Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Virtuosity, Processual Democracy & Organised Networks

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Virtuosity, Processual Democracy & Organised Networks

Article excerpt

Language presupposes and, at the same time, institutes once again the 'publicly organized space'.

Paolo Virno1


I am a Stalinist-everyone should do as I say and think; I have no idea what I am-I don't exist ... The contradiction between these two statements signals a tension between identity politics and the politics of desubjectification. Identity operates within a regime of coding; desubjectification is a process of subjectivisation and transversality in which 'relations are external to their terms'.2 There is nothing essential about a particular object, subject or thing that determines its relations. The externality of relations to their terms is what makes change possible. The identity of the Stalinist emerges from a milieu of radical contingencies. The individuation of the Stalinist is thus a potentiality that subsists within the plane of immanence. The logic of coding is part and parcel of the unforeseen capacities that define the outside of immanence.

The relationship between the overcoded subject and the process of subjectivisation is one of movement, and the movement between the two comprises the force of processuality, and a politics of contingency and potentiality. Stalinist subjects are everywhere-we are all Stalinists, and we also don't exist. The force of relations external to their terms operate in a manner that continuously destabilises the authoritarianism of the Stalinist subject. The process of desubjectification corresponds with the plane of immanence. This is the common from which exodus, flight and exit subsist as potentialities-potentialities that can also be found in the exploitation of cooperation that is the common of labour-power.3

The analysis of these relations is a practice of radical empiricism.4 Such an approach registers the ways in which the formation of coded subjects (identity) is an internally generative operation within the distributed plane of subjectivisation. As Antonio Negri has noted, 'from the standpoint of the body, there is only relation and process'.5 Such a diagram of relations can be transfigured upon organised networks, whose capacity to develop new institutional formations is immanent to the workings of situated socio-technical systems.6 In both cases, there is a danger of identitarianism (the Stalinist subject) or what Gary Genosko calls 'bureaucratic sclerosis' (technicist institutions) overdetermining the unforeseen creative capacity of the plane of immanence.7 I don't think it is too much a case of conceptual promiscuity to say that such an event is kept in check through the hegemonic operation between the coded subject and the constitutive force of the plane of immanence. A continuum of negotiation and re-manoeuvring characterises the tension between the desire for rule on the part of the coded entity (be it a particular subject or institutional habitus) and the potentiality of difference and proliferation peculiar to the plane of immanence.

Summarising the encounters between Félix Guattari and Italian autonomous thinkers in the late 1970s, Franco Berardi (Bifo) explains the process of 'subjectivation' (or what I am terming subjectivisation) as a displacing of the historical legacy of the Hegalian subject.8 Bifo sees the autonomist political concept and strategy of 'refusal of work' in terms of processes of subjectivation. He considers the operaismo (workers) movements in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s as an instantiation of the larger international transition from Fordism to post-Fordism:

Refusal of work does not mean so much the obvious fact that workers do not like to be exploited, but something more. It means that the capitalist restructuring, the technological change, and the general transformation of social institutions are produced by the daily action of withdrawal from exploitation, of rejection of the obligation to produce surplus value, and to increase the value of capital, reducing the value of life. …

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