Academic journal article Capital & Class

A Convergent Genealogy? Space, Time and the Promise of Horizontal Politics Today

Academic journal article Capital & Class

A Convergent Genealogy? Space, Time and the Promise of Horizontal Politics Today

Article excerpt

Introduction

Invoking anti-capitalist rhetoric yet refusing to issue demands, the horizontalist movements of 2011 seemed to embrace elements from both Marxist and anarchist strategy. More specifically, the prefigurative approach of the camps suggested that the protestors had an acute sense of the profound immanence or embeddedness of social power within processes of everyday life, a trope common especially in contemporary anarchist and 'post-' or 'neo-' Marxist discourses. However, while this common point of reference might indicate the potential for some degree of convergence between these two perspectives, it is important to understand the specific ideological commitments of contemporary horizontalist movements. As we argue below, the movements have tended explicitly to disavow grand ideology, eschewing commitment to any one set of theoretical principles. Their ideology, to the extent that they can be said to have one, must be deciphered from their actions.

This article thus explores the commitments of horizontalist movements via a genealogy of their practices, both discursive and non-discursive. While horizontally organised communities can be identified in a diversity of geographical sites throughout human history, this paper chooses for its starting point the moment of 'direct action'-style resistance which found global resonance around 1968. Of course, as a mode of political engagement, direct action long predates the events of 1968; the term was first used by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) around the turn of the 20th century (Thompson & Murfin 1976). It is in 1968, however, that we find the sharply articulated critique of centralised power and established hierarchies that would later shape the alterglobalisation movement in the 90s and the wave of occupations in 2011-12, as well as a number of stopovers in between. Critically, through their mode of organisation and their way of engaging with the world, the movements demonstrated the irreducibility of their own composition to a single common cause, or a single enemy (capital, the state, the dreaded '1%').

The guiding ontology of the movements thus established through a genealogy of their practices, the second and third portions of this article seek to evaluate the strategic opportunities available to the horizontal left from the perspective of two literatures, those of anarchism and autonomist Marxism. Addressing the strategic logic of the recent movements, the second section adopts an autonomist Marxist perspective in order to evaluate prefigurative strategy in the context of late-capitalist power. To be viable, the autonomists argue, a strategy of confronting contemporary capitalism must necessarily start with the recognition that it has stepped 'outside the factory', so to speak, subsuming skills and capacities of production, heretofore considered part of the 'life world', and aligning social desires with capitalist rationality to an unprecedented extent. By their rhetoric and their actions, the movements demonstrate a certain awareness of this change, and its implications for their struggle. Yet questions remain as to how this awareness should translate into effective strategy. Thus, whereas the Occupy movement's refusal to make any kind of plan for the seizure of power was criticised as especially naive, activists in Spain and Greece have been much more open to 'traditional' leftist questions, including those of central organisation and the party-form.

In order to grasp something of the stakes of these questions, we argue that the genealogy of horizontalism suggests at least two 'poles' of possible anti-capitalist strategy. In the third section, we thus outline the spatial strategy, concerned with securing access to democratic space and constructing temporary zones of autonomy from capitalist life, which we associate more with the anarchist tradition (Graeber 2002; Springer 2010, 2014), and the temporal strategy, concerned with the production of new political subjectivities and the transformation of common sense, which we associate more with the Marxist tradition (Hardt & Negri 2012; Luxemburg 2007; Virno 1996). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.