In the last month I have attended some pretty amazing events. This was capped this week with a presentation at the Home Affairs Select Committee and seeing Jesse Jackson get his honorary doctorate. However, it began with my attending two of John Holloway’s three lectures in Leeds on the rule of money, and then attending a seminar given by DMU’s Jonathan Davies that critiqued network governance. (The introduction to Jonathan’s new book is available free.)
Each of these events has made me question the crisis, my place in it, and our response to it both within and beyond the University. Along this same front, I note two recent posts by @thirduniversity on lessons learned from facing the crisis and on radical alternatives, a piece by Aaron Peters on oppositional networks and the State, and a powerful cri de coeur by Vinay Gupta on our complicity in the end of days.
However, what I want to capture below is what I take from a series of engagements by academic activists who have faced and continue to face the symptoms of a systemic crisis of capitalism. This is a systemic crisis that sees those in power attempting to recapitalise the value embedded in our social goods and our shared social wealth, like free education. The systemic nature of the crisis forces us to consider alternatives, counter-hegemonies and the power we need to refuse or negate or push against or break. It then forces us to consider whether networks and decentralisation are possible; whether we might be able to define and implement a new form of value; and what the actions we take in occupation might enable us to do, in the face of power.
What follows is deliberately presented as a set of notes. What they will add up to will take some time.
- These are days of rage. This rage is ours and it looks two ways: firstly to dignified hope; secondly to undignified destruction. There is a question of how we can intervene for hope.
- We rage, and we are outraged, and we need courage, because globally we are under attack. The attack is on what it takes for us to have a means to live. Or it is on our very means of existence. The attack is revolutionary. We must not forget the revolutionary strength of conservatism.
- At our core must be the act of saying “no!” But this takes courage. It takes courage to say I do not accept your imposition and enclosure of my world.
- This is a systemic attack, and in this it looks more clearly than ever that the system is against us. However, in the act of raging we must not end up with destructive personalisation, or fetishisation of the individual or of neoliberalism, or of a label, as evil personified. It is not enough to be personal. We must be beyond that; to attack the systemic social domination/determination of our lives.
- There is power in our non-violence. We must not reproduce their symmetries of hate and demonization and vilification. Engaging their logic leaves us hopeless. We must work to dismantle the system of oppression, to be active in participating in its destruction.
- Real democracy now! We must refuse to trust our leaders. We must reclaim the world as ours. We must assume our responsibilities through assemblies not parliaments, and for a better society. In the communes and assemblies that are a part of the struggle for a world turned upside down, and against an institutionalised world. We need a breaking of this reality.
- Economic democracy is meaningless in the face of private property and money. We must unmask the real enemy, money.
- Money is the attack. It is the system’s assault. The dynamic of money is on the tip of the tongue of the movement; is on the tip of the tongue of the occupation. Pushing beyond this, and giving voice to it demands theoretical reflection.
- Money is the commodity that stands abstracted in the face of democracy. It flows away from democracy in Greece, and exists in a state of antagonism to the idea and reality of real democracy now.
10. Money is the gateway; it is our cognitive dissonance; it is our (un)reality; it is our process of exclusion that denies our access to the products of our own creativity. Money seems identical to reality, but it is an assault on our humanity. Austerity is an assault on our possibility.
11. Money is a historic form of aggression; of relationships; of social bonds; of cohesion. The fact of money and the dynamic of money are terrible.
12. It takes courage to say “no!” To bring this to the tips of our tongues. To highlight how we are shackled.
13. We are shackled by money as a social bond against human activity. It is the imposition of faster, of exclusion, of alienation, of constricted social labour. Money is designed to constrict and constrain and control aberrant behaviour. And so, our existence is monetised, and the rule of money is increasingly, aggressively policed.
14. We are proud to be the crisis of capital. Of money. To be against their credo of bombing or killing those who do not submit, or of accumulating by their dispossession.
15. It is possible therefore to see in the movements of anger of 2011, how dignity is starting to unite against money. Against this historical nightmare. Against the imposition of alienated or abstracted labour. And for the emancipation of our activity and of our creativity against capital.
16. We use money and not capital for the freshness and obviousness of its language; and because it is on the tip of the tongue as we regard our banks; and because it leads us down well-worn paths of bonds and bondage. And because it offers us new ways of relating in the theme of anti-capitalism.
17. We must recognise how issues of state and society and religion and gender are critical. But that they take us only so far and no further. The crisis unfurls in a way that has a resonance beyond the state, to a point where money is god.
18. What is to be done in moving the discussion beyond the tip of the tongue? We must look for cracks and challenge as we can and where we can, and to see this as a historical process.
19. We must struggle against labour. But we must struggle against labour-in-capitalism. And we must struggle against the rhythm of capitalist domination. And this takes courage. And it is not progressive. For progress is a symptom of capitalist history. The most exciting left is not progressive, It is Luddite and indigenous and conservative and it is able to voice “no!” It is humanising and dignified.
20. We might remember that collective or social debt has a power that individual debt does not. That in acting together we might act for something better.
21. Thus, we might think of our spaces and protests as social, and integrated, and creative. And through them we might reveal the brutalising infrastructure of the State, through its apparatus of debt, surveillance, exception, baton rounds etc.. Revealing this in public is powerful; what is observed and shared is vital. We must reveal the process of ideology; the legitimation of exception; the idea and reality of a radical alternative or free university that is against the walls of money and its mechanisms of control.
22. We must communise. The beginning is near. But we must be determined.
23. The force of our determination is revealed in the force of our “no!” Our “no!” to their logic of death. This turns the world upside down, and reclaims it. It repudiates the history of a process without a subject. This reclaiming is a dignified process of asserting our subjectivity.
24. But we must move from refusal, and “no!” to push back the rule of money. We must restrict its area of sovereignty, and socialise against profit as the primary criterion of our world. For our lives are too important to monetise.
25. The State complements the rule of money. The State is not an alternative form of social cohesion. It is the revelation of a particular form of the capitalist social relation. Soviet Russia was oppressive and inefficient and exclusionary. It was not against the rule of money. We cannot rely on the State to deliver us [c.f. The Co-ordinating Committee for Water and Life, in Bolivia].
26. Our labour is shaped by money as a social bond; our labour is abstracted; it has no meaning beyond money; its central thrust is labour, harder, faster, for money. The State cannot push back the rule of money.
27. We must break the rule of money. We must communise. We need an alternative form of value; and of social cohesion. We need social self-determination as a verb, as an act of doing, as a process.
28. Movements of indigenous people give us hope, as they rise to support a communal way of living (c.f. Rossport in Ireland). They show new paths that might open up; that might be co-operative and mutual. That show different relationships between nature and people.
29. We must look for the interstices as ways of repudiating the system. In this moment of experimentation our uncertainty requires courage. As people are pushed into communities of mutual support we can begin to break the rule of money.
30. As we see how they monetise our relationships we see the crisis in our ways of living. We see that our lives do not work. They are not resilient. We need alternative networks. Perhaps Greece, and Detroit and Argentina in 2001 offer alternatives. Of neighbourhood councils and barter and recovering factories and movements of unemployed workers and in community spaces and gardens [c.f. “no house without electricity”].
31. Fighting for the right to work is a disaster. We need to say good riddance to capital and labour-in-capital. We need to construct other ways of living, doing and solidarity.
32. But we must do this whilst understanding the dynamic of the movement of the world as labour-in-capital. As money. As the indentured servitude of students; as the wholesale destruction of a peasantry. No-one controls this social dynamic. Not banks. Not states. Who can say “stop!”? But we must be courageous for we have to passively confront trained force. It is no good confronting trained force with untrained force. We must not reproduce their world; their power-over others. The logic of the symmetrical struggle is a history of power and parties. We must integrate into neighbourhoods and find place. We must help people to affirm: “we are ordinary people and we are rebels”.
33. We must highlight how we share similarities and connections. We must legitimise our struggle where we can and reveal truth claims in a story world that teeters on the brink of fascism, and through which there is an aggressive transfer of assets. We must associate.
34. But what does this mean for networks and governance? Whither alternatives in network democracy? Networks are instruments of power. We hear claims that networks are better; that they are trust based and multiple; that we live in an age when networks are qualitatively hegemonic (after Hardt and Negri). This is the transformation thesis of network governance.
35. And so Boltanski and Chiapello (2005, p. 138) deconstruct the metaphor of the network (the network governance milieu) as: decentring states, capitals and classes; against zombie categories (c.f. Beck); underpinning the risk society and individuation; part of a logic of flows rather than structures; the age of the combinard (Lash on reflexive modernisation); and a migration from homophily to heterophily (c.f. Graham Thompson, 2005 on ethical virtues, trust and networks).
36. However, the structural issues have not gone away in an allegedly post-scarcity world (Janet Newman, 2004 on emergent orthodoxy struggles). The policy landscape moves from counter-hegemonic populism to a post-hegemony third-way, and from network resistance to network participation, and to fetishised informational capitalism. Thus the network becomes a liberal feel good concept, through which ideology is sedimented and concretised and reinscribed. At issue then is the issue of network co-governance, as an ambiguous, complex, turbulent set of tropes.
37. The issues with networks are historical; they are based on hierarchy; on closed or captured power; of institutionalised, discursive inequalities; of distrust. There is no evidence for the rise of governance networks, or that governance networks are transformational. Hard-power, coercion and strong incentives overcome limited soft-power (c.f. Gerry Stoker, 2011).
38. Immanent materiality and the coercive function of the state (either soft or hard) overcome consensus. And so we see, in Gramscian terms, “hegemony armoured by coercion”. Governance is immanent domination and material coercion/discipline.
39. Despite globalisation, states are coercive and competitive; structure and contradiction still underpin our materiality; class as a social relation is very real; network governance confuses conjuncture with epoch. The argument that there has somehow been a change is undermined by the continuity apparent in the totality and its crises.
40. The State therefore exists as a political society. Its hegemony is still based on deep social leadership exercised by a governing bloc that has clear political/economic goals, and a clear intellectual/moral unity. The State delivers a passive revolution. It keeps the structures of our lives the same by changing them – this is the logic of the dialectic of rupture/restoration. The Integral State delivers hegemony armoured by coercion.
41. Governance through the integral state frames a precarious hegemony, based on the State as social reproduction, on a trajectory of domination and material coercion that is an immanent condition of social stability within iniquitous and unstable political economies.
42. The Governance genome consists of command, conflict, trust, contract. Contracts are enforceable. The fallacy of liberalism is that it is not underpinned by force. Even in networks.
43. Thus neoliberalism reinscribes capitalism beyond the market, in the language of networks and connectivity and rhizomes. And network governance becomes a neoliberal strategy for remaking civil society. This visionary, regulative, risk-managing, trust-based ideal of neoliberalism celebrates connectivity and the passive revolution as a hegemonic, strategic project.
44. A system of heterophilus, network governance is incompatible with this stage of capitalism. It is a vague premonition of a possible post-capitalism. It is a future possibility that is mistaken for reality. Our reality is one of the commodity form protected by the immanent threat of violence. In this hostile environment, which attacks trust, how can resistance thrive in networks? How can network governance be benchmarked historically?
45. Heterophily is rare in governance networks, which implies that distrust will trump trust. When connectionist dispositions fail because they are inauthentic, there follows an incremental reconfiguration of the integral state, so that hegemony maintains domination. Distrust is a healthy fact of our human condition, and underpins resistance. Trust does not make a complex society productive (Cook, Hardin and Levey) and under neoliberalism and austerity we see a decline in trust-based relationships in our revealed social attitudes to those in need.
46. We do not live in conditions favourable to an emergent world of heterogeneous networks. Crises stress them and demonstrate their lack of ontological purpose. Although they can offer configurational critique, networks are not able to dissolve the integral state. We need to consider concentrated resistance to match their concentrated power. These are the realities of market dynamics.
47. Is network governance a normative project or an explanatory tool?
48. This is not to say that we refuse an engagement with networks. They form spaces for resistance, exodus, autonomy, everyday making, outsider resistance etc., but they are also sites of coercive counter-power and concentrated, counter-hegemonic resistance.