autonomia reading group Birmingham University

Discussion Notes on Let’s Spit on Hegel 2/9/2011

The question that both guided and helped to clarify points in our discussion was ‘What is the specific autonomist gesture in Let’s Spit on Hegel?’ Here, much of our discussion focused on the master-slave dialectic and the rejection of subsumption. The following paragraph, taken from page six, clearly maps outs this rejection:

Two positions coexist in Hegel: one interprets woman’s destiny in terms of the principle of femininity, while the other sees in the slave not an unchanging principle of essence, but rather a human condition, the historical realization of the gospel maxim that “the last shall be first.” Had Hegel recognized the human origin of woman’s oppression, as he did in the case of the slave’s, he would have had to apply the master-slave dialectic in her case as well. But in doing so he would have encountered a serious obstacle. For, while the revolutionary method can capture the movement of the social dynamics, it is clear that woman’s liberation could never be included in the same historical schemes. On the level of the woman-man relationship, there is no solution which eliminates the other; thus the goal of seizing power is emptied of meaning. Emptying of meaning the goal of seizing power is the distinctive feature of the struggle against the patriarchal system as a concurrent and successive stage to the master-slave dialectic. (6)

What renders the master-slave dialectic inoperative? For Rivolta Femminile it is the irreducible difference between woman and man—this relation evacuates the master-slave dialectic of any reductive or subsumptive power. On the one hand, this irreducible difference calls for a radical critique of equality. Here, women cannot simply be included with the realm patriarchal power or equated with the privileged male subject position. Therefore, equality as a process of inclusion can only manifest as “what is offered as legal rights to colonized people” and/or the “world of legalized oppression and one-dimensionality” (4).  There was some debate and admittedly some confusion as to the status and use of the term humankind. It is used throughout the text and would seem to present the very problem that is being critiqued in master-slave dialectic. Humankind could very well provide the fundamental category to which the man-woman relation is reduced or subsumed. However, we ultimately rejected this reading. On the other hand, this irreducible difference positions women as a revolutionary class. For, this rejection of the master-slave dialectic extends to what the collective refers to as Marxist-Leninist ideology. Where Marx and Lenin did not include women in class composition or integral to a revolutionary schema women are understood to both comprise the working class and open up its revolutionary possibilities.

Our discussion of selected chapters from Steve Wright’s Storming Heaven was brief. One movement that did present itself as necessary to situating the Autonomia movement was the simultaneous generalization of the proletariat and the localization of politics. With the formation of the Autonomia movement came the inclusion of groups heretofore excluded from the proletariat as well as an intense focus on the factory floor.