Capital can't be reasoned with - the importance of affective politics

Students block police from intervening in a demonstration

When we limit ourselves to reasoned critique we cut ourselves off from the everyday experiences of life under capitalism from which any revolutionary rupture must grow.

David Graeber's article on 'bullshit jobs' seems to have struck a chord, being widely republished and discussed, as well as inspiring numerous responses. One of these in particular, which takes on the slightly broader theme of ‘zombie social democracy’, is very much worth reading. However, I think this debate raises a broader political question that's possibly more significant than the contested specifics here.

Graeber's style is very much that of the anthropologist - where the truth of a narrative isn't so much in its literal veracity as in its resonance and affective power, its meaning in a given context. This understandably infuriates Marxists, whose approach is one of critique, and who, intent on dispelling mystifications, set about pointing out all the errors. Father Xmas isn't even real! Read some value theory!

The result of this seems to be a split between emotion and reason. On the one hand, a 'wrong' analysis which resonates widely, on the other hand 'correct' critiques that seem only to circulate amongst the already-convinced.1 This seems symptomatic of a wider problem: we can have the sharpest, most erudite and incisive critiques going, but movements run on affect, so we're stuck talking amongst ourselves.

This is not to argue in favour of sloppy theorising and hasty generalisations, but to make the case for an affective politics which resonates in a way which links everyday life to the critique of capitalism. Graeber's choice of work, and mobilisation of anti-work affect, seems promising in this respect.

In general, I think there's a wariness amongst libertarian communists towards emotive politics. All too often, they're seen as inherently reactionary, or even deceitful or manipulative. Maurice Brinton's The irrational in politics is a classic text in this vein. From the Home Office and street racist refrain of 'go home' to the moralised trope of defending 'women and children', affectively charged slogans do seem to have an affinity with reactionary politics. Right-wing affective politics are also often downright counterfactual. See for example the fears of Sharia Law in the UK, or the weird and wonderful paranoias of the US Christian right and the likes of Glenn Beck. Libertarian communists understandably tend to prefer reasoned and empirically grounded analysis. Even to the point of packing 1,000 tightly argued words into a double-sided A5 leaflet (a pet-hate of mine).

The historian EP Thompson's work on the 18th century English bread riots is instructive here. He found that hunger alone couldn't account for the riots. Rather, it was the violation of collective norms - typically merchants seen to be exploiting food shortages to hike prices - which led to bread riots. Thompson writes that "an outrage to these moral assumptions, quite as much as actual deprivation; was the usual occasion for direct action." Collective norms are part of the material conditions of the class struggle. That said, the norms Thompson identified could be seen as fundamentally conservative, in the sense of defending already-established patterns of life and seeking to restore the status quo ante.2

However, in Joe Burns' book Reviving the strike, he shows that the historic US labour movement, even its right-wing bureaucrats, accepted the slogan 'labour is not a commodity'. It's not hard to draw anti-capitalist conclusions from such a normative statement.3 For Burns, the violation of this norm everywhere in capitalism was the affect that fuelled the wild strikes in defiance of the cops, courts and the Pinkertons up until the 1930s. This suggests that moral or normative politics need not be conservative. Even if we rely on already-existing norms, those norms could be in conflict with the prevailing capitalist order.

Therefore I'd argue there's nothing inherently reactionary or manipulative about normative politics and the mobilisation of affect. The point is to resonate with everyday experiences in a way that's compatible with the critique of capitalism, rather than watering down the critique to appeal to the (imagined) popular audience. Such watering down is common on the left. Graeber's bullshit jobs piece is certainly guilty, singling out finance capital for criticism rather than capitalism itself. But while Marxists are right to reject such 'truncated critiques', it often comes at the cost of underestimating the moral or normative dimension of the class struggle.

It shouldn't be too hard to articulate an affective politics compatible with anti-capitalist critique. Anti-work seems like a good place to start. A recent Gallup poll found that 70% of American workers hate their jobs, 50% are just going through the motions to collect a paycheck and 20% are actively disengaged, putting energy into undermining their workplace. The situation is horrible of course, but it's a maelstrom of anti-work affect which goes some way to explaining the resonance of the 'bullshit jobs' piece.

Work is for the most part shit. It dominates our lives. Even potentially fulfilling roles are rendered dull and repetitive by compulsion - the horizontal compulsion to seek a wage and the hierarchical compulsion of managerial power. Work chews us up and spits us out. Work stresses us to breaking point that tosses us aside for fresh meat when we finally break down. Work's a vampire sucking on our lives and on our loved ones. It's miserable. Fuck work.

Recomposition's work stories are one of the few examples I've seen that really work to link the affective everyday experiences of work to both a (self-)organising practice and an anti-capitalist critique. I think we need more of this, not as an alternative to rigorous theoretical work but as a gateway and a complement. At one end of the spectrum short slogans summarise or even help enact collective norms, and work on a logic of affective resonance. At the other, detailed, reasoned, theoretical and analytical tomes make sense of the situation and work on a logic of reasoned persuasion and empirical rigour. These in turn help reinforce and validate the resonating affects.4

We neglect the normative and affective dimensions of the class struggle at our peril: these are the stuff movements are made of. We aren't alone in our feelings of boredom, misery, and rage. The affective resonance that comes from talking about them helps establish the collectivity that is the basis for any movement to against the present conditions.

  • 1. We could say the truth of 'bullshit jobs' lies in this resonance not in its specific theoretical and empirical claims, which have been debunked by Kliman and others.
  • 2. This is also a charge that can be aimed at Graeber's politics of debt jubillee, i.e. forgiveness of debts in order to preserve the established order.
  • 3. For any Marxists itching to point out that, actually, labour is not a commodity, labour power is, this is exactly the pedantic preference for theoretical correctness over affective resonance that I'm talking about!
  • 4. For example most anti-work or anti-cop feeling arises from experience, but analyses showing the structural and social relational logics of work or policing help validate those feelings and furnish them with theoretical and analytical tools to make sense of them.

Posted By

Joseph Kay
Sep 19 2013 10:10

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  • We neglect the normative and affective dimensions of the class struggle at our peril: these are the stuff movements are made of.

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sometimes explode
Sep 25 2013 22:31

As they were my tweets, I'll answer smile

I'm not really sure where the idea comes from that affective communication= "manipulation & half-truth". I'm also not sure why, Caiman, you think I'm advocating affective communication (which could just as well be read as "communication of affect") as a recruitment strategy.

I'm not at all interested in trying to build a mass anarchist organisation, and if I were it wouldn't be through lying. An example of "post-spectacular" strategies was even pointed to in my tweets- the work of the DSG. If affective communication in propaganda is half-truth deployed to building mass organisations, then that accusation has to be levelled at the DSG. So I find it a "bizarre suggestion" that that is anything like what I've said. If the suggestion is there in my tweets then maybe I need to be a bit more careful with my wording.

Also, to say it again, I'm not saying that those strategies are the same or are necessarily related to affective politics. I am saying that paying attention to the production of affect is.

Caiman del Barrio
Sep 25 2013 23:05
arran james wrote:
I'm not really sure where the idea comes from that affective communication= "manipulation & half-truth". I'm also not sure why, Caiman, you think I'm advocating affective communication (which could just as well be read as "communication of affect") as a recruitment strategy.

The idea comes from your suggestion that we should stop seeing the strategies of the spectacle as 'evil in themselves' (or words to that effect) which I understood as saying it's OK to use the deceptions of 'the spectacle' (or whatever you want to call it) in order to communicate to people in such a way that they will respond in the way you want them to (ie manipulate them).

Quote:
I'm not at all interested in trying to build a mass anarchist organisation

Yes, the instrumentalism more comes from the OP, whose tone I didn't disagree with at all. I only started to worry when I saw your tweets linked to them. wink

sometimes explode
Sep 26 2013 01:53
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
The idea comes from your suggestion that we should stop seeing the strategies of the spectacle as 'evil in themselves' (or words to that effect) which I understood as saying it's OK to use the deceptions of 'the spectacle' (or whatever you want to call it) in order to communicate to people in such a way that they will respond in the way you want them to (ie manipulate them).

The strategies of the spectacle and the spectacle itself are different beasts. Strategies of the spectacle are really just techniques, ways of speaking, the presentation of images. In a way, we could say that groups like The Metropolitan Indians were doing this kind of post-spectacle stuff.

It has nothing to do with "manipulation" if we mean by that the coerced implementation of ways of thinking. If we mean something like manipulation in a non-moral sense, in the sense that its embodied metaphorical content points, then yes, sure, it is manipulative. Not manipulation as devious psychological wargames (this is what post-spectacle is meant to counter), but manipulation as arrangement, movement, collage- the attempt to produce an effect and an affect.

I'm simply talking about not ignoring the massive build up of techniques and means of communicating that exist all over the place. Look at Novara media: sure they have minority appeal and a minority audience, and they have overtly theoretical content, but its presented in an affective way...and, in embracing streaming radio and (soon) video content they are using the tools of spectacle against itself.

Hell..even Class War's tabloid approach was close to what I'm talking about.

But just to be clear...all of this is secondary to the more important aspect of face-to-face affectivity. This is one of main reasons people gather, discuss, form groups, attend protests: to express a shared affective climate and being together as bodies.

Joseph Kay
Sep 26 2013 06:57
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Yes, the instrumentalism more comes from the OP, whose tone I didn't disagree with at all.

Ok, I know you said it's arran's tweets which worried you. I just quoted them for reference not endorsement, and I'll let him speak for himself. But I'd like to push you on this, cos 'instrumentalism' and 'deception' are strong claims.

I don't think it's right to equate affect with deception, which seems to rest on an implicit separation from reason, equated with truth. You can lie with reasoned discourse (see: the respectable press, police testimony), and you can tell the truth with affect (e.g. everyone hates their jobs). Anti-work sentiment isn't a lie. It's congruent with both our own feelings, which are shared by many others (see the referenced Gallup poll), and can be reasoned with a theoretical reading of Marx, the refusal of work etc.

In terms of instrumentalism, how does saying something that resonates with people reduce them to mere means? If we were cyncially saying things we didn't believe (i.e. deception), then yeah. But the point is more to say that because of our material position in society - e.g. as workers - we share an affective relation with lots of others. That's a basis for collectivity and collective action, but if you want people to do something together (strike, say) you still need to persuade them (i.e. accept their agency). I don't see how anything in the OP would allow you to trick them, even if you wanted to.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 26 2013 07:37
Quote:
In terms of instrumentalism, how does saying something that resonates with people reduce them to mere means? If we were cyncially saying things we didn't believe (i.e. deception), then yeah. But the point is more to say that because of our material position in society - e.g. as workers - we share an affective relation with lots of others. That's a basis for collectivity and collective action, but if you want people to do something together (strike, say) you still need to persuade them (i.e. accept their agency). I don't see how anything in the OP would allow you to trick them, even if you wanted to.

So without getting into too many details, this is something that's come up as a criticism of the SF workplace organiser training. (Note: I really don't want to get into too many details of the training on a public forum, so if folks respond, let's keep it general.)

The training suggests - to use the language of this thread - finding affective issues your workmates are willing to confront with management about. It also suggests looking at existing social networks (certainly friendship groups are affective relations) in your workplace and using them to make your organising easier and more effective. This has been called manipulation more than once.

The thing is though, I find that a really tough position. On one hand, anarchism is rightly criticisized for being theoretical and lacking strategies for being relevant to people's lives. On the other, attempts to link up with our workmates on a more emotional/affective level can be labeled manipulative if we do it in any sort of strategic way.

JK, any chance you had any of this in mind when you wrote the blog? Or, if not, I'd be curious to hear more about how/if your recent organising experiences (again, be as general as you want) spurred the writing of this blog?

Joseph Kay
Sep 26 2013 08:19

The organiser training wasn't at the front of my mind when I wrote this. My immediate motivation was that one of my close friends/family has been forced to give up their trade (chef) due to a workplace injury, their body broken in less than a decade. Another is off with stress, in an office where 2/3rds of the staff are just breaking down - stress vomiting, muscular spasms, going into shock (pushed that hard because 'mere' mental distress isn't a reason to slack, for managerial pricks - 'there's 50 applicants for every job so be thankful' etc). Much as I love Marx, I don't think reaching for the Capital chapter on the working day is an adequate response to this. Rage, love, empathy are.

But this does definitely apply to organising too. I edited out an example from the draft OP (it seemed petty next to the EP Thompson/Joe Burns examples). Basically, the anti-privatisation movement at Sussex very much ran on affect. It's not that we didn't make lots of reasoned, footnoted arguments. I'm sure they helped firm up peoples' beliefs in fact. It's more that what drew people in, what lead people to act, was more to do with affect. Being together, experiencing power, hope, rage, solidarity/love, in a way that's hard to articulate without sounding like a daft hippy. When me and some workmates attended a banned lunchtime demonstration, in defiance of the high court, despite tens of riot vans parked up all over campus, we weren't driven by a critique of the class nature of the state apparatus, but by the mixture of anger, fear, anxiety, love (agape not eros) that circulated among us and bound us together.

And like I say, that's not to argue against reasoned arguments or critiques of the class nature of the state apparatus. I think these are important, and can help us make sense of the affective relations of struggle we experience. But the affective is primary, movements run on affect. In an organising context, that means conversations and listening more than leaflets and arguing. I find it odd if that's seen as manipulative, as if the only true position is being beligerant, not listening, and being indifferent to others' feelings (see also: masculinity).

Joseph Kay
Sep 26 2013 10:15

Just to add, I think this also opens up more avenues for analysis and critique. E.g. at Sussex the way the campus trade unions, principally Unison, sabotaged and demobilised things could be understood as affective management. Slowing things down (allowing affects to diffuse), stopping organising meetings (disrupting the circulation of affects until we started organising meetings ourselves), spreading disinformation (knowingly or unknowingly i don't know) to sow doubt and confusion (e.g. claiming it's illegal to strike against outsourcing, that you can't have a trade dispute if management aren't negotiating, and then later, that you can't have a trade dispute if management are negotiating)...

The law itself can be seen in these terms, with the statutory notice periods, the restrictions on face-to-face direct democracy etc. When you compare the dynamics of mass strike waves in Brecher's 'Strike!' or present day Bangladesh with UK industrial relations law, they're diametrically opposed, and I think diffusing and distrupting the circulation of affect is one of the main ways the law prevents struggles arising, or spreading when they do. Though I have to say Unison weren't just obeying/enforcing the law, they invented imaginary laws and refused to do things they were legally entitled to do (like enter trade dispute, or do an indicative ballot, or an industrial action ballot).

sometimes explode
Sep 26 2013 12:15

In the end all the criticism, whether of me or of Joseph Kay (I'd like to think we're not miles apart on this though), seems to come down to the spurious affect/reason=lie/truth relation. As I've kept trying to stress this distinction is itself a fabrication, the great old Cartesian lie.

And as I keep saying, this isn't a point of pure philosophy (although its already there in the Stoics, in Spinoza, in Nietzsche, in Foucault, Deleuze etc) it is a finding grounded in contemporary neuroscience.

Affect is always already. Tapping into- seeking resonances with- isn't instrumentality. In fact, if anything is instrumentalisation it is the reduction of human beings to rational machines without affect. "The rational animal divorced from affect" might already be a pretty good encapsulation of the idea of a One Dimension Man.

Caiman del Barrio
Sep 26 2013 12:38

OK for me to continue in this, we need to define what Arran James means by 'post-spectacle'. Is s/he claiming that the spectacle no longer exists?

More generally, I have to say I'm in agreement with Martin & Fingers' earlier contributions: for a discussion which is - effectively (heh) - about how to relate to people in terms that will galvanise them, there is an incredibly convoluted body of complex ideas & terminologies floating around which serve as a barrier to comprehension for folk like me, who don't have a degree in humanities or psychology and don't read much theory. Like I say, my interest in this thread piqued cos i like to write & enjoy reading tracts on the 'affective'/personal cost of capital on individuals and groups, not cos I'm au fait with the ultra-left/critical theory debate around these issues.

For example, Arran writes:

Quote:
Look at Novara media: sure they have minority appeal and a minority audience, and they have overtly theoretical content, but its presented in an affective way...and, in embracing streaming radio and (soon) video content they are using the tools of spectacle against itself.

If this is what you meant by using 'the strategies of the spectacle', then I'm not sure who you're arguing against (noone on Libcom, I'm quite sure...it's been 8 years since we drove the primmos out!) & I'm not sure what part of using broadcast media can be said to be 'affective'. FTR, I wouldn't say Novara is particularly affective, in fact, at times, it becomes a bit bogged down critical theory and/or economist jargon IMO. It's no coincidence that they broadcast on Resonance, a niche (albeit quality!) local alternative arts station after all (as opposed to, say, LBC wink ). What are their listener figures? I don't wanna criticise them, cos I have a lot of respect for both of the presenters & what I've heard of the new series seems a bit more accessible, but I'm not sure exactly what your argument is here.

OK, Joseph Kay:

Joseph Kay wrote:
I don't think it's right to equate affect with deception, which seems to rest on an implicit separation from reason, equated with truth.

I didn't, or at least, I didn't intend to; rather, like I say, it was the notion of using 'spectacular strategies' which irked me. For my part, i actually think there's often a lot more truth in affective/personal/emotionally-generated depictions of capitalism than the mere statistics (lies, damn lies, etc...).

Also, I'm playfully enjoying the irony of you reaching for a Gallup poll (a 'fact') to support your assertion. wink

Quote:
In terms of instrumentalism, how does saying something that resonates with people reduce them to mere means? If we were cyncially saying things we didn't believe (i.e. deception), then yeah. But the point is more to say that because of our material position in society - e.g. as workers - we share an affective relation with lots of others. That's a basis for collectivity and collective action, but if you want people to do something together (strike, say) you still need to persuade them (i.e. accept their agency). I don't see how anything in the OP would allow you to trick them, even if you wanted to.

Yes, quite, like I say, I liked your OP (even if my English teacher's eyes would have simplified it a bit wink ). The part I put in bold above is absolutely key here: and relates to the notion of self-emancipation as a means of breaking the (post-?)spectacle, rather than trying to wrestle ourselves onto the spectacle's steering wheel to drive in the direction we consider appropriate for other people's needs.

Perhaps i shouldn't have put 'instrumentalism' last night at 1am. Perhaps the word I wanted was 'praxis': the process of converting ideas into practice. That strips it of any pejorativeness right?

Joseph Kay
Sep 26 2013 14:03

In terms of 'post-Spectacle', I understood that as 'using some of the techniques of the spectacle against it'. The example being DSG. I'm all for high production values, and I'm not convinced that a lot of the media output of radical groups serves much purpose (though on the other hand I know e.g. Catalyst gets read in places Twitter doesn't, so I'm not doing a Paul Mason and waxing lyrical over new media).

But maybe I'm just a diehard modernist (pre-postmodernist? fuck knows), but I tend to think you need content before communications. Arran's example of Bernays I think goes further - arguing the right communications can create the content to which they speak. I can't think of any examples of that in an anti-capitalist context though. Kathi Weeks argues that's the strength of demanding a basic income, that the demand creates the movement, but I'm not convinced.

In terms of jargon etc, I got the OP down to a Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level of a school leaver (11.6). No idea how accurate that is, but that's a lot lower than it started out! Though I think that measures sentence complexity - nested clauses etc (like this) - as opposed to vocabulary? I'm happy to explain any words or phrases I use and if I can't do it in plain English feel free to call bullshit.

Nate
Sep 26 2013 15:53
Joseph Kay wrote:
when I wrote this. My immediate motivation was that one of my close friends/family has been forced to give up their trade (chef) due to a workplace injury, their body broken in less than a decade. Another is off with stress, in an office where 2/3rds of the staff are just breaking down - stress vomiting, muscular spasms, going into shock (pushed that hard because 'mere' mental distress isn't a reason to slack, for managerial pricks - 'there's 50 applicants for every job so be thankful' etc). Much as I love Marx, I don't think reaching for the Capital chapter on the working day is an adequate response to this. Rage, love, empathy are.

It seems like one thing going on in this thread is moving back and forth between talking about the importance of what folk are calling affect, and that bit of the conversation sometimes veers toward actually doing/sharing/whatever that kind of thing - telling stories and whatnot. And then there's theorizing the importance of affect and why it is or isn't used or how. To put it abstract terms, this is moving back and forth between (or at least it makes me think about the difference between) a more operationalized conversation (actually doing a bit of the affect, or like practical tips/rules of thumb for practitioners, I think the Workers Power column in the Industrial Worker has tried to run this kind of writing sometimes) and a more theoretical conversation. I think often in our sorts of circles the first is thought of as kind of dumb or simplistic and the second is thought of as smart. As people talked about before that tends to line up with gender lines. It's also I think a pretty common thing with a division between practitioners and critics (I have a relative who is a really talented musician in a technical sense - can play complicated guitar parts in weird time signatures very quickly etc - and very critical of a lot of music on technical grounds, but he doesn't write music and so doesn't get that there's important skills involved in composition. So he'll be like "that pop music is crap" because it's not dissonant enough or whatever, with no recognition of the intelligence involved in creating music people care about. Or as another parallel, someone really good at playing a sport or caring for a child does all kinds of complicated activities very quickly. A neurologist who can't do those activities as well might be able to give a sophisticated account of what that person is doing, and that will seem more intelligent than the performance of that activity itself. Sorry, I'm rambling now.)

Anyway, I wanted to say about this injury stuff in particular, I think this is a place where theoretical work and this stuff on affect, like actually communicating affectively more than most theory tends to do, I think injury's a place where that lines up. At least in my life. A few year ago I realized that every member of my immediate family growing up has suffered a fairly severe workplace injury at least once, in various kinds of jobs. But we've never really talked about it, let alone talked about it in an emotionally charged way. So after I started thinking about it it was like I saw this really important aspect of my family's life that has shaped a lot (like where people moved, what jobs they worked and so when people were home or weren't), and also just that we've had these really crappy experiences that everyone has mostly just endured in isolation. That's partly a matter of the weirdness and unfortunateness of my family and how we relate but it's not reducible to that I think. I think there's also structural reasons that make people less likely to talk about the non-economic (or non-monetary anyway) costs of working class life. I don't know what all they are but I think getting at that in a theoretical way can help explain this, and it ought to be tied to pushing past that silence and getting at those costs and miseries.

I've totally had similar experiences as JK says below. I think this is common and also there are often disconnects around this in the left, at least the parts that prefer theoretical vocabulary/see theory as more intelligent. Because being like "this just matters a great deal, experientially" is different from being able to say "our activity is strategically important because XYZ analysis and program." I've often struggled with this because most of what I've been involved in has been driven way more by a felt sense of importance than it's been about something I know how to justify theoretically (let alone something planned out and strategized well in advance). Final thing, I think this column is relevant to this conversation: http://libcom.org/library/how%E2%80%99s-campaign-going

Joseph Kay wrote:
Basically, the anti-privatisation movement at Sussex very much ran on affect. (...) what drew people in, what lead people to act, was more to do with affect. Being together, experiencing power, hope, rage, solidarity/love, in a way that's hard to articulate without sounding like a daft hippy. When me and some workmates attended a banned lunchtime demonstration, in defiance of the high court, despite tens of riot vans parked up all over campus, we weren't driven by a critique of the class nature of the state apparatus, but by the mixture of anger, fear, anxiety, love (agape not eros) that circulated among us and bound us together.(...) the affective is primary, movements run on affect. In an organising context, that means conversations and listening more than leaflets and arguing. I find it odd if that's seen as manipulative, as if the only true position is being beligerant, not listening, and being indifferent to others' feelings (see also: masculinity).
Chilli Sauce
Sep 26 2013 19:34
Quote:
claiming...that you can't have a trade dispute if management aren't negotiating, and then later, that you can't have a trade dispute if management are negotiating

I'd be keen to hear more about that. I have no doubt that they'll be a long piece at some point about the PUU and some details about this (Unison's finagling and the language they used to justify it) would be worthwhile to include, imo.

kingzog
Sep 27 2013 19:49

Arran James wrote:

Quote:
Still, the way that you place affect/emotion on one side and reason/truth on the other belies a Cartesian understanding

No, I just argued that we should prioritize critique over just making emotional appeals and that the best appeals are based in strong critiques.

I didn't put them in contradiction, in fact, I was trying to offer a way to connect them.

kingzog
Sep 27 2013 19:52

Arran James:

Quote:
The idea that we have to choose between truth and emotion seems odd to me.

and I never said we had to choose between truth and emotion. I said our emotional appeals need to be based in strong critiques. You should re-read what I wrote.

fingers malone
Sep 27 2013 20:48

I don't think there is necessarily any contradiction between truth and emotion, other posters have said that already anyway but you can be emotional and be telling the truth.

Seems to me like everyone is thinking of affect in terms of a message, like it's densely worded pamphlets with footnotes vs high production quality videos or something. But doing affective politics isn't fundamentally about getting out a 'message' it's about what you do, how you treat people, do you stick by people after they've been sacked or do you do drive by politics, do you care about them as real people, do you listen to them, do you respect them.

A lot of the way affect works in workplace struggle is along the lines of "we helped you out with that problem didn't we? We stood by you. You're gonna back the strike now, aren't you?" which relies on you having actually cared about and put time into the person's problem in the first place.

fingers malone
Sep 27 2013 21:33

Some more thoughts on this:

Firstly, I've been noticing for a while that loads of what I do depends on relationships that have built up over a long time, eg some strike linkup stuff we were doing at one point was based on contacts going back to the early nineties, same with some non workplace stuff. Problem is, for a lot of people especially those in their twenties I think things just don't really work like that any more, in that case what will we do, how will we build up those kinds of relationships of trust?

I know some people think "oh that's not a problem we have all these exciting new kinds of relationships on our exciting new technology, I am in touch with 20,000 people through my smart phone." Ok that would be really good for calling a protest, but other types of actions, ones that are more difficult? I mean, I don't know right, maybe we will actually see, in the future, strikes through twitter. But I think some kinds of actions demand stronger connections and more emotional commitment than others, and I worry that those strong connections aren't necessarily there.

Wider workers solidarity in the past meant that people would strike in defence of people in another part of the country that they'd never met, but that did depend on a specific type of class conciousness that is weaker all the time now, and also on a level of confidence that other people would do the same for you, and various mechanisms in place like workplace levies and other forms of solidarity which made taking action more feasible (levies were a system where all the workers in a workplace would be contributing a small sum from their pay each week to a another group of workers on strike elsewhere.)

We used to have a lot of unglamorous, bread and butter solidarity holding things together. I know all this is pretty much gone now. But I think it was much more important than a lot of people realise and I think that it made a lot of our struggles possible. Now it's gone, ok I have to learn to live in this brave new world but we really, seriously need to think about what we replace it with if we want to be able to conduct really conflictive struggles without people getting seriously fucked over afterwards.

Pennoid
Sep 28 2013 15:02

Bread and Roses anyone?

Tyrion
Sep 28 2013 20:56

Great blog! I think the point about an anti-work emphasis is very important. In addition to what JK wrote (that no one likes work), an anti-work emphasis also cuts through common misunderstandings of communism that equate it with brutal workplace discipline of the Stalinist sort.