Notes for a Non-​Statocentric Politics

fish

The stato­centric gaze pro­poses to think of so­cial change as a con­flict between the polit­ical class (“chan­cers, crooks, liars”) and a “we” that is es­sen­tially healthy (“the real people”, “de­cent folk”, “the mul­ti­tudes”). It would be suf­fi­cient for “the good guys” to reach power (through their rep­res­ent­at­ives) to change the state of things. But neo­lib­er­alism is in fact a co-​production. With dif­ferent levels, but we all pro­duce it among ourselves (by en­tering into com­pet­i­tion with our neigh­bour, by spec­u­lating, etc.). It is not enough to be against “the bad guys” as if there were about the place some­where a “good us” that already ex­isted. A new reality has to be cre­ated (and we have to change with it).

Six Theses on Anxiety & the Prevention of Militancy

vogue1-604x400

Today’s public secret is that everyone is anxious. Anxiety has spread from its pre­vious loc­al­ised loc­a­tions (such as sexu­ality) to the whole of the so­cial field. All forms of in­tensity, self-​expression, emo­tional con­nec­tion, im­me­diacy, and en­joy­ment are now laced with anxiety. It has be­come the linchpin of sub­or­din­a­tion. One major part of the so­cial un­der­pin­ning of anxiety is the multi-​faceted om­ni­present web of sur­veil­lance. The NSA, CCTV, per­form­ance man­age­ment re­views, the Job Centre, the priv­ileges system in the prisons, the con­stant ex­am­in­a­tion and clas­si­fic­a­tion of the youngest school­chil­dren. But this ob­vious web is only the outer car­a­pace. We need to think about the ways in which a neo­lib­eral idea of suc­cess in­cul­cates these sur­veil­lance mech­an­isms in­side the sub­jectiv­ities and life-​stories of most of the population.

Cupcake Fascism: Gentrification, Infantilisation and Cake

Eliza Koch

The Cupcake as Object The cup­cake is barely a cake. When we think about what “the cake-​like” ideal should be, it is some­thing spongy, moist, char­ac­ter­ized by ex­cess, col­lapsing under its own weight of gooey jam, me­ringue, and cream. It is some­thing sickly and wet that makes your fin­gers sticky. The cup­cake is none of these things; that is, it pos­sesses none of the ideal es­sence of cak­i­ness. The cup­cake is neat, pre­cise, and uni­form. It is dry, po­lite, and low-​fat. It is defined by its shape, not its taste, and the cake-​cup limits any po­ten­tial ex­cess. The cup­cake is largely aimed at the sort of flat-​stomached people who think con­suming sweet things is “a bit naughty,” and who won’t even…

Improper attachments, or who do anti-​abortion posters belong to?

Anti-abortion protestors, Thrin and Joan Short, on Fox News

The events dis­cussed below took place at the University of California Santa Barbara, on 4th March 2014. I had planned to meet Mireille Miller-​Young, a pro­fessor in Feminist Studies, who was chairing a talk I was giving. When I ar­rived, Mireille was in the sem­inar room looking upset and frightened, and vis­ibly trem­bling. She’d just had an al­ter­ca­tion with anti-​abortion pro­testers she said; sev­eral weeks preg­nant she was par­tic­u­larly upset by the im­ages they were dis­playing, and now there was a po­lice car out­side the building. A col­league, en­tering the room, said there were ten cars out­side. On 4th March, Mireille Miller-​Young, a Feminist Studies pro­fessor at UCSB, was walking back to her of­fice with a group of stu­dents. As they passed through the campus ‘free speech zone’, they were…

“Peace! I Hate the Word!” A Few Thoughts in Favour of Conflict

Anthony Freda, Peace Prize

The world is riven by con­flict. The re­cent events in Ukraine are just the most re­cent ex­ample. The value and ne­ces­sity of con­flict should not be sub­sumed within the en­tirely un­der­stand­able de­sire to pre­vent vi­ol­ence. I want to argue that peace, as a goal, is not some­thing worth striving for. It is dif­fi­cult to com­ment crit­ic­ally on the topic of law, ne­go­ti­ation, and con­flict. Most com­ments and dis­cus­sions never shy away from re­cog­nising the limits of law in con­flict situ­ations. Furthermore, the politics in­herent in the ne­go­ti­ation of peace have also been covered very well, and from a number of dif­ferent angles. One thing which hasn’t been con­sidered crit­ic­ally though is the sub­ject of con­flict it­self. Conflict has in fact come in for…

To Demonstrate a Right: Police Power Jurisprudence and the Rule of Law in Zuccotti Plaza

Zuccotti Police 2011

Waller v City of New York, 2011 At ap­prox­im­ately 1:00 am on the morning of November 15, 2011 the NYPD entered Zuccotti Plaza with ar­mored vehicles, bar­ri­cades and bull­horns and an­nounced to ‘those oc­cupying Zuccotti Park’ that they were to im­me­di­ately re­move all prop­erty and leave the park or be sub­ject to ar­rest. Thus began a four-​hour long co­ordin­ated po­lice se­quest­ra­tion of the area sur­rounding Zuccotti Plaza and the forceful evic­tion of the protestors, achieved by the closing of bridges and street ac­cess, a media blackout and the use of ex­treme force using sound can­nons, pepper spray and mass ar­rests of hun­dreds in­cluding journ­al­ists. Lawyers for the oc­cu­pa­tion frantic­ally sub­mitted an ap­plic­a­tion for a tem­porary re­straining order to the City of New York which requested…

Five Theses on the Aftermath of the Ukrainian Revolution

Protesters rally round the monument to founders of Kiev in Independence square

1 The es­cal­a­tion of the Crimean crisis has all but ob­scured the events in the Ukraine during November 2013 – February 2014 that led to it and which alone make it in­tel­li­gible. What took place during this period was a re­volu­tion in the full sense of the word, i.e. without the qual­i­fying ad­ject­ives such as ‘velvet’, ‘colour’, etc., that we have be­come ac­cus­tomed to. What aligns this re­volu­tion with the clas­sical re­volu­tions of mod­ernity was the rad­ical af­firm­a­tion of pop­ular sov­er­eignty or con­stituent power as the found­a­tion of any con­sti­tuted struc­ture of au­thority. While the ‘colour re­volu­tions’ in the post-​Soviet states during 2003 – 2005 are best un­der­stood as inter-​elite con­flicts with an ele­ment of pop­ular par­ti­cip­a­tion, the Euromaidan move­ment is clearly ir­re­du­cible to the…

The Market as the Unique Site of Truth: On Foucault & Milk

Foucault

Whom would you ask in order to check if the milk you are drinking is fresh? This trivial ques­tion can be answered in mul­tiple ways. For ex­ample, one could ask a farmer, a bio­lo­gist, a chemist, or even a grand­parent that lives in a rural area. One could even rest upon his or her common sense, saying that prob­ably a (very) few days after its pro­duc­tion, it is counter-​intuitive to label any­thing as fresh. Nevertheless, it would have been quite ec­centric for someone to turn to the Organisation of Economic Co-​operation and Development (OECD) to seek ad­vice on this ques­tion. Still, the OECD in its latest re­port on the Greek eco­nomy dealt ex­tensive with the issue of fresh milk, the reg­u­la­tion of which was considered…

Five Theses on Financialisation

matrix

1 The dual nature of con­tem­porary cap­it­alism resides in the sep­ar­a­tion of ‘politics’ and ‘eco­nomics’ on one side, and ‘fin­ance’ and ‘pro­duc­tion’ on the other. However, in fin­an­cial­isa­tion ‘politics’ and ‘fin­ance’ are con­nected, spe­cific­ally by an un­spoken pact of unity whose most sig­ni­ficant fea­tures will be re­vealed below. Financialisation is a typ­ic­ally cap­it­alist sep­ar­a­tion between ‘fin­ance’ and ‘pro­duc­tion’. To para­phrase Ellen M. Wood, it is, first, a system whereby all eco­nomic agents — both buyers and pro­du­cers — must buy or sell fin­an­cial ser­vices to sat­isfy their basic needs. Second, this system or­gan­ises and me­di­ates, above our heads (or you could say from ‘the Cloud’, as with cloud com­puting), a system of global wagers (‘de­riv­at­ives’) with which to spec­u­late on the fu­ture value of com­mer­cial fin­an­cial products: savings…

The ‘Lawful’ Political Killing of Bogotá’s Mayor: Gustavo Petro

Gustavo Petro (holding mic) at a rally

One of the longest living myths in Latin America is that Colombia is one of its most stable demo­cra­cies. Of course, form­ally, the country has not suffered a mil­itary dic­tat­or­ship in the last fifty some years and all the in­ternal clock­work of a re­pub­lican system seems to work har­mo­ni­ously: a con­sti­tu­tion packed with rights and guar­an­tees; reg­ular, open elec­tions; a neat and clean di­vi­sion of powers; and the list goes on. Yet this ap­parent in­sti­tu­tional sturdi­ness con­ceals a civil war that has been on­going for more than sixty years. This war has al­most bled rural Colombia to death and has made urban areas a bizarre col­lage of wealth and poverty. It is a tale of two coun­tries: on one side Colombia has now sur­passed Argentina as the third…

If the state isn’t a corporation, what might it become?

Enrique Chagoya. The Pastoral or Arcadian State, Illegal Alien’s Guide to Greater America, 2006

That British and other states are be­coming in­creas­ingly privat­ised is the sad litany of our age. So too is the way states in­cor­porate market prin­ciples of price and com­pet­i­tion within their own in­ternal gov­ernance struc­tures. And now, with com­panies run­ning public ser­vices, owning public as­sets, and providing a model for how state bodies should in­teract, the state it­self is being re-​imagined: as a public cor­por­a­tion — form­ally ac­count­able, at in/​decent in­ter­vals, to its share-​holders (the elect­orate); sub­stant­ively ac­count­able to its stake-​holders (that chan­ging array of sec­toral in­terests). The cor­porate state It is not dif­fi­cult to de­velop this cor­por­atist line of thinking. Repeatedly, we are told states com­pete with each other, in a mar­ket­place of states, for in­vestors, cus­tomers and cli­ents, that’s why levels of corporation…

“We are not from another planet”: Justice 4 Cleaners Campaign and the Struggle for Recognition

Subaltern Speak

The on-​going struggle of the SOAS Cleaners for ac­cept­able working con­di­tions and equality in the work­place has re­ceived some media at­ten­tion since its in­cep­tion in 2007 – 2008. For a thor­ough and en­ga­ging ana­lysis of the his­tory of cleaners’ la­bour act­ivism across the city, in­cluding the massive con­tri­bu­tions they have made to the London Living Wage Campaign, see Robert B’s piece “Crisis in the Cleaning Sector”, pub­lished in December 2013. Employed by the out­sourced com­pany ISS since 1993, SOAS cleaning staff are de­prived of ad­equate sick pay, pen­sion be­ne­fits, and hol­iday pay. In other words, they are denied the same con­trac­tual be­ne­fits, job se­curity, and working con­di­tions that those em­ployed dir­ectly by SOAS cur­rently have. Working in a de facto se­greg­ated en­vir­on­ment, SOAS cleaners…

(K)not Politics: Thoughts on Ukraine and Protest

Freedom and Kiev central square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

The events in Ukraine have caused many to wonder what sparked the protests in November and why things un­folded into such vi­ol­ence this February. How do we un­der­stand European and Russian in­terest in this country, and what media, what sources of in­form­a­tion can be trusted? Ukraine has once again raised the ques­tion of the polit­ical; the ques­tion of Europe; the spectre of Cold War Empires. Perhaps un­like the many other horrid, vi­olent dic­tat­or­ships that are con­tinuing to op­press people (DRC) or up­ris­ings that im­min­ently threaten more blood­shed (Venezuela), Ukraine en­cap­su­lates twen­tieth cen­tury polit­ical myth­o­logy. Onto Ukraine, the fantasies of the Cold War con­tinue to be pro­jected. It is the country bor­dering Russia, the European Union and the Black Sea. It…

Some Reflections on the #ACCELERATE MANIFESTO

Xanti Schawinsky, Shakespeare Die beiden Veroneser, Räuberballett, 1925Xanti Schawinsky Estate © Xanti Schawinsky Estate

The Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics (MAP) opens by noting the depth of the cur­rent crisis – “cataclysm” – and a neg­a­tion of the fu­ture by “coming apo­ca­lypses”. No need for alarm how­ever: there is nothing political-​theological here what­so­ever, so those who came looking for that might as well stop reading now. Absent, too, is the usual re­frain about the im­minent break­down of the plan­etary cli­matic system. Or rather, it is men­tioned, its im­port­ance, but it is wholly sub­or­din­ated to in­dus­trial politics, and can be ad­dressed only through the cri­tique thereof. What is es­sen­tial is in­stead “the in­creasing auto­ma­tion of pro­ductive processes” – including “in­tel­lec­tual labour” – which is presented as evid­ence of the crisis of cap­it­alism. Catastrophism? Improper use of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to…

What’s Going on in Venezuela?

venezuela-uprising-2

It’s dif­fi­cult to briefly ex­plain the situ­ation in Venezuela right now. The dif­fi­culty lies in the fact that it is com­plic­ated, like most things. No matter how various polit­ical prot­ag­on­ists, human rights groups and news media would like to paint things as simple, black and white, they are not. To un­der­stand one has to dig down, deep. A par­tic­u­larly galling video on YouTube ex­plains that mil­lions of stu­dents took to the street to protest about crime and the se­curity situ­ation. The com­ments by Venezuelans on said video are telling. In fact, what English-​speakers hear about Venezuela is one of the biggest prob­lems – if a Venezuelan speaks English, chances are that they are part of the small minority of the (re­l­at­ively) ultra-​rich who’ve been fighting to…

Racism as Excessive Legalism

Queue

We rightly cel­eb­rate that we live in a so­ciety where law and order pre­vail. The ca­pa­city to follow es­tab­lished rules al­lows for the smooth op­er­a­tion of the many ne­ces­sary trans­ac­tions that make up our everyday life. And the law, among other things, guar­an­tees that we as cit­izens can ac­cess cer­tain goods and ser­vices by right rather than at the whim of someone who is in a po­s­i­tion of power over us. As those of us who have lived in so­ci­eties where law and order is min­imal know, without law and order, even a small trans­ac­tion like get­ting a driver’s li­cense can be­come so­cially and psy­cho­lo­gic­ally ex­hausting: a circus of going up and down build­ings, beg­ging people, ex­plaining to them what should be ob­vious, seeing people…

#Accelerationism: Remembering the Future

Automat, 977 Eighth Avenue, Manhattan, 1936. Gelatin silver print.

For the last forty years the vision of our so­ci­eties as pro­gressive and heading in a better dir­ec­tion has been sys­tem­at­ic­ally eroded. Under the per­muta­tion of cap­it­alism that began in the 1970s, gained trac­tion in the 1980s, ap­peared vic­torious in the 1990s, and faced ser­ious prob­lems in the late 2000s — the fu­ture has been can­celled. Today, it is common sense to pre­sume that cli­mate change and its ef­fects will wreak havoc on the en­vir­on­ment, that real wages will con­tinue to stag­nate, that jobs will be­come more pre­carious, that re­tire­ments and pen­sions will be elim­in­ated, and that in­equality and the ex­ploit­a­tion of society’s weakest will only worsen. This is the fu­ture offered by the vari­ants of neo­lib­eral polit­ical eco­nomy that dom­inate the developed…

The Insecurity of Public Interest: Criminal Law and Dumpster Diving

Paul May outside Iceland

The idea of in­sec­urity seems to have an ever in­creasing hold on our con­tem­porary so­cial ima­ginary, a tend­ency which is now reg­u­larly used by the au­thor­ities in order to le­git­imise a spe­cific no­tion of public in­terest. Last week, this no­tion came to the fore when the Guardian news­paper re­vealed that three men were ar­rested, de­tained and very briefly charged for taking food from a dustbin be­hind one of the Iceland su­per­mar­kets. Paul May, Jason Chan and William James were ar­rested on 25 October last year, just be­fore mid­night, for climbing over a wall at the back of Iceland in Kentish town and taking some to­ma­toes, mush­rooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes that were destined for a land­fill. Initially ar­rested for burg­lary, the three men were…

For a Theory of Destituent Power

Kelesidi_Bliss_Watercolour-on-paper_40x40-24ddadf7

A re­flec­tion on the des­tiny of demo­cracy today here in Athens is in some way dis­turbing, be­cause it ob­liges to think the end of demo­cracy in the very place where it was born. As a matter of fact, the hy­po­thesis I would like to sug­gest is that the pre­vailing gov­ern­mental paradigm in Europe today is not only non demo­cratic, but that it cannot either be con­sidered as polit­ical. I will try there­fore to show that the European so­ciety today is no more a polit­ical so­ciety: it is some­thing en­tirely new, for which we lack a proper ter­min­o­logy and we have there­fore to in­vent a new strategy. Let me begin with a concept which seems, starting from September 2001, to have re­placed any other polit­ical no­tion: se­curity. As…