4 responses to “Squares, malls, bridges and highways (A note on infrastructure and #BlackLivesMatter)

  1. Excellent take here. The shift from “Occupy!” to “Shut it Down!” is a very visible evolution, and one could argue a necessary one given the changing face of neoliberalism itself (I’m addressing here, of course, the American variant power’s organization and the complimentary vehicles of dissent). 2011-12 and 2014-15, in many respects, present themselves in very different models. The Occupy movements rallied themselves under the banner of a quasi-populist image of democracy; the movements were very much split down the center between its wilder, more anarchic and perhaps a bit crusty participants, and the more center-left, professional and creative class participants. What drew these two groups together was the stark realization, in the wake of the financial crisis and bail-outs, that the American system was fundamentally broken and was in need of some sort of rebuilding. Taking the square is very much a symbolic resurrection of the classical image of democracy, perhaps in a way that the issue of class could be brought out into the open at a point when the political powers of the working and marginalized classes were denigrated.

    “Occupy!” addressed a certain kind of infrastructure, the public kind, and looked for a reorganization of existing power to lend a voice to the voiceless. The unrest of 2014-15, however, is a reflection of the fact that power will enact the most violent of discipline – even death itself – on those who are forced underneath it. Occupy! wanted to mobilize the subaltern classes in struggle against their oppressors; the politics of “Shut it Down” and #BlackLivesMatter is more in line with Tiqqun’s observation that it is no longer class against class – “The front line no longer cuts through the middle of society; it now runs through the middle of us.” In such a state, how does one mobilize? Not by seeking to politicize space and infrastructure by crafting a space for genuine democracy (whatever it is), but by targeting the infrastructure of the flows itself, leveraging power at the choke points.

    The problem of eventually is, however, very much the same one that faced the Take the Squarers. Can tactics translate into a wider political horizon and movement building? Both Take the Square and Shut it Down are very much practice of revolt as opposed to a revolution, a temporal blur in the frontline of the struggle when some new consciousness sweeps through spaces and transform them into something else. That temporal moment must be widened out into a whole succession of moments. I would argue that “revolution” today is founded on the integration of the spirit of revolt, with its politicization of depoliticized space and ambitions for a new form of ‘democracy’, with designs, prototypes, and plans for how these spaces and the technics and relations that are contained within can be reorganized into something else.

    • certainly easier to monkey-wrench than to rebuild, be cool to try and catalog some “designs, prototypes, and plans” as folks come upon and or invent them, maybe like open-source-resistance architecture? think we’d get sued for starting a whole eaarth catalog?

      • Hell, why let that stop anything!

        But one a more serious note, I think its a wonderful idea, and it could be a load of fun too… maybe even set it up as a 21c Whole Earth Catalog open access journal? I was just reading today a paper by the Science and Technology Policy Institute (whatever that this) that described how in coping with the coming technological changes, testing the waters on design prototypes will require future corporations to “supplement market research with design toolkits based on personal manufacturing technologies. Company-issued design toolkits consisting of customizable electronic blueprints and on-the-spot manufacturing tools would enable consumers to do their own product prototyping and customization, providing companies with a powerful alternative to market research.”

        Why let capital have all the say? Whole Earth Catalog showed countless people how to turn the monkey wrench, and today’s tech and infrastructures exist far beyond what was described back then. I say we do it. I think between each of our separate spaces (both digital and personal) we have a wide enough network to tap into to get the ball rolling, no?

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