OK, so if communization is a “grad student theory”, what of it?
At this point in time, academia has been neoliberalized well and good. I think someone could argue that academics as a group have a lower standard of living than a lot of skilled workers who’ve engaged serious wildcats.
The question is the academic’s political-economic position. It’s a fairly crude position to argue that what really matters is the “productive workers” but there is some truth to the point that the capitalists want only the raw, unvarnished labor power of workers producing discreet commodities whereas the capitalists kind of want and demand “the everything” of the service or the education worker. IE, the ideas and the appearance and the lifestyle of the immaterial worker becomes necessary part of their work; graduate students need to take part in the life of the mind, record store clerks need alternative-ness, Whole Foods or similar clerks have an incentive to be part of a certain kind of pseudo-middle class culture even if they don’t have middle class incomes etc.
The nihcom cartoon of the entire population (minus the essential proletarians) being nothing but cops policing each other is not true but it sheds light on the situation. Nearly everyone is proletarianized, nearly everyone is incentivized to be a cop and nearly everyone is incentivized to put forward an “entrepreneurial dream of freedom” (“I’m so lucky to be doing exactly what I love”).
So the question with a “grad student theory” is not whether grad students is irrelevant to “real struggles”. The education system as a whole is a large factory that is very relevant to overall struggles. The question, I would claim, is how the ideas of grad students can escape the quality of empty intellectual exercise that is standard for the “life of the mind” that capitalism makes imposes on people as a “condition of existence” (well, a condition of employment).
I would claim here that ideas and approaches which effectively bite the hand that feeds the academic are a key factor. Regardless of the logical content of some theory, if that theory be used as a signal of inclusion in a group, that theory will be subvertable by the dominant power.
So, the larger question might be, what ideas actually cannot be used for academic signaling? This quality might be needed for revolutionary-ness.
Things you can’t put on your resume might be a place to start.
Revolutionary community has to “go beyond democracy” in a variety of senses – not basing itself the division of laws and actions, etc. But it still has to BEGIN with the conceits of bourgeois equality, democracy and justice; the autonomy of all individuals, the “right”, the ability of everyone to participate equally in collective institutions (“democracy”), to express themselves and to speak for themselves in collective institutions or otherwise (“free speech”), each person’s control over their own bodies, rational inquiry in any situation where there’s a disagreement (“right to trial”) etc.
Thus we cannot accept any of the left’s pseudo-equalitarian manipulations – “Progressive stack”, situations where person X is automatically assumed guilty of Y when accused by person of type Z, Complaints people “shit talking” other people.
OK, it is a little tricky trying to explain the why of this when it’s put in such a general fashion, ie preserving bourgeois equality in the process of creating a communist community. You could take the short-cut of pointing out how many rackets today involve reducing people’s choices from the minimum level the bourgeois society. at the very best, offer. You could say that bourgeois freedom is kind of a prerequisite for a society that involves something like a realm of freedom. That tools of “rational discourse” or similar such are something like a necessary counter-part to something like the natural human facility for sociability. What do you all think?
The revolutionary critique of all existing conditions does not, to be sure, have a monopoly on intelligence; it only has a monopoly on its use. In the present cultural and social crisis, those who do not know how to use their intelligence have in fact no discernable intelligence of any kind. Stop talking to us about unused intelligence and you’ll make us happy. Poor Heidegger! Poor Lukács! Poor Sartre! Poor Barthes! Poor Lefebvre! Poor Cardan! Tics, tics, and tics. And Now the SI
Some might argue that Michel Foucault was a cut above the average quality of current thinkers. After all, he didn’t engage in the kind of out-and-out intellectual fraud of an Alain Badiou, who peddles mathematics to philosophers, calculating in a parallel fashion to Debord’s conman who hopes that “Someone who knows his wine may often understand nothing about the rules of the nuclear industry…”.
Now, the case of Foucault is hardly reassuring given his willingness to use his considerable prestige to offer what was effectively material support to Ayatollah Khomeini. The main thing, however, is that the situation is not really a matter of the goodness, the quality, the skill, etc of the intellectual. The question is whether they are on our side or on the side of spectacular capitalism. In saying that, we should outline the conditions of the present order, conditions that nearly everyone is aware of but which most attempt to various degrees to blot out of their awareness. That is; the world, just for one, is dominated by lies and not simply by a static set of lies but by a constant battle between lies and their liars. This situation is itself part of a perhaps larger situation that the relationship of wage labor, commodity production and capital prevail everywhere. The majority sell their labor power, their creativity and other ability, to buy back survival on a pure quantitative scale. In this situation of dispossession, the elite intellectual laborer still competes like a prole, having nothing to sell but his or her wits. We reach the level of spectacle when the domination of these capitalist relations reaches such a level that they suppress any language for describing the situation. At this level, the intellectual elite competes even harder but it competes on the level of surface, on the level of attaching to single grand gesture that is the spectacle. That is, a wide variety of interesting and even insightful ideas are produced by present day intellectual celebrities but they fall-back from describing the overall conditions of a society, a society which forms more and more of a single, integrated system; Slavoj Žižek flirts with revealing the universality of ideological deception but then deflates his critique by suddenly selling some especially commercial product like perfume or Stalinism. Žižek’s admirers are morons not because Žižek has no insight but because they give up the potential for a full critique of present when they broadcast insight mixed with bullshit as the ideal of revolutionary theory. And so it goes.
X is an oppression, Y is an identity. The call to “talk” is the pseudo-dialogue rhetoric that specialists in one or another identities use. There will be more no dialogue, just propaganda. This is kind of a reaction to phrases like “We need to talk about masculinity in America”. America has no “we”, the population doesn’t go to weekly meetings where they engage in dialogue, so there can be no “we should talk” as in dialogue. Only when a structure that allows honest dialogue comes into existence will such rhetoric have any truth to it. At present, it is just like a statement “we’ll be putting out some propaganda on Y soon”
“We’ve found that if you promote a service aimed at MEN, in a manner that fits with their lifestyle and expectations, they will ask for help. ”
Suicide is a gender issue that can no longer be ignored
Indeed, identity specialists of all sorts are invited to descend on this issue, in the fashion of kites and crows. Let the feeding begin
Talking about this blog post, one Facebook friend commented that it was a bit absolutist and another liked how it called out certain bad behaviors.
My comment was:
It would be nice to have tools to change [this]. I’ve been on the outskirts of political scenes for quite a while. Their sexism has been called out numerous times but the basic formations pretty [much] stay the same. My theory is that the constant is power/prestige dynamics. “Big swinging dick” types certainly, absolutely are a part of this and they are fucked up. But so is the general ruthless struggle for power in the milieu. And these absolutist statements, “if you are *accused* of this you must do that”, seem like they dovetail *into* such power struggles, dovetail into a milieu where everyone is seeking some kind of “cover”. And “cover” here means some moral pose that lets you accuse other people of shit. The idea that there are grey area problems and people working on them doesn’t fit into this kind of posturing and makes the milieu generally kind of poisonous.
If you happen to have a taste for researching esoteric technical subjects, the web naturally offers a cornucopia of material. Especially, it seems that many if not most of the PhD theses of the last thirty years are online. If find one of these theses interesting, you might be tempted to further Google the author. Naturally, you find some authors have a trajectory, winding up famous as professors or otherwise. A larger number have a shorter trajectory and many show few references beyond the initial thesis. As you would expect in capitalist academia, which sorts the masses from the celebrities in all of its competitive fields. Of course, academia is as steep a competitive “climb” as popular music or professional athletics.
But whatever approach a given young thinker might have had on a given problem naturally followed the trajectory of said thinkers’ career.
I’ve used the term “communist” to describe myself and a small group of similarly minded folks. While I’m happy with this term as a reference to the historical communist left, a tendency which arose against what most people think of a communism, I certainly understand that for the average person just wanting a quick summary of what we’re about, the term might give a wrong and even an opposite impression of what I’m aiming for. If only the goal mattered when I was talking about our small, informal tendency, then “anarchist” would be just as informative. But neither would be very informative for our average person wanting that quick summary.
And there we have the quandary. The dynamics of this society produce a situation where just about any label one comes up with is going to be distorted into something awful by the need of every active salesman to attach his product to any given term having a positive spin to it – look at how horrible almost everything that is today label “community” really is.
There is more to this situation, however. Our critique, put into a full sentence rather than a single word, is that this society involves reducing nearly everyone’s activity to labor-power to be sold and reducing each person’s condition to the point that they (very barely) satisfy their needs by buying commodities – the product(s) of this alienated labor process. This situation means that “we” are reduced to workers and consumers (often simultaneously). And the reduction to consumers part here means there is no real “we” in the sense of a collective power, a collective decision making ability. So, if we look at the “average person” trying to understand our theory, we’ll see an “idea consumer”, a person wanting a discreet, cut dried recipe for “change”. However, our aim, which naturally goes along with our critique, is not to create a small in this society but to reverse the dominant order. The reverse of this world would be a society where an empowered collective, a community-minus-the-bs-versions-of-so-called-communities, would be the way people met their needs and the project of nearly everyone in the society. Further, since the main problem is how do we get there, our answer is through something like a spark of collective power (a spark that would have to become conflagration, though the transformation seems fated to be unpredictable). And thus, the point where people are taking action to create such a new world is the point where they will begin to active collectively and will stop being workers and consumers, stopping looking to recipes to solve XYZ problem so they can go back to work or back to shopping.
We aim to engage people at the point of, on-the-verge-of, real collective empowerment. What we want to be a part of and inspiration from is this process. My speculation is that dialogue, explanation and provocation will almost go hand-in-hand here. Further, when activity begin, what will be most important for our discussions is that we lay out our ideas clearly and succinctly for those willing to make the study. However, we may have to wait till then for many people to be interested in doing that. We reconciled.