The Commoner journal

Archive of the online autonomist marxist journal The Commoner. Founded by Massimo de Angelis in 2001.

In the beginning there is the doing, the social flow of human interaction and creativity, and the doing is imprisoned by the deed, and the deed wants to dominate the doing and life, and the doing is turned into work, and people into things. In this crazy world revolts are practices of hope.

This journal is about living in a world in which the doing is separated from the deed, in which this separation extends in to an ever increasing number of life spheres, and a world in which revolts against this separation are ubiquitous.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 2, 2021

The Commoner #1

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Issue 1 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019


Electric new commons – Franco Barchiesi: Delivery From Below, Resistance From Above. Electricity and the Politics of Struggle for People’s Needs in Tembisa [Editors Note: Not available through Wayback Machine]

Shall we kill the banks? – George Caffentzis: Varieties of Bancocide: Left and Right Critiques of the World Bank and IMF.

Flexibility for whom? – Anne Costello & Les Levidow: Flexploitation Strategies: UK Lessons for Europe.

The rat race disguised as freedom – Massimo De Angelis: Global Capital, Abstract Labour, and the Fractal-Panopticon.

War is on the agenda – Silvia Federici – War, Globalization, and Reproduction. [Editors Note: Not available through Wayback Machine]

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The Commoner #2: Enclosures, the Mirror Image of Alternatives

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Issue 2 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

Michael Perelman: The Secret History of Primitive Accumulation and Classical Political Economy.
Midnight Notes Collective: New Enclosures
Silvia Federici: Debt crisis, Africa and the new enclosures
Massimo De Angelis: Marx and primitive accumulation: The continuous character of capital’s “enclosures”
Werner Bonefeld: The Permanence of Primitive Accumulation: Commodity Fetishism and Social Constitution

The articles collected in this second issue of The Commoner deal with some aspects of the multi faced reality of “enclosures”. The reality of enclosures, in the Marxist tradition also referred to as “primitive accumulation”, is of fundamental theoretical and political importance, as it not only defines the precondition of capital’s existence, but also helps to disclose the secret of alternatives to capitalism, or at least a substantial part of it.

In a moment when the global anti-capitalist movement is on the rise and the global economy is preparing for a new wave of restructuring (always associated with enclosures in one form or another) following the incoming recession, we thought that the debate over strategies and alternatives within the movement would benefit by a reflection on the hidden meaning of the capitalist strategies we are fighting against.

Conceptually, enclosures refer to the separation that results from commodification, the crazy separation between human life and the conditions of human life, between the doing and the deed, between creative freedom and socially created objects, between human condition and its natural context, between social cooperation and its products. These dichotomies must be reconciled to make human life possible. In presence of this separation, money and the capitalist market act as the impersonal things that transcend this separation to make social cooperation possible, but in a form ¾ the capitalist “economy” ¾ that bears the mark of, and reproduces, the violent separation of enclosures. In practice therefore, enclosures imply the creation of the rule of things over human beings, implying the rule of force by the state, as well as the elaboration of strategies by the capitalist apologists.

In the first of the contributions here proposed, Micheal Perelman explores the origin of the relation between enclosures and classical political economy (e.g. Adam Smith, David Ricardo, etc.). Alongside their work on pure economic theory promoting their laissez faire ideology, the classical political economists engaged on a parallel project: to promote the forcible reconstruction of society to remake it into their a purely market oriented society. Thus, the classical political economists actively advocated brutal measures to deprive people of any alternative to wage labor.

Two hundred years later, the same brutality is advocated by modern neoliberal economists and implemented by national governments under the constant vigilance of global economic institutions such as the IMF, the WB and the WTO among others. The article reprinted here from Midnight Notes N. 10 (1990), posed the issue of “New Enclosures” in a time when neoliberalism did not meet the opposition it meets today. The article exposes the corrosive secret hidden in the gleaming idols of globalism, the end of the “cold war” blocs and Gaian ecological consciousness: the 1980s and, we add today, the 1990s have seen the largest Enclosure of the worldly Common in history. This article explains the meaning and importance of Enclosures, both Old and New, in the planetary struggle of classes.

An exemplification of today’s enclosures is provided by Silvia Federici’s contribution, appeared in 1990 in the same issue of Midnight Notes. Criticising both Right and Left positions in the controversy over the debt crisis, she argues that they both share the same assumption, namely that the debt crisis is an obstacle to capitalist development. Instead, focussing on Africa’s Debt crisis, Silvia Federici points at the relation between debt and New Enclosures and argues that the debt crisis has been a productive crisis for the capitalist classes of both the debtor and the creditor nations in that it has been used by capital to shift the balance of forces to its side on both poles of the debt relation.

If two hundred years of capitalist development have not been sufficient to end enclosures, evidently the latter are endemic in the capitalist mode of production. This run counter Marxist traditional interpretation that regarded primitive accumulation as the historical process that gave birth to the preconditions of a capitalist mode of production. Massimo De Angelis here argues that in Marx’s theoretical framework, primitive accumulation is not just an event confined to a historical past, but a continuous aspect of capitalist production. The continuous character of the separation between people and means of production is due to the recurrent limits posed on capitalist accumulation by social struggles and the recurrent drive of capital to extend its sphere of domination over life. While De Angelis constructs the continuity argument focussing on strategies and power relations, Werner Bonefeld reaches the same conclusion by discussing primitive accumulation as the foundation of the capitalist social relations and thus the social constitution through which the exploitation of labour subsists. Since the divorce between means of production and people is the presupposition on which the capitalist exploitation of labour rests, then primitive accumulation it is the presupposition of capital and the result of its reproduction.

It goes without saying that these articles do not exhaust the theoretical and political issues concerning enclosures. One important question that this issue of The Commoner has left out, is how theoretically and historically enclosures are linked to the division between production of commodities and reproduction of labour power, and to the new sexual division of labour rooted upon it. In other words, the passage to capitalism has not only divorced producers from the means of production but, to the extent that production and reproduction were socially and sexually differentiated, it also separated production from reproduction, men from women, waged work from unwaged work. This is of course of paramount importance for at least three reasons. First, to understand the novel character of the functioning of the wage-form, defined and functioning not only as a way to accumulate waged labour, but also, as a means to accumulate and command unwaged labour. Second, to understand unwaged labour as structural to capitalist production, and providing therefore a novel meaning to the concept of “wage slavery”. In this sense, slavery appears not as an aberrant strategy in relation to the regime of waged labour, but it constitutes its foundation. Third, to articulate the issues of the division of labour in terms of specialisation with those of the division within the proletariat in terms of access to social resources and wages. And of course, how and in what forms all this is relevant today, within the context of XXI century global capitalism, and in presence of new movements and new social practices?

Furthermore, there is then the question of the enclosure of the body, of the separation between passions and interests, reason and needs, economic calculus and desires. Linked to this, there is of course the process of subjectification analysed by Foucault, that is the multiplicity of micro strategies of power aimed at creating docile subjects, and therefore the basis of capitalist process of integration. How are they operating today in the framework of the global market? But above all, we need to tackle the limits faced by this process of subjectification: to what extent micro and macro strategies of struggles are today challenging neoliberal integration? On the issues linking the question of enclosures with these and other relevant themes, we are planning another special issue of the commoner to be published in the near future.

Despite its limitations, we believe the selection that The Commoner is proposing helps to frame the question of enclosures. All contributions share one thing: enclosures are a continuous feature of capitalist development. We believe this opens two crucial political questions. First, there is a common ground between different phenomenal forms of strategies of enclosures (read neoliberal polices), and therefore today peoples of the North, East and South are facing possibly phenomenally different but substantially similar strategies of separation from the means of existence. Second, enclosures are always enclosures of commons. Often, we may not like the ways these commons are administrated, or the bureaucratic layers people may be subjected to in gaining access to rights and entitlements. Certainly, the state, when forced to concede to popular pressures, has always tried to turn concessions into instruments of control. We cannot enter here in the details of the taxonomy of existing commons and their limitations and contradictions. But the point is that the struggles arising in defence of existing forms of commons against neoliberal policies are never just defensive struggles, they open a space for public debate and mutual reformulation of the meaning that we want to give to commons. Because enclosures are always enclosures of commons, the growing global anti-capitalist movement, which largely is a movement against enclosures and their effect, give us the opportunity to go to counter attack and pose the essential question of alternatives: the issue of the direct access of the means of existence, production and communication, the issue of what commons do we want and how we want to organise our sociality around them. It follows therefore that reflections on the forms and meaning of commons always imply correspondent reflection on the form and meaning of community.

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The Commoner #3: Reclaiming the Body

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Issue 3 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

Silvia Federici: The Great Caliban The Struggle Against the Rebel Body.
Cyril Smith: Marx, Hegel, the Enlightenment and Magic.
Nick Dyer-Witheford: Global Body, Global Brain/ Global Factory, Global War: Revolt of the Value-Subjects.
Les Levidow: Marketizing Higher Education: Neoliberal Strategies and Counter-Strategies.

There is a common thread running through the diverse articles collected in this issue of The Commoner. What ties them together is what we may refer to as the struggle over the body. The body is the centre of human power, the material powerhouse of humanity. The control over the body is the control over the entire fabric of social life.

Around the politics of the body we find the entire horizon of the polarity between alternatives: on one side human beings powering accumulation through work (which can only be based on various forms of “power over the other” as manifested in capitalist mechanisms); on the other side (to put it with Marx), “human power as its own end” which can only take the form of a free association of human individuals, an association in which ‘the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’.

The enclosure of the body is not only a particular form of enclosure among others. As all enclosures, also that of the body is founded on a separation. But while in traditional enclosures we are talking about a separation between an external materiality (land, entitlements, etc.) and people, here the same separation is reproduced at a deeper level between the materiality of our physical and social existence, and the spirituality of our human condition, that which defines us as fundamentally free and self-determining. In other words, the enclosure of the body is the means to channel human self-determination and creative spirit into external, alien ends. It defines the alienation of human beings in relation to each other and their species.

For this reason, enclosing the body aims at defining subjects and their integration within the circuit of social capital and accumulation. Here, we cooperate through endless competition, and this alien form of cooperation allows certainly to decentralise power through the social body, but only to the extent power is recentered in the person, if the person is reconstructed as a micro-state, as Silvia Federici, echoing Foucault, argues in her paper in the case of the Cartesian model. Frederick Hayek, the champion of modern neoliberalism, from his perspective argues the same when he identifies the relation between the competitive whole and individual freedom, as one of discipline and emergence. The truth is that control of social flows over the social body, can only occur through mechanisms that presuppose behavioural and aspirational parameters, parameters that are not posed by self-determining individuals in free association with each other, but structured by always renewing disciplinary mechanisms. The recurrent creation of these parametric structures of values and aspirations forming the subject is the strategic aim of always-new disciplinary practices. We must disagree with Gilles Deuleze on this point: there is no transcendence of the disciplinary society; there is no emergence of the control society. In capitalist societies, control and discipline (in historically specific forms corresponding to different phases) have always been intertwined in a relation of mutual dependence centred on strategies to enclose the body, to channel human power to the end of endless accumulation.

Historically, as Silvia Federici argues in her paper, the original enclosure of the body passes through the relation with magic, as the latter regarded the body a power that was incompatible with capitalist work. “`Magic kills industry,’ lamented Francis Bacon admitting that nothing repelled him so much as the assumption that one could obtain results with a few idle expedients, rather than with the sweat of one’s brow”. In her contribution, Silvia Federici shows that “magic rested upon a qualitative conception of space and time that precluded a regularization of the labour process”. Also, it was based on a conception of the cosmos that attributed special power and special value to the individual, both equally incompatible with alien power and devaluation of individuals brought about by the capitalist work-discipline. She thus discusses the bourgeoisie’s “original attempt to form a new type of individual in that battle against the body that has become its historic mark.” This new individual has to be compatible with endless accumulation as the ultimate purpose of life. The individual has to sustain a life activity as work, in the attempts to break the barriers of nature “by lengthening the working day beyond the limits set by the sun, the seasonal cycles, and the body itself, as it was constituted in pre-industrial society.”

Subordinating the individual to the capitalist-work discipline through the enclosure of the body also means to think the individual as a sensuousless being, to conceptualise the body as a means to an end, to construct objectivity emptied of spirit that is of senses and self-determination. This is the enlightenment project. In this paper, Cyril Smith criticises the conventional strands of Marxism and argue that Marx was not an author of the enlightenment. In the enlightenment, freedom is confined to the removal of external natural restrictions on the individual, and objectivity defined by expunging everything subjective, like feeling, will or free, creative activity. Marx, Cyril Smith argues, was opposed to this project of the enlightenment as he worked to demonstrate that to live humanly, in a manner ‘worthy of and appropriate to our human nature’ (Capital, Vol. 3), would mean a free association of human individuals, an association in which ‘the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’. He showed that a human way of life is incompatible with private property, wage-labour, money and the state, but is actually in accord with nature, and how humanity, at whose heart lies free, creative social activity, emerges from what appears to be the blind activity of nature.

The link between the enclosures of the body of yesterday with the politics of today is that we cannot have alternative(s) without reclaiming the body, the power over our own power. Not only, but because in the enclosures of the body we define our isolation and alienation from the other, the social political process constituted in the act of reclaiming the body is the hard core of politics. Because it aims at defining a new relation with the other, it has to go through “new combinations” constituting new communities. The question of community, which together with the one of the commons constitutes the central question of emancipation, is all here, in the politics of the body. Reclaiming the body means to reclaim the relation between spirit and matter, between freedom and life. However, we can find the positive aspect of the project of self-management, autonomy, freedom, only when we stop to treat the self as property, that is when it is inserted in a social and communitarian project that is not finalized to accumulation, and especially when in is not a state, nor an abstract mechanism as the market, that determines the directive, finalities and modalities of self-management.

This topic of “new combinations” is discussed by Nick Dyer-Witheford who goes through a tour de force in combining recent theoretical contributions on empire and the global factory with the emergence of “global value subjects”. The latter designates the “creative, nature-transforming agents on whose cooperative activity capital depends for the creation of surplus value, at points including but also now exceeding the immediate point of production.” In the terms conceptualised in this introduction, the value subjects are, struggling over the body. As constituting values that are other than those of the capitalist market and at the same time as subjects creating capitalist values and therefore object of the disciplinary market strategies of capital, the challenge faced by the global value subjects in the constitution of “new combinations”, is not simply how to be a spectre haunting capital to its deconstructive discomfort, but also how to shape an “exit towards the future.” These spectral struggles are an issue of “which values will become materialized, and which be consigned to the vaporous world of phantasms; of who will make a spectre of whom; of what will die and what will live; of whose incantations will command the magic circle of the globe.”

As the enclosure of the body is the attempt to tame self-determination and freedom and channel it to market priorities, the restrictions of spaces of critical engagement and intellectual growth and their subordination to accumulation is the hidden agenda of the enclosures in higher education. In his contribution, Les Levidow discusses the recent neoliberal strategies aimed at merketising higher education. The market here is naturalised and presented as an unstoppable force to which students and staff must bow. By studying the cases of Africa, USA, and UK, the paper argues that neoliberal strategies in higher education are based on pre-empting potential alternatives to the market by fetishising the preferred metaphor as a property of technology. This allows to throw people into more intense competition with each other on a global scale, thus preventing people from deciding collectively ‘what they do best’ and what kind of economic relations to develop with each other.

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The Commoner #4: Enclosures, Power, Commons

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Issue 4 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

John Holloway: Beyond Power. Chapter 3 from “Change the world without taking power”
John Holloway: Twelve theses
Ruth Rikowski: The Capitalisation of Libraries
Richard Barbrook: The Regulation of Liberty: free speech, free trade and free gifts on the Net

Each of the articles in this number of The Commoner addresses one particular facet of the strategic and theoretical nodes we need to tackle in order to change the world: the polarity between enclosures and commons and their link, power. We start with two pieces on power and hope to contribute in this way to raise a debate within global movements on the question of how another world is possible? For this we are glad to be able to publish the entire chapter 3 from John Holloway latest book: Change the world without taking power, published by Pluto Press earlier this year. The chapter addresses the fundamental questions of revolutionary politics today.

According to Holloway, the “revolutionary challenge” we face at the beginning of the XXI century is to raise the stake of revolutionary politics and “to change the world without taking power”. By clinging on “how to hold on to power”, traditional concepts of revolutions have been aiming too low, and for that reason they have failed. The problem with this traditional notions of revolution is that the real aim of revolution is “to dissolve relations of power, to create a society based on the mutual recognition of people’s dignity.” Today, “the only way in which revolution can now be imagined is not as the conquest of power but as the dissolution of power”. But how can we change the world without taking power? Well, read this piece on “beyond power” and the accompanying twelve theses summarizing the argument of the book.

Ruth Rikowski’s article takes us on one of the fronts of the battle against modern enclosures in the form of the privatization of services promoted by global neoliberal capital. In particular, the author considers the implications of the WTO/GATS agenda (World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services) for public libraries in England and charts the early stages of the capitalisation of public library services in this region. It examines the capitalisation process within three main categories – commercialisation, privatisation and capitalisation. Income generation is one example of commercialisation. PFI (private finance initiative) and private companies running a library at a lower cost than the price they are contracted to run them are examples of privatisation (the latter has just started to happen in libraries in the London Borough of Haringey). Capitalisation is a process that deepens over time, with libraries becoming sites for capital accumulation and profit making. Commericalisation and privatisation feed off each other and deepen in the capitalisation process. Continual library reviews provide an example of the capitalisation process. Some of the facilitators that will enable this process to take effect are then considered. These are referred to as the national faces of the GATS. Best Value, Library Standards and the Peoples’ Network are analysed and the author shows how these mechanisms are enabling the GATS to take effect in our public libraries in England.

In the final article, Richard Barbrook explores emerging commons in cyberspace. Richard Barbrook explores emerging commons in cyberspace. In the mid-1990s, neo-liberals claimed that state regulation of the Net was impossible. Free markets would create free speech. This libertarian rhetoric lost its appeal as increasing numbers of people started swapping music and video files over the Net. Free speech meant free gifts. In the early-2000s, neo-liberals are now demanding more state regulation of the Net to protect intellectual property. Free markets depend upon economic censorship. However, this attempt to regulate the Net in the interests of intellectual property is already failing. In the digital age, media exists both as commodities and gifts – and hybrids of the two.

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The Commoner #5: Crises

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Issue 5 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

Peter Bell & Harry Cleaver: Marx’s Crisis Theory as a Theory of Class Struggle.
Ana C. Dinerstein: Beyond Insurrection. Argentina and New Internationalism.
Conrad M. Herold: On Financial Crisis As A Disciplinary Device Of Empire: Emergence and Crisis Of The Crisis.
George Caffentzis: On the Notion of a Crisis of Social Reproduction: A Theoretical Review.
Werner Bonefeld: Class and EMU.
Steve Wright: The Historiography of the Mass Worker.

Global recession, famine, AIDS, global warming, war and poverty : to list the instances of crises today could be an encyclopedic enterprise; the list could get longer and longer by the day. The crises that pervade the expanded reproduction of the fabric of global capitalist control (see the article by Peter Bell and Harry Cleaver) can only be plural, as plural are the social powers that long for liberation.

Not one, but a plurality of crises challenge the dogma of capitalist accumulation. Crises are bottlenecks, point of rupture in the life-energy circuit feeding the beast, but they are also ruptures in our reproduction (the meaning of this crisis of reproduction is discussed by George Caffentzis). These bottlenecks mostly serve to discipline us, to make us accept more “efficient” work norms and more “moderate” claims
to social wealth. But the use of crisis as a disciplinary device is also facing a crisis; this is true of the strategies of financial liberalization
discussed by Conrad Harold. The crisis of crisis: this can be a point of entry to a new dimension, the opportunity to explore new politics and new social practices beyond capitalism (see e.g. Ana Dinerstain’s article on the current struggles in Argentina). It can also be the return to old regimes of oppression (as indicated by Werner Bonefeld in the case of the European monetary union). Thus, from the perspective of the transcendence of capitalism, in the crisis reside simultaneously a danger and an opportunity–the opportunity stemming from the inability of the old ways to reproduce life, satisfy needs, meet aspirations. However, this opportunity cannot be defined in abstract. Real subjects, with real and concrete needs and aspirations, define its content and character, establish avenues of recomposition among themselves and overcome divisions. Every epoch discovers its own ways to meet the challenge. Steve Wright’s contribution from his new book explores the “workerist” tendency’s reading of earlier working class struggles in Germany, the United States, and elsewhere, and the ways in which
the ‘other’ workers’ movements there sought to overcome the divisions imposed upon them by capital and the state.

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The Commoner #6: What Alternatives? Commons and Communities, Dignity and Freedom!

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Issue 6 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

Massimo De Angelis: Reflections on Alternatives, Commons and Communities
Olivier De Marcellus: Commons, Communities and Movements: Inside, Outside and Against Capital
Peter Waterman: All in Common. A New/Old Slogan for International Labour and Labour Internationalism
Franco Barchiesi: Communities between Commons and Commodities. Subjectivity and Needs in the Definition of New Social Movements
Mariarosa Dalla Costa: Seven Good Reasons to Say “Locality”
Mariarosa Dalla Costa: The Native In Us, The Earth We Belong To
John Holloway: Is the Zapatista Struggle and Anti-Capitalist Struggle?

The global justice and solidarity movement (and all its articulations) is increasingly posing the question of alternatives. In this issue of The Commoner we provide contributions on this issue. Several of these pieces (those of Massimo De Angelis, Olivier De Marcellus, Franco Barchiesi and Peter Waterman) were presented at a workshop on “Commons and Communities” during last European Social Forum in Florence, November 2002. Mariarosa Dalla Costa’s two papers are older, but still very much relevant to this debate. She also presented the themes of her papers at the workshop in Florence. Finally, John Holloway’s contribution is the only one in this list that was missing in Florence, but the question of dignity he poses is obviously central to any discourse on alternatives.

Despite the differences in emphasis, language or strategic priorities, a common theme among the contributions seems to be that, in a sense, the question of alternatives is not very difficult after all. To the enclosure of land, water, services, education, knowledge, we counterpoise different forms of commons. To the enforcement of competitive relations in every sphere of life and within and across places, we counterpoise the construction of local and trans-local communities based on inclusion, respect, horizontality and participation. To the indignity of consumerism and lack, scarcity and dependency, we counterpoise the dignity of plenty, autonomy, gift and conviviality. To the freedom of choice from a menu imposed on us by impersonal market forces and their engineers, we counterpoise the freedom to decide the menu itself: how and what we produce? what and how much to add to our production? and what and how much to subtract to it? Since we can exercise this freedom only collectively, we must learn to make decisions collectively, we must learn that democracy is not only voting but participating, and participating is not only giving an opinion but also doing and therefore accessing resources. If it so simple then, why do we make it so difficult?

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The Commoner #7: The "governance" of Imposed Scarcity

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Issue 7 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

George Caffentzis: The Power of Money: Debt and Enclosure.
Matthew Hampton: The Return of Scarcity and the International Organisation of Money After the Collapse of
Bretton Woods.
Massimo De Angelis: Neoliberal Global Governance and Accumulation.
Les Levidow: Governance of Genetically Modified Food. [Editors Note: was not available through the Wayback Machine]
Andrew Robinson and Simon Tormey: New Labour’s neoliberal Gleichschaltung: the case of higher education.

In this issue we present two contributions on money and three contributions on neoliberal governance. What do money and neoliberal governance have in common? The Commoner suggests at least one thing: they are both different but complementary ways to organize our lives around the rat race of global competition.

In the first article, George Caffentzis writes about the power of money, the ideological underpinning of this power and, most poignantly, how without moments of force and violence, money would have remained a marginal aspect of human history. He also argues that “the cultivation of hostility, suspicion, competition and fear of scarcity (especially the scarcity of money)” are the means though which to enclose spaces for collective discussion and understanding of desires. In this way, money can appear as the only means left to create its own meaning of coincidence of desires.
To produce fear of scarcity in a world of plenty like ours, scarcity must be produced. Matthew Hampton’s paper explores capital’s production of scarcity through an investigation of the international organization of money after the collapse of Bretton Woods. Here, what many critics refer to as the irrational “casino economy” of massive speculative flows, it is shown to have its own perverse rationality in its link to the flesh and blood substance of capital’s accumulation: boundless work through competitive relations among people. Through the continuous allocation of risk, punishments and rewards, financial capital movements across the globe discipline the people of this planet to work harder and demand less, whether they are in homes, fields, factories, or offices. Matthew Hampton’s paper explores capital’s production of scarcity through an investigation of the international organization of money after the collapse of Bretton Woods. Here, what many critics refer to as the irrational “casino economy” of massive speculative flows, it is shown to have its own perverse rationality in its link to the flesh and blood substance of capital’s accumulation: boundless work through competitive relations among people. Through the continuous allocation of risk, punishments and rewards, financial capital movements across the globe discipline the people of this planet to work harder and demand less, whether they are in homes, fields, factories, or offices.

The discipline of capital however has its own contradictions. A central one is the crisis of reproduction of our bodies and minds, our communities and our ecologies. In the last quarter of a century, the combined effects of neoliberal strategies of enclosures and reconfiguration of state provisions away from social welfare into corporate welfare, has coincided with the deepening of these crises and a consequent rapid development of diverse social movements across the globe. It has also created an archipelago of diverse organizations of what is called “civil society”. These organizations, in spite of differences, act in a multiplicity of ways to intervene and copying with the crises ¾ whether through campaigns, education or directly intervening in the reorganization of reproduction where the market and the state left a desert.

The effect of this ferment has been to put back on the agenda of public debates the question of meeting the variety of needs of reproduction independent from the needs of the capitalist market. Left on its own devices, this ferment re-opens a space for the collective discussion and understanding of desires, and the definition of the ground for their coincidence independently from accumulation. What a shock for the neoliberal proponents of the pansee’ unique! One important strategy used by neoliberal capital to deal with these emergent demands is called, in the modern rhetoric, “governance”. Massimo De Angelis explores some of the intricacies of governance ¾ or better neoliberal governance ¾ and argues that it does not represent a paradigm shift away from neoliberalism. Rather it is a discoursive practice that emerges as capital’s second line of defense vis-à-vis struggles against enclosures. It is a space in which the needs of reproduction are acknowledged by capital, but commons are deterred or forestalled through the hijacking and entrapment of the values, the words and dreams of the commoners. In governance, the values of sustainability is turned into sustainable profit, social justice is turned into corporate compliance with pitiful minimum wage regulations, democracy and participation is turned into partnership among stakeholders who must accept competitive market norms as de facto unchangeable mode of human interaction.

A detailed example of how these governance strategies develop as a result of social opposition to policies, is studied by Les Levidow in the case of Genetically Modified Food. “The paper exemplifies governance as process management. For the trans-Atlantic governance of GM food, new procedures were managing conflicts among state and non-state actors, while potentially facilitating regulatory harmonisation of a controversial technological trajectory. Consumer NGOs did not welcome the advent of GM crops, yet their regulatory demands led their representatives into a political logic of governing these technological products. In that sense, governance provides a neoliberal means to manage socio-political conflicts by incorporating dissent into a collective problem-definition, while excluding other accounts of the problem. Yet it remains a difficult task of process management, whose outcome still depends upon political struggle.”

That governance discourse can be used to entrap social flows of desires and creativity into market values and accumulation is also clear in the contribution by Andrew Robinson and Simon Tormey. The authors discuss the recent UK labour government White Paper on higher education, heavily permeated by the language of “Third Way” and “partnership” and in which universities are portrayed and constructed as competitors within a global market and thus must learn to behave like corporations do. “Instead of academics working across international boundaries to improve knowledge and wellbeing”, note the authors, “academics need now to ask themselves not what is the value of their research, but rather what is the “exchange value” of their research? If research cannot be `spun-out’, `transferred’, used as an `incubator’ or in some other exploited by `local and regional partnerships’ then the clear message it is research that is not `worth’ anything, and should be stopped. The desire to make `breakthroughs’ is not itself a valid reason for undertaking research.” Hence, when Charles Clarke ¾ the education secretary ¾ says he wants to `mobiliz[e]… the imagination, creativity, skills and talents of all our people’ and `to help turn ideas into successful businesses’ . . . , it is clear that he is engaged in a logic of entrapment. Creative energies are to be harnessed, for a single goal: capitalist control” and the “reduction of the educational ‘commons’ to the status of vocational training for the needs of business”.

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The Commoner #8: Around Commons and Autonomy, War and Reproduction

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Issue 8 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

Paul Routledge: Convergence of Commons: Process Geographies of People’s Global Action
David Harvie: Commons and Communities in the University: Some Notes and Some Examples
Werner Bonefeld: Uncertainty and Social Autonomy
Colectivo Situaciones: Causes and Happenstance (dilemmas of Argentina’s new social protagonism)
George Caffentzis: Freezing the Movement: Posthumous Notes on Nuclear War
Mariarosa Dalla Costa: Capitalism and Reproduction

Do commons have a place? Or it is rather, like others have argued, that grassroots globalisation networks constitute a `non-place’ of resistance? Paul Routledge argues that “place” is still a central dimension of social movements. This because “they forge an associational politics” that is constituent of “a diverse, contested coalition of place-specific social movements”. In these “convergence spaces” conflict is prosecuted on a “variety of multi-scalar terrains that include both material places and virtual spaces.” Is the convergence of struggles in these material and virtual spaces the real constituent force of commons?

David Harvie identifies the commons and communities that make the creative and communicative labour of higher education possible. Increasingly, as we have discussed in other issues of The Commoner, these commons are the target of enclosure strategies. But here David Harvie does not simply denounce these strategies. Instead, he suggests to begin a process of collective self-awareness on what is being enclosed, and what communities are turned into competing nodes. “This exploration of commons and communities within higher education can help us to: identify actually-existing alternatives to market-relations within universities; recognise our own power (power-to); and hence, articulate alternatives to neoliberal strategies for higher education; more effectively fight restructuring; trace the connections with other threads of the anti-capitalist movement(s); and finally, posit a transcendence of capitalist education”.

Werner Bonefeld’s contribution seems to take us away from the problematic of commons and communities, only to return to these with the parallel language of revolution and social autonomy. His argument is that there is no doubt that the end of struggle (human emancipation) must be anticipated by the organisational means of the struggle. And this implies that the ends of revolution “have to be constitutive of the means of resistance.” This “social autonomy” as “the organizational form of struggle” is in clear opposition to “forms of organization that derive their rationale from capitalist society and are thus interested only in their own continued existence. ”

Social autonomy, organization, communities, commons. These problematics are all there in the text proposed by Colectivo Situaciones. It examines the issues and dilemma of Argentina’s new social subjectivities, by analyzing the events between December 2001 and May 2003. This is the lapse of time ranging from the outbreak of an economic and political crisis without precedents and the pretended normalization of the presidential elections. In between there is the emergence of a rich movement from below (piquetero movements, assemblies, barter clubs, factories occupied by their workers, etc.) which poses many questions. “The intensity of this period – no less than its complexity – has remained beclouded by those who have proclaimed that the results of the elections constitute the death of the movement of counterpower and the erasure of that which opened with the events of December.”

If elections are used to normalize and recuperate social autonomy emerging from the street, what about war? George Caffentzis had to tidy his closet this autumn, and he discovered an old manuscript coming from the time in which nuclear annihilation was on the order of the day. Twenty years on, his reflections on the relation between war, capital’s accumulation and reproduction as well as his historical contextualization of the Marxist critique of imperialism, seem to be very much up to date. Because you know, capital is still with us, and there is still a war going on . . .so maybe one could wonder: is there perhaps a link between the two? And if so, does this link have anything to do with the attempt to constitute capitalist social relations of production and reproduction?

Finally, Mariarosa Dalla Costa explores the relation between capital and reproduction and regards the powers of the “actors” of the latter (women, indigenous people and earth) as decisive force “that can lift the increasingly deadly siege capitalist development imposes on human reproduction”. She argues that the woman’s question, the question of the indigenous populations, and the question of the Earth have close synergies, and thus it is no surprising that in the last two decades they have become of great importance. If the path towards a “different kind of development cannot ignore them” it is because of the many powers (powers to) these subjects have. The many powers of civilisations that have not died “but have managed to conceal themselves” reside in the secrets that “have been maintained thanks to their resistance to the will to annihilate them.” The gift of struggles. Also the Earth has “many powers, especially its power to reproduce itself and humanity as one of its parts.” And these powers have been “discovered, preserved and enhanced more by women’s knowledge than male science”. These triple knowledge/powers – of women, of indigenous people and of the earth – should “find a way of emerging and being heard” and act as the decisive force they are.

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The Commoner #9: Life Despite Capitalism

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Issue 9 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

James W. Lindenschmidt: From Virtual Commons To Virtual Enclosures: Revolution and Counter-Revolution In The Information Age
Matthias Studer: Gift and Free Software
Ariel Salleh: Sustainability and Meta-Industrial Labour: Building a Synergistic Politics
Mercedes Moya: Some Common Goods: an Afro-colombian view
Franco Barchiesi: Citizenship as Movement. Migrations, Social Control and the Subversion of State Sovereignty
Amory Starr: Hunting democracy down in Miami for free trade [editor note: not available through Wayback Machine]

In this issue of The Commoner, we bring together diverse contributions all highlighting what people and communities are up against in creating and sustaining modes of life despite capitalism, whether these modes of life are in the street of Miami, along the rivers of Colombia, emerging from the flows of migrants, or flourishing within the post-scarcity cyberspace. We bridge these with one paper by Ariel Salleh making the case for the need to bring the invisible work of reproduction, what she calls meta-industrial labour, at the center of a Synergistic politics. This labour is characterised by the direct mediation of human and natural cycles whereas productivist labour, is linear and pursues a single goal regardless of consequence.

We see this in agribusiness, mining, manufacture, and science as usual, where human instrumental rationality leaves disorder in nature, and human poverty as collateral to it. Globally invisible, meta-industrial work instead maintains the necessary biological infrastructure for all systems of reproduction of livelihoods, but with capitalist expansion, this labour is carried out at growing material cost to the life conditions of meta-industrials themselves – mostly women.

The first contribution by James W. Lindenschmidt is a detailed analysis of the dynamic of revolution and counter-revolution of cyberspace. Borrowing from the theoretical frameworks of Midnight Notes and of this journal, he explains the nitty-gritty of the creation of virtual commons and the open and subtle strategies promoted by capital to enclose and commodify this space. In this way, it is possible to identify how capital creates scarcity in a post-scarcity virtual space. These enclosures of the virtual commons are not enforced by shotguns or by depleted-uranium missiles. The virtual enclosures are perfectly enforceable, because the rules of enforcement are being architected into the code of the Internet itself. Cyberspace is malleable, and it is increasingly being cast into a space with an infrastructure of built-in, centralized control.

This analysis is echoed by Matthias Studer, who analyzes the free software movement in terms of the theory of gift exchange developed by the M.A.U.S.S. (Mouvement Anti-Utilitariste en Sciences Sociales), a network of researchers developing the insights of the founder of the French school of anthropology, Marcel Mauss who is relatively unknown in the Anglo-Saxon world (see Olivier de Marcellus’ article in The Commoner N. 6). The paper provides an insightful analysis of how hackers communities creation of free software gravitate around practices of liberty and cooperation. It discusses the horizontal organizing principles that emerge in these productive communities, what happens to issues such as leadership and hierarchy when freedom is an organizing principle of production, and compares how the logic of gift exchanges differ from the logic of commodity exchanges. And we discover that we do not need to be programmers to be hackers, as one can very well be a hacker in philosophy or astronomy, or even in the politics for another world, for being a hacker is mainly a question of attitude.

Mercedes Moya’s contribution, with a contextualising introduction by Olivier de Marcellus, is a gift to us directly from those commons created by rebel slaves setting up communities along Colombian rivers and thus detaching themselves from the world market of the 18th century. As Columbian afro-descendent, she tells us about a struggle for freedom that ended in intimate association with commons, she give us an image of river banks along which the afro-colombians constructed a social identity marked by interdependance with the rivers, lagoons, woods, flatlands, periodic floods, torrential rains, days of sun with rain and days of sun with sun. And she tells us how these commons face up the enclosing force of contemporary global markets and “economic development”. And while the agents of these new enclosures are the state, industry and national or international finance, or violent traffickers and paramilitaries, the attitude of the left (reformist or “revolutionary”) is often not much of help. They are often reluctant to admit the right of this “world” to organise itself autonomously, by its own standards, without sacrifice to the gods of national interest or “development”. Often the left considers communities based on commons as backward, since they measure them in terms of the devastation of natural resources. For these communities instead, the real measure to judge development is common goods and as a vital space of resistance. Our Afro-colombian friend tell us (with a little twinkle in their eye) that white Colombians of the highlands – long since stripped of its tree cover – point to the fact that the black communities haven’t razed their forests as proof of their inherent laziness…

With Franco Barchiesi’s paper, we move from the virtual to the actual space occupied by border police and hiding-out migrants in a context of world-wide enclosures. The impact of international migrations on Western capitalist societies questions their very capacity to define borders and regulate access to citizenship rights, to decide who are citizens and who are not, and what resources citizens can enjoy. Migration in other words, is a social movement that challenges the existing concept of rights. Instead it poses a new understanding of social rights that is linked to de-commodification and the claim for new commons. By cross-contamination and circulation of the struggles of the migrants and of the movements in receiving countries, they can both themselves start seize back what had been taken away from them in the decades of neoliberal restructuring, through struggles that transcend the narrow boundaries of nation-state institutionality.

Amory Starr’s contribution is a reminder of what stand in between the space of communities and commons and the strategies of commodification and intensification of global market discipline. It is an account of the events in November 2004, when US unions and activists planned a large presence at the FTAA/ALCA/ZLEA negotiations in Miami, Florida. The city of Miami bragged that the law enforcement for the events would be a “model” for Homeland Security — the draconian post-911 federal legislation which created a new agency for anti-terrorism and justified broadbased violation of rights during investigation and prosecution. While activists of all stripes bravely prepared educational events, marches, political art, and direct action to disrupt the legalization and codification of hemispheric corporate plunder, no less than 40 law enforcement agencies violated protesters’ rights. Even elders and those attending educational events were targeted. The police plan was to “limit” protest in order to “prevent violence”. In practice they created a “deliberate and pervasive pattern of intimidation” including hunting activists violently and indiscriminately for over 30 blocks from the actual meeting site. This police operation seemed intended to terrorize citizens (both participants and observers) from future acts of dissent. Here we present Amory Starr report of the week “Hunted in Miami” as well as the lawsuits filed against the agencies detailing the terrorizing tactics of the police.

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The Commoner #10: The Carnival of Values and the Exchange Value of Carnivals

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Issue 10 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

Introduction............................................. ......................................................................1
Preface: Spring 2005.....................................................................................................4
Value as the Importance of Action...............................................................................18
David Graeber
Value(s), Measure(s) and Disciplinary Markets................................... ..........................66
Massimo De Angelis
Immeasurable Value?: An Essay on Marx's Legacy......................................................87
George Caffentzis
Work, Value and Domination.....................................................................................115
Harry Cleaver
All Labour is Productive and Unproductive................................. ................................132
David Harvie
Development and Reproduction................................................................................172
Mariarosa Dalla Costa
For Another Agriculture and Another Food Policy in Italy...........................................200
Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Dario De Bortoli
Women's Land Struggles and the Valorization of Labour...........................................216
Silvia Federici

The Commoner #11: Re(in)fusing the Commons

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Issue 11 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

Introduction . . . . . . . . 1
Autonomy, Recognition, Movement . . . . . 5 Angela Mitropoulos
Species-Being and the New Commonism . . . . 14 Nick Dyer-Witheford
A Very Careful Strike - Four hypotheses . . . . 33 Precarias a la Deriva
The golden globes of the planetary commons. . . . 46 P.M.
Working-Class One-Sidedness from Sorel to Tronti . . . 54 George Ciccariello-Maher
The Restructuring of Social Reproduction in the United States in the 1970s 74 Silvia Federici
Heiresses at Twilight. The End of Politics and the Politics of Difference 89 Ida Dominijanni

11.pdf (4.52 MB)

The Commoner #12: Value Strata, Migration and "Other Values"

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Issue 12 of The Commoner magazine

Submitted by gay4plants on July 11, 2019

1 Introduction: Value Strata, Migration and “Other Values” Massimo De Angelis
9 Offshore Outsourcing and Migrations: The South-Eastern and Central Eastern European Case Devi Sacchetto
23 Differentials of Surplus-Value in the Contemporary Forms of Exploitation Massimiliano Tomba
39 A Critique of Fordism and the Regulation School Ferruccio Gambino
63 Notes on the Edu-Factory and Cognitive Capitalism Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis
71 Measure, Excess, and Translation: Some Notes on "Cognitive Capitalism" Massimo De Angelis
79 Reinventing An/Other Anti-Capitalism in Mexico: The Sixth Declaration of the EZLN and the "Other Campaign" Patrick Cuninghame
111 Reruralizing the World Mariarosa Dalla Costa
119 "Two Baskets For Change" Mariarosa Dalla Costa
129 Food As Common and Community Mariarosa Dalla Costa

12TheCommoner.pdf (905.59 KB)

The Commoner #13: An Energy Crisis (Among Others) Is In The Air

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Issue 13 of The Commoner Magazine

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1: Introduction: Energy Crisis (Among Others) Is In The Air Kolya Abramsky and Massimo De Angelis
15: Fossil Fuels, Capitalism, And Class Struggle Tom Keefer
23: Energy And Labor In The World-Economy Kolya Abramsky
45: Open Letter On Climate Change: “Save The Planet From Capitalism” Evo Morales
53: A Discourse On Prophetic Method: Oil Crises And Political Economy, Past And Future George Caffentzis
73: Iraqi Oil Workers Movements: Spaces Of Transformation And Transition Ewa Jasiewicz
85: The Global Carbon Trade Debate: For Or Against The Privatisation Of The Air? Patrick Bond
103: Climate Change, Social Change—And The ‘Other Footprint’ Ariel Salleh
115: Video Clip: H2Oil Directed by Shannon Walsh, Produced by Loaded Pictures
117: The Smell Of Money: Alberta’s Tar Sands Shannon Walsh
129: An Authentic Story About How A Local Community Became Self-Sufficient In Pollution-Free Energy And Created A Source Of Income For The Citizens Jane Kruse and Preben Maegaard
141: The Rocky Road To A Real Transition: The Transition Towns Movement And What It Means For Social Change TRAPESE Collective
169: The Ecological Debt Of Agro-Fuels Mónica Vargas Collazos
187: Dynamics Of A Songful Resistance Tatiana Roa Avendaño and Jessica Toloza
203: Wind Conflicts In The Isthmus Of Tehuantepec—The Role Of Ownership And Decision-Making Models In Indigenous Resistance To Wind Projects In Southern Mexico Sergio Oceransky
223: The End Of One Danish Windmill Co-operative Jane Kruse

The Commoner #14: Property, Commoning and the Politics of Free Software

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Issue 14 of The Commoner magazine

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The Commoner #15: Care Work and the Commons

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Issue 15 of The Commoner magazine

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Preface: Care Work and the Commons xii
1. Introduction 1

I. Archive 22

2. Women and the Subversion of the Community 23
3. On The General Strike 70
4. Wages Against Housework 74
5. On Sexuality as Work 88
6. Reproduction and Emigration 95

II. Articles 158

7. Starting From the Social Wage 159
8. The Unfinished Feminist Revolution 185
9. Women’s Autonomy & Renumeration of Care Work 198
10.On Elder Care 235
11.Sex as Work & Sex Work 262
12.Is Housework Soluble in Love? 278
13.Of Feminists and Their Cleaning Ladies 287
14.Nuclear Housework 307
15.Fukushima: A Call for Womens’ Leadership 315
16.Energy and Social Reproduction 337

III. Documents/Interviews 353

17.Domestic Workers United 354
18.Interview with Priscilla Gonzalez 360
19.A Male Domestic Worker 386
20.The Regeneration Manifesto 396
21.The Triumph of the Domestic Workers 401
22.Servicio Domestíco Activo 405
23.Interview with Liliana Caballero Velasquez 413
24.Interview with Victoria Mamani 417
25.Socialist Feminist Collective 421
26.Interview with Ana Rosario Adrián Vargas 426