A Social Without Solidarity

Yes, communism is possible. It is true, more now than ever, that it haunts the old world. 1968 revealed the fragility of the social contracts installed successively to contain the revolutionary movements of the beginning of the century, those which followed the big crisis of 1929 and the movements which accompanied and followed the second great imperialist war. However one views the events of 1968, it is undeniable that they revealed the failure of this social compromise to eliminate or supersede the antagonistic contradictions of the capitalist systems. […skip two paragraphs…]

…work and life are no longer separate; society is collapsed into the logic and processes of capitalist development. The consequences of this assimilation of society to work are profound: All the guarantees and resources of the welfare state – (wage systems, unemployment insurance, family assistance, pensions etc. – were intensified, but now they became part of the production process itself, rather than social defenses against capitalist dislocations. Social welfare in fact became a social dream: as the production process remade society in its own image, that high degree of abstraction was transferred to social life. Production now conferred membership in society. As the independent variable, production stamps society with its characteristic, leaving no region untouched. An equation is established, in which capitalist advancement and exploitation are seen as essential features of social machinery – that this is the meaning of society, and of course it has become true…

The political consequences of this transformation are equally profound. A high degree of political mobilization, evident in the demand for political participation growing out of a century of revolution and class consciousness, has expanded but then dissipated into a social consciousness. All the efforts of the bosses, who are conscious of this new socialization, consist of maintaining it – either through democratic or totalitarian means – within the framework of institutions and of rules for dividing the social product, which permit them to reproduce and thus to reinforce their commanding positions, in a manner that transforms economic into political power.

Before examining the consequences of this transformation of command, it is important to recognize another essential aspect of the changing character of production. The emergence of socialization as a crucial component of production has naturally affected the production process itself. Socialization, typically viewed as a formal quality, mutates into a substantive one: One may observe, for example, how the socialization of rural peasants accompanies their loss of independence, or how service sector workers lose social cohesion as they are functionally absorbed into rigid, mechanized production processes. Up to this point, however, the industrial modes of production associated with capitalism and socialism had only taken possession of social inequalities from the outside, so to speak. The great conflagration of 1968 demonstrated that the new economic techniques now implicated the domain of social reproduction. Before then, the world of production was based on exchange values (commodity production) and the reproduction of use value (utility). All that is over. In this regard, one could consider the movements of that period as necessary preliminaries…

Now the remaining private sphere – family, personal life, free time, and perhaps even fantasy and dreams – everything from that point on became subjected to the semiotics of capital. This transformation took place regardless of political climate: democratic, fascist, socialist. Socialized production succeeded in imposing its law, its logic, on every facet of social life on earth, vampiristically appropriating free time, the lifeblood of humanity.

The events of 1968 posed themselves as an antagonistic recognition of this transformation of the social quality of production and work procedures. In a chaotic but nonetheless convincing way, they revealed the fundamental contradiction at the base of these transformations, that of conferring an immense productive capability to humanity while at the same time imposing a new proletarian destiny. This destiny originated in permanent expropriation, in the deterritorialization that allows no home base, no solidarity, no recourse, no guarantees, and extends not only throughout social life but into the unconscious.

Generalized exploitation, at all levels of society, had the effect of redefining production as the source of new, supplemental sources of unhappiness, and correspondingly new forms of political, even micro-political conflict. The new modes of production – integrative, totalizing, subtly totalitarian – effectively transformed the old modes of economic slavery into thinly disguised cultural and political subjection. A struggle ensued, which attempted to reduce all resistance against the supposed economic necessity to powerlessness. But it is precisely this transfer of “totalitarist” objectives to the minute, molecular levels of everyday existence which gives rise in turn to new forms of resistance on these most immediate levels, throwing into relief the entire problem of individual and collective isolation.

-Guattari and Negri, New Lines of Alliances, New Spaces of Liberty, p 33-6

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s