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Re: <nettime> A Movement Without Demands?
Brian Holmes on Sun, 8 Jan 2012 00:21:04 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> A Movement Without Demands?

Well, Snafu was right and I'm sure that many good debates will flow from his and Jodi's co-written text.

Keith, when I said "the anarchists," I was thinking of David Graeber among others. And when I said "Kudos to the anarchists" I really meant it! Maybe I will find the answers to my questions in the debt book which I have not yet read; but what I am wondering about is how to move from the local assertion of autonomy to the transformation of some basic conditions in society. I like the way you talk about CLR James: it is a matter of clarifying ideas we can act on. They have to grow out of lived experience and face-to-face exchange. But in my view, they can't stop there. Society evolves through the spread of actionable abstractions. Maybe this is one difference between otherwise close positions: anarchists and autonomous marxists.

Greg, it's great to hear your stories. You know, for a few years now a bunch of us (including Dan Wang) have this crazy idea about the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor: a regional patchwork of small interconnected projects. We live in "flyover land" and we want to occupy it at ground level! But how to give the connective patchwork the political force that can respond to the distress your students are talking about? The initial questions we've had are mainly about the potentials for sociability and collaboration in devastated rural and postindustrial landscapes, or more deeply, about what we call mutual self-recognition. We've tried to share a rediscovery of territories. "Cartography with your feet" has been one of our slogans. The MRCC is an open project and maybe someday we can collaborate. We have a new book coming out soon, I will let you know about it.

That actually leads straight to Prem Chandravarkar's post, insightful and fascinating as usual. Prem, you only seem to post to nettime once a year: I relish those occasions. This is brilliant stuff:

    * The middle class majority could remain comfortable within the
      western city because they could anchor in the city through
      strategies rather than tactics. . And they did not need to
      exercise great political or economic power in order to do so. So
      they could remain relatively detached (even apathetic) to the
      political process, and it did not matter to them if their opinions
      did not affect decision making in democratic politics. The spatial
      recognition they received was a sufficient acknowledgment of their
    * However this spatial equilibrium has been significantly disrupted.
      These disruptions have been there for some time, but came to a
      head in the 2008 financial crisis. The economy is now disconnected
      from spaces of the city and is dictated by the logic of globalized
      networks of capital.

I think you are getting to the heart of OWS, the political-existential meaning of occupation. The thing is, the middle-class feeling of legitimacy in the city, of abstract institutional recognition as a citizen with rights and privileges, has been hollowed out for years, even decades. We can no longer see ourselves in the mirror (or indeed, the mirrored architecture) of the Lords of Finance -- and thankfully so, in my opinion. OWS takes the grassroots practice of mutual self-recognition that I was talking about above (which has been elaborated experimentally by all kinds of artists and countercultural types since the 60s) and suddenly politicizes it at the heart of the megalopolis. Again it is a question of territory. The alienated structure of the networked city, worked over and transformed by what I call "megagentrification," is reappropriated and delivered back to common use. This is something very close to what Giorgio Agamben calls "profanation." I have written about all that, and also about the way that the US experience relates to other protests movements throughout the world, in a rather long article here:


Skip straight to the section on "Profane Communication" and you can see whether our approaches are as close as they intuitively seem to me. In any case, I would be very interested to read a deeper elaboration of your work on the spatiality of the Occupation movement.

subvert and enjoy,


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