Notes on Commonwealth by Hardt and Negri
(Most important of political projects on one level the political thought of CLR James and Antonio Negri. Second would be Loren Goldner and Negri. What does arming the Multitude mean? What is the equivalent of What is to Be Done for the Multitude? )
H/N open Commonwealth with a brutal and concise description of the world under terror, fire, and misery. How can we deny the world is anything other than that, with Syria, Detroit, and Ukraine in mind.
They hope to articulate an ethical project in CW. But they will only discover an ethical project through the study of what the multitude have done in struggle. At the same time they have a sense of becoming, when they write ‘becoming-prince’ vii. Much is yet to be accomplished, the full ethical project cannot be thrown down, until what is becoming, becomes clearer, and perhaps finally becomes. In this becoming, the multitude must learn the art of self-rule and forming lasting democratic organizations. We see the importance of democracy…
The centrality of the commons is clear on viii. It is ideology which masks the truth of the commons, which in actuality is everywhere around is.
Commons as the coordinator of the coordination problem. It is the commons or the squares which not only creates the spatial dimensions, but also the subjectivities. There is a relationship between spaces and subjectivities. The commons is the space of a certain kind of subject. The worker, as such, does not exist anymore in the commons. Of course workers are in the commons, but under a new coordination, under a new constellation. This is the effect of de-industrialization right here. The worker cannot coordinate much at the workplace, so new coordination must occur in struggle, in new spaces, with new subjectivities, radically creating a new subject in motion, in the process of struggle itself. This is in contrast to the Marxist-Jamesian concept of coordination and subjectivity. At the same time this is still Marxist-Negri.
Perception Management: “Given the importance of knowledge and soft power to the conduct of netwar, it is not surprising that networked terrorists have already begun to leverage IT for perception management and propaganda to influence public opinion, recruit new members, and generate funding.” Rethink running around yelling we are for communism when most of the world thinks communists murder oppressed people. A comrade was telling me that what is important is to communicate the message we want as quickly and effectively as possible is key. If saying you are communist does not do that, why be stuck to it. Other people might think that is opportunistic… I am not sure. I see the point about conveying the accuracy of the message.
How Plastic are the organizations we build: “These characteristics—their pervasiveness, their capacity to coexist both within and outside hierarchies, their ability to make markets more efficient by facilitating directed flows of information and commodities—give networks an elusive quality. In some respects, they appear little more than plastic organizations that can be molded in many different ways.”
How much Shock can organizations take? “Networks are highly resilient, partly because of what might be termed loose coupling. Charles Perrow distinguishes between tightly coupled and loosely coupled systems. He contends that tightly coupled systems are the least stable because disturbances involve a chain reaction or, at the very least, serious knock-on effects. In contrast, “loose coupling gives time, resources, and alternative paths to cope with the disturbance and limits its impact.”25 Criminal networks—apart from the core—are based largely on loose coupling. Even if some parts of the network are destroyed, the effects are limited since other parts are left intact. In a loosely coupled network, knock-on or cascading effects are limited and damage to one part of the network does not undermine the network as a whole. Loose coupling also preserves more diversity, in response offering considerable latitude in the decision of which parts of the network should respond, in what manner and in what location”
Probably a bad sign that I am thinking about communism and organization through a book about policing!
1. In Policing the Crisis, Stuart Hall writes “traditionalism sanctions the present by deriving it from the past, empiricism shackles the future by riveting it to the present” 151.
Replace traditionalism and empiricism with communism and it explains 99% of the entire communist currents on the planet.
2. In Policing the Crisis, Stuart Hall writes, “People often maintain unrecognized contradictions in their viewpoint, contradictions expressed in different contexts…” for example, “for parents to demand that children should be better disciplined, but complain when their own children are beaten” 155.
Most communists I know always talk about how everyday people have contradictory thoughts. The implication of that statement is that communists perhaps do not. This is a powerful slippage and theoretical move. This line of thought also implies that communists through some magical method have resolved their own contradictions between thought and action in their everyday life and their own organizations.
Once the forbidden apple of communism is biten, there is the world that is communist (read the small church) and the rest of the multitude which has yet to achieve communist consciousness. Once this happens, self-reflection and critical analysis upon oneself is finished . The realm of ideology is what we enter. This is the period we are still in.
Arguably the clearest senses of consciousness is amongst the multitude. They look at communists and see Dungeon and Dragons or LARPING….
Behind the Kitchen Door (2013) by Saru Jayaraman
Saru Jayaraman (SJ) is a lawyer. It looks like she never practiced law. It is not clear if she went right into the NGO world. Either way, SJ is an NGO officiando. She previously started Women and Youth Supporting Each Other on Staten Island. But 9-11 got her involved in the world of restaurant workers. She is one of the co-founders of Restaurant Opportunities Center. The book is partially meant to shock an audience which does not know about the world of oppressed restaurant workers. It also seems SJ is always shocked at how bad things are–not sure if that is just meant to get the reader’s attention, part of SJ’s own ignorance, or just genuine shock. Later on she comments that she never worked in a restaurant.
The book is definitely meant to convince a more well off audience–middle class–to the concerns of workers. Lots of the book does work around convincing the reader the limits of organic food, slow food, etc if it is not connected with better working conditions. SJ writes, “Most foodies care about how we define ‘sustainable food’ because they are concerned about their health and the environment. However, ‘sustainable food’ also needs to embody fair and equitable labor practices” 32.
Seems SJ would be very hostile to just works like Abolish Restaurants. She paints restaurant workers who love their job, love serving rich people in NYC, but whose only concern is the low wages and racial or gender oppression. Take those things away and its seems the restaurant worker is pretty happy. Obviously this seems pretty suspicious to me.
The story of Saru Jayaraman is not the story of the graduate without a future. Her story is the graduate with a future, who in classic social democratic, social service ways uses workers. But it is more complicated then that… Saru is not a parasite. We will not find an evil person of the likes of Bloomberg or Kissinger. Saru is a straight up do-gooder. The most dangerous kind. She has a bleeding heart for the oppressed. Saru even believes that the oppressed must have agency, must be leaders in the struggle, etc.