Continental Drift: Control Society/ Metamorphosis

On the weekend before the March 4th state-wide UC strike, we  invite you to participatein a two-day theory convergence, a “Continental Drift” seminar with the Paris-based theorist, Brian Holmes. Past Drifts has taken a variety of forms in its manifestations at 16 Beaver (2004-2006) in New York, or through the Midwest’s radical culture corridor (2008); and here in Los Angeles it will confront a California whose infrastructure is crumbling, whose government is disfunctional, and whose public education  is in crisis  from  the space of an autonomous education alternative.

Although this Continental Drift is situated here, in a time of  occupations and walkouts, it will connect the changes occurring at our universities to the emergence of a neoliberal control society over the past few decades.

The structure of the weekend will be two-days in four parts. Most parts will be structured as participatory conversations, guided by an interlocutor; togetherwe will explore these themes.

On the first day, we try to understand the massive economic and psychological  shifts that have occurred since the end of the 1960’s.

And on the second day, we will locate possible territories for resistance, autonomy, or invention. Continuing in the spirit of our collective conversations so far, we are leaving the lecture-Q&A format aside for themed discussions.



The Public School
951 Chung King Rd., Chinatown,
Los Angeles, CA 90012


Day 1.
February 27.
Control Society


12:00  Disassociation
facilitators: Liz Glynn, Marc Herbst
2.00  Financialization
facilitators: Aaron Benanav, Zen Dochterman
4.00  Occupationation/Collective Speech
facilitators: Cara Baldwin, Nathan Brown, Maya Gonzalez, Evan Calder Williams
7.00  Day 1 Discussion
facilitators: Brian Holmes, Solomon Bothwell


Day 2.
February 28.

 2:00  Autonomous Spaces

facilitators: Hector Gallegos, Robby Herbst
2.00  Precarity
facilitators: Sean Dockray and Christina Ulke
4.00  Brian Holmes Lecture: Metamorpheus
7.00  Sharable Territories/Bifurcation
facilitators: Ava Bromberg and Jason Smith


More details:

Occupationation/Collective Speech
Cara Baldwin will facilitate a critical discussion on material and cultural responses to economic collapse, collective action and debate with contributors to the international occupations movement Gopal Balakrishnan, Nathan Brown, Maya Gonzalez and Evan Calder Williams. This is discussion will bridge both theory and praxis, including theoretical analysis and debate alongside material and tactical considerations. 

Day 1 Discussion: Class Collapse, or why do the media always come closer?
Let’s take time at the end of the day to look at the big economic picture and how it lives in our bodies. The gradual personalization and miniaturization of the media now seems to be heading for a subcutaneous destination. Why is that happening?

Keynesian policies formerly tried to create effective demand for capitalist production through state investment in the well-being, or at least the consuming-being, of the entire population. Neoliberal policies replaced investment with loans, credit cards and fictional assets (formerly called homes) that have now evaporated in the crisis. The intensification of the control society, both on the advertising and surveillance sides, betrays an immense anxiety over an utter failure to resolve the real problem of overaccumulation. Even the opulent facade of southern California will no longer be able to cover what is already a gaping class divide.

Several unblinkered suggestions will be made about possible developments over the next decade, in order to open up the debate. Let’s try to imagine together where the excluded middle will go. Opportunities? Projects? Dead ends? Dangers?

Autonomous Spaces
Propulsive Utopia
From Autonomous Space Towards Liberated Space: Some Points for Discussion and Debate
The Affinity Group

Brian Holmes: The Flexible Personality

In the late 1990s, many of us gave a try at “weaving the electronic fabric of struggle” (Harry Cleaver). The idea was to use the new communications networks to awaken a social movement on a global scale. But the hero of pop culture in the Internet era turned out to be a sleepwalker: the figure of Morpheus, from The Matrix. The meshwork was much more densely woven than we thought, and the promise of the Swarm became the reality of the Drone.

The proposal from many people today focuses on singular territories: urban gardens, neighborhood spaces, discussion groups, rural experiments, self-organized schools, and so on. Instead of calling it a retreat or a regression, maybe it’s better to use Raul Zibechi’s term, and think of it as “crecimiento interior” (growth inside). What he’s talking about is a kind of intensive questioning that has to be done in relatively smaller groups, in order to figure out how to respond to changed conditions when past experience is no guide to future conflicts and creations.

As a discussion tool and a way to relate to our own weekend microcosmos at The Public School, let’s look at Guattari’s fourfold map of existential Territories, aesthetic Universes, social Flows and conceptual Phyla. The point is not to get fascinated with the verbiage, but to think about how to intensify certain compact experiments in which we are involved, to the point where they overflow their limits and affect, or let themselves be affected, by other experiments. All four zones on the map represent strategic areas where the former left can be reinvented, in the realms of everyday life and reproduction, social movements and collective projects, scientific and epistemological invention, and last but not least, the imaginary, the vision thing.

A note on facilitation:
For us, a facilitator is someone who can understand the potential of the conversation to be had and figures out a way to get the group to walk in  that direction. We have questioned with some detail  the relationship between the exchange value of speakers and the reception of their words. We decided to run the planning of the drift as an open class through the Public School so as to create a horizontal and transparent process; ideally to bring  the act of theoretical creation from mystery to into a  practice done by those who set themselves out on a thought-task. We hope that this is mirrored in the facilitation.

Organized by Zen Doctherman, Cara Baldwin, Jason Smith, Sean Dockray, Liz Glynn, Solomon Bothwell, Christina Ulke, Marc Herbst, Robby Herbst

The Continental Drift is a nomadic seminar organized collaboratively between Brian Holmes and DIY spaces. The first Drift occured at 16 Beaver in NY (2005) and has been held there and elsewhere since. The Drift is a conversation around particular elements of neoliberalism.

The Public School Los Angeles is a school with no curriculum. It is not accredited, it does not give out degrees, and it has no affiliation with the public school system. It is a framework that supports autodidactic activities, operating under the assumption that everything is in everything.


  1. Gustavo Rincon says:

    I am not able to attend but will this event be streamed online? This is an important debate and I hope that all of the communities at large and the current students in remote areas can participate.

  2. undi says:

    +1 with Gustavo,

    please stream, or recorded sessions on Youtube.

  3. So I’ve taken some time to read through the posts here, and I guess this comment risks being lost in the obscurity. Still, I feel some sympathy with that line from Troubled Hubble — “There were old ladies laughin’ / and fat men dancin’ / so we took our chances and joined in the madness,” and so I feel like I should join in the madness here, too. My thoughts: (I) There is a lot of anti-DRM talk that’s being conflated with a pro-piracy viewpoint, and those need to be distinguished. Moreover, we need to distinguish between being “anti-modern-DRM” and being “anti-DRM-in-principle.” So let’s start talking about those distinctions. (II) Modern DRM is technically unsophisticated (hence the swift availability of cracks) and tends to break a game for legitimate users. So, presumably, everybody here (on every side) is anti-modern-DRM, because it sucks ass. The game *is* getting broken for legitimate users in the here-and-now, and the prevention mechanism is *not* preventing much if any piracy. (III) The arguments that are “anti-DRM-in-principle” are much more sparse, with the leading one being implicit: people are anti-DRM-in-principle often because they are anti-modern-DRM. There is a tacit premise here: that DRM will not, in principle, get much better than it is now. That may or may not be true; I don’t know. If you wanted a decent anti-DRM-in-principle argument, it might go something like this: modern distribution mechanisms ensure that the typical pirate doesn’t need to crack DRM him/herself; so the moment that *one* person cracks it, everybody on The Pirate Bay gets access to the crack. It follows that DRM must be so secure that nobody in the cracking community can crack it. But maybe you can argue that this latter point is too unrealistic, or would require a DRM which is much worse than modern DRM is in terms of user-rights, or something like that. (I’ve stolen the general pattern of this argument from various transportation-security arguments, of course — airport security versus terrorists hijacking aircrafts, and the like.) (IV) The arguments that are “pro-piracy” are surprisingly intricate (at least to my view), and shouldn’t just be waved away as a “sense of entitlement” or what have you. I’d propose this: take the pro-piracy discussion away from something like software torrents — with all of the complications of DRM and customer support and the like — and just start talking about, say, torrenting TV shows. For example, one of the pro-piracy arguments seems to sound something like this: suppose that I am, simply put, not going to watch a show on television directly. Maybe I just hate my television; or perhaps I don’t own one, or perhaps I am in the Netherlands (which I am) and the show will not air here; or whatever other reason you have. The reason doesn’t matter much: suppose that I want to watch show X, but I refuse or am unable to watch X by television. The pro-piracy argument seems to go this way: “listen, this person is firstly a sunk cost: you just can’t get revenue out of him/her, so there’s little point in trying. And secondly, we could make somebody better off (namely, this person), without making anybody worse off, if we specifically allow him to pirate this show. Since worrying about sunk costs is a waste and making someone better off without making anybody worse off is a good thing, we should be all for this person’s personal piracy.” I’m, naturally, putting this into my own words. Probably, those of you on the pro-piracy side have never heard of “sunk costs” or “Pareto optimality” (which is what the second idea is), but I see this as sort of an underlying theme to your arguments. I’m not sure how I feel about that sort of argument yet, but I wanted to comment that it’s surprisingly more nuanced than I thought it would be. (V) Maybe it’s just my status as somebody who’s walking into this with an anti-pirate mind, but if the pro-pirate side was refreshingly nuanced, the anti-pirate side that I have seen is surprisingly crude. “Memyself” starts off by getting surprisingly legalistic on what should be an ethical issue; and then (amazingly) goes on to make the statement that “Just because you don’t have to pay does not mean a financial transaction isn’t occurring.” Doesn’t that premise seem like the pro-piracy side can, y’know, co-opt it? If you tell the pirate, “well, you didn’t pay for the game,” why doesn’t the pirate say, “listen, just because I didn’t pay for a game, it doesn’t mean that a financial transaction isn’t occurring; so leave me alone”…? On the other hand, “talia,” in the recent “10:51am” comment, in fact advocates a sort of ethical nihilism in the presence of the law: in other words, that the laws /are/ right, and if you think they are wrong, you will yourself be wrong until those laws are changed to suit your position. Guys. Ethical nihilism (or, more appropriately, ethical relativism relativised to the local laws) is shooting yourself in the foot. If you want to argue that piracy is unethical, you’ll need to first believe that “ethics” means something. And “Edgerunner” avoids presenting any particular arguments about why piracy is unethical, just deciding to leave it down to the assertion “you are a thief.” I don’t think that will convince any pirates out there; and I think it’s an error to automatically use that particular term in this case. (A thief is a certain class of person with a certain kind of mindset, not just a certain class of person who has, at some point, done a particular act. I have engaged in the petty larceny of pens and copier paper; but to equate me with a professional burglar is to make a serious error. Perhaps the term is justified; but you’ve got to *show* and *persuade* that that’s true: not just assert it and run off.) Guys, it seems like there has to be some better basis to condemn software and television piracy. The pirates apparently don’t accept that it hurts the developers, since they tend to think of themselves as “eventual buyers” or something like that: “I’ll buy it if I like it,” et cetera. And I doubt that we can pull up the sorts of statistics that would convince them that it really does hurt, since they’re convinced that it might help enough to offset the hurt. Would the pro-pirate side, for example, accept that an artist should have the rights to determine what groups are allowed to be supported by their music? (This came up in this year’s US presidential campaign: the McCain camp apparently was using songs by some liberal musician who didn’t like it too much. Does that musician have a right to complain?)