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beneath the crazy paving... 
urban governance & 'in-between' spaces

Variant pub-table discussion spiralling around the metaphor of 'cracks'; vague clichés about in-between spaces, frictions, cracks, fissures, gaps and multiplicities, the fragments left unoccupied and non-sutured by the urban police order seemingly provide nodes for experimentation with new possibilities for social and cultural practices to emerge... So, how deep and total a capitalism do we need to say it is still capitalism? Unravelling in December...

Lauries Bar (back room)
King Street
Friday 10th December

(taking place as part of RiB)

'Cracks and the Crisis of Abstract Labour', John Holloway [LINK]

Aufheben Review - 'Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today', John Holloway (Pluto Press, London 2002) [ LINK]

While Holloway warns, "[t]he problem with 'autonomy' is that it lends itself easily to an identitarian interpretation", my concern is that John Holloway's 'cracks' in 'Crack Capitalism' may actually be securely moored at "the high-tide of cultural studies, a scholastic world in which poor, black kids in inner city Britain 'resist' and 'subvert' power through the ingenuity of their haircuts" , and thought it might be useful to read it against lain MacKenzie's 'From Identity to Event' [LINK].

As for Holloway's contention that, "The crack is a rupture of the logic of capitalist cohesion, a break in the fabric of domination", it might be worth revisiting 'The Ecological Question: Can Capitalism Prevail?', Daniel Buck: "...[Capitalism's] history can be divided between histories of its development in the core and its expansion into and incorporation of places once peripheral. Even in the core its conquest is not and never will be total. The first line of Capital begins “The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails…” (emphasis added), implying that even in the developed core it only prevails, not that it is total. While there may be an internal tendency for capitalism to colonize and commodify all aspects of modern life, even a cursory glance at the ways the line of commodification shifts with each reconstitution of the modern household, and at how capitalism creates non-capitalist spheres outside and even inside itself on which to feed, serve to illustrate that the capitalist mode of production, like Gramsci’s hegemony, will never be total and complete. So, how deep and total a capitalism do we need to say it is still capitalism? Even in the event of a radical round of time-space de-compression, who is to say that large pockets of human activity will not continue to exist in which the capitalist mode of production prevails? Just because there is an expansionary logic intrinsic in the commodity form does not mean that capitalism cannot contract. And once it contracts, it will have larger areas outside itself in which to expand. But even the metaphors of expansion and contraction are ultimately too clumsy, belying the more complex ways that trajectories of uneven capitalist development territorialize, re-territorialize, and even de-territorialize places in an unconstant geography."
The Ecological Question: Can Capitalism Prevail?', Daniel Buck [LINK]

I wanted to raise something further than I have had time to date to include in the paper's comments, namely a bit more on the concept of 'cracks' etc. as posited by the "emergent" so therefore not yet totalising environment described by the post-political thesis:

Swyngedouw: "...all manner of frictions, cracks, fissures, gaps, and 'vacant‘ spaces arise (Swyngedouw, 2000); spaces that, although an integral part of the 'police‘ order, of the existing state of the situation, are simultaneously outside of it. These fissures, cracks, and 'free‘ spaces form 'quilting‘ points, nodes for experimentation with new urban possibilities. It is indeed precisely in these 'marginal‘ spaces -- the fragments left unoccupied and non-sutured by the urban police order that regulates, assigns, and distributes -- that all manner of new urban social and cultural practices emergence; where new forms of urbanity come to life. While transnational capital flows impose their totalising logic on the city and on urban polic(y)ing, the contours of and possibilities for a new and more humane urban form and live germinate in these urban 'free‘ spaces."

Is 'quilting' here a passing reference to Deleuze's leitmotif of 'the fold' etc. if so what is meant by it -- inside/outside slight-of-hand? Has there been discussion between the main proponents along these lines?

Post-Democratic Cities : For Whom and for What?, Erik Swyngedouw [LINK]

Climate Change as Post-Political and Post-Democratic Populism, Erik Swyngedouw [LINK]

"Erik Swyngedouw presents a clear and methodical case for the evaporation of dissent in contemporary urban governance. Though it falls prey to some vague clichés about in-between spaces and multiplicities in its conclusion, it works very well as a summary of thinking in the field. ... But what about the question of dissent? It is argued here that the space for genuine dissent is in some way excluded or outside our present system of government. Those who dissent are not treated as an opposition or competing claimant, they are just invisible or unnamed. In this condition the system operates internally according to a humanitarian ethics of negotiation and radicalizes its outside as evil – both gestures equally depoliticising." [LINK]

"Because this multicultural, essentially post-political approach has achieved hegemonic currency, the only acceptable line of resistance today is that of supposedly marginalized voices to a mysterious capital power, manifested in the fight for the acceptance of such voices. As this resistance itself now becomes the hegemonic norm, the root (Real) of global capitalist antagonism is pushed into the background. Zizek proposes that we instead summon the courage to reject liberal democracy as a master-signifier and a main political fetish, and explore other political options. Instead of advocating multicultural tolerance that in effect sustains the power of capital rather than challenging it, we should seek 'actual universality' which is 'not the never won neutral space of translation from one particular culture to another, but, rather, the violent experience of how, across the cultural divide, we share the same antagonism'." [LINK]

Criticisms or warnings of what might uncritically ensue from Harvey's liberal rights discourse (the liberal right to have rights) vs substantive rights; willingness to bypass the autonomy of labour in favour of a politics built upon collective consumption of public goods and services? Reduced to localised appeals over resources, safely leaving the hegemony of neoliberalism beyond politics, with Zizek warning "the point is that we now seem to believe that the economic aspect of power is an expression of intolerance." So where does that leave urban spatial struggles as counter-hegemonic resistance to neoliberal urban dynamics?

With regard to 'cracks' -- as well as John Holloway's current 'Crack Capitalism', "that radical change can only come about through the creation, expansion and multiplication of 'cracks' in the capitalist system" which (perhaps superficially on my part) appears to ignore the fact that capitalism too requires 'cracks'... -- I was reminded of Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zones and their (presented as positive) description as 'negation' and Bookchin's acrimonious critiques:

"In short, we're not touting the TAZ as an exclusive end in itself, replacing all other forms of organization, tactics, and goals. We recommend it because it can provide the quality of enhancement associated with the uprising without necessarily leading to violence and martyrdom. The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the State can crush it. Because the State is concerned primarily with Simulation rather than substance, the TAZ can "occupy" these areas clandestinely and carry on its festal purposes for quite a while in relative peace. Perhaps certain small TAZs have lasted whole lifetimes because they went unnoticed, like hillbilly enclaves--because they never intersected with the Spectacle, never appeared outside that real life which is invisible to the agents of Simulation." [ LINK] [LINK]

"What, finally, is a 'temporary autonomous zone'? 'The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerrilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself, to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the State can crush it' (TAZ, p. 101). In a TAZ we can 'realize many of our true Desires, even if only for a season, a brief Pirate Utopia, a warped free-zone in the old Space/Time continuum)' (TAZ, p. 62). 'Potential TAZs' include 'the sixties-style 'tribal gathering,' the forest conclave of eco-saboteurs, the idyllic Beltane of the neopagans, anarchist conferences, and gay faery circles,' not to speak of 'nightclubs, banquets,' and 'old-time libertarian picnics' -- no less! (TAZ, p. 100).
"The bourgeoisie has nothing whatever to fear from such lifestyle declamations. With its aversion for institutions, mass-based organizations, its largely subcultural orientation, its moral decadence, its celebration of transience, and its rejection of programs, this kind of narcissistic anarchism is socially innocuous, often merely a safety valve for discontent toward the prevailing social order. With the Bey, lifestyle anarchism takes flight from all meaningful social activism and a steadfast commitment to lasting and creative projects by dissolving itself into kicks, postmodernist nihilism, and a dizzying Nietzschean sense of elitist superiority.
"The price that anarchism will pay if it permits this swill to displace the libertarian ideals of an earlier period could be enormous. The Bey's egocentric anarchism, with its post'modern'ist withdrawal into individualistic 'autonomy,' Foucauldian 'limit experiences,' and neo-Situationist 'ecstasy,' threatens to render the very word anarchism politically and socially harmless -- a mere fad for the titillation of the petty bourgeois of all ages." [LINK]

"Badiou refines this general scepticism in making a series of more precise criticisms of the ‘libertarian current’. He argues that the central problem of this current is that it sets up a simple-minded opposition between power and resistance (or revolt, or rebellion). The result is a sterile set of ’static dualisms’, from which is derived ‘the catechism of the System and the Flux, the Despot and the Nomad, the Paranoiac, and the Schizo’ (Badiou 2004: 80). In this case Badiou is explicitly referring to a number of oppositions that structure the text of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, in which the second term is valorised at the expense of the first. The problem with such dualisms is that they fail to grasp the ways in which politics actually operates: ‘power’ is not one monolithic whole, and neither is ‘resistance’. Instead the task of ‘doing politics’ involves a closer analysis of different forces and contradictions as well as, for Badiou, the formation of the party as the form to handle and organise these contradictions. Whatever we might think of the second point we can, I think, accept the first is well made. While there may be a polemical or motivational gain in presenting politics in terms of a grand opposition, and there may well be times where struggle operates in this form, more often matters are considerably more complex." [ LINK]



Cracks and the Crisis of Abstract Labour
John Holloway

Aufheben Review
Change the World Without Taking Power:
The Meaning of Revolution Today
John Holloway (Pluto Press, London 2002)

Draft - From Identity to Event
The Changing Nature of the Public Sphere
Iain MacKenzie

The Ecological Question: Can Capitalism Prevail?
Daniel Buck

Post-Democratic Cities
For Whom and for What?
Erik Swyngedouw

Climate Change as Post-Political and Post-Democratic Populism
Erik Swyngedouw

[Forthcoming from the Journal of Architecture]
Urban Politics Now: Reimagining Democracy in the Neoliberal City.
Edited by BAVO (Gideon Boie and Matthias Pauwels),NAi Publishers, 2008
Adrian Lahoud

Psychoanalysis and the Post-Political: An Interview with Slavoj Žižek Author(s): Slavoj Žižek and Christopher Hanlon Source: New Literary History, Vol. 32, No. 1, Views and Interviews (Winter, 2001), pp. 1-21


Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism - An Unbridgeable Chasm
Murray Bookchin

Through a Glass Darkly: Alain Badiou’s critique of anarchism (Benjamin Noys)

Immaterial Labour
Maurizio Lazzarato

Keep on Smiling - questions on immaterial labour

Resistance Is Surrender
Slavoj Žižek


These will be small, fairly informal sessions and, as I'm sure you'll appreciate, we'll have to squeeze everyone around a couple of tables, so please let us know if you are coming along (and to which one) by dropping us an email to <> so we can get a sense of numbers. And I suspect folk will be hanging around for more informal chat afterwards if anyone just wants to pop their head in later in the evening.