NOT BORED! writes:

One Step Forward, One Step Back
Not Bored

Reviewing the new edition of Ken Knabb's Situationist International Anthology

Darren writes:

Rudolf Rocker Reading Group

We are looking to start a reading group to study various "classics of subversion" old and new. Not for some abstract desire to immerse ourselves in philosophy but for the practical purpose of developing a better understanding of our position in class society, capital and our struggles against it. The suggested text for initial reading is:

Rudolf Rocker "Anarcho-Syndicalism"

If interested please join the forum, reading to start May 14th 07. All suggestions and ideas welcome.

enter forum here

"For us, the development of theoretical views is dictated by the necessities of vital life, by the need to solve practical problems. Our theoretical views must lead to new, better, more suitable action and the mastering of practical tasks. Our theory has value only insofar as it confirmed by practice. Everything else, we leave to the intellectual jugglers, to the guardians of the hierarchy of "values." — Wilhelm Reich


Constituent Imagination Release Event 5/21 @ Bluestockings

Monday May 21st @ 7PM

Bluestockings Books

172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington

Join us for a celebration of the release of Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigations // Collective Theorization. This collection of essays examines the relationship of radical theory to movements for social change, and, in the process, redefines the nature of intellectual practice. Discuss various projects of autonomous knowledge production and research with editors Stevphen Shukaitis, David Graeber, and Erika Biddle and contributors from the book, Jack Bratich, Craig Hughes, and Kevin Van Meter.

Acrostic Thespian writes:

Anarchist Poetics

Roger Farr, Fifth Estate #373 (Fall 2006)

[This essay was composed initially as a talk for the panel “From Anarchism to Activism,” held at the Vancouver Public Library on June 10th, 2005. It has since been revised. Thanks to my co-panelists – Robert Graham, Ron Sakolsky & Bob Sardis.]

“[The poet never] voices received opinions, or gives clear expression to the confused feelings of ‘the masses’: that is the function of the politician, the journalist, the demagogue.”
– Herbert Read, “Art and Alienation”

“Poetry is the end(s) of politics.”
– L. Mirari, “The Politics of Refusal vs. the Refusal of Politics”

Poetic Acts

How does poetics inform anarchism? And how does anarchism inform poetics? “Poetics,” from the Greek verb poieo (“I create”), means “way of creating”; thus, “anarchist poetics,” or anarcho-poiesis, is a way of creating anarchy, a way for anarchists to “reconcile utopian ideals with practical realities,” as the announcement for this event describes the problem. Particularly in the 20th century, certain strains of poetics have informed, or were informed by, the anarchist movement. This exchange continues today.

Some would push the link between poetics and anarchism – the collective struggle for individual emancipation – further. In The Revolution of Everyday Life, Vaneigem writes: “Poetry is an act which engenders new realities: it is the fulfillment of radical theory, the revolutionary act par excellence.” In a similar vein, in “On Poetic Living,” Wolfi Landstreicher insists that poiesis be understood as a creative act—and not merely as a literary artefact: “When I speak of poetry, I am not talking about versifying or wordsmithing. I am speaking about creating lives of passion, intensity and wonder.” But before we turn to the question how anarcho-poiesis might inform various anarchist projects, I want to offer some historical context to this overlooked element of anarchist thought.

Revelation Vertigo

Haduhi Szukis, Fifth Estate

"Autonomy is both the goal sought after and that whose presence–virtual–let us say, has to be supposed at the outset of an analysis or a political movement. This virtual presence is the will to autonomy, the will to be free." – Cornelius Castoriadis

There exists a tendency, shared across different strains of radical political thought, to see the horrors of our present as comprising a false totality, that when torn asunder, will reveal a more liberatory existence hidden beneath. This is to understand revolution as revelation; as the dispelling of the conditions of false consciousness, and a reclamation of an autonomous existence that continues to live on, albeit deformed, within this world we must we leave behind.

For the autonomist, this comes in the form of the working class for itself whose existence was disrupted, not destroyed, by the violent upheavals that formed the economic basis of capitalism (a process which Marx observes plays the same role in political economy that “original sin” does in theology). In primitivist thought, this becomes a reclaiming of a mythical ancestral past crushed, but never fully destroyed, by the weight of technological development and the machinations of alienation.

As powerful as such lines of argument can be, one danger in the politics of revelation is that every act of revealing not only illuminates the existence of certain processes and phenomena, but also effectively conceals others that do not fit within the structure of the revelation. It is when revelations become dogmatic, when they become “churchly” one might say, that they blind the true believer to all that falls outside the blinkers they have placed on their intellectual vision.

To question the process of questioning is to return to the etymological root of the concept of revolt, one based on a process of returning, discovering, uncovering, and renovating; one that is a state of permanent questioning, of transformation, of change, an endless probing of appearances. For it must be remembered that every act of revelation is not simply a discovery of what is, but also a construction of that which is, through a process of shared perception and understanding. Thus, to speak of an autonomous self-determining capacity that existed before the advent of capitalism providing the seeds and routes going through and beyond it, is not simply to uncover its existence, but also to take part in its collective construction. It is the presupposition of this autonomy, based on a perhaps mystical foundation, which enables the struggle for its realization.

CLR James, Direct Democracy and Political Economy

Mona, Jamaica, June 27–30, 2007

Call for Papers

"CLR James, Direct Democracy and Political Economy"

CLR James Society

Caribbean Philosophical Association

University of the West Indies

Mona (Jamaica)

27-30 June 2007


The CLR James Society, a caucus of the Caribbean
Philosophical Association, announces a call for papers and
panels on the theme "CLR James, Direct Democracy and
Political Economy" for its fourth meeting at UWI, Mona,
Jamaica, June 27-30 2007.

Animated by the 60th anniversary of CLR James' "The Invading
Socialist Society" (1947), and a desire to shift from a
predominant preoccupation with his life and work from the
perspective of literary and cultural studies, we seek new
formulations. From his studies of Ancient Athens, Hegel,
Marx, Rousseau, and Michelet; his theory of "state
capitalism" and critiques of vanguards; the one party state
and the welfare state, and trade union bureaucracy; James'
advocacy of workers self-management, and his re-evaluation
of the peasantry and party politics; we seek to place these
legacies in conversation with African, African Diaspora, and
Third World political economies.

Deadline for Papers and Panels is April 30th 2007.


Paget Henry

Email: Paget_He

Matthew Quest

Email: Matthew_Qu

Anonymous Comrade writes:

Notes on Bourdieu

Gene Ray

It’s been five years since the French sociologist and activist Pierre Bourdieu died. In Berlin, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the educational arm of the Leftist Party, marked his “death day” by putting on a two-day conference called “A Wide Field: The Left and Bourdieu.” (Does the day of his death mean something different than his birthday, as the occasion for an academic conference? And if so, what?)

In his last decade, Bourdieu became an energetic opponent of neoliberal economic policies. His textual salvos, practical interventions, and effective organizing are impressive and inspiring. Along with Noam Chomsky and a few others, he may be a last instance of that principled “public intellectual” targeted for extinction by market-driven structural adjustments in the universities. Still, the affinities are obvious between Bourdieu and the Leftist Party, which more than others in the German parliamentary system has voiced a coherent opposition to the neoliberalist onslaught.

Presumably the aim of this conference was to explore how far these affinities extend to the large body of Bourdieu’s theoretical work and sociological research. This is not a report on the conference, which I didn’t attend. I’m told it was great; why shouldn’t it have been? What follows is more like a supplemental contribution from the outside.

If Bourdieu’s death day is a valid occasion for commissioned reflections from academics[1], then who will complain if we unsalaried DIYers think it should be good enough for us, as well?

Notes on Paolo Virno in Buenos Aires

Maribel Casas-Cortés + Sebastián Cobarrubias (part of the Notas Rojas Translation Network), Federico Geller

Virno’s visit to Buenos Aires in September 2006, invited by Colectivo Situaciones and Tinta Limon press, brought new perspectives into a public space characterized by the lack of a radical critique to the state. This absence is due in part to the notable recovery, although incomplete, of the institutional legitimacy of the state in Argentina and neighboring countries.

His porteño* [* Translators’ note: porteño = from Buenos Aires] debut was at the School of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of Buenos Aires focusing on the general intellect and its political potential as the main topic. Later, he presented his most recent book, Ambivalencia de la multitud (The Ambivalence of the Multitude), at the National Library where Virno followed his own argument elaborated in the chapter of that book: "El llamado 'mal' y la crítica del estado" ("So-called 'Evil' and the Critique of the State"). At the Latin American School of Social Sciences he dissected the encounter between Foucault and Chomsky focusing on the issue of human nature. All three events were well attended.

Three questions from the audience, made at different moments during his presentations, give a rough idea of the context of these events:

1) In light of the fact that nothing remains from the processes that emerged in 2001 in Argentina, the fall of the EZLN and the strengthening of Lopez Obrador in Mexico, what do you think about the critique that Rosa Luxembourg made of Lenin and the Bolsheviks when they abolished the constituent in favor of the soviets? It is clear that a problem of discontinuity and repetition exists in movements: there is no antidote to this fragileness yet. Virno expressed his agreement with Rosa Luxembourg: both constituents and committees are required: “Movements must learn to create norms and to get out of the rhetoric of impotence!”

2) How can we think of the Multitude’s enemy?
The enemy is the Pharaoh: those who recreate the form of the statist “One”. The whisperings of the many in the Exodus. The Superdome in New Orleans. The strength of the many: the intent to recreate the “people” as a technical category opposed to the Multitude.

3) Do you believe in the possibility for alliances between the State and social movements in South America?
Virno answered that he has heard many positive things as well as many negative things about the progressive governments of South America. He wants to know more, but believes that: (i) they definitely represent a global contradiction that is important to take into account and (ii) governments producing liberation is not to be believed, but it is worth asking whether governments can open spaces so that movements can produce liberation, in their spaces of everyday life and in the world of work.

According to Virno, an entirely post-fordist world would be unworkable, but the intellectual faculties of the human animal become the fundamental resource for processes of production, which in and of itself exceeds the time and space of a workshop or factory, in the same way that the general intellect exceed the machine and technological tools, constituting ‘live work’.

The question is: “how this grouping of natural abilities, today presented to us as productive capacities, can turn into institutional forms contrary to the State?”

To respond to this it is necessary to abandon the juvenile contempt for the word “institution”: an activist collective that invents its own norms and is guided by them is also an institution. It’s an issue of animals protecting themselves from danger.

There is an enormous gap between the productive system and the intent to create a political order at the level of that productive process. Our challenge is to translate the diverse forms of the general intellect into spatiality. Without space there is not politics.

In 1932, Carl Schmitt, a Nazi philosopher, presented a challenge about the relations between theories of State and their anthropological base. For Schmitt, the hostility that anarchists have towards the State presupposed the innate goodness of human beings, however the majority of what was understood as political theory supposed that human beings were “bad” and problematic. This then justified the necessity of a “monopoly of political decision-making”.

In the words of Hobbes, the problem is posed as an opposition between the “civil state” and the “state of nature”: the monopoly over political decision-making would constitute the pseudo-environment able to contain the multitude, disregarded by Hobbes as a reccurrence of the state of nature within the civil state.

In the famous disagreement between Chomsky and Foucault in 1971, Chomsky followed the argument of the anarchists, justifying the need to struggle against state hierarchies and capitalism due to their oppression of the collective creativity of our species, this capacity being the result of a supposedly universal grammatical structure that is written into our DNA. Foucault denied discussing the existence of a human nature, considering the concept as a mere epistemological indicator of the changing relations between disciplines at distinct moments of history. According to Virno, “that night, the two teachers showed the worst of themselves”.

Virno doesn’t want to escape from an investigation into human nature. But his vision of the bio-anthropological redundancies does not establish an inclination of our species towards “good” or “bad”, rather it posits our ambivalence: it is the image of a “neoténico” animal confronted with the absence of a defined environment, which would imply a constant “openness towards the world”, a source of potential and dangerous instability. Virno suggest that this instability – denominated “bad/evil”— could be the pedestal for a “radical hostility toward the State”.

Differing from Chomsky, Virno considers the role of language to be that of opening possibilities for ambivalence. He takes the work of the Italian neurobiologist Gallese on mirror neurons into consideration. These neurons, hypothetically, constitute the physiological base of recognition between like beings. Virno suggests that the capacity for negation allows one to hide the natural recognition amongst similar being as well as recover it. In this schema, our unchanging aspects are transformed from top to bottom by our verbal capacity.

His proposal – recognizing the escape from a state of nature as impossible— is to take up the concept of the Katechon, which appears in St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians: the force that can contain “evil”, confronting but not eliminating it.

His question: what non-state and anti-monopolist institutions, what normative systems, can confront, without proposing annulment, the return to infinitude, compulsory repetition, the state of nature which has become a civil state through the process of a globalizing world? He suggests retaking Wittgenstein’s carta magna: “A proposition could be treated, one time, as a proposition to revise, and another time as a rule for revisions.” Our contempt should be directed towards the pre-ordained obedience to norms, not towards the existence of norms that may be considered, in a dynamic way, as de jure and de facto questions.

Virno, concludes that it is of vital political importance to construct a cautious bridge over the chasm that separates the sciences of matter from the sciences of spirit. This is an invitation to build our own natural history, in a way that can take into account both the evolutionary narratives that explain the invariable aspects of the human species, as well as the historical narrative of the contingencies in which those invariable aspects express themselves.

All Gods, All Masters: Immanence and Anarchy/Ontology

Will Weikart

From Fifth Estate

Almost all contemporary radical thought is marked by dialectics. Classical anarchism, Marxism (in all its variants), and the Situationists owe a huge debt to the thought of German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel, and hence to dialectics. For example, the political thought of anarchist and anti-authoritarian theorists such as Mikhail Bakunin, Guy Debord, Murray Bookchin and Fredy Perlman all rely on dialectical thinking. Poststructuralist social theorist Michel Foucault even characterized Hegel's theories as the ghost that prowls through the 20th century. In fact, dialectics are so hegemonic in radical circles that a common objection to a perspective is that it is 'insufficiently dialectical'.

But contemporary radicalism is not 'insufficiently dialectical'; rather, it is too dialectical. Dialectics are virtually everywhere (and not just on the Left), tacitly informing much of what we do and how we think, often unconsciously, and even (or perhaps particularly) for those who have never read Hegel or Marx. Contrary to its claims, it is dialectics that is insufficient to account for the utter multiplicity of movement and change. This daunting complexity of the world is not a cause for despair and inaction, however. Rather, it is the opposite: instead of being reduced down, our complex world should be valorized and exalted. We should critically re-examine our intellectual baggage in order to question some of the underlying assumptions of how we think and act politically.

Anonymous Comrade writes

Eyal Weizman

The Art of War
Frieze, Issue 99

The Israeli Defence Forces have been heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy, highlighting the fact that there is considerable overlap among theoretical texts deemed essential by military academies and architectural schools.

The attack conducted by units of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as ‘inverse geometry’, which he explained as ‘the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of micro-tactical actions’.1 During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of ‘overground tunnels’ carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manoeuvring simultaneously in the city, they were so ‘saturated’ into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, they used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.

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