Reviews

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Review of Precarious Communism
John Asimakopoulos
Anarchist Studies

In Precarious Communism Gilman-Opalsky explains that the purpose of any manifesto, including his own, is to make manifest certain facts. Accordingly, he highlights the difference between Marx and ‘Marxism’ without engaging dead ideologies. He is a ‘precarious’ proponent of new theories void of historical baggage or loaded terms. This makes the book an excellent supplement to many social science and humanities courses.

Gilman-Opalsky situates Marx and ‘Marxism’ in the concept of precarious communism (autonomy) in an attempt to disentangle the terms ‘communism’ and ‘Marxism’ from past ideological purity and state practice. It is a way forward that allows for no single pure ideological possibility of social organisation, but rather many diverse possibilities for achieving a non-capitalist society that could be described generally as communal. Precarious Communism also demonstrates the ‘precarious’ position of the non-ideological communist seeking a way forward. It is within this context that Gilman-Opalsky attempts to situate the Communist Manifesto for today’s audience, realities, and experiences, using the methodological technique developed by the French Situationists (an artistic-political organisa- tion) under Guy Debord called detournement (meaning re-routing or hijacking).

One of the author’s major contributions is to update Marxist ideas, rather than ideology, showing their relevance both theoretically and as more accurate descriptions of conditions under late capitalism or neoliberalism. In fact, such critical analyses are more important and relevant than ever before given the expansion of capitalist co-optation and invasion into even more spheres of life than in Marx’s times. Gilman-Opalsky points out that globalisation is still based on the old city power centres around the world. In this sense, globalisation is a thinly veiled exercise aiming to further modern forms of neo-colonialism. More so, this is a ‘privatized’ globalisation, as he points out, where national governments have voluntarily privatised almost all of their functions leaving them as hollow ‘straw men’ for the elite to rail against, an ironic sight indeed since governments, having been co-opted long ago, are no more than political expressions of capital. He points out this contradiction where so-called liberals (basically the bourgeoisie) accuse the capitalist state of being Marxist.

Review of Communization and its Discontents
Published in Anarchy: A Journal Of Desire Armed #74

Anthologies are always tricky. The job of an editor includes surveying the intellectual landscape for as much of a similar understanding of the topic as possible, then finding the right contributions from the right authors, and gathering them together in as coherent a manner as possible. This doesn’t always work out the way the editor or a publisher might want. Anthologies are always a mixed bag as well, with some contributions making more of an impression and others being totally forgettable. Part of the challenge with an anthology concerning trends in this particular intellectual radical theory is that there are some seriously divergent understandings and theorizing about this communization stuff, both from inside and outside the tendency. Much to Minor Compositions’ and Noys’ credit, the essays in this anthology span a wide range of opinions and assessments about communization, from unqualified excitement through qualified enthusiasm to qualified skepticism, if not dismissal.

Review of Squatting in Europe
Amy Starecheski, City

Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles is a collection of 10 essays edited by the Squatting Europe Kollective (SqEK). SqEK is a network of activists and scholars that formed in 2009 and has been remarkably productive over the past four years, convening nine gatherings and supporting the development of numerous research projects. This is their first book. SqEK’s organization mirrors that of the movements they study: horizontal and open. Both the SqEK project and this volume have intertwined activist and political aims, and these authors see the production and dissemination of knowledge about squatting as an essential part of their activism. In the service of that goal, the book is available as a free download, but has also been published as a printed volume. SqEK seeks to marshal the power of social scientific academic knowledge production to intervene with authority in current political discourse, and the essays included here largely fit within that frame. Most are written in the third person, and in a neutral, professional tone. While many participants have been involved in squatting and take their inspiration from those experiences, they are also serious researchers who ‘work together in order to develop a thorough, systematic and critical knowledge about this so frequently forgotten social movement’ (273). Much of the research in this volume would not have been possible without the authors’ direct participation in the movements they document, and it is one weakness of the work that the authors do not draw more directly upon their own experiences and personal insights.

“Perder” Important Show of Latin American Political Art
Perder la forma humana. Una imagen sísmica de los años ochenta en América Latina
(Losing the human form. A seismic image of the eighties in Latin America)
Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid
October 26, 2012 - March 11, 2013

Introduction by Alan Moore– This is a major exhibition of political art. It is probably the best I have ever seen. “Perder la Forma Humana” presents the situations and the creative responses to the epoch of dictatorships in Latin America in the 1980s. The presidency of plastic hero Ronald Reagan was a disaster for our neighbors to the south if they professed any opposition to the smooth workings of multinational capital. Activists, most of them young, were detained, tortured and killed by the tens of thousands during many long years of harsh rule by right-wing generals. The U.S. military helped to coordinate these repressions. (This kind of federal coordination was recently echoed in the nationwide shutdown, benign by comparison, of the encampments of the U.S. Occcupy movement.)

The Sacred Dilemma of Inoperosity. On Giorgio Agamben’s Opus Dei
Antonio Negri

From Uninomade 2.0
Translated by Jason Francis Mc Gimsey. Originally published on il manifesto on the 24th of February 2012. Italian version here.

With this book, the journey Agamben began with Homo Sacer seems to have come to an end. It was a long road, from the early ‘90s until today, nearly twenty years. An archeology of ontology conducted (with a rigor that not even the bizarre and misleading game of little numbers put in order over different stages of his research could render opaque) – up to the reopening of the problem of Sein. A dig that not even Heidegger (in the words of the author who claims to be a young student of the German philosopher) was able to complete – because here ontology is freed from any remaining “operativity” of every illusion that can be tied to will and control. What is left? “The philosophical question that appears is that of conceiving of an ontology beyond operativity and command, and an ethics and a politics totally freed from the concepts of duty and will”.

"Was it Bad for You Too?"
Lehman Weichselbaum

THE UNBEARABLES BIG BOOK OF SEX , Edited by Ron Kolm, Carol Wierzbicki, Jim Feast, Steve Dalachinsky, Yuko Otomo and Shalom Neuman.
Unbearable Books/ Autonomedia. 2011. 640 pps. $18.95.

First, to dispense with the obvious: THE UNBEARABLES BIG BOOK OF SEX is not a stroke book. To be sure, you (or the grubby inner adolescent of you) will find, inevitably, a sprinkling of verifiable “dirty parts” (as a time-saving service, we refer you to pgs. 156, 165, 431 and 485). But savvy readers, looking past the book’s formal category as “erotica,” will surmise that the words “Unbearables” and “sex” appearing in the same title will more than likely yield, for the most part, a bumptuous pageant of squalid missed connections, subliminal-to-outright multigendered abuse, delusional gambits of seduction and, overall, a Cook’s tour of carnal dysfunction in its myriad sordid forms. And, of course, they will be right.

Review of Paul Mason's 'Why It's Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions'
Mark Kosman

Some people may dismiss Paul Mason as just another journalist, especially since he advocated more effective policing to contain the 'Black Bloc' after the 26 March TUC demo.[1] Yet, this is no reason not to read Why It's Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions. Simply by bringing together insightful reports from the uprisings of 2010/11 - in Egypt, Greece, Israel, Spain, the UK and the US - Mason helps the reader get an overview of the present state of global class struggle. But, more than this, he puts these struggles in a historical and theoretical context and so provokes more interesting questions than any other recent book.

Queering Anarchism
Michael Truscello

review of Jamie Heckert and Richard Cleminson, eds. Anarchism and Sexuality: Ethics, Relationships and Power. Routledge, 2011. 232 pp.

It may surprise some people outside of the study of anarchism that, alongside race, sexuality is perhaps the least studied subject within anarchist scholarship. This absence in the scholarly literature is often mirrored in practice, and as such the recent publication of Jamie Heckert and Richard Cleminson’s Anarchism and Sexuality provides a necessary intervention. Judged on the basis of the editors’ intent "to craft a queer book, both in style and in content" (1), the result is an overwhelming success. Stylistically, the anthology darts from personal memoir to social scientific survey to literary analysis. In this sense, the anthology achieves what most interdisciplinary projects only gesture towards: a collection of writings (I intentionally avoid essays here, because the anthology includes "poetic interludes") that illustrate the dynamics of activists and intellectuals, public agonies and private abuses, philosophical excursions and tactical reminiscences. This may be the most diverse collection of writings I have ever read under one cover.

New Old Stories from the Other Situationists
Alan W. Moore

review of Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere
edited by Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen and Jakob Jakobsen
with contributions by Peter Laugesen, Carl Nørrested, Fabian Tompsett, Gordon Fazakerley, Jacqueline de Jong, Hardy Strid, Karen Kurczynski, Stewart Home and the editors
Nebula (Copenhagen) and Autonomedia (Brooklyn), 2011

This book is a badly needed English language introduction to the stories of northern Situationism. While this political and aesthetic avant garde movement of the 1960s is most famous for the work of Guy de Bord (especially Society of the Spectacle, 1967), it had many other adherents and accomplishments, as the Expect anthology makes clear. Most notably for me is the description of a 1963 exhibition produced in Copenhagen in solidarity with a British direct action anti-nuclear group, “The Destruction of RSG-6.” But the northern Situationists also published an important artists' magazine, The Situationist Times, organized a commune in Sweden called Drakabygget, produced many short films and participatory art installations, painted slogans on drab public fences, and for years launched provocations against the smug consensus cultures of post-war Europe.

Since the 1970s I've had a sidelong relationship to the Situationists. They were really out there, politically, when I bought my copy of Debord's "Society of the Spectacle" published by the Detroit anarchist Black and Red house. Now there is a handsome MIT edition at many times the price of that pamphlet as the Situationist movement has emerged from the fog of the underground into the dry bright light of academic industry. In the 1990s, I used the resources of my artists' video distribution project to make pirate copies of De Bord's film for Bill Brown as he intervened in the commodification of the drunken sage's oeuvre.

"Facebook, or, The Impossibility of Friendship"
Franco Berardi (Bifo)

Financial capitalism and precarious work, loneliness and suffering, atrophy of empathy and sensibility: these are the themes that we may extrapolate from "The Social Network," the excellent movie by David Fincher.

The story that the movie is about is the creation and early diffusion of the social network Facebook: an enterprirse in the age of financial semiocapitalism. But the focus shifts on the psychological side of the evolution of the Internet, in the framework of the info-acceleration and stimulus-intensification that broadband has made possible. Love, friendship, affection — the whole sphere of emotionality is invested by the intensification of the rhythm of the infosphere surrounding the first generation which learned more words from a machine than from the mother.

Although the narration of the beginnings of Facebook, and the following legal conflicts and trials corresponds to the real story, biographical details (for instance the end of a love relation in the first scene of the movie) are not necessarily true, but they are useful for a full understanding of the affective side of social life of the cognitarian labor force.

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