The first issue of Contents is a contribution from Stephen Wright on “Usership.” For the past few years I’ve been fascinated by Stephen’s ideas about invisibility, use, and redundancy, all of which come into play in the writing below. In particular, I’ve wondered about the relationship between “the user” and “the worker” – on the one hand, the difference is one between playing the role of a consumer and that of a producer; but on the other hand, as users, our activity is producing value somewhere (websites, telecoms, IP holders). It’s understandable to be repulsed by the idea of the “user” because that’s exactly how the industry and its funders name us when they’re diagramming about how to monetize our activity. But, that’s why this contribution is important: it looks at our situation plainly and begins to ask how we should act in our position as users, what kinds of rights we should have, and then how these concepts might help us map our relationship to the commons. All of the texts are available somewhere on the Internet – each issue of Contents simply points to them. -SD

Stephen Wright

Stephen Wright is an art writer, independent researcher and curator and professor of art history and theory. A selection of his writings are available on the blog n.e.w.s. to which he is an active contributor,



An AAAAARG Users Guide to Usership

What makes aaaaarg function? And beyond its functionality, what kind of relationality does aaaaarg at once require, engender and transform? How can its terms of engagement be simply but accurately named? The term that comes immediately to mind is: usership. Readership may describe our engagement with some book, author or set of readings, but not the relationship between aaaaarg and its… users. Participation — that loathsome term bantered about by the neoliberal ideologues of the mainstream artworld — may describe one aspect of the empathetic but anonymous community that has coalesced around aaaaarg, but completely fails to address why we use it, and how. Not as participants nor as mere readers, but as users. And though the collective noun “usership” remains dramatically undertheorized — indeed the word itself, though immediately understandable, has not been ratified by those indexes of expert culture called dictionaries — aaaaarg itself has, here and there in its vast, user-uploaded archive, contains some compelling resources to help better grasp the philosophical underpinnings of the concept and to unpack some of the implications of a politics of usership. Of course there is no “proper” way to use aaaaarg; usership is an inherently restive and unpredictable category, meaning that the word for alleged misuse is simply actual, factual use. A tremendous amount of latitude exists between existent infrastructures, services, rules and dispositives and the countless uses to which they are put. If one were to define the premises of an emancipated usership, it could be said that a kind of reflexive poaching supersedes faithfulness and obedience. These contents are proposed in that spirit, and hopefully, in sorting and repurposing the contents of aaaaarg around usership, usefully instantiating usership while taking a first stab at shoring up the concept.

Though aaaaarg is exemplary of a usological turn in contemporary culture, it is not alone; the past ten or fifteen years have witnessed the broad expansion of the notion of usership as a new category of political subjectivity. It’s not as if using is anything new — people have been using tools, languages and odd and sundry goods and services (not to mention mind-altering substances) since time immemorial. But the rise of 2.0 culture and user-generated content and value, as well as democratic polities whose legitimacy is founded on the ability of the governed to appropriate and use available political and economic instruments, has produced active “users” (not just rebels, prosumers or automatons) whose agency is exerted, paradoxically, exactly where it is expected.

Usership represents a radical challenge to at least three deeply entrenched conceptual institutions in contemporary society: spectatorship, expert culture, and ownership. That is, it challenges hegemonic assumptions of relationality in the aesthetic, the epistemic and the ontological realms. Modernist artistic conventions, premised on so-called disinterested spectatorship, dismiss usership (and use value, rights of usage) as inherently instrumental — and the mainstream artworld’s physical and conceptual architecture is entirely unprepared to even speak of usership, even as ever more contemporary artistic practices imply a different regime of engagement than that described by spectatorship: a regime at once more extensive and more intensive. Usership represents a still more deep-seated challenge to ownership in an economy where surplus-value extraction is increasingly based on use: how long will communities of usership sit idly by as their user-generated value is privatized? In the artworld and other lifeworlds, it is expert culture — whether it be the publishing industry, or the city hall’s design office — which is most hostile to usership: from the perspective of expertise, use is invariably misuse. But from the perspective of users, everywhere, so-called misuse is simply… use. None of which is to deny that usership is a something of a double-edged sword — which is precisely what makes it interesting to consider. The challenge would seem to be to imagine a non-instrumental, emancipated form of usership.

There’s not much theoretical work on usership per se, and though it’s probably high time to fill that gap, it is also easy to understand what explains that lack: usership always plays itself out in occupied territory. Usership names a mode of groundshare, a reappropriation of a territory that will never be all its own. Usership never plays out on home ice, but is inherently on the road, challenging not merely home advantage but reinterpreting the rules of the game. For this reason, it can only be observed at play on familiar yet foreign conceptual territories, such as those of spectatorship, expert culture, and ownership — some of the most abundantly theorized institutions in our society.

Ludwig Wittgenstein
Philosophical Investigations
Wittgenstein’s second major philosophical work on language, mind, meaning and philosophy, published in 1953 after his death. Wittgenstein here puts forth his theory of user-based meaning. With disarmingly simple logic, he argued that words, propositions, languages at large have no “true” meaning independent of the way speakers use them, outside the pragmatics of common use.

Michel Foucault
Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984 Volume 3: Power
Book —> Michel Foucault – Essential Works of Foucault 1954-1984 Volume 3: Power
“The Subject and Power” is Foucault’s key text on the politics of usership. In a way, usership shapes the focus, function and adressee of his later work: a theory of uses, a useful theory, intended for a community of users.
Michel Foucault
The History of Sexuality Volume 2: The Use of Pleasure
1.9 MB, OCR’d PDF, full book scan
In analysing the Greek understanding of “Chresis Aphrodision” — the “use of pleasure” — Foucault emphasizes the tremendous leeway in terms of how laws and customs regulating pleasures were followed — thereby defining the conceptual space of usership.
Mathieu Potte Bonneville
“Politique des usages: une boîte à outils pour la lutte des usagers”, in VACARME 29 “Michel Foucault 1984-2004”
Indispensable introduction to the concept and politics of usership in Foucault’s thought published in a special issue of Vacarme on Foucault
Giorgio Agamben
it begins with the Genius
That which is sacred is removed from the realm of usership. As such, usership is premised on an act of profanation — returning to common usage that which had been separated into the sphere of the sacred.

Spectatorship and the usership challenge

To an even greater extent than objecthood or authorship, spectatorship continues to enjoy almost self-evident status in conventional discourse as a necessary component of any plausible artworld. The critical sermons of contemporary art are rife with celebration about free and active viewer participation. Yet is there not something almost pathetic about such claims at a time when ever more practitioners are deliberately impairing the coefficient of artistic visibility of their activity, challenging the very regime of visibility designated by the collective noun “spectatorship”? When art appears outside of the authorized performative framework, there is no reason that it should occur to those engaging with it to constitute themselves as spectators. Such practices seem to break with spectatorship altogether, to which they prefer the more extensive and inclusive notion of usership. Is the current mainstream focus on spectatorship – as a number of recent theoretical publications suggest – not merely a last-ditch effort to stave off a paradigm shift already underway in art? Why and when in the history of ideas did spectatorship – let alone disinterested spectatorship to use Emmanuel Kant’s paradoxical term – emerge as the linchpin institution of visual art? And above all, what alternative forms of usership of art are today being put forward to displace and replace it?

The end of spectatorship does not mean the end of public engagement with art. Spectatorship is an historically determined regime of engagement — it is not synonymous with seeing art, but rather a specific mode of looking. In recent years, there has been a spate of “invisible” art practices — it has become something of a fashion to elude immediate recognition by spectatorship. But this is not a challenge to the institution of spectatorship, but merely a game of now-you-see-me, now-you-don’t, played within the relational frame of spectatorship. Still, within our art-historical moment, these games may suggest deeper discontent; however, they have often described as “participation” — the artworld version of 2.0 culture: the value of the work (such as it is) in this case is produced by the unpaid, unnamed “participants”, while their surplus value (what they contributed to the work but did not get back) is extracted by the artist alone. Usership is an entirely different, and entirely more restive regime of artistic engagement. For a work to have use-value for a community of users it must not only have a finality other than spectacle, it must actually have a purpose and finality other than art.

AAAAARG.ORG is not something to look at, nor some convoluted portrait of its instigator and still less of its community of users, but at once a massive and working online archive and a proposition of a massive and working online archive. In philosophical terms, a user-driven project of this kind has a double ontological status: it is both what it is and a perfectly redundant proposition of that same thing. Redundancy is usually considered to be depreciative, a term used to discredit something – be it an activity, phenomenon, device, or utterance – whose function is already fulfilled by something else. But given the number of practices adopting a logic of redundancy today, it may well be emerging as the single-most useful focusing tool in understanding the dynamics of forward-looking art today. These practices, however, though they refuse to embrace existent conventions, do not – as so many vanguard practices of the past century did – engage in a frontally antagonistic relationship with mainstream institutions and practices. On the contrary – and this is where redundancy comes into the equation in an invisible but powerfully tangible way – they do indistinguishably what is already being perfectly well done in other realms of human activity, yet they do it with an entirely different self-understanding. Redundancy is perhaps the single best concept to describe non-mimetic, or post-mimetic art that is deliberately and perfectly redundant with respect to what it also is. One could always say that a Rembrandt was both a picture and an ironing board (to quote an example chosen by Marcel Duchamp to instantiate what he brilliantly called the “reciprocal readymade,” no doubt because ironing is so ironic). However, redundancy in this sense inverses the primary-secondary logic: it is first of all an engineered system, an online archive or anything at all, and only in an accessory way a proposition of an engineered system, online archive or whatever the case may be. Whereas art used to dream of becoming non art, it now appears to have increasingly opted for a caustic form of calculated redundancy.

Jacques Rancière
The Emancipated Spectator (full text, London: Verso, 2009)
“It is in the power of associating and dissociating that the emancipation of the spectator consists…” The argument, indeed the book, is elegant, powerful but odd. It reads better if one replaces “spectator” with “user”… Rancière vs Rancière…
Friedrich Nietzsche
On the Genealogy of Morality
Cambridge translation of Nietzsche’s ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’
As Nietzsche points out, it was Kant who first introduced the ‘spectatorship’ — or what he paradoxically called ‘disinterested spectatorship’ into aesthetics. See essay III, 6.
Immanuel Kant
Critique of Judgment (Oxford 2007, Walker’s update of Meredith trans)
3rd Critique – Walker’s revision of Meredith’s translation. Excellent pdf document with bookmarks – searchable.
To get to the root of the problem. Upon a close reading, it is remarkable to see the extent to which the conceptual architecture of contemporary art conventions of display is derived from Kantian premises.
James Kirwan
An interesting reading of Kant’s “pre-Wittgensteinian” attempt to bolster up disinterested spectatorship by language-use arguements: “you can’t say ‘beautiful for me’…”
Michele White
The Body and the Screen. Theories of Internet Spectatorship
The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship
An telling case of what can happen when “spectatorship” is conflated with any form of seeing — a common but disastrous error in the age of 2.0 and post-spectatorship.
Claire Bishop
Introduction to collection of writings
There has been a great deal of talk of “participation” in art practice recently, to describe practices breaking with the spectatorship paradigm, while carefully avoiding the unwashed category of usership. Limp, but instructitive.

Expert culture and the usership challenge

As a collective noun, “usership” names not merely a paradoxical but a dialectical relational category. This is what makes it so uncomfortable for many, and why talking about the politics of usership invariably draws contestation. Because usership is a double-edged sword, whose immanence to the merely existent (users use what is, rather than proposing something else, yet through that use, which is also misuse and abuse, transform the very terms of engagement) is at once its immeasurable strength and its inherent stumbling block. Is it possible in a general way to tease out the dialectics of use? By dialectics, here, one would refer to the play between the two opposing but inseparable faces of usership: emancipated and encumbered, one the one hand offering a way out of the impasses of spectatorship-ownership-expertise, yet on the other hand constantly prey to the pitfalls of self interest and prosumerism.

Because usership is not a form of counter-expertise, it stands in a hostile but asymmetrical relationship to expert culture. Users are consistently dismissed by expert culture that discredits their claims as contaminated by self interest. Take the experts of State. Anxious to uphold their regime of exception with respect to the market-driven private sector, public-sector experts are quick to point out that they serve users, rather than customers or clients; and on the other hand, they are the first to again uphold their exceptional status by stigmatizing users (or consumer advocacy groups) as the Trojan Horse of this same market-driven logic… But the person who takes such and such a bus line every morning at dawn to get to work knows something about that line which no urban planning expert, whose perspective is informed by countless disinterested “studies”, can simply never know. This cognitive privilege is user specific. As such, usership at once designates the site where individuals and their comportments and needs are expected, where a space is available for their agency, both defining and circumscribing it; and it refers to the way in which these same users surge up and barge into a universe, which, though accustomed to managing their existence, finds itself thrown off balance by their speaking out as users. In other words – and this is related to Foucault’s theory of political action – it is not as if users burst forth in places where they are not expected, but rather the very immediacy of their presence that is ambivalent, and cannot be reduced to a progressive recognition nor to a mere cooptation by the powers that be. Governance, control, disciplines of all kinds, necessarily produce usership comprised of users and not just rebels or automatons submissive to an exterior norm. Users take on those instances of power closest to them. And in addition to this proximity, or because of it, they do not envisage that the solution to their problem could lie in any sort of future to which the present might or ought to be subordinated (very different in this respect to any revolutionary horizon). They have neither the time to be revolutionary – because things have to change – nor the patience to be reformists, because things have to stop. The radical pragmatism of usership struggles then have this specificity that they renounce power in the name of power. “We are all governed, and as such in solidarity”: such is Foucault’s conception of usership as a model of political agency and action, setting aside both a horizon (in the name of the present alone) and sovereignty (that it, the ultimate identity that he saw between traditional resistance movements and the power which they contested and wanted to transcend).

Michel de Certeau
The Practice of Everyday Life
University of California Press, Berkeley.1984.
“Innumerable ways of playing and foiling the other’s game, that is, the space instituted by others, characterize the… activity of groups which, since they lack their own space, have to get along in a network of already established forces…” MdC
Mackenzie Wark
A Hacker Manifesto
Full Book VersionAs a modern-day, reflexive poacher, the user is often a hacker, in Wark’s expanded understanding of hackership.
Jonathan Hill
institution, creative user, reader, viewer
Refreshing to note how decomplexed architectural theory is with respect to usership, and how the centre of creative gravity has long since shifted from the authorial to the usological axis.
Jonathan Hill
Occupying Architecture – Between the Architect and the User
Interested in how Death of the Author can influence architecture
The very title, “Occupying Architecture,” reads like a definition of the usership challenge to expert culture.

Ownership and the usership challenge

Ownership describes a legal institution that codifies a relationship of exclusivity with respect to an object, or any property construed to be an object, in terms of rights and control. It is made up of complex sets of instruments of regulation and enforcement, and is such a mainstay of liberal ideology that it would virtually self-evident status in majority opinion were it not for… usership, which challenges its very conditions of possibility by insisting on use value and rights of use.

Though radicals have challenged ownership over the centuries, the perspective of usership is original in many respects and may have the potential to turn back the tide on the wholesale privatization of everything. Usership as a community of users has taken on particular importance in 2.0 culture, where inter-cerebral networks of online or offline users generate content, knowledge, affect and value of all kinds. When Google purchased YouTube, how did they calculate the price tag? Not based on the value of the hardware, nor even the software, but as it were on the basis of the user-wear (and tear). They calculated how many people had ever, even just once, used YouTube, and fixed a common price on each and every user — not that they thought all usage is equal, but because it was as a community of use that value had been generated. But this is not just a paradox, it is a scandal. Because none of those value-producing users received anything for the value they produced. Their user-generated surplus value was expropriated, in that case of mass collaboration and countless others. When in the 1970s Jean-Luc Godard quipped that television viewers ought to be paid to watch, it was assumed he was sarcastically commenting on the quality of broadcasting. Thirty-five years on, the remark appears premonitory: if usership generates value, it should be remunerated. If it produces surplus value, great — we may be witnessing the end of work as we know it. But that surplus value must be redistributed within the community that produced it, not foster capital accumulation for a rentier class of owners. Never before has ownership seemed more akin to theft, as Proudhon so flatly described it in 1840. And as ownership seeks to extend the regime of artificial scarcity to the commons of use, withdrawing from common use that which allows usership to produce value, it becomes increasingly mired in a contradiction which can only be its demise. Sooner, let us hope, rather than later.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
What Is Property?
(book) Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – What Is Property? (medium to low quality copy)
Never before has ownership seemed more akin to theft, as Proudhon so flatly described it in the nineteenth century.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Qu’est ce que la propriété ?
The property prejudice…
On sait ce que c’est: c’est le vol. Et pourtant, Hadopi vient nous dire, avec une certaine force de l’évidence, que “le libre c’est le vol.”
Matteo Pasquinelli
PageRank is introduced as a diagram of “cognitive capitalism”, a machine to transform the common intellect into network value. One of the hardest-hitting, counter-intuitive essays on how surplus-value extraction in cognitive capitalism is linked to rentier capitalism and ownership to present day usages.
Maurizio Lazzarato
(essay) Maurizio Lazzarato – From Capital-Labour to Capital-Life
“Capture, both in creation and realization, is always a reciprocal seizure open to the unpredictable and infinite, because the ‘creator’ and the ‘user’ tend to merge.” ML
Clay Shirky
Gin, Television, and Social Surplus
Humorous talk on technology’s transformative power toward society
The redistribution of the “cognitive surplus” generated by usership is one of the most pressing issues of political economy today. Yet most users don’t even realize they are producing surplus value…
originally posted at

Three Crises: 30s – 70s – Now

Here is the outline of a self-organized seminar which we are preparing at Mess Hall in Chicago for the Fall, as one activity of the Slow-Motion Research/Action Collective. It is an outgrowth of Four Pathways through Chaos and the Technopolitics projects, as well as the Public School events around the UC strikes. Hopefully in this seminar we can develop and share a precise but also useful analysis of the current crisis, and lay some foundations for autonomous research and education practices in this city and in collaboration with other groups. Get in touch if you are interested!


GOALS: The seminar program seeks to develop a framework for understanding the present political-economic crisis and for acting against and beyond it. Historical study is integrated with militant research and artistic expression. The program is a first step toward a self-organized university, including Internet resources for sharing research notes and reference materials.

FORMAT: Eight two-part sessions, each four hours long with a half-hour break in the middle. The first part of each session will be a course delivered by Brian Holmes, with readings that may be done in advance or afterwards. Each installment of the course will be accompanied by another presentation, screening, artistic event or organizing session offering some parallel to or resonance with the material; these are developed by a collective working group. Readings will be posted on the web and full course notes as well as reference materials will be made available immediately after each session. Distanced participation or parallel sessions in other cities are welcome.

CONCEPT: The development of capitalism is marked, every thirty or forty years, by the eruption of extended economic crises that restructure the entire system in organizational, technological, financial and geopolitical terms, while also affecting daily life and commonly held values and attitudes. In the course of these crises, conditions of exploitation and domination are challenged by grassroots and anti-systemic movements, with major opportunities for positive change. However, each historical crisis has also elicited an elite response, stabilizing the worldwide capitalist system on the basis of a new integration/repression of a broad range classes, interest groups, genders and minority populations (whose definition, composition and character also change with the times). In the United States, because of its leading position within twentieth-century capitalism, the domestic resolution of each of the previous two crises has helped to restructure not only national social relations, but also the international political-economic order. And each time, progressive demands that emerged from the crisis period have been transformed into ideologies covering a new structure of inequality and oppression. By examining the crises of the 1930s and the 1970s along with the top-down responses and the resulting hegemonic compromises, we will cut through the inherited ideological confusions, gain insight into our own positions within neoliberal society, identify the elite projects on the horizon and begin to formulate our own possible agency during the upcoming period of instability and chaos.


1. Introduction: technopolitical paradigms, crisis, and the formation of new hegemonies.

We begin with a theoretical look at more-or-less coherent periods of capitalist development, known as technopolitical paradigms. During twenty to thirty-year periods, technologies, organizational forms, national institutions and global economic and military agreements all find a working fit that allows for growth and expansion, up to a limit-point where the paradigm begins to encounter conditions of stagnation, internal contradiction and increasing crisis. Autonomist Marxism helps us understand the dynamics of grassroots protagonism during the crisis periods. To grasp the mechanisms whereby systemic order is recreated, we can draw on Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony as the construction of a set of discourses and practices that articulate the behaviors of the diverse classes, in order to secure their consent to a new social hierarchy. Hegemony is first achieved at the national level; but when its formation is successful it spreads throughout world society. The ingredients of a hegemony are moral, aesthetic, philosophical and epistemological; but these abstract categories of thought and imagination are intertwined from the start with economic practices and institutional forms. Hegemony is the force of desire and belief that knits a paradigm together and sustains it despite manifest injustices.

2.Working-class movements and the socialist challenge during the Great Depression.

This session describes the emergence of Fordist-Taylorist mass production in the United States, then turns to economic and geopolitical conditions following the Crash of ‘29. We follow the interaction between labor movements and socialist/communist doctrines, while examining the major institutional innovations of the Roosevelt administration. Can the 1930s be understood as a “regulation crisis” of assembly-line mass production? What are the forces that provoked the crisis? Has the “New Deal” become an idealized figure of class compromise for succeeding generations? What does it cover over?

3. The Council on Foreign Relations during WWII and the US version of Keynesian Fordism.

Only after 1938 was the economic crisis resolved through the state orchestration of innovation and production, effected by wartime institutions. Corporate leaders from the Council on Foreign Relations were directly inducted to the Roosevelt government and planned the postwar monetary and free-trade order enshrined in the Bretton-Woods agreements. How was the intense labor militancy of the 1930s absorbed into the Cold War domestic balance? To what extent did the American experience shape the industrial boom in the Keynesian social democracies of Western Europe and Japan? How were the industrial welfare states supported and enabled by neocolonial trade and resource extraction?

4. The ‘60s revolts, Third-World self-assertion, stagflation and the monetary chaos of the ‘70s.

The brief convergence of labor movements, student revolts and minority rights campaigns in 1968 was a global phenomenon, spurred on by Third World liberation and the struggle in Vietnam. Wildcat strikes, entitlement claims and the political imposition of higher resource prices (notably by OPEC) were all key factors in the long stagnation of the 1970s. We examine the breakdown of Bretton-Woods, the conquest of relative autonomy by Western Europe and Japan and the last surge of decolonization movements in the 60s, followed in the ’70s by the Third World push for a New International Economic Order. We also look at the fear and anxiety that the ’68 revolts produced in ruling classes across the world. Does the US internalize global economic and social contradictions during this period? Which aspects of the social and cultural revolts posed real obstacles to the existing economic structure? Which ones became raw materials for the formation of a new hegemonic compromise?

5. The Trilateral Commission and the transnational hegemony of Neoliberal Informationalism.

The launch of the Trilateral Commission by Nelson Rockefeller and Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1973 is an elite response to the crisis, with concrete political effects: some twenty members of the Commission were named to the Carter administration in 1976. During the decade the coming of “postindustrial society” was announced by sociology, while technoscientific innovations like the microprocessor went into production. Cooperation among trilateral elites was paralleled by financialization, the rise of networks, the creation of transnational futures and options exchanges, etc. However, the Treasury-induced US recession of 1980-82, the “Star Wars” military buildup and the emergence of a new innovation system are specifically American contributions to the new technopolitical paradigm that takes shape in the US in the 1980s, before going global after 1989. So we have to understand the difference and complementarity of Republican and democratic responses to the crisis (the right-wing Heritage Foundation was also founded in 1973). What are the defining features of Neoliberal Informationalism? Who are its beneficiaries – and losers? How is the geography of capitalist accumulation transformed by the new hegemony? What sort of commodity is transmitted over the electronic networks? And what does it mean to be a consenting “citizen” of the trilateral state-system?

6. BRIC countries, counter-globalization, Latin American and Middle Eastern social movements.

With the breakdown of the USSR in 1989, followed by the first Gulf War, the world-space is opened up for transformation by the trilateral economic system. The 1990s witnesses the largest capitalist expansion since the postwar industrial boom, driven by Neoliberal Informationalism. The global boom of the net economy was supposed to be synonymous with “the end of history” and the universal triumph of liberal democracy – but that soon hit the dustbin. After tracking the expansion of trilateral capitalism we focus on the economic rise of the Gulf states and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), as well as the political currents of the counter-globalization movements, Salafi Jihad, Latin American Leftism and finally, the Arab Spring (and following hot summer). Do these diverse economic and political assertions mark the end of the trilateral hegemony and the reemergence of a multipolar order?

7. Financial crisis, climate change and elite attempts to stabilize Neoliberal Informationalism.

Here we examine the inherently volatile dynamics of the informational economy, culminating in the Asian crisis of 1997-98, the dot-com bust of 2000 and finally, the credit crunch of 2008 and the ongoing fiscal crisis of the neoliberal state. The central product of Neoliberal Informationalism now reveals itself to be the financial derivative. Little has been done in the United States to control finance capital, but the debt crisis has massively punished the lower ranks of society and seriously eroded the status of the middle classes, with a major attack on the public university system and a move to cut all remaining welfare-state entitlements. What is the significance of the bailout programs? How have the European Union and Japan faced the crisis? What paths have been taken by the Gulf states, and above all, by China? Is contemporary economic geography now changing? Do we see the beginnings of new alliances among international elites, outside the traditional arenas of trilateral negotiation?

8. Perspectives for egalitarian and ecological social change in the upcoming decade.

In the absence of meaningful reform and redistribution, continued financial turmoil appears certain, along with a reorganization of the monetary-military order. Meanwhile, climate change is already upon us, advancing much faster than previously anticipated. The result of all this is unlikely to be business as usual. What we face is a triple crisis, economic, geopolitical and ecological, with consequences that cannot be predicted on the basis of past experience. Can we identify some of the central contradictions that will mark the upcoming years? Which institutions and social bargains have already come under severe stress? In what ways will the ecological crisis begin to produce political responses? How will class relations within the United States interact with crossborder and worldwide struggles? Is it possible to imagine — and work toward — a positive transformation of the current technopolitical paradigm?


Comments. Ideas. Contributions. Welcome.

EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Organizing Inland

The Inland Empire has emerged as an epicenter for the relentless growth/crash dynamic of global capitalism – forcing workers out of jobs, families out of homes and students out of school. This massive displacement is the context for EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: Organizing Inland.

Just four years ago, you couldn’t find a better symbol of the economic boom than California’s Inland Empire—subdivisions, malls and warehouses were going up everywhere, filling in nearly every last empty spot on the map between LA and the desert. Today it’s hard to find a better symbol of what went wrong. Official unemployment is 15 percent, more than three times what it was in 2006. In the jobs that remain, wages are low and the future uncertain. State and local budgets are in tatters. Students are struggling to stay in school, while families wonder if they can keep their homes. And after a decade of explosive growth, the air quality is as bad as the foreclosure rate. But all over Southern California—from Boron to Fontana to Riverside—people are fighting back and organizing for a just and sane economy in the Inland Empire and beyond.

Part 1 – Neoliberal Appetites (March 3, 2010 at UC-Riverside) 


This event, led by Brian Holmes, focused on neoliberal subjectivity – the ways in which the present economic system both encourages and is encouraged by a set of fundamental assumptions, attitudes and perspectives.

Download the LECTURE (PDF)

Download the FACTS (PDF)

Download the POSTER (PDF)

Part 2 – Public Forum (April 6, 2010 at Universalist Unitarian Church of Riverside) 


Mike Davis, Victor Valle and representatives from seven organizations fighting for justice in the Inland Empire gathered in a public forum about what’s gone wrong and how we can join together to fight for a just and sustainable future.

Victor Valle (author of City of Industry: Genealogies of Power in Southern California) addresses the crowd at the Unitarian Church of Riverside on April 6, 2010.

“You are standing on valuable land…We have to have more occupations. We have to occupy the universities…We have to let ordinary people know what value is in their landscape.”

download mp3

The full text of Victor Valle’s address is available here

organized by Ben Ehrenreich, Ken Rogers & Michael Wilson

Proposition Project

NOTE: SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW CLOSED (we welcome your comments)

In honor of the 2010 U.S. Social Forum and in light of the ongoing economic/social crisis in California, we invited the attendees and all other citizens of the world during the week of June 20 to join us in developing a set of initiatives or ‘propositions’ for debate and consideration for adoption via the ballot initiative process in the State of California.

These initiatives might emerge from one (or more) of three central areas of shared concern:

• Re-Education
• Strategy/Tactics (Occupation, Evacuation, etc)
• Resources

Submitted Propositions:

Prop 1 – People’s seizure of Walmart, Inc. / Communize all Walmarts in State of California
Prop 2 – Occupy Disney / Common-ize Disney
Prop 3 – Truck Stop Autonomization Network Plan
Prop 4 – Guaranteed Minimum Income Act
Prop 5 – Green New Deal
Prop 6 – Lift All Travel Restrictions Across the Border with Mexico
Prop 7 – Legalize All Humans
Prop 8 – Common Fund for Public Education
Prop 9 – Outlaw Commercial Advertising
Prop 10 – Decriminalize Drugs
Prop 11 – Replace Money with Labor Vouchers
Prop 12 – Consumer Goods Priced According to Time Spent Making Said Goods
Prop 13 – Publicly-Owned Industry
Prop 14 – Democratic Decision-Making at Local, National and Union Levels
Prop 15 – Print Labor Value on Dollar Bills
Prop 16 – Abolish Usury / Criminalize Interest as a Form of Income
Prop 17 – Re-purpose 90% of U.S. Military for Domestic Public Works Projects Under Union Authority
Prop 18 – Land Tax on Rentable Value (High Threshold Exempting Farmers)
Prop 19 – Jubilee 2010 – Forgive all Non-Corporate Debt
Prop 20 – One year paid parental leave with guaranteed employment upon return
Prop 21 – Free day care and babysitting
Prop 22 – California Musician Corps (CMP) providing free music in parks, on street corners and beaches, kids’ birthday parties
Prop 23 – Maximum Income Cap (The Hollywood Gives Back Act)
Prop 24 – Government-subsidized health food coops in low income neighborhoods (The No Whole Foods Whole Paycheck Act)
Prop 25 – Disarmament for Social Satisfaction
Prop 26 – Technological Development for Social Satisfaction
Prop 27 – Economic Bill of Rights
Prop 28 – Democratisation of All World Financial and Economic System to Allow for Full Participation by All Countries (DAWFESAFPAC Now!)
Prop 29 – Re-distribute all existing bank assets to credit unions under worker/community control
Prop 30 – Public Ownership of All Large Databases
Prop 31 – The Immediate Abolition of All Private Health Insurance Companies through the Creation of a Single-Payer Health System (with full standard and alternative medical, dental, vision, and mental health coverage for all)
Prop 32 – Public Ownership and Worker/Community Control of the Pharmaceutical Industry
Prop 33 – Rent control for all rental units
Prop 34 – End to home foreclosures
Prop 35 – Public ownership and worker control of the airline industry
Prop 36 – Federally funded auto insurance
Prop 37 – Immediate transition to renewable fuels
Prop 38 – End to the expansion of the interstate highway system
Prop 39 – Fully-funded high-speed national rail system with low-cost access
Prop 40 – Fully-funded development of renewable fuels
Prop 42 – Fully-funded formation of non-profit land trusts and of socially owned, tenant controlled housing cooperatives
Prop 43 – Massive increase in Section 8 housing subsidies
Prop 44 – Fully-funded public housing construction project (low cost, scattered site, community-based, high quality housing)
Prop 45 – Student representation on all governing bodies at educational institutions
Prop 46 – Student, parent, and teacher control of curriculum formation, and in the hiring and dismissal procedures of school personnel, through the formation of local school/community committees
Prop 47 – An egalitarian, progressive educational system based on leading-edge research in non-authoritarian education modalities.
Prop 48 – Guaranteed incomes and grants for artists and performers
Prop 49 – Fully-funded libraries, museums, cultural centers, and historic sites
Prop 50 – Worker/community-owned public utilities
Prop 51 – Free Wi-fi for everyone
Prop 52 – Redefine economic theories of value so as to better account for immaterial labor
Prop 53 – Abolish the drinking age
Prop 54 – Violent social revolution
Prop 55 – The negation of the state and authority
Prop 56 – Free Revolutionary Discipline
Prop 57 – Abolish taxation by the state
Prop 58 – Workers and Community Self-Management. Period.
Prop 59 – Eco-Communes Now.
Prop 60 – Abolish Property.
Prop 61 – Time banks
Prop 62 – Let a million autonomous zones bloom
Prop 63 – Archaic revival
Prop 64 – Clear-eyed resistance without nostalgia
Prop 65 – Permanent revolution
Prop 66 – Evacuation of all corporate institutions
Prop 67 – Evacuation of all government institutions
Prop 68 – Evacuate everything
Prop 69 – Immediately establish a decentralized, federated society of smaller, autonomous communities

(updated June 28, 2010)


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