From Subalternity to Autonomy

A new review of Massimo Modonesi’s book Subalternity, Antagonism, Autonomy (Pluto, 2013) has been published in Antipode. The reviewer has kindly granted us permission to reproduce it here.

For more information about the book, go to our website, or click on the cover image.

Chris Hesketh

Modonesi T02749In this new text published in Pluto Press’ “Reading Gramsci Series”, Massimo Modonesi seeks to explore the theoretical genesis of three core concepts that make up the title of the book – namely, subalternity, antagonism and autonomy – and the problems that the usage of these pose for Marxist debates. The concepts in question, as first revealed in my review for Antipode online, are explicitly linked to the process of political subjectivation (or subject formation) in terms of the experiences of subordination, insubordination and emancipation. Each concept is also linked to a key author associated with its development. Antonio Gramsci’s writings are therefore explored in relation to subalternity; Antonio Negri’s in regards to antagonism; and those of Cornelius Castoriadis in connection with autonomy. Scholars of each respective thinker are likely to find merit in various individual chapters of the book as it traces in detail the development of their intellectual trajectories.

Importantly, the main concepts are not simply explored in the abstract, but rather are  linked to concrete periods of history, including: the defeat of the Factory Council movement  and the rise of Fascism in Italy inspiring Gramsci’s thoughts on subalternity; the emergence of “workerism” and various forms of mobilization that rocked Italy in the 1960s and 1970s that influenced Negri; and finally the experience of the French student uprisings in 1968 and subsequent debates about autogestion for Castoriadis. The book makes a useful contribution therefore to critical geography in that it demonstrates the place-based nature of revolutionary theory and praxis. In other words, it combines “lived experience”, to coin a phrase from Henri Lefebvre’s The Survival of Capitalism, with conceptual development. We therefore get a keen sense of how each concept serves as a form of “militant particularism”, forged out of the experiences of one particular time and place but subsequently generalised to wider locales, as detailed by David Harvey in Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. Continue reading

Dandelions against neoliberalism – Stephen Shapiro

The following article originally appeared in OpenDemocracy. You can view it by clicking here.

It is a commonplace that since the 1970s, capitalism has left the western working class as roadkill on the road to globalization. What is new about our contemporary moment is that the same is increasingly true for the Euro-American middle class.

Be kind, forward wind. What if, despite all the recent left’s hesitation about prophecy, we still feel something is going to happen? Perhaps we are in a similar moment to the early 1960s – only four or five years away from a ‘May 1968’ moment, with all its spontaneous eruptions and consequential structural rearrangements.

Do we need a weatherwoman to recognize the winds of insistence for change blowing through the Middle East, the Mediterranean basin, the ‘north’ Euro-American cities, and Latin America, let alone the vastly under-reported tensions elsewhere? If all these are social trembles, foreshadowing a greater quake, how ought we to prepare in the streets, the classrooms and all the interconnecting spaces in between?

Some preliminary answers come through the keywords: neoliberalism, occupy, and world-system. Within the last decade, ‘neoliberalism’ has replaced ‘globalization’ as the preferred term to describe the latest regime of capitalist accumulation.

Thanks to writers like David Harvey and Naomi Klein, we have a common sense about inequality-producing tactics that overlap and reinforce each other. These maneuvers include privatization, deregulation, financialization, return to the watchman state of police surveillance, opportunistic austerity, and crony collaboration among financiers, civil society institutional administrators, and political elites. Continue reading

When movements take up arms

Mike Gonzalez’s Arms and the People: Popular Movements and the Military from the Paris Commune to the Arab Spring is scheduled for release in December, but is already proving quietly compelling. With Tuesday’s article in the Socialist Worker, commenced the first rumblings of  interest in what promises to be a fascinating, and greatly-needed book for those contemplating, and those engaged in popular resistance around the world.

Obviously, as the publisher we would say that, but why not read the article below for a second opinion… (You can also access the original version by following this link.)

Mike Gonzalez argues that armed struggle is sometimes the only possible response to state repression.

For many, popular uprisings go wrong the moment those fighting back pick up a gun. Any sign of “militarisation” marks a turning point where a brilliant rebellion turns into a tragic civil war.

More in sorrow than in anger, it will be argued that the Continue reading

The arms fair and the media

It has now been six days since the main day of action called by the Stop the Arms Fair coalition against DSEi –the world’s largest arms fair- held in the Excel Centre in East London. The dust will always take a little while to settle after big campaigning days such as Tuesday, but enough of a picture has emerged to process it through the word mill.

Firstly, we were not successful in shutting down the arms fair. If this sounds like too much of a pipe dream to have seriously been considered a possibility, it is always worth remembering that a concerted campaign by peace activists in Australia did bear this very result. Though we are unsuccessful this time around, we can take some comfort from the fact that it has been achieved before, and will be achieved again. Continue reading