So this is definitely one of the more cool things to happen in my life…
So this is definitely one of the more cool things to happen in my life…
What, if anything, unifies the expressions of public protest that ‘kicked off everywhere’ in 2010-11, from Dataran to Tunis to Zuccotti Park? If such a unity exists, to what extent are those engaged in the struggles self-consciously aware of it? And, if such a self-consciousness exists, to what extent does it help further the cause of social justice in a world beset by financial crisis and elite corruption? In his talk at Ohio University’s campus in Athens, last week, Michael Hardt argued that the main stake in this most recent “cycle of struggles” was the pursuit of a sort of ‘right to the common.’ While those in the movements were engaged in struggles that were spatially and temporally specific, he suggested, they were unified by a desire to resolve a contradiction that has become increasingly apparent in the context of the current financial crisis. That contradiction inheres in the fact that the main ideological wellsprings for resolving the crisis have essentially run dry. The flaws of neoliberalism, on the one hand, or the idea that the optimal distributive solutions are to be found through a doubling-down on the rationalizing logic of the market, are by now well-known. Conversely, on the other, the notion that a philosophy of ‘public goods’ can somehow guarantee “shared open access” to the common, a notion which Hardt understands in quite an expansive sense, is increasingly suspect given the draconian statist policies such a position can sometimes underwrite. Hardt’s thesis then, briefly stated, is that the commitment of the movements to a form of organization and decision-making that is essentially horizontal (my term, not his) in nature attests to a sort of emerging awareness of the need for an alternative to these ‘zombie’ ideologies. This spirit of horizontalism, he appeared to say, distinguishes the movements as engaged in a kind of “double combat.” That is, in their efforts to engage in a kind of radically democratic form of allocative management – an attempt beset by flaws to be sure, but a meaningful attempt nevertheless – horizontalism appears to adopt the following posture: “We win the public, but then we have to fight it for the common.”
My review of Laura Zanotti’s Governing Disorder: UN Peace Operations, International Security, and Democratization in the Post-Cold War Era has been published over at H-Net Reviews. As I note, the book constitutes a refreshing attempt to break with the recent ‘life determinism’ tendency among critical Security Studies types. As I conclude, however, the book perhaps moves a little too quickly in its dismissal of Marxism as a potentially useful guide:
Situating the UN’s bio-narrative in discourses of liberal securitization, as merely a technical means to a moral end, seems to play down the extent to which that moral end might actually be imagined in fairly economic terms. Marxism is a helpful guide, says Zanotti, to the extent that it can explore questions of uneven development as a condition which peacebuilding must then encounter. Yet Hardt and Negri’s Empire (2000) is subjected to a very casual dismissal for its “structural/dialectical conceptualization of history” (p. 4). This kind of shoehorning is unfortunate given both that Hardt and Negri have sought repeatedly to distinguish themselves from such reductionist thinking and that their work at the very least broaches the possibility that the events with which Zanotti’s book is concerned might also be inflected by economic imperatives and rationalities.
Just a brief note to let you know the book I co-edited with Iver Neumann, Battlestar Galactica & International Relations, is now available. You can buy it on Amazon in hardback and Kindle formats here. A cheaper, paperback version of the book will be coming later this year. This project has been over two years in the making, and started with a random encounter at the bar at an ISA convention in New York. As the convention was taking place, the cast and crew of the show were addressing the United Nations, just up the road, on the plight of child soldiers! We were pretty blown away by the idea that such an encounter was even possible. And we got talking… well, what WAS “BSG’s” political message, anyway? At the following year’s ISA in New Orleans, we held a panel wherein we discussed some ideas about the show and noticed that, well, some IR folk were *serious* fans of the show:
Of interest, a new issue of Tidal (No. 4) is coming out on Friday. From the Facebook page:
Tidal 4 is being released this Friday evening. At this event, you can pick up your own free copy of Tidal 4. It will include original, commissioned contributions from many organizers of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Sandy and Strike Debt, such as Shyam Khanna, Pamela Brown, Sofia Gallisa, Ann Larson, Nastaran Mohit, Harrison Magee, among others, as well as known thinkers such as Michael Hardt, Silvia Federici, George Caffentzis, John Holloway, and Chantal Mouffe. Collective pieces from Tidal Team and friends (Nick Mirzoeff, Andrew Ross, Nicole Hala, Nathan Schneider, among others) and a Student Movement piece from Free University folks. At this beautiful event, we welcome you to great conversation and presentations by many of the contributors and friends.
Tidal is available from the Occupy Theory site.
The kids done good! Ninja OpenIR theorists get mention in THE on open access publishing:
In an independent submission, Paul Kirby of the University of Sussex and Meera Sabaratnam of the University of Cambridge also list retired academics, independent scholars and non-governmental organisation researchers as among the academic “poor” who might suffer in a model where universities pay publishing costs.
Useful reading… tho perhaps important to not get too carried away with notions of “silliness” in Zuccotti Park.
At the height of Occupy Wall Street’s efflorescence, when the enragés who took up residence in Zuccotti Park succeeded in raising the battle standard of the 99% for the entire world to see, I sat down for aninterview with Frances Fox Piven to help make sense of what was unfolding before us. Although I thought I knew more than my fair share about the theory and practice of social movements in the U.S., as a child of the End of History, I had never really been part of one. I was born in the early 1980s, during the dreadful dawn of “Morning in America,” so aside from my days as an undergraduate global trade summit-hopper I learned almost everything I know about this stuff from books. The occupation of Zuccotti Park went on for days, days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. It looked as if an honest-to-goodness social movement was breaking out in this country for the first time in my life. To be sure, I was elated. But to my surprise, that elation was often overcome by a sense of foreboding. I looked at all of the silliness that accompanied the encampments and feared that the movement (I still hesitate to use that phrase) would self-destruct before it made even a small dent in the power of the 1%.
3 – 6 April 2013
ISA San Francisco
It’s kicking off… everywhere? Diffusion, resistance and the post-political.
#Call for panel participants
With the global financial crisis now in its fourth year, a host of horizontally-organised antagonisms from the Indignad@s to #OccupyDataran have emerged to challenge the traditional institutions of world order. It is perhaps no wonder that scholars and commentators are debating the extent to which it is necessary or appropriate to identify lines of similarity and commonality among these struggles. Neither is it surprising that some may express reservations concerning these emerging analyses as risking the subsumption and universalization of that which might best be approached as singular. Yet these debates emerge simultaneous to events and uprisings, and the strategies and tactics of current struggles are still very much in development. In response to the ISA CfP, the panel will ask, indeed, how desirable is specificity and congruity in the diffusion of ideas? Who specifically are the agents involved in such movements, and what causal mechanisms carry out, as well as block diffusion? Furthermore, what are the predicted outcomes of the diffusion of ideas, energies, emotions, and desires emerging from the Occupy movement?
The ongoing rise of social struggle predicted by the Social Unrest Index in the International Labour Organisation’s 2012 World of Work Report means that governments have strong incentives to depoliticise issues of rapidly rising unemployment, austerity measures and cuts in public spending, pressures on immigration law, and the rise in punitive government sanctions and policing. How are specific strategies of depoliticisation emerging, and how can these be revealed as obstacles to diffusion amongst resistance movements? This panel, avoiding theoretical or disciplinary boundaries, will seek to examine recent movements in light of global pressures and the philosophical challenges arising from them. What exactly changed to bring forth new energies? To what degree can background conditions and experiences be claimed to be shared? To what extent have recent social movements sacrificed transformative potential, for inclusivity? Indeed, in a world where the sphere of political participation looks increasingly bulimic, to what extent does the strategic refusal of the movements (as yet) to pose themselves as a constituted or final subjectivity, represent a remedy or a hindrance in the increasingly formidable project of global democratic renewal?
The organizers of this panel wish to invite proposals for papers on any of the above questions or related themes.
Please submit a 200/250 word abstract to Nicholas Kiersey <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Phoebe Moore <P.Moore@salford.ac.uk> no later than Thursday, May 24. Should we receive a strong number of proposals, we will be happy to coordinate splitting the submissions over a number of panels.
Please note that this CfP is being issued in the context of recent events and critical discussions associated with the #occupyirtheory movement, and in anticipation of further such discussions at ISA-BISA in Edinburgh and the Millennium Conference in London later this year. As such, our goal would be to evolve this proposal into a book length volume entitled (provisionally) ‘Occupy World Politics’.
Among the various bits and pieces circulating about Hardt and Negri’s new Declaration, Jason Read’s blog suggests a tension between the newer, constitutionalist tones of their project and the sentiments of Negri in an older text, Insurgencies. For Read, Declaration is somewhat overly fascinated with “the US constitution”, whereas the younger Negri was much less interested in dictating formulations:
“A great current of modern political thought, from Machiavelli to Spinoza to Marx, has developed around this open alternative, which is the ground of democratic thought. In this tradition, the absence of preconstituted and finalized principles is combined with the subjective strength of the multitude, thus constituting the social in the aleatory materiality of a universal relationship, in the possibility of freedom.”
But interestingly its their openness to the non-formulative approach of the movements that draws ire. For example, Doug Henwood was rather critical on his FB page about H&N’s reference to the Israeli tent protest being pretty hushed on the topic of Palestine (Loc. 41/1506), thus reading H&N as saying this topic was treated was somehow correctly expendable in the interests of unifying the movement. Others chimed in on occupy being shallow on the topic of war in general, and not letting Cyndi Sheehan speak. But this seems to be missing the point. The movements of course likely contain sizable numbers of people who would wish to express solidarity with the Palestinians. That they don’t do so is no sign of lack of interest or solidarity. As the pamphlet argues, the movement does need to be strategic about its longevity. To accomplish this, the movement is experimenting with ways of finding an effective common platform. Of course, if not mentioning an issue necessarily means that you don’t care about it then this is an issue. But it could also mean that you you just want to avoid getting bogged down in an intractable debate. This is a common technique adopted by the GAs in the OWS movement where minimal common principles can be agreed as a consensus position and then returned to later. OWS movements are themselves careful on this. While they do express solidarity with other ‘occupy’-style movements around the world, they do not offer expressions of solidarity with people involved in armed conflicts (Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Uganda).
What is interesting about H&N’s new work is the extent to which they balance observation with evaluation. The general tendencies of the movements are examined for their ‘commonality’ but also for their potential to live up to their promise. They’re establishing criteria of what, in their view at least, would likely constitute a Princely strategy of success, all the while saying its too soon to tell what will come of it all. I need to give the book a much more detailed reading so these comments are necessarily somewhat sophomoric at this stage, but the initial intellectual reactions to this question of formulation are interesting. Commenting on the book more from the perspective of the activist, Mirzoeff summarizes the valences of domination that H&N suggest confront the populations of the world, and agrees with the way the book poses the ‘counter powers’ to these valences as necessarily exterior to ideology or centralized political leadership. The task of developing a new, open constitution against such an array of forces is a daunting one, to be sure. But Mirzoeff seems to get the point. As he concludes, “the next steps won’t be found in a pamphlet but in the sometimes arduous, sometimes exhilarating process of communing.”