For some of us, as cultural producers the idea of a permanent job in an institution is something that we do not even consider, or at most for a few years. Afterward, we want something different. Hasn’t the idea always been about not being forced to commit oneself to one thing, one classical job definition, which ignores so many aspects; about not selling out and consequently being compelled to give up the many activities that one feels strongly about? Wasn’t it important to not adapt to the constraints of an institution, to save the time and energy to be able to do the creative and perhaps political projects that one really has an interest in? Wasn’t a more or less well-paying job gladly taken for a certain period of time, when the opportunity arose, to then be able to leave again when it no longer fit? Then there would at least be a bit of money there to carry out the next meaningful project, which would probably be poorly paid, but supposedly more satisfying.
This is chapter 7 of my 2007 book The Beginning of History. Its title is Enclosures and Disciplinary Integration and it discusses capitalist crises as “disequilibrium” crises or “social stability” crises. It might be useful to provide a general framework to understand the current crisis in terms of the latter. It also maps out crises as mechanisms for capitalist reproduction and discusses the role of shifting capitalist governance to deal with these crises as well as the possible cracks in this governance
Many if not most of the open spaces - commons, woods, greens - of any size that remain today in South London, or London as a whole, exist because they were preserved from development by collective action. Whether by rioting, tearing down fences & re-opening up enclosed land, or by legal agitation, much of the commons & parks that make life in the Smoke just about bearable wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t been actively defended.
Marx died over his chapter on class in volume III of Capital. The analysis of capitalism is with necessity a class analysis (Ritsert, 1988) and generations of Marxists have sought to supply the Marxist 'definition' of class. I use the term 'definition' here with critical intent. How might it be possible to define 'class' within a critical project which emphasises that theoretical mysteries find their rational explanation in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice (cf. Marx, 1975, p. 5)? The 'definition' of the working class would require at least one additional definition, namely that of capital representing the other side of the class divide. Marx's critique of political economy showed that definitions of capital are self-contradictory and tautological. Might definitions of the working class not suffer a similar fate?
This paper builds on the author's previous theoretical work on the role of processes such as enclosures, market discipline and governance. It discusses the middle class in terms of a stratified field of subjectivity within the planetary wage hierarchy produced by these processes. It discusses the thesis that the middle class, qua middle class, will never be able to contribute to bring about a fundamental change in the capitalist system of livelihood reproduction. The production in common centered on middle class values—however historically and culturally specific they are—is always production in common within the system. Our common action as middle class action, whether as consumers, workers, or citizens, reproduces the system of value and value hierarchy that is the benchmark, the referent point for our cooperation. The paper then discusses some of the implications of the conundrum faced by those who seek alternatives: there will be no “beginning of history” without the middle class, nor there will be one with the middle class.
Aufheben's review and critique of The beginning of history: Value struggles and global capital by Massimo De Angelis, Pluto Press, London, 2007.
We are trapped in a state of limbo, neither one thing nor the other. For more than two years, the world has been wracked by a series of interrelated crises, and they show no sign of being resolved anytime soon. The unshakable certainties of neoliberalism, which held us fast for so long, have collapsed. Yet we seem unable to move on. Anger and protest have erupted around different aspects of the crises, but no common or consistent reaction has seemed able to cohere. A general sense of frustration marks the attempts to break free from the morass of a failing world.
There are many explanations for the crisis of capital that began in 2007. But the one thing missing is an understanding of “systemic risks.” I was alerted to this when Her Majesty the Queen visited the London School of Economics and asked the prestigious economists there how come they had not seen the crisis coming. Being a feudal monarch rather than an ordinary mortal, the economists felt impelled to answer. After six months of reflection the economic gurus of the British Academy submitted their conclusions. The gist was that many intelligent and dedicated economists had worked assiduously and hard on understanding the micro-processes. But everyone had somehow missed “systemic risk.” A year later, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund said “we sort of know vaguely what systemic risk is and what factors might relate to it. But to argue that it is a well-developed science at this point is overstating the fact.” In a formal paper, the IMF described the study of systemic risk as “in its infancy.”1In Marxian theory (as opposed to myopic neoclassical or financial theory), “systemic risk” translates into the fundamental contradictions of capital accumulation. The IMF might save itself a lot of trouble by studying them. So how, then, can we put Marx’s theorization of the internal contradictions of capitalism to work to understand the roots of our contemporary dilemmas?
The history of capitalist society is the history of the reproduction of the capitalist class relation. It is that of the reproduction of capital as capital, and — its necessary concomitant — of the working class as working class. If we assume the reproduction of this relation is not inevitable, what is the possibility of its non-reproduction?
Ό,τι ως τώρα ήταν «κανονικό» έχει εξατμιστεί. Έχουμε εισέλθει στους μετακανονικούς καιρούς, την ενδιάμεση περίοδο όπου οι παλιές ορθοδοξίες έχουν πεθάνει, οι καινούργιες δεν έχουν ακόμη αναδυθεί και τίποτε δεν φαίνεται να έχει νόημα. Για να σχηματίσουμε μιαν άποψη για το άμεσο μέλλον, οφείλουμε να κατανοήσουμε τη σημασία αυτής της μεταβατικής περιόδου η οποία χαρακτηρίζεται από τρία C: πολυπλοκότητα (complexity), χάος (chaos) και αντιφάσεις (contradictions). Οι τρεις αυτές δυνάμεις ωθούν και συντηρούν τους μετακανονικούς καιρούς, οδηγώντας σε αβεβαιότητα και διαφορετικούς τύπους άγνοιας που καθιστούν την λήψη αποφάσεων προβληματική και αυξάνουν τους κινδύνους για τα άτομα, την κοινωνία και τον πλανήτη. Σύμφωνα με το άρθρο, οι μετακανονικοί καροί απαιτούν να εγκαταλείψουμε τις ιδέες «του ελέγχου και της διοίκησης» και να επαναστοχαστούμε πάνω στις έννοιες της προόδου, του εκσυγχρονισμού και της αποδοτικότητας. Ο δρόμος προς τα μπρος πρέπει να βασίζεται στις αρετές της ταπεινότητας, της μετριοφροσύνης και της υπευθυνότητας, οι οποίες είναι απαραίτητες για μια ζωή μέσα στην αβεβαιότητα, την πολυπλοκότητα και την άγνοια. Πρέπει να φανταστούμε τους εαυτούς μας έξω από τους μετακανονικούς καιρούς και μέσα σε νέα εποχή κανονικότητας – εξοπλισμένους με ηθική πυξίδα και ένα ευρύ φάσμα οραμάτων παρμένων από την πλούσια ποικιλία των ανθρώπινων κουλτουρών.