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Re: <nettime> The Californian Reality (from: New Geography)
Brian Holmes on Thu, 23 Jan 2014 02:54:35 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The Californian Reality (from: New Geography)

On 01/22/2014 03:06 AM, allan siegel wrote:

exactly what kind of planning/organizing/conceptualizing is necessary
(or possible) not simply as a defense against the OS of a corporate
totalitarianism but to envision and "plan" a new trajectory of
possibilities altogether?

Allan, always so interesting to dialogue with you, and with all the others respondents to this thread -

I don't think any alternative will be possible until certain realities are squarely faced, not just by fringe figures like ourselves but by much broader swathes of society.

The flight of capital from the national welfare and developmental states in the 1970s has led to the formation of full-fledged transnational capitalist class, which has been described very well by people like Leslie Sklair and especially William Robinson (of UC Santa Barbara, kudos to him). The so-called "offshore" operations of the TCC ultimately transformed the world economy and now, everywhere is offshore, ie, every country and region offers prime conditions for capital accumulation. The result is the formation of oligarchies. We don't live in democracies, we live under oligarchies who control tremendous human resources and technological power via finance and other knowledge-intensive means.

The new oligarchies have captured decisive influence over the former national states and mobilized their police, secret service and military forces in their defence. Their reign, though it appears under quite different guises depending on where you are, is extremely sophisticated and it's supported by almost everyone who gets a piece of the action (the globalizing technocrats and bureacrats, as Sklair puts it). Unlimited global trade is what they're all about. They've been able to use the 2008 crisis to shift capital toward the newly developing regions, and in this way, turbocharge an already accelerated world economy. Instead of human-oriented development, we have a hyper-competititive rush toward infinite accumulation, currently supported by the printing of money on unprecedented scales. Narco-violence, local ganglands, fundamentalism and brutal fascism all flourish around the edges of this juggernaut, but they're not stopping its development. If you want an image of the TCC in all its banality, look at the unbelievable numbers of unbelievably wealthy-looking yachts in any Carribean or Mediterranean harbor, and probably also in San Francisco or Newport Beach. Runaway industrial development with no heed for tomorrow buys the TCC the only award they can seem to conceive. The endgame of such fun in the sun is the looming prospect of mass extinction due to climate change in the Anthropocene.

Societies are articulated by the relation between knowledge and practice. Neither moaning about the decline of the unions nor withdrawing to some romantic exodus will change anything. To achieve substantial change, large numbers of those who occupy articulatory and directive functions in society (what Gramsci called "organic intellectuals," whether inside or outside the universities) would have to identify this situation and make it a priority both to combat it and to devise alternatives, complete with the adequate political and instrumental means to acheive them. That means giving up the illusion that the current rule of law and system of political representation constitute adequate means of democratic governance. They don't. So pressing for substantial change is tantamount to advocating revolution.

For the past few years I have been developing this viewpoint in every context that I occupy. Sadly, I must report that up to now, almost no one has been interested. Left-leaning intellectuals are still preoccupied by individual liberation, minority and sectoral rights claims, the ghosts of working-class struggles, and anarchist longings for direct democracy. All of those have been very important, but none of the current oppositional discourses can marshall the sophistication, depth, durability and power to confront the transnational capitalist class. An alternative is not something that one fabricates on the fly, in a study or an artwork or or a hacklab or an affinity group or a church or a social center, even if all of those can be part of it. To make it real would require a large-scale articulation of theory and practice, extending into mainstream institutions even while outstripping and transforming them. Obviously it's easier said than done, but without saying it you can't get anywhere. The silence of the intellectuals is the new treason of the clercs.

I think the keyword of systemic change already exists: political ecology. There are many people working in that direction. But the universities, cultural systems, professional association (including unions) and press/media apparatuses are still massively captured by the dream of belonging to the transnational capitalist class, or mired in some vague nostalgia for the klarion calls of yesterday's struggles. Meanwhile our old nettime nemesis, the Californian Ideology, has made tremendous forward strides.

Just how far will we let it go?

best, Brian

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