nico on Fri, 26 Jan 2007 03:56:44 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> act 4 radical europe: rejoinder

hey alex,

The current welfare state (or rather, the declining welfare state) was / 
is built on both non-wage labour (women, families, etc), and the global 
wage and class inequities. I could be wrong, but many people far smarter 
than me show that in part at least the end of welfarism was precipitated 
by the struggles of those two 'classes' against their place within the 
international/national orders (I am thinking here of the world-systems 
theorists in particular). As Sliver, the author of 'Forces of Labor', 
says, there was a Wallerstein crisis - the state and capital couldn't 
afford to bring all these people into the welfare deal that was cut so 
as to resolve some of the antagonisms the were left unresolved at the 
end of the 19th century and the end of the second world war. Because 
welfare is and can only be premised on such an inequity. That's part of 
the basic structure of capitalism - the whole profitability thing. I 
wouldn't say Europe is the site of 'worlds-best' (read: profitable) 
welfare, because it is unraveling - both financially and structurally 
(the structure is shifting more towards workfare and a kind of 
endo-colonialism for the poors) and as a mode of discourse. Part of what 
made welfare welfare was that it was predicated on the white male wage 
worker in the 'west'. But the definition of a 'full citizen' (read: 
fully human), of a worker, of work, of 'socially useful activity and 
against this very notion, etc, has radically been called into question. 
Part of my problem with a new welfarism is that i cannot see how such a 
thing could come into being, nor even be promoted 'realistically' 
without perpetuating these very differences or creating new ones. Conrad 
writes about this in Lord Jim: that the white crews 'led precariously 
easy lives, always on the verge of dismissal, always on the verge of 
engagement...' (pg 16). What he is describing is an 'aristocratic 
precarity' based upon the cheaper and far more heavily policed labour of 
the non-white. And I don't think it is any different now. Its easy to 
see the current social war against the young, the non-white, the 
migrant, women, the poor...    One of the problems facing any 
self-organisation of these people in services, sales, temp, etc sectors 
is this very powerful wage and power differential. Between the two types 
of 'precarity' - the lucky few and the fucked multitude.  But I don't 
think the solution is to work towards a new soc-dem Europe where it 
seems obvious that the struggles of the latter will be subsumed into the 
program of the former, as in every other soc-dem push in the past. For 
how else can it be - capitalism can't really integrate the demands of 
the poor wage labourer, let alone the demands of everyone including 
these people. It's too much. And so I don't see the point of pushing for 
something that both can't happen, and will only eventuate in a 
continuation of the current system. Hell, Greek democracy was built of 
slaves (both women and other kinds of slaves). 21st century democracy 
isn't really that different. Perhaps its time to move on from the word - 
as Ross writes in contremps 6, 'Democracy has become default politics, 
the political default position, in every sense." - but really, what does 
it actually mean? How does this default position play out? Why use it 
other than to perpetuate or preserve the current inequities?  Why try to 
appeal to the 'moderates'? What does 'being realistic' really get 'us'? 
In addition, I can't see how creating yet another organisation 'to rule 
them all' will help matters. It is not 'our' lack of differences that 
means 'we' haven't gotten what 'we' want - the reasons for where the 
world finds itself are legion, as are the differences in the multitudes. 
Unity shouldn't be a goal now, nor in the future. And I don't think the 
singular can remain singular under such circumstances as a single 
organisation (or even network) - singular and connected is vastly 
different as a concept and reality IMHO. The idea of singular and 
connected appeals to me - but that's not to say that there should be 
total connection: connected doesn't mean a smooth space of total 
connection. It means a patchwork of connections and alliances, shifting 
front lines and communications. And it doesn't mean working 'over' the 
very real and unresolvable differences that exist. I really liked PM's 
'bolo bolo' on this - a little dated and 'hippy' perhaps, but 
none-the-less a very good thought experiment into singular yet 
connected. And I don't see how step by step demands that end up 
reforming a system that cannot accommodate such demands can get 'us' 
past capitalism, let alone past  a notion of 'us' that automatically 
implies a unity or totality far far away from singularity...   to 
challenge the shape of Europe doesn't mean taking on the form of Europe. 
The movement of bodies across the frontiers of Europe is a challenge to 
the very formulation and composition of Europe, but it is a movement, 
full of contradictory effects (and affects), and not a series of demands 
that can only ever be compromised on and lead to exclusion once again 
from Europe. If 'we' have something to do, surely it is not to reform 
Europe, but put it radically into question moving beyond the 
parliamentary political form, beyond the state and beyond capital. A 
moving that is possible and impossible, yet necessary.



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