sustain revolutionary praxis?

[42] Autonomous action within the limits of capital—self-directed, micropolitical, and joyful—is the scream's complement. We cannot simply choose between the screams of struggle, on the one hand, and pleasure, on the other, nor should we assert a hard separation between the two. The majority of the world's people, living on the losing end of capital, are stuck with struggle as a kind of modus operandi. But for an ongoing contestation of capitalism and its culture, without the negation of desires and talents, struggle is never enough. As long as the fight for a better future places our desires and talents in abeyance, the fight will cede too quickly, and power has the patience to wait it out. Some of the most inspiring saturnalias of revolutionary upheaval begin and end over the course of a long weekend. Struggle must be decentered. If struggle is the only modality of revolution, then only the most selfless among us will assist the inevitable struggles (and one wonders about the psychic health of such individuals).

[43] In order to advance an argument for a revolutionary theory centered on talent and autonomy, we must seriously confront the logical core of the claim that collectivism and autonomy lead down divergent paths. Though not insurmountable, there is a real tension. For example, in the early years of the Soviet Union, in the first decade after the revolution, the state assessed the changing needs of society and industry, and directed and redirected human labor toward the satisfaction of those needs. One could be a seamstress for a month, then an electrician, and then could be called to work on the assembly of lightbulbs. This commendable principle of making common cause is at work in the best divisions of labor. But this illustrates the tension between autonomous and collective action. Collective action falls apart wherever there is too much autonomy to secure its cohesion. We cannot simultaneously sing one song and sing whatever we want to sing.

[44] Reinforcing the Soviet example, the dominant idea in the US for much of the 20th century was that autonomy (loosely construed as freedom) could only flourish under a system that promoted radical individualism. This view was elaborated by free market fundamentalists such as Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, who viewed Marxism, Leninism, and Stalinism (as if those "isms" have more in common than not) as antithetical to any concept of human freedom. "Autonomy" was not necessarily claimed in name by these capitalists, but inasmuch as the term embodies notions of personal freedom and decentralized voluntary action, it seemed from their point of view to map out perfectly over capitalist approaches.

[45] However, the demand for autonomy is not satisfied by capitalism, and autonomous action is not incompatible with collective action. Autonomy does not lead to nor flourish under capitalism and its culture. Ever since the industrial revolution, capitalism has progressively (i) standardized working life, (ii) standardized the products of labor, and (iii) standardized our desires for commodities on the marketplace. There is, of course, enough flexibility within capitalism to allow for variations on (i), (ii), and (iii), but too much variation is tantamount to a breakdown in the functionality of the system. For example, working life can be differentiated by specializations in cognitive labor, but each specialization is itself standardized and vetted by training and peer review, in the absence of which, the specialization itself cannot be claimed. Products can be new and innovative, but new products must be highly standardized for massification and quality control. And advertising may indeed fail to cultivate a desire for a new commodity, but when it does, that commodity fails and has a short life in the marketplace. Therefore, the standardizations and standards of capital must hold together most of the time for if they do not, the system enters into a state of crisis.

[46] While the above paragraph restates certain contentions of Marxist analysis, it rests more specifically on Adorno and Horkheimer's thesis on "the culture industry" in Dialectic of Enlightenment. While I do not share the totalizing vision in that famous chapter, and while I reject many of its political conclusions, their diagnosis of standardization in capitalism retains its veracity. [27] On that view, autonomy is a problem for capitalism, and one which capitalism cannot reconcile very easily with its homogenizing tendencies (tendencies that have only intensified since Adorno and Horkheimer's analysis, in the context of the latest accelerations of globalization). This is the first part of an answer to the question: Why autonomy?

[47] According to any substantive sense of autonomy, people must have some freedom, despite limitations, to explore, identify, and cultivate their distinctive gifts. This freedom to explore, identify, and cultivate one's gifts is not abundant in our own capitalist societies. Indeed, many people cannot even name their talents, or worse, wrongly think that they have none. The critical cultivation of our gifts is left to the margins of chance and spare time, which are overwhelmingly colonized by the obligations of capital (i.e. vocation, work, consumption, sleep).

[48] Nevertheless, at a certain point even in the most spectacular capitalist societies, we do discover that playing the guitar, writing, organizing activities and events, building, gardening, exercising, public speaking, either does give us joy or does not. As you read through a list like this, you may not know what your talent is, but you probably have some sense of what is more or less desirous or joyful from your point of view. The answer to the question of who should do what must always be given with this in mind. If, for example, planning events, hosting them, and organizing their agendas is a misery to you, then you should not be an organizer, no matter how much organizing we may need. Just as, if you are a meek and anxious person, if you lose composure under pressure, then you should not be the public face of a movement, you should not be expected to mobilize new energies or do interviews. Of course, one could get better at organizing or public speaking, but some will never excel in those areas, and more importantly, nor may they want to.

[49] By "autonomous action," then, I mean the exploration, identification, and cultivation of our talents as a self-determined, voluntary, and desirable project. This comprises the core of autonomy. In fact, it is difficult if not impossible to think of autonomous action that is directed by others, involuntary, or dreadful. But autonomy is not turned on and off like a light switch, there is more or less of it depending on the case. So action that is voluntary and desirable, yet directed by managers to whom you are beholden, is neither total autonomy nor total subordination. Every dimension of autonomy matters. For example, one could have a job that they have chosen, that they choose to keep, and in which they are given considerable free reign over their daily activities, and yet this very same job could be the misery of their existence. In such a case as this, their free choice and free reign are attributes of a working life that is done for pleasures completely external to it, and it is not the work itself that they desire, but the ends for which the work is a means.

[50] This example also shows that "choice" and "free reign" cannot simply stand in for "voluntary" and "self-determined." Being provided total freedom to choose a dish off a menu with nothing but abysmal options is only freedom within severe limitations, and that choice is not, properly speaking, self-determined and voluntary. The evidence lies in the fact that one would choose otherwise if at all possible. In working life, it is often the case that there are no other options on the menu, and one is considered fortunate to find any work at all. Actively choosing the single work option available is hardly the zenith of voluntary action. Jobs taken in the US recently by the so-called "99'ers," those unemployed who have used up all three phases of unemployment benefits, find themselves making choices that are quite involuntary. "Free reign" on a job with supervisors who trust you, who do not micromanage what you do, who give you the freedom to determine how to organize your duties, nevertheless expect you to perform certain tasks, many of which are tasks you would never dream of doing unless constrained to do so for a wage. Indeed, autonomy is not an on/off switch, yet it aims at the relative heights of self-determination, voluntary action, and desire. In short, autonomy is a kind of North Star, pointing us toward an unreachable goal in the everyday life of capitalism.

[51] To conclude this section, it is necessary to be very clear about a final major misconception, mentioned above in passing: Autonomy does not mean "alone." Whole communities can strive for autonomy, and can work collectively toward it through collaborative, voluntary, and desirable projects. Indeed, this reflects the aspirations and efforts of a number of indigenous communities, and was very deliberately a part of the political discourses of the Mexican Zapatistas and the Mapuche of Chile and Argentina. Autonomous action can be collective action, like a musical ensemble that does group improvisation, or a rebellion in the streets of Athens or Tunis or downtown Cairo.


[52] Revolutionary politics, including a revolutionary perspective, must be desirable. Revolution's biggest enemy has been the fact that we don't really want it. I mean this in a particular affective sense. That is, we may want revolution's promises, but its processes are a long, indefinite nightmare. In order to desire revolution, it must have many locations, and no single transcript of its promise. If revolution always aims toward one specific end-state or another, then revolution as a field of thought and action will fail to accommodate the multifarious and differentiated desires of people. Today, a worthy slogan for revolutionary praxis could be: "Processes not end-states." This does not disqualify concrete improvements in the lives of real people. Rather, "processes not end-states" means that while you expect us in the streets, we may occupy your buildings (until you expect us to do that), or that we may be making films and doing theater, and that we will never romanticize any static state of affairs, existing or possible.

[53] But how, exactly, do talent and autonomy relate to the revolutionary perspective I have been working out in the present article? To answer, I shall return to a minor example and work outward from there.

[54] In rare and fortunate cases, one might be paid money for autonomous action. But no amount of money can make an action autonomous. Capital cannot convert subordination into autonomy. As Marx said, increasing wages for estranged labor would "be nothing but better payment for the slave, and would not win either for the worker or for labor their human status and dignity." [28] It is precisely in this way that severe limitations on autonomy can be made bearable by the ameliorations of capital (i.e. raises, perks, bonuses, consumption capacity), but autonomy is a real antidote to subordination, not something that makes our subordination bearable.

[55] To take a minor (anecdotal) example: I am in that mythical group of people who love their jobs. I love reading and discussing social theory and political philosophy with interested people, and my students fall enough into that category. I have good conversations every week, sometimes every day. We talk about capitalism and its culture, about rebellion and revolution, about politics and possibility. I also love doing research. It feels good to explore and to articulate new arguments that challenge and expand my own understanding of the world, and I think I might even desire to do research if I was not incentivized by the university to do it.

[56] This account reflects my good fortune. Should I be embarrassed by the fact, ashamed that I feel so contented with the content of my everyday life while most of the world works daily in relative misery? Let's not get carried away here. After all, not everyone would want to do what I do. For others, my life would be a painful and stressful existence, full of anxiety and constant obligation, wrought with the tedium of committee meetings and paper-grading, and many of my own colleagues embody and express that very feeling. Even for me, my present situation is precarious and I know it well. I am not, for example, currently required to use textbooks or to teach my classes on-line. Some of my colleagues must do those things. If I had to, and one day I might, I would likely change my evaluation of my life and work. Thus far, I have had the academic freedom to propose, to design, and to teach any class I desire. But if any one of these facts was to change, I might come to loathe my job, and I would certainly like it much less. I am not so naïve to think that these things cannot change, and indeed, each of them is always a proposition in circulation on my campus. The privatization of education, as it turns out, is transforming even the public universities at a rapid pace. Many of the consequences of privatization (consumer-model education with large class caps, ever-shortening class times, and a market-driven approach to course offerings and curricula) could easily obliterate my present level of relative autonomy in a matter of months.

[57] The above reflection points to the precariousness of even the most enviable positions in our post-Fordist semiocapitalist societies, as Berardi names the present era. [29] Even capitalists who today enjoy their place and vocations hold a precarious position in current capitalist societies (not that we should feel particularly bad for the wealthy elite, whose precarity tends to come equipped with a golden parachute). There are just a countable number of people who live beyond precarity (Forbes Magazine literally counts them every year), but among the vast mass of capitalists and everyone else, those who live precarious lives are countless, and that is the state of the world. Looking back on my father's perpetual state of anxiety as an employee of General Electric, I now understand that his nervousness was not merely an attribute of his general psychological comportment, but rather, it was the reasonable disposition of a stressed-out daily life with no certain future.

[58] The purpose of the above can be simply stated. Autonomy is severely constrained wherever it exists within the limits of the capitalist lifeworld. Autonomy is limited by economic constraints in a purely materialistic sense, but also by the economy of time itself, and by the obligations of everyday life, many of which run contrary to our desires and talents. Autonomous actions such as writing or poetry or music or painting—actions which most artists and authors do beyond the incentives of capital—can be done in the service of a revolutionary perspective. But autonomous actions such as these are extracurricular leisure activities, and they are the first to go when our already-tenuous leisure time evaporates. Therefore, while it is not true that capitalism snuffs out all autonomy, it is true that capitalism demarcates autonomous action as extracurricular, recreational, and as immediately expendable in the realizations of our precarity.

[59] Still, despite the limitations of the capitalist present, total autonomy is not possible, and is even quite difficult to imagine. My point is not merely to register a complaint against the limitations of autonomy under capitalism, nor is it to make a sweeping thesis about the possibility of total autonomy, but rather, to highlight an irreducible tension between capitalism and autonomy, which contradicts the pervasive free market fundamentalism of existing capitalist society. For example, Milton Friedman wrote a book called Capitalism and Freedom in which he argued that "capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom." [30] While he admits in the same passage that capitalism is not sufficient, on its own, to guarantee freedom, he insists that it is clearly a condition for freedom, as "history suggests." [31] This Friedmanite premise could and should be turned on its head, thus enabling us to reclaim autonomy for a new socialist praxis that might finally move beyond the fetishization of struggle and the depersonalized connotations of collective action.

[60] Contrary to Friedman's contention, the history of capitalism does not trend toward increasing freedom in the sense of autonomy I have been discussing in this article. If one is speaking of freedom purely in terms of what Guy Debord called the "autonomous economy," an economy liberated from economic necessity, then Friedman has a point indeed. [32] But we must never agree to define freedom merely in terms of the freedom of capital and its representatives. Instead, we must insist that a worthy conception of freedom includes some consideration of the manifold of human talent, desire, fulfillment, and a joyful everyday life. Employing the more robust conception of autonomy I am using here, a conception that places people—and not capital—at the center of its view, we see that autonomy flourishes against capitalism. This is because capitalism, by virtue of its own internal logic, must subordinate autonomy to accumulation.

[61] Marx's observation that the individual worker "only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself", continues to ring true with each new generation. [33] Capitalism has not remedied this fundamental problem, but has intensified it at all class levels, now making everyone permanently on-call through cellular and computer technology. If Marx was right of the worker that "when he is working he is not at home," then homelessness has become the general condition. [34]

[62] Nevertheless, as I have acknowledged, we do have some room for autonomous action in the here and now. So for the last time, who should do what? As you may have guessed, no marching orders can be given. We must refuse to judge the "credentials" of those who, in the manifold of human experience, do not throw themselves into the same political activities that we might prefer, or even, that we might deem the most urgent. Any program that seeks to iron out our real differentials of talent, or to minimize the fact that we have distinct and multifarious gifts, is a program that must be abandoned. Guattari makes a highly resonant proposal along these lines: "New social practices of liberation will not establish hierarchical relations between themselves; their development will answer to a principle of transversality that will enable them to be established by 'traversing', as a 'rhizome', heterogeneous social groups and interests." [35] This means that a liberatory politics must allow for the radical freedom of its participants, for autonomous action, but without devolving to atomistic individualism. Guattari's rhizomatic approach provides one of the best ways to see the compatibility of autonomous and collective action, to see collective action as autonomous.

[63] The approach I have outlined is critical to the overarching goal. For revolution to be worthy of our desire, we have to want to make it. This contention reflects the heart of my general theory, but we must make no mistake about its relative openness. While the general theory does not specify and recommend any certain course or chronology of action, it does disqualify much of the radical milieu that has sought and continues to seek to provide concrete revolutionary answers to social and political problems.

[64] Moreover, while the argument functions first as a general theory (as a perspective), it ultimately and ideally functions as an operational mode. And this operational mode works against the operational modes of capital because the logos of autonomy is inassimilable to the logos of capital—the latter of which depends on predictable patterns of consumption, labor, and recreation (autonomous action can never guarantee, and inevitably destabilizes, such predictability).

[65] Capital has not totally foreclosed every space of autonomy, and it is in those spaces where we begin. We can only ever work against capitalism from within it. We can only get to the outside from the inside. As McKenzie Wark has written: "Welcome to gamespace... You are a gamer whether you like it or not, now that we all live in gamespace that is everywhere and nowhere. As Microsoft says: Where do you want to go today? You can go anywhere you want in gamespace but you can never leave it." [36] Autonomous action in existing capitalist societies still abides by certain game rules, none of which are of our own making. And even when we manage to create our own rules for our own games, we still play them in the limited autonomous spaces of capital.

[66] Wark's observation is important because it is indeed possible that autonomous action in the here and now could become a trap. That is to say, because we have some room for autonomy within the limits of capital, some level of relative gratification is achievable in the here and now. This, it seems to me, is part of the reason why capitalism has not totally foreclosed on autonomy. As shared above, I am quite happy with my everyday life in the capitalist present. But doesn't that daily disposition inadvertently vindicate the capitalist present? Even Marxists can be happy in capitalist societies! If our talents can be explored, identified, and cultivated in the here and now, and if our desires can be gratified, then there is little impetus to leave the present for some unknown future.

[67] To avoid this trap, I am not suggesting that we refuse all gratification and happiness, according to the old tune of the virtue of struggle. Instead, autonomous action must become self-conscious. That is, actors must understand that autonomy occurs in spite of or against the flows of capital that always aim to seize upon its open spaces. Self-conscious autonomous action cannot function as an endorsement of the existing system. If autonomous action is not self-conscious, then we may indeed become uncritically gratified with the precarious and ever-tenuous autonomy that exists within the limits of capital. If such gratification as this occurs, autonomous action loses its revolutionary character and doubles as an endorsement of capitalism instead. Hence, the revolutionary character of autonomous action depends on the actor's awareness of capital's antagonistic regard for autonomy; capital always subordinates freedom to accumulation.

[68] When one experiences great joy in the here and now, through love, or sexual pleasure, by epiphany or thrill, these experiences point to places where capitalism has not totally colonized human life. Sure, you may try to buy the thrill by paying for it in a capitalist exchange, but if you show up at the gates of an amusement park fully expecting to pay and are told that the admission fee has been waived, the thrill is still there, but even better. Self-consciousness reveals that the best things under capitalism are the least capitalist things. I am not going to credit the capitalist system for all of the joyful play I share with my three-year-old son, play that occurs autonomously and beyond the interests of capital. And, we must not lose sight of the fact that capitalism is never undermined for as long as our autonomy remains an existential footnote to surviving. Vaneigem's distinction between surviving and living is useful here: "Survival is life reduced to economic imperatives." [37] Whereas living is defined by spontaneity, desire, loving, and pleasure, all of which are the first casualties of survival.


[69] In 1968, Fredy Perlman summarized the pacifying mythology of capitalism. We are made to believe, he wrote, that "people do not have such power in this society, and this society is the only form of society; therefore it's impossible for people to have such power." Yet, Perlman rejects this, insisting that "The question of what is possible cannot be answered in terms of what is." [38] Autonomous action in the here and now reveals the power of everyday people that is often buried and hidden in everyday life. Recently, there could be no better example than the rebellion in Egypt in January and February of 2011. It took the world's most powerful military several years to implement the very beginnings of "regime change" in Iraq, whereas the unarmed and precarious people of Egypt only needed 18 days. While the Egyptian uprising was too heterogeneous to articulate any ideal end-state, the resounding content of the message coming from the streets of Cairo was that the existing state of affairs must end, igniting the world's sense of the possible versus the actual. And it must be stressed that the overwhelming tone of the 18 days of protest precipitating Hosni Mubarak's ouster was ebullient and joyful, full of desire and feeling, and was itself quite a departure from the "struggle" of everyday life up to that point.

[70] It is also critical to emphasize that the "results" of the popular insurrection in Egypt have been overemphasized by too many observers around the world. Critics of the uprising continually ask what's next, worrying about the Muslim Brotherhood and Sharia law. Supporters, on the other hand, point to Mubarak's ouster as evidence of the rebellion's virtue, or, in an effort to qualify their own optimism, remind us that the military's management of the government must prove temporary and transitional, and must give way to something better before any final verdict can be given. In contrast to all of these discourses, I propose that there are some things we already know with certainty—that the rebellion was a rejection of the old lie that the existing society was the only form the Egyptians could possibly know, that it was a realization of the power of everyday people. Indeed, for all of its internal heterogeneity, the uprising declared unequivocally that the question of what is possible cannot be answered in terms of what is—and it did so in the form of joyful collective action. In this way, we already have a verdict. We should not look forward to the ends of insurrection, but rather, to its multiplication and continuation, to insurrection everywhere.

[71] What are the unknown hereafters we should hope to get to from the here and now? I will not guess or predict, but I suspect that the kingdom of heaven will be no kingdom at all. I am reassured by the fact that Hobbes's Sovereign, much like Hosni Mubarak, was never enthusiastic about the autonomy of his subjects, although both knew that the autonomous action of everyday people was always a possibility to be guarded against. [39] Realizations of that possibility—autonomous action in the here and now—exacerbate the contradictions of capital and power. And the pleasure of autonomous acts of revolt invites us to think of revolution beyond its historic fixation on struggle. With such an invitation as this, revolution may finally become desirable.


[1] Vaneigem, Raoul, The Book of Pleasures (London: Pending Press, 1983), p. 22.

[2] Marx, Karl, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (New York: International Publishers, 1997); Adorno, Theodor, and Horkheimer, Max, Dialectic of Enlightenment (New York: Continuum, 1997).

[3] See Harvey, David, The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

[4] Gilman-Opalsky, Richard, Spectacular Capitalism: Guy Debord and the Practice of Radical Philosophy (Brooklyn: Autonomedia/Minor Compositions, 2011).

[5] 2007 Human Development Report (HDR), United Nations Development Program, November 27, 2007, p. 25.

[6] State of the World's Children, 2005, UNICEF.

[7] I elaborate this argument in my own Spectacular Capitalism. Also, Cornelius Castoriadis already poignantly skewered the idea that the Soviet Union was a communist state in the 1940s and 50s. See Political & Social Writings, Volume 1, 1946-1955: From the Critique of Bureaucracy to the Positive Content of Socialism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988).

[8]Dussel, Enrique,Twenty Theses on Politics (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2008).

[9] I want to be clear that I am by no means suggesting that experience and education are irrelevant. In fact, I would argue that the discernment and development of our natural gifts requires autonomy, for otherwise what we can and cannot do very well is more likely a result of inequalities in the structures and superstructures of society. For example, I would never assume that a young Guatemalan girl with stunted growth and brain development due to malnutrition, a girl who is struggling with reading, has no natural talent for reading. Her case is the result of particular injustices associated with the maldistribution of capitalism.

[10] "The End of Nature versus Nurture,” Scientific American, December 1999.

[11]Wilson, Edward O, Sociobiology: The Abridged Edition(Cambridge, MA and London: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 1975). Also see Wilson, David Sloan, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (New York: Delta Trade Paperback, 2008).

[12]Arendt, Hannah, "Communicative Power." In Steven Lukes, ed., Power(New York: New YorkUniversity Press, 1986),p. 62.

[13] Habermas, Jürgen, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society(Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1989), p. 74.

[14] Guattari, Félix and Negri, Antonio, New Lines of Alliance, New Spaces of Liberty (Brooklyn: Autonomedia/Minor Compositions, 2010), p.80. This text was originally published in French in 1985.

[15] Ibid.

[16] My comments in this paragraph and the following one have in mind the works of the leading primitivist author John Zerzan, whose book Future Primitive and Other Essays I am thinking of specifically here (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1994). Generally, though, I aim this critique at all of Zerzan's published works as well as his weekly radio program. To be fair, I have learned a lot from reading Zerzan and I enjoy and learn from his radio show as well. However, these paragraphs address the real problems I see with his worldview and arguments.

[17] Zerzan, John, Elements of Refusal (Columbia, MO: Columbia Alternative Library Press, 1999). Elements of Refusal also contains Zerzan's criticisms of Marx, in numerous places.

[18] See Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio,Empire (Cambridge: Harvard, 2001) and Holloway, John, "In the Beginning was the Scream" (Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2003).

[19] See Guattari, Félix, "The Proliferation of Margins" (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007) and Berardi, Franco "Bifo," The Soul at Work (Los Angeles: Seimotext(e), 2009).

[20] Guattari and Negri, op. cit., New Lines of Alliance, New Spaces of Liberty, p. 66.

[21] See Guattari, Félix, "Becoming-Woman" (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2001).

[22] Guattari, op. cit., "The Proliferation of Margins," p. 109.

[23]Vaneigem, op. cit., The Book of Pleasures, p. 104.

[24]Ibid., 65.

[25]From Douglass's speech at the West India Emancipation Celebration in New York, cited in Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1999).

[26] Holloway, op. cit., "In the Beginning was the Scream," p. 15.

[27] The diagnosis I am referring is in the fourth chapter of Dialectic of Enlightenment, op.cit., "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception."

[28] Marx, op. cit., The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, p. 118.

[29] See Berardi, Franco "Bifo,"Precarious Rhapsody: Semiocapitalism and the pathologies of the post-alpha generation (Brooklyn: Autonomedia/Minor Compositions, 2009).

[30] Friedman, Milton, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002), p.10.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Debord, Guy, Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black & Red Books, 1983), Thesis # 51.

[33] Marx, op. cit., The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, p. 110.

[34] Ibid.

[35]Guattari, Félix, "The New Spaces of Freedom" (Brooklyn: Autonomedia/Minor Compositions, 2010), p.123.

[36] Wark, McKenzie, Gamer Theory (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2007), Thesis 001.

[37] Vaneigem, Raoul, The Revolution of Everyday Life (London: Rebel Press, 2006), p. 157.

[38] Perlman, Fredy, Anything Can Happen (London: Phoenix Press, 1992), pp. 11 and 13.

[39] See Chapter 21, "Of the Liberty of Subjects" in Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996).