Archive for the 'commons' Category

Foucault, “specific intellectuals” and the university

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

foucault.jpgFoucault distinguishes between two figures of intellectuals, correspondent to an historical rupture. The one, is the spokesman of the universal, in the capacity of “master of truth and justice”. The other, a “specific” intellectual emerging after WWII, one who has learned to combine theory and practice, the expert situated in specific contexts, and therefore aware of specific struggles (all quotes below from M. Foucault, Truth and Power. In Paul Rabinow (ed) 1984. Foucault reader. New York: Pantheon Book).

On the “universal intellectual

(67) “For a long period, the “left” intellectual spoke and was acknowledged the right of speaking in the capacity of master of truth and justice. He was heard, or purported to make himself heard, as the spokesman of the universal. To be an intellectual meant something like being the consciousness/conscience of us all.”

In traditional Marxism,

“Just as the proletariat, by the necessity of its historical situation, is the bearer of the universal (but its immediate, unreflected bearer, barely conscious of itself as such), so the intellectual, through his moral, theoretical, and political choice, aspires to be the bearer of this universality in its conscious, elaborated form. The intellectual is thus taken as (68) the clear, individual figure of a universality whose obscure, collective form is embodied in the proletariat.”

This figure, has been supplanted by another one, the “specific” intellectual as opposed to the “universal” intellectual. This, according to Foucault, has emerged since the Second World War, but intuitively, I would suggest, has found much development from the 1970s. (more…)

Training day at the University Inc.

Monday, March 12th, 2007

complaints.jpgWhat does an international Airline, a global bank, a transnational retail corporation, and a British University have in common? Well, they all have to “compete” on the global marketplace to survive, they all have “customers” prone to litigiousness to appease and mollify, and they all have the need to defuse staff questioning managers priorities and practices. So, few weeks ago I found myself in “a three-line whip” training course — that is a compulsory course that all academic staff had (supposedly) to take. The compulsion was designed to be a gentle “peer” compulsion, a subtle way to compel the individual that avoid direct confrontation between senior management and the individual academic staff: the University center would have fined your school £50 if you did not attend. The title of the day course was odd enough: “challenging academic decisions” — and it dealt with training staff in dealing with the challenges that the “costumer” base of the university — its students — would put forward. I heard that the same exact training was given to non academic staff under the title: “dealing with difficult customers”. I also been told by our trainer - and I document below — that the stuff we have “learned” in the training which we received either as academic or support staff in dealing with “students-costumers” would be applicable with little or no modifications to all situations of conflict within an organisation along its hierarchical scale or between company-costumers relations. In other words, the way we were about to be trained to deal with our students when they raise some problem, is the same way that our senior managers are trained to deal with us when we raise problem. Revealing! I overcome the boredom and I eagerly staid for the entire day, with my hear ready to steal their secrets! (more…)

the “signori

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

signori.jpga woman behind her bar, in her seventies, sipping her tea in a cappuccino cup, telling my friend and me what she things of the fall of Prodi’s government, in an empty bar in an empty village of the Apennines . . .”the issue is work, if there is no work, nothing is good. . .isn’t true? and where one can get work if there are no i signori . . .i signori . . .isn’t true . . .the signori are those who give you work . . .I don’t care who goes to government, berlusconi, prodi or whoever, as long as there is work . . .” and then she went on, with us two sipping a beer at the table, telling us a story that we heard so many times from our parents and grandparents: “after the war, when there was no work, we went to Milan, we gave milk to the infants of i signori, we worked for them, because around here there was nothing, no roads, no water, no food, no work . . .”

for i signori, obviously, the lady had something very concrete in her mind, some concrete signore with money who employed her and her family back then, when she needed a job, someone with a particular life-style, someone who entered particular relations to her and her family, maybe kind, or maybe not, maybe abusive and bossy . . .but I kept thinking, this is not why i signori were important in her story, they were important not for who they actually were, but for their function, for the fact that they had power to command labour . . . because “if there is no work, nothing is good. . . isn’t true?” . . .the power to command labour, that is all there is, the power to command the doing, its aims, its modes, its rationales, and how much of it . . the rational kernel of “i signori” is simply this, their function . . .but there has been, there are and can be so many forms of this function, isn’t it? even the power to “command” labour, the doing, it aims, the shapes of its relational modes . . .the key political question is how can we all be “i signori” and exercise the power to command our own labour, our own doing? And surely an answer relevant for a new world is not an individual strategy, to be your own boss in competition with others. . . the commons for us are the horizons of our own communal command over our own labour . . .

Communist Manifestoon

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

video_button_white_dred.gifI found this 8 minutes video, voice over text from Marx and Engels 1848 Communist Manifesto and images from a broad range of Golden Age XXth Century Hollywood animation. And what a pairing this is!

report of an autonomous government

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

encuentro2006.jpgI report here an English translation of an article from La Journada reporting on the Zapatista’s “an encounter of resistances and rebellions against global capitalism and neoliberalism, which has prepared for and planned the death and destruction of humanity and the natural environment” (from narconews)

Thousands Rebel Against Neoliberalism in Chiapas

Almost 13 Years After the Armed Uprising, Achievements of the Autonomous Governments Are Illustrated

By Hermann Bellinghausen
La Jornada

January 12, 2007

Oventic, Chiapas, MX. December 30, 2006: One day before the 13th anniversary of its armed uprising, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) welcomed followers from 30 countries, all adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, which Lt. Colonel Moisés, in name of the “Zezta Internazional,” called (more…)

Microcredit, enclosures, commons

Monday, December 18th, 2006

video_button_white_dred.gifThis is an extract of a debate on microcredit broadcasted by Democracy Now! (13 December - go here for full coverage in real player) between Susan Davis, founder and chair of the Grameen Foundation, and Vandana Shiva. The occasion was the Nobel Peace price acceptance speech made by the founder of Grameen Bank Muhammad Yunus. The Commoner has already pusblished a critique of Grameen Bank with the article by George Caffentzis titled Varieties of Bancocide: Left and Right Critiques of the World Bank and IMF, linking microcredit to IMF and World Bank policies.

The debate here extracted is not only informative, it is also enlightening of the gap we have to overcome in our critical discourses. Susan Davis and Vandana Shiva epitomise here two opposite ways to deal with “poverty” and “development”. Susan Davis, in a business like fashion, (more…)

Thoughts on Workerism after Mario Tronti’s talk

Monday, December 11th, 2006

lenin-in-inghilterra2.jpgIt has been suggested to me, in the corridors of the Historical Materialism conference held over the week end, that what distinguishes what we may call, broadly speaking, autonomist marxism with other marxist approaches is the argument that the “working class” is the agent of transformation that pushes capital on the defence and forces its “economic” development rather then, on the contrary, being capital that “overdetermines” the rest by means of its agency. This suggestion furthermore is accompanied by the claim that this view is false, since capital has “more power”. In my view, the insight of 1960s operaismo with respect to working class agency were not falsified in light of 1980s capital’s agency, they were simply temporally bounded. Class struggle, in a process-like manner, have at least two broad actors, not one, and their tragic-comic struggle develop through highs and lows for both sides, “scoring points” for both sides. The process of this historical development of struggle, this very process of “point scoring” for one or the other, is the stuff of capitalist development. The problem is that acknowledging this does not give us any hint of how to go beyond capital and the very specific form of struggle shaping its development.

And I think it is at this point that it is important to underline that what distinguishes “autonomist marxism” in its operaiste roots to other forms of marxism, is a specific theoretical attitude, one that takes the processes that traditionally we understand as “political” and “economic”, as one. Its unique political methodology is one that allows to ask research questions as part of a heretic research program, (more…)

Looking for a photo on shop floor commons

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

refusalofworkflowcharts.jpgit is a desperate thing to search for pictures on “refusal of work” and constitution of shop floor commons over the internet. The “refusal of work” search tab, reports few pictures of diagrams describing the procedures a company must adopts if a worker refuses to work for health and safety reasons (see aside), and a bunch of unrelated issues . . .The search begun because I am looking for a photo that is impressed in my memory, of a group of Italian factory workers in the late 1960s or 1970s (Fiat?), who were in the action of refusing to work (one of them was sleeping, the others I thing playing cards) . . . In reality I am looking for any type of photos that document refusal of work on the shop floor (that is refuse capital’s measure of life activity), because I want to make a case that commons also emerge on the shop floor . . .I know they exist from the tales that Italian factory workers have told me back in the 1970s . . .I know it also for what some time ago I read about Ford, Harley Devidson etc. in the United States in the same period. . .I tried to search for “workers playing card”, I tried “ford workers 1970s” and a series of variation on the theme . . . nothing, pages after pages of workers who were pictured in the act of working, or, at most, pose for the group picture (now that is a very temporary commons!). . . quite frustrated I tried a different technique in my google search, and I entered the tag “workers history” and variations on the theme . . .then I realised that our historical photo album is pretty much peculiar: photos of union leaders, some demonstrations, some posters, some image of proud worker . . but very little, if not, sense of the community that these people were sharing and constituting in their daily practice and struggles . . . in other words, we look at the pictures of some of the past actors of our history as subjects of struggle, and we do not see them as kin as a sort of family, that is as card players hiding from the boss, laughing behind the back of authority to recover the dignity lost on the line, teasing each other, arguing or fighting or coming together in companionship, and organising for a big push the next strike . . . all this, it seems to me, is not documented in images, and it is as if our family photo album was filled only with passport pictures of our relatives.

Migration and Commoning

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

video_button_white_dred.gifIn this short documentary, we have a glimpse of the processes of “commoning”, that is the production of commons involved in migration processes. Communities of Mexican migrants collect money in upstate New York and fund social projects in their hometown of Boqueron, Mexico. Projects include ambulances, sport facilities, a well . . . In this way, the communities cut their dependence on corrupt governments, strengthen their cohesion and create the conditions for a dignified and return for those who so desire. In the United States there are about one thousands groups like the one featured here. The video is produced by MediaRights

On the “tragedy of the commons” (that is, the tragedy of commons without communities)

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

tragedy-of-the-commons.jpgThe recent version of the “tragedy of the commons” argument was put forward by Garret Hardin in 1968 in the journal Science. The core of the argument, is that commons are incentive and distribution arrangements that inevitably result in environmental degradation and generally resource depletion. This because the commons are understood as resources for which there is “free” and “unmanaged” access. In this framework, no one has an obligation to take care of commons. In societies in which commons are prevalent, Hardin argues, people live by the principle: ‘to each according to his needs’ formulated by Marx in his Critique of the Gotha program. By assuming that commons are a free for all space from which competing and atomized “economic men” take as much as they can, Hardin has engineered a justification for privatization of the commons space rooted in an alleged natural necessity. Hardin forgets that there is no common without community within which the modalities of access to common resources are negotiated. (more…)