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Re: <nettime> A Movement Without Demands?
Keith Hart on Sat, 14 Jan 2012 19:08:52 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> A Movement Without Demands?

Dear Brian,

You have long been a source of inspiration to me and this reply confirms
it. The fact that I seem to be gnawing at a bone of possible difference
comes from a desire to advance our conversation and to take advantage of
this medium for it. As Ed pointed out at the beginning of his last post,
nettime has remarkable persistence and did, perhaps still does, stand for
the potential of such a network to take advantage of the internet for
constructive political purposes. I have been following the emergence of an
offshoot, "unlike us", which appears to be concerned with exposing the
flaws of Facebook and seeking to develop a new approach to social media
initially through small face-to-face meetings in inaccessible places. Your
own indefatigable travels have helped you to join and learn from an
incredible variety of actually existing struggles and creative initiatives.

This all makes your response to my question about where we would look for
promising developments flourishing in the cracks of the (post?) neoliberal
era inexplicable to me:

"We just woke up to the useless life, the pointless existence that we were
being given as our only perspective....A way to understand today's revolt
is as a consequence of futility. To labor with your hands and your mind and
your heart for a world of exploitation and war and climate change - a world
that scorns any generous aspiration you might have in your body - that is a
reason for the self-educated to revolt against everything the current
system teaches!"

Who is 'we' here? Yours is an overdetermined representation of a world
system whose only product is alienation and where revolt is a
semi-conscious activity by people who had been lulled into sleep and are
just now beginning to wake up. But the powers of such a world are more
divided and disorganized than ever. The European seem to be acting out a
death wish and the US has many of the attributes of a failed state, but one
with all the weapons. India, China and Brazil are embarked on
extraordinary, if precarious adventures in political economy and social
reconstruction. Africa is rising at last, led by the revolutions in its
North -- the "Arab spring" is African too -- and 7 out of the 10
fastest-growing economies in the world, the others being China, india and
Vietnam. Latin America remains a cauldron of political innovation at all
levels. the populations of these "emerging" countries were never able to be
complacent, never mind asleep. Chile since the 70s and especially now is
one striking example of a trajectory inside and against neoliberalism.
South Africans have hardly been able to get used to the idea that black
people now have the vote, but complacent they certainly are not. The Koreas
are a site of contradiction and ferment.

I am reminded of a famous non-event, the Great Depression of 1873-1896.
This was an academic and journalisticextrapolation to the world economy of
British decline in the face of competition with German and American
capital. It turned out that this competition was squeezing the British
middle class's expectations of a safe rentier return on their savings in
colsolidated stocks ("consols"). The world economy was booming -- in
Brazil, South Africa, Siberia, the urban Northeast of the US etc. They were
just waking up to the inevitability of their own decline as the centre of
the world.

Like you, Brian, I have lived for a long time in Paris. I feel very lucky
to have learned from and worked with the flowering of economic sociology in
France (see Philippe Steiner and Francois Vatin Traite de sociologie
economique). This is linked to a whole host of initiatives derived in part
from Jaures' associationist version of socialism. Certainly no-one apart
from a few Americanophile businessmen was lulled into accepting the promise
of neoliberalism as inevitable here. The corruption and disarray of
Sarkozy's state is palpable. there are many sources here, in Italy, Spain
and Greece for a positive counter-movement. I am particularly impressed by
the currents of resistance in Germany where the Habermas tradition meets
the leftovers of the Berlin free software movement. The United Kingdom is
breaking up. I persist in believing that Britain's creeping constitutional
crisis makes it the most precarious large state in the world. The EU has
moved from being the world's most advanced political experiment to a basket
case in short order. Sure, European fascism is on the march, not least in
eastern Europe. It's not a pretty sight. But none of this can be
represented as a great awakening.

It may be that your discussions in 16 Bleacker Street have been taking much
of this in. The paper that launched this thread didn't. The fact that I
bother to write at all is because of the value I place on this particular
network and inmates like you.



On Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 9:51 PM, Brian Holmes
<bhcontinentaldrift {AT} gmail.com>wrote:

> One of the questions that Keith Hart asks is: "Does the forced marriage of
> the informal economy and the internet produce classes or interests that the
> Marxists would once have considered 'advanced'?"

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