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 moves perhaps a little too quickly in dismissing the explanatory potential of Marxism:
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:
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 <email@example.com> 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’.
Just a reminder! Don’t forget to join us for the #occupyirtheory session at ISA 2012 in San Diego, Tuesday April 3 (Room 204 Hilton Bayfront Hotel). The event will feature a brief roundtable-style discussion followed by a ‘General Assembly’-style open forum to talk about what the IR and IPE communities want from Occupy Wall Street, and what Occupy can expect from us. Confirmed speakers at the roundtable event at this time include: Pablo K, Robbie Shilliam, Luke Ashworth, and Nicholas Kiersey. Wanda Vrasti will facilitate the GA and introduce the procedural format for those as yet unfamiliar with how it all works. Really looking forward to seeing you there!
Also, a very special thanks to Pablo K for putting together this absolutely brilliant poster for the event!
[Update: this event, and this blog, actually got a mention in the New York Times! See here].
Some great free stuff here, from the Institute for Anarchist Studies.
Announcing the publication of Issue 5 of the Journal of Critical Globalization Studies featuring, amongst other things, a large Occupy IR forum on the Occupy Wall Street movement and its relevance for International Relations and International Political Economy. The forum contains short comment pieces from Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Elizabeth Cobbett with Randall Germain, Ian Bruff, Elisabeth Chaves, Wanda Vrasti, Michael J. Shapiro, Nicole Sunday Hughes, Simon Tormey, David J. Bailey, Agnes Gagyi, Aida A. Hozic, Ivan Manokha with Mona Chalabi, Nicholas J. Kiersey, and Colin Wight. The issue also includes an extended contribution on the Occupy movement in Canada by Konstantin Kilibarda.