The Yellow Vests


The reaction by one of France’s “Yellow Vests” to Macron’s about face was as follows:

“We have put Macron on one knee. Now he must fall.”

This from a middle aged, over taxed and under paid member of France’s proletariat, a subject written out of leftist thought for the last 50 years as a dupe of consumerism, a spent political force, a class dissolving into a morass of individual interests. For many on the left focus shifted to that segment of the population at one remove from the productive forces – the structurally unemployed, the precariously under- employed, the marginalised, the excluded, the undocumented. There, it seemed, one could engage with a real instance of the degradation that should have been visited on the proletariat but which the latter had managed to escape. Instead, the workers had retreated to the suburbs and embraced the rewards of the democratic-materialist lifestyle.

The hope of a communist future had fallen foul of the vagaries of history, despite the apparent truth of a philosophical proposition: that the proletariat was the relational axis around which history must revolve. The possibility of immediate consumption, enabled by a general increase in purchasing power, had seduced the workers into abandoning the revolutionary mandate bestowed on them by a conception of history as driven by the motor of internal contradiction.

Actual “history” though, could subsume the new found materialist lifestyle into it’s unfolding without difficulty; events continued on their way impervious to the telos projected into them from a philosophical outside. Reality continued to deliver the unforeseen, establishing order out of  chaos and dissolving order into chaos in wavelike undulations that subsumed philosophical constructs and the practices of intervention which they inspired as one more spasmodic twist along a multidimensional continuum without centre or periphery, beginning or end.

Call history, then, that foreclosed real from which we act in and on worlds. Bypass a machine metaphor which tries to incorporate motion into structure as rythmatic predictability. There is no “motor of history” dialectical or other.

The dialectical was, at best, a generality describing the relation  between economic structures and processes  and the structures and processes of social relation and their evolution. It tried to map the contradictions that inevitably ensue with advances in technology. But at no time was the outcome of the application of the dialectical method to concrete events so fixed as to enable predictive power of the sort we expect from the empirical sciences. The only alternative, if one wanted to preserve the concept of a science of the dialectic, was to relax the criteria of what constituted a science. Such a move was irrelevant to practising scientists and remained an ideological imposition on science by Marxists, an attempt to steal the glory of science for Marxism in an age of scientific positivism.

The whole history of dialectical thought, from Hegel through Marx to the simplifications of ideological Marxism and the complexities of academic Marxism, all of that too was effortlessly folded into the movement of the Real, as easily as a piece of flotsam is folded into the curve of a wave and taken beyond our reach. The actual history of the social beings who conceived the idea of the dialectic continued to evolve, inclusive of that philosophical act of constituting the actual as dialectical. A thought about the mode of the unfolding of history was folded back into history as the realisation of that idea in the actuality of social life. Many were won over to the dialectic, Marx included, and many others to Marxist dialectics in the era of the mass movements for social change of the last century and the victory of state socialism.

Eventually, as we all know, the dialectic fell foul of post structuralist thought, and a general mistrust of totalist ideas, grand narratives, master signifiers, the scientific and the technological. But it survived the process and continues to fascinate. The more sophisticated have tried to incorporate something of the fold into the event, imagining time as a series of recursions incorporating a moment of structural relation, a sort of dialectical looping along a trajectory from past to future. At the other philosophical extreme, those desperate to escape the constructionist knot dissolve time and space into the quantum, installing superposition and effect at a distance in place of the dialectic, imagining themselves able to operate as an immanent subject of freedom, deploying a form of magic-science to conjure virtual worlds by way of language acts.

The majority of humanity – what we used to call the people (before it became politically incorrect to reify the mass as opposed to surreptitiously liquidating the mass into the individual) hang on and try to stay afloat, taking each wave of “history” as it comes, hoping only for that relative knowledge that might prove useful for survival. If they find their voice it is always to express a felt need – Macron must fall- a thought that expects that the world should be just. How did they arrive at that conclusion? They don’t know. They were brought to it by the brutality of a circumstance that made it impossible for life to go on as it had. They came onto the streets, visible now in their yellow vests (is there a more profound comment on the willful blindness of their masters?) once more written into a History they had been previously written out of.

More and more this will be the case. The rise of the Right, populist and explicitly fascist, says as much. That the proletariat, once more exercising it’s power as a political subject, will not automatically swing to the left as the climate crisis exacerbates the contradictions in capitalist social relations is simply another way of saying that there is no dialectic at work guaranteeing a good outcome. The climate crisis is one and the same crisis as the crisis of capitalism;  commodity production and exchange just is the appropriation for profit of the natural energy locked into the body of the worker as a particular instance of the energy locked into animal bodies and the body of the planet.

Where will the yellow vests go from here? Into the arms of the neo-rightists, of course, who have re-learned the art of speaking the wishes of the people by way of their populist propaganda. It seems almost inevitable, considering the absence of a leftist movement of equal force, that the energy of the yellow vest movement will re-emerge at the ballot box as that surge necessary to lift Le Pens party into power, alone or in a coalition of the right.

“We have put Macron on one knee. Now he must fall.”

It has the finality of an incantatory invocation, signalling the liquidation of the centre, and the near end of the reign of bourgeois rights and freedoms, in France as across the world.

We will not be saved by a science of the dialectical or the empirical. The future is already with us.

What will we do, we on the left?


42 responses to “The Yellow Vests

    • What are you looking for re: “hows”?

      The ONLY way this civilization makes it through the climate sorting process is via a Green New Deal on all continents. Otherwise we are looking billions dead and the rich retreating to underground and undersea havens.

      • then it’s safe to say the civilization doesn’t make it? I’m looking for something that goes at least of the way towards a “Green New Deal”. how to get from here to there?

          • This is an example of the mediatised a-political stupidity we should avoid like the plague. “a-political” is a misnomer, of course, since the insidious nature of this discourse is formative of a certain sort of political subject. I can imagine, though, that this particular cognitive/affect bubble is a refuge for some lost souls. Unfortunately the bubble will burst, sooner or later, via the intrusion of the real.

            Hard thinking is what we need, in huge doses, dispassionately administered by cruel theory !!

              • Your version of blogosphere S&M seems crueller. Probably because of your masochistic passivity. Of course it’s an abstract game. When your hair goes on fire you shout for water.

            • “Hard thinking is what we need, in huge doses, dispassionately administered by cruel theory” ==> I think this is in large part correct. Tough love writ weird and harsh. A negative that transforms. I think Dirk drastically underappreciates the practicality of poltico-poetics for cognitive creatures.

          • Thanks for the link.
            I think it is absolutely essential that those who support a new deal work to break the democratic party away from it’s compromised political leadership. This is especially important. Otherwise, the party will simply wither away in the coming years out of a voter sense of it’s complete ineffectivity, given the machinations in both the congress and the senate.

            Pushing for a split from the leadership will have two results

            1. It will put pressure on the existing lower echelons of the party to swing to an explicit left stance , a move I think the Sanders faction already supports .

            2. It will re-establish class division at the heart of American politics, a division that, with the emergence of right populism, is in danger of producing a neo-fascist solution to the problems workers will face in an ever escalating crisis of capitalism.

            Take heed of the lessons of the German workers in 19344!!!!

            A broad front of genuinely democratic forces, allied to the
            green factions and to leftists outside the party is the only way peaceful change and a radical and socially equitable program to address the climate crisis will come about in America. Since America is the imperial power, any change there will have worldwide repercussions. The world will follow, as evidenced by the way the election of Trump has fed into a worldwide resurgence of right populism.

  1. Hi Cyborg nomade,
    Green new deal my reformist ass… it was new deal reformist thinking that got us half way to perdition…neo-liberalism will likely get us the remainder of the way. Two sides of the same capitalist coin. If all you can come up with is “Green New Deal”, whatever the hell that entails, go read on a blog that panders to your lazy thinking! Shouldn’t “cyborgs” be a little less wimpy and have a bit more intellectual staying power? Maybe not.

    • “michael james December 28, 2018 at 1:43 pm · · Reply →
      The ONLY way this civilization makes it through the climate sorting process is via a Green New Deal on all continents. Otherwise we are looking billions dead and the rich retreating to underground and undersea havens”
      heh is this the D&G “schizo” I’ve been reading about all these years where a blog punks itself?

      • Ha! Well maybe it’s desperation on my part to get some sort of response at the level I am trying to write at from the purported readership.( although it might not be at your high level, of course) Would you prefer an inane consensus? I might be spoiled though. I started to write and read contemporary philosophy a few years ago at SNB. There, for a long while, there was something to contend with and people did contend with each other, often via long threads of comment full of extraordinarily apt exchanges. I realise now that SNB was somewhat unique. That said, surely there is someone out there with an opinion.? Or are we talking to the wall? Or the living dead?
        Are you as worn out as your cynicism makes you sound?

        • yes worn out by the daily grinds, desperation is the mood I suppose, no shortage of opinions out there but very little in the way of anything practicable and the focus on what’s at hand is my “level” down here in the rough ground tho I know that to point to what is actually happening is to be judged as cynical, really was just amused at you suggesting that readers who want details about a new green urbanism go elsewhere on a blog that now seems devoted to imagining a new green urbanism, we are truly in a context of no context…

          Click to access no_context.pdf

    • Patrick, I think the assumption that we can do anything but “reform” – work toward re-formations of existing ideological and ecological materials – is delusional. A massive coordinated retooling of the economy is the only things that can avert catastrophe at this point. The only approach. It’s either involuntary depopulation or radical re-formation of our existing human security systems (also with creation of new values and systems). Can you envision any other way of feeding and caring for 9 billion people (by 2050) on such a small planet? It’s not “lazy thinking”, but rather ethical strategy to work towards a GND. Anything short of total social mobilization will not work.

      • Agreed.
        I think we need to look at the experience of Syria to see what can happen to a multi -cultural, ethnically diverse society when a global approach is not attempted or fails. Massive armed conflict, with people retreating into their ethnic enclaves. And, take note, a still functioning and deadly state power waging its own war to re-establish dominance.

        In America, given its ethnic diversity, this would be a disaster on epic proportions, given the fact that what happens in America has profound consequences for the world, not least because of its nuclear capability.

        That said, Rojava shows that even in such dire circumstance something beautiful is still possible. But we never want to get to that place for sure! The only alternative, then, is mass mobilisation, peaceful resistance and civil disobedience on a scale equivalent to the mobilisations that produced the two world wars.

        Extinction Rebellion!

  2. On the other hand, when the hundreds of extraordinary texts produced here by Michael and Arran can go largely without comment maybe I am expecting too much!

  3. I think that blogging only works well as a site for discussion when folks are working a something close a shared project and most of the posts here tend to be rather abstract so there isn’t much to do in terms of working out particulars and I don’t think there is any real agreement even at the abstract level, doesn’t leave much to do in terms of commenting.

    • Yes, I get what you mean. On the other hand isn’t climate change and it’s likely effects a common ground? Maybe not. I think you are wrong about “abstract” texts, if by that you mean the philosophical nitty gritty. We need more, not less.

      Don’t know what “new green urbanism” means but that’s probably my ignorance talking. For me “new deal” reeks of compromise and the American Democratic Party machine and all it stands for. That’s probably my age talking. My impression of anyone under fifty I happen to interact with is that they are overcome by a sort of chronic fatigue. I had a brutally poor and sometimes violent early life but I have never suffered the sort of depression you lot seem to suffer from. I’m being presumptuous, of course. Havn’t a clue what age you are.

      Years ago, on the left, anyone who could read and write with any competence, never mind have a university education, who gave in to pessimism or depression was named a defeatist, simple as that. Simplistic, I know, but maybe all we need is the kick in the ass reality is about to give us before we wake up and retrieve the sort of dogged optimism the really poor cant afford to lose.

      Anyway hope you stick around here. I’m just a blow in, as you know.

      • “On the other hand isn’t climate change and it’s likely effects a common ground” no that’s blinding hope of folks who preach about the intrusion of the Real or the Outside or other such deus ex machina but there is no such savior coming to snap us out of our cognitive-biases, you more or less have the new green deal (new urbanism) right and I agree with you that it’s a pipedream but Michael and others hold onto the idea that somehow we can re-form it to fit our current situation but of course we don’t have shared interests/understandings/expectations and no way to manufacture them so no way of assembling anything of a workable scale, hell as we’ve been discussing in this thread we can’t even agree about what abstract terms like “post-nihilism” means in a blog like this.. I’m over 50 and not depressed in any clinical sense just not blinkered when it comes to the daily news or historical trends realism is depressing for those of us without magical thinking, see any of the all too many posts I’ve added here with what were current events, people like to speculate about what life will be like after the fall of state governments and I offer examples of actual failed states and other sacrifice zones, people go on about patchworks and I ask what about the militaries and they cry pessimism or the like and yet:
        so you can see that reality doesn’t tend to sink in even in a kind of slow-drip sideways approach like I tried to implement.
        I like philosophical abstractions but they don’t lend themselves well to much discussion unless people already buy-in to them as they are presented, and people don’t care much for trying to apply them to the rough ground of the nitty-gritty which is where more to and fro could come about. I don’t think we have a cure for hope (and who would be cruel enough to apply it to folks if we did?) but we don’t have to feed it, we (I) need some naturalist version of the buddhist practice of feeding such demons like one might for a feral animal that isn’t really welcome to come in the house..
        Michael very generously allowed me to vent here for a long time and I’m grateful for that so I tend to keep watch, cheers.

        • Thanks for responding. And for the text from the New Yorker. It prompted me to wonder about your age.

          As usual your post pointed me in a good direction: to what has often been called the micro politics of the mediated everyday. Which is where that particular form of depressed passivity I think we are suffering from is generated, by way of complex defused cognitive/affective /bodily instances of knowing which we fail to act upon, both individually and collectively. Which is why I think Badiou’s thought and his insistence on a positive and consciously proactive commitment to “subjecthood” and the living out of “truth procedures” (in whatever discourse we choose to articulate that process of individuation) is vital to our well being.

          As for Royjova I have been trying to write something on Michaels Patchwork text that starts out from an acknowledgement that here we have a living example of “patchworking” and one in danger of being subjected to Erdogan’s iron fist of retribution.

          At a more general level we could acknowledge that, especially in the former colonies, which incorporated the majority of the worlds population, whole peoples have been subjected to a practice of patchworking to survive to the plunder and aggression of European and American Imperialism. Armed state power is one of those social formations that will not “melt into air” in a period of social upheaval. On the contrary, history shows that it will revel it’s true nature as a force of naked coercion as bourgeois rights are abandoned. It will continue to be a deadly external (if not internal) threat to any new social/economic enclave or patchwork. Smaller does not automatically mean that the problem of state power goes away.

          “… so you can see that reality doesn’t tend to sink in even in a kind of slow-drip sideways approach like I tried to implement.”

          Well, I think you are wrong there. Your own practice and its positive results, which I can plainly see in my own thinking, proves otherwise. Writing, and blogging generally, has untold effects exactly at the level of the micro everyday. Which is why you persist, probably, although for some reason you sound as if you are disowning the positive energy it generates in your own psyche.

          “I like philosophical abstractions but they don’t lend themselves well to much discussion unless people already buy-in to them as they are presented…”

          Which is why a pluralist, open-ended, respectful, passionate and principled engagement between stances at a philosophical and political level is the way to go, founded on a willingness to enter immanently into the diverse discursive worlds human beings continue to innovate, without recourse to dismissive rejection of the varied forms of truth procedure that constitute those worlds, or , on the other hand, some sort of inane and spurious consensus.

          “…I don’t think we have a cure for hope”.

          Hope is a cruel friend.

          “…but we don’t have to feed it, we (I) need some naturalist version of the buddhist practice of feeding such demons like one might for a feral animal that isn’t really welcome to come in the house.”


          • “Which is where that particular form of depressed passivity I think we are suffering from is generated, by way of complex defused cognitive/affective /bodily instances of knowing which we fail to act upon, both individually and collectively”
            I think this is sort of perennial consciousness-raising hope is a fundamental misreading of the situation which is that we (the mutant fringe who actually/viscerally know and don’t just have some facts we repeat but don’t really grasp, don’t really hit us) aren’t in a position to meaningfully act in the sense of making a difference that makes a difference (what would be a counter example?) in the trends of the day, so how to cope while living with/in this kind of learned helplessness while being surrounded by the endless choir of the blind faithful?
            I learned a long time ago in my personal life and clinical work that somethings need to be expressed knowing that they won’t be well received,won’t bring what one want, if we are to keep actual pain from the added insult of ungrounding anxiety, the harder longer lesson is giving up one trying to bring other people around but I keep at it day by day as they say…

            • “aren’t in a position to meaningfully act in the sense of making a difference that makes a difference”

              The extra needed comes about as the existing set of habitual relations, processes and structures come undone on a mass scale. At that point “making a difference that makes a difference” becomes possible. Humans live in a relative world of mailable social formations, not an abstract world of rigid structures, although we can think such abstractions to try to make sense of the nature of the relations involved. Large changes come about in periods of crisis made of incremental changes brought about by human action. At some point a tipping point is reached and a decisive change occurs.

              At some point you will accept that you must act to stave of the worst affects of the crisis, alone or in tandem with your fellow beings. One has only to imagine oneself as a Syrian, for example, to see how such a change might unfold –it becomes a matter of necessity. One exercises one’s freedom to act in the face of the concrete situation. You do it in a less dramatic form when you get up in the morning and do what you know you have to do, given the state of your situation. Of course, there are those who retreat into depression or dreams of escape but they are a part of the situation we must address. We try to help them see the necessity of acting, or whatever.

              Of course you don’t need to be told all of this , you know it already, better than I do. But we both know it only in the abstract. When that larger set of relations becomes malleable, we will begin to see concrete possibilities we never imagined and we will do things we never thought we were capable of, for good and evil. We too will change.

              “the harder longer lesson is giving up one trying to bring other people around but I keep at it day by day as they say…”

              One day we will go out onto the street and find there a mass of others who have come out too, knowing that something needs to be done. We will not have to convince them of the bare necessity to act. At that point the real question will be asked. What is to be done? That the start of a real politics. It’s exactly what the poet Yeats, on seeing the Irish rebellion, called a terrible beauty. He wasn’t talking in the abstract, by the way. And my “one day” is a way of describing the sum of all of our present actions, positive and negative, who’s cumulative end point we are now blind to.

              Of course you can reject all of that. Strangely enough, and for good reason, we are free to deny the possibility of change even as we make it appear out of the complex interaction of our individual acts.

              • “Revolutions are the festivals of the oppressed and the exploited”- Lenin

                70th anniversary of Chinese Revolution
                60th anniversary of Cuban Revolution
                40th anniversary of Iranian Revolution
                40th anniversary of Grenada Revolution
                40th anniversary of Nicaraguan Revolution

              • hey m, sure revolutions happen but that’s nothing like what is being proposed by the green new dealers and the like, they are all believers in democracy and yet have no new means of overcoming all of the obstacles in their way, the divided interests, corporate overlords, etc. They are proposing an institutionalized change on a scale and breadth never before done at a time of intense political divide and with fewer available resources where they are in a pretty severe minority, it’s an empirical question really and we can watch it play out so far Pelosi is doing what I predicted but only time will tell so we’ll see.

                • Can I intrude here to say that I agree with you as far as hoping for a radical shift from the Democratic Party leadership is concerned. No way that’s going to happen. A split is necessary in which the Sanders faction is forced to break away from the centrists. That requires an influx into the grass-root organization of those interested in radical change so as to push the membership to the left. Under that sort of pressure Sanders and his supporters will implement a more radical programme and go to the electorate with a genuine left alternative to an increasingly rightist Republican party. The working class will respond. The centre is finished, in America and in Europe.
                  As for a revolution in the classical sense-the eventual armed overthrow of the government- that’s out of the question, if only because of the proliferation of weapons and their ease of use. America in that situation would divide on race, ethnic and religious and political grounds and fragment in a very dangerous way, producing a Syrian-type disaster on epic proportions. The only viable alternative in America and Europe is a mass movement , uniting all political factions in a green/left common front against the unending developmental /free market model and the already discredited centralised parliamentary system. There are viable alternative economic models and more decentralised and democratic models of governance. As the situation grows more and more precarious for the majority of people they will swing to the left or the right. Trumps election and the Sanders campaign have proved as much. That trend will intensify as the problem of food and shelter moves to the centre of the debate about how we should be governed and how we can provide for basic food security and basic services.

                  • Question for you Patrick: how, or in what way, can you see democracy making it out of the coming climate sorting process intact? I don’t see Democracy as a viable form of social organization at this point. Emergency measure are required now, and certainly will be when it gets really bad.

                    • I think there is a danger here of playing into rightist hands by denigrating bourgeois rights and democratic institutions. We must separate out the concept of democracy from its parliamentary form. There is no doubt that the powers that be will suspend democratic rights as things hot up but democracy will survive as a form of resistance. The old idea of a Lenninist Party is dead, and even if it wasn’t who would want to return to that form. A new participatory, consciously non-hierarchical and non-gendered concept of democracy is already being articulated and practised in the very act of resisting and no doubt the concept will evolve as things move forward. Of course the ruling political powers will try to impose a form of national mobilization on a par with the sort of thing that was put in place during the run up to the second world war. It is that very consolidation of state power that must be resisted, overcome and replaced by a non-hierarchical, participatory, community based exercise of local democratic franchise coordinated at a national level by those very same communities. This implies a political revolution that would enable new ways of organising government, perhaps on the basis of some concept of municipality as envisioned, for example, by Murray Bookchin and put into practice in Rojava.

                      The exact contour of that new system are impossible to map in advance, owing to the complexity of the local situations, traditions and cultural forms that will enable it’s appearance.

                • I agree that the scale of a New Green Deal would be unprecedented – a rupture in the consistency of things, as Badiou might say. Yet, this doesn’t mean it is impossible, just a set and series of really wicked problems. My point is that arguing that it is not possible is bad political ontography, or, rather, a poor analysis of the field of operations.

                  The empirical question is both a technical and political issue. And democracy may be an obstacle to change at the rate and scale we need, but I don’t it will be suspended in time (cause it sure will be suspended when things get really bad). Interest will be less divided when the great glut and surplus of meanings we see now is deflated and most things becomes an issue of survival. It’s the great leveler and common denominator – what I call the uncommon commons.

                  I don’t think we make it there, though. So in that sense I share your pessimism, but (and this is my point) its not because humans are incapable of achieving novel modes of being and becoming and doing, but because there are very real and identifiable political, cultural and military blockages. Hence the interest in Deep Adaptation agendas. Patchwork, as variant of political ecology and assemblage theory (or whatever combo of models we want to use) is only about tinkering our way towards combinatorics that help us avoid extinction. Toolkits to survive – salvage – mutate.

                  Also, welcome back sir. You are missed.

        • Dirk you write: “that’s blinding hope of folks who preach about the intrusion of the Real or the Outside or other such deus ex machina but there is no such savior coming to snap us out of our cognitive-biases”

          It has always fascinated me how much you preach limits and biases and the inability of humans to act and coordinate, even though we have millennia of history evincing the opposite. It’s like you refuse concrete history as justification for your preferred affective tint (pessimism).

          Humans have had several major shifts in cognitive orientation during our time on this planet. So many researcher from Thomas Kuhn to Jean Piaget, to Donald Merlin to countless historians have documented micro and macro transitions to whole new ways of organizing our perceptions and values. To say that it is now impossible to enact another shift is ludicrous.

          You write: “we don’t have shared interests/understandings/expectations and no way to manufacture them so no way of assembling anything of a workable scale”

          At one point people argued that we could never organize or think past the “divine right of kings” and high-born/low-born distinctions, yet nationalism – and the material and semiotic dynamics that give rise to it – revolutionized how we identify and the public institutions we created. You also forget the way the Enlightenment developments have shaped crossed boundaries and ethnicities to shape our world, or how information technology allowed translocal organizing in ways inconcievable before the internet.

          Our shared understandings/interests are survival, and cooperative management of resources for optimizing benefit. Groups have humans have achieved this at various scales hundreds of times.

          The point is, your pessimism is neither scientific nor historically accurate. There are plenty of “shared interest and expectations” that organize our world: religions, secular humanisms, addiction to capitalism, etc. And the climate crisis is EXACTLY the kind shared experience/condition that could unite the majority of the species to modify itself – given the right opportunities/projects/discourses.

          Will the climate catastrophe be averted? Probably not. It’s too late (thus the focus on Deep Adaptation). The powers that be will fight to make sure the systems that need changing won’t, and work to divide us at every turn to prevent intersectional coordination. The extinction circuits are too entrenched. and there are too many exhausted, subsumed, and apathetic bourgeois people blocking social change. BUT is this because it’s impossible? Because humans are incapable of remaking themselves and adapting? NO. It’s a technical and cultural problem rooted in a very specific power structure/system.

          Your “blinkers” are based on existential exhaustion and a overriding conformation bias towards fatalism, Dirk.

          A New Green Deal is nothing like “new urbanism”. It would be a massive scale programme like we saw in the U.S during WWII (yet another example of cross-population shared expectations and rapid changes to large scale organization). Given enough support it could reformat the economy and unleash innovations we can’t imagine currently. There is precedent for this type of mobilization, as I already pointed out.

          Moreover, there is no such thing as “postnihilism”. The term is postnihilist praxis, and it denotes the promotion of a negative capability towards perpetual disidentification with all ideological complexes in the service of pragmatic coping and existenzial thriving – individually and collectively. Fairly compact, I think.

          You write: ” people like to speculate about what life will be like after the fall of state governments and I offer examples of actual failed states and other sacrifice zones, people go on about patchworks and I ask what about the militaries and they cry pessimism or the like”

          I invite you to continue to do so. We need more examples/case studies of collapse (deterritorialization) and adaptation-salvage (reterritorialization) on this site – and what this means for developing exist strategies and contingency plans. The only post I remember you offering on this were “just so” stories without any suggestion on how to use them practically to improve our models and approaches and tactics. Please share those case studies where we can learn how to patchwork or counter-patch social systems that are failing.

          Can you explicate clearly the “reality” that “doesn’t tend to sink in even in a kind of slow-drip sideways approach like I tried to implement”? What in a paragraph or two is this reality? PLEASE explain.

          I not a dealer in hope, Dirk. I have no hope to share. I have constant struggle, and I have a waxing and waning desire to map and model and strategize while building my actual life on the ground.

          I’d be interested to know where you see anything like hope being promoted on this website?

          • Nothing to add to that!
            You could post this comment as a manifesto.
            It has the quality of being a passionate response to a genuine experience of the relativity and ultimate futility of our existence when measured against the indifference of the cosmic nil or void!!! Two stars collide. Result-the extermination of how many sentient worlds, given the ubiquity of habitable planets? If you think that is something remote, meditate on the fact that those same processes are at work now and holding each of us on the cusp of oblivion. Fanged noumena, as that fascist bastard Land would have it. Wish his incredible eruditeness was harnessed to something more than a stupid eulogising of bitcoin. For God’s sake!

    • “isn’t climate change and it’s likely effects a common ground?” YES. It is.

      I think that might have been the case in that past, Dirk, but this website is now/will be mostly focused around one central theme approached via two focus streams:

      DEEP ADAPTATION to ecological breakdown approached via:

      1. perpetual cognitive mapping ala theoretical/philosophical discussion and innovation (on the way towards bricolaged mutant subjectivities) –> Patrick’s “hard thinking”.

      2. gathering and presenting practical resources, projects, and tools for coping and living alternatively. –> “hard doing”?

      And all this organized via micro-to-macro ecologistical patchworking/salvage thinking. SYNTHETIC zero = postnihil assemblage thinking?

      • What would that look like on the ground in political terms. I think the old idea of a common front , in which all parties who agreed on the need for action , came together to mobilise without abandoning their particular political, philosophical or ethical allegiances and on an international basis to boot.

        It is too early to say but perhaps Extinction Rebellion would be the beginnings of a sort of common international front.

        In America a split in the democratic party to break the “new deal” majority from the complicit minority of professional careerist politicians, who have sold out on the party’s populist and democratic traditions, seems essential. Only in that way can the party be re.established as , if not a revolutionary force, then as, at least, a force for radical change within existing structures.

        • I’m hoping select Extinction Rebellion units will be that political praxis. I’m one of three leading organizers for XR in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – so I’m directly involved in that stream. On Feb 14, 2019 myself and about 20 others will be arrested in our capital as part of direct action. Finding our way after that will be difficult.

          • Keep us posted here. And perhaps a write up of your experiences? My situation is precarious owing to my European wanderings in the last few years, as far as attracting the attention of the local powers that is. In the summer, I hope to participate in some form of action in Dublin, hopefully under the banner of Extinction Rebellion. The other possibility is to contribute something in Leipzig in the coming months. We will see!Good luck with the February revolution!

      • I’ll keep an eye out here for any specifics of gathered practical resources we will certainly need something other than what’s at hand to experiment with as things go down.
        from Richard Florida’s feed “@JimOnCities
        Jan 5 One of the most thoughtful efforts I’ve seen by a community using #socialinnovation at citywide scale to help vulnerable people. Congrats Team @CityofEdmonton, Mayor @doniveson, MaRS Solution Lab, @BHcityleaders and others. So many lessons.

        • Dirk, please email me directly with any resources you think are good for SZ going forward and I’ll post those in line with our new(ish) direction. The intent is to blend theoretic (intellectual), political (systemic) and technic (practical) content for sharing and discussion.

  4. haha :))

    As much as you like to think of me as a pontificating pipedreamer Dirk, you’d be interested to know that I live in Edmonton, and I was DIRECTLY involved with that project! Still am. This is my day job… We adapted some of the work done in Medicine Hat, Alberta (which I pointed you at a while back) to the Edmonton collab. Mayor Don is baddass!

    Starting in the 5 core neighbourhoods (Boyle Street, Central McDougall, Downtown, McCauley and Queen Mary Park) we are explicitly using a social innovation framework and adapting solutions for cumulative impact.

    The coolest thing about is that we are not starting from scratch – it is a synthetic-eclectic, borrowing from projects from all around the world and combining them in unexpected ways.

    It is a SALVAGE OPERATION: a plan is not to replace existing strategies, policies, programs or services that are already in place in these neighbourhoods, but about testing small solutions to improve urban wellness and find ways to align and better collaborate across different EXISTING ORDERS orders of government, social agencies, local businesses and the community.

    The “social innovation approach” we are taking uses systems thinking (mapping and design) to create and test possible solutions, and makes collaboration central.

    It gives me great pleasure that you refer to this work…………..

  5. Hi Michael,

    Just read through the link dmf posted about “recover” in Edmonton. Very interesting. What astonishes me most is to get an insight into the way an ethnographic/systems science approach can be combined with a community based engagement process. Having had a bit of experience in hardcore problem areas of Dublin, years back now, I can imagine the sort of problems that arose between academic innovators, homeless, addicted and marginalised individuals and community groups and interests. Fireworks!

    At the moment in Dublin a project is in full swing to try and address the problems in the inner city, a geographically small and close-nit community that has been devastated by an ongoing fued between two Irish international drug cartels, resulting in over 19 fatal shootings, most carried out in broad daylight on the streets, or in neighbourhood bars or apartment complexes. I would hope it can succeed but I doubt it owing to the long-standing structural injustice inflicted on this community over generations. The whole situation is complicated by the years of austerity inflicted on Ireland by the E.U , resulting in an unprecedented 1800 homeless families, including 3900 children. That at a time of so-called booming economy.

    The only way I could see the general society benefiting from a systems/ethnographic approach is in the context of radical political change addressing structural problems and abandoning growth and market driven economics in favour of a radically decentralised, democratic/participatory communist/commons/community based approach. Only then might trained academics working with communities produce a really lasting sense of community “well being”. That, of course, does not preclude the sort of work you have been involved in on a local basis. In fact it makes it all the more relevant.

    More and more I realise that the effect of neo-liberal market driven economic models is everywhere particular to the geographic, historical/cultural profiles of the populations subjected to that model, at the level of nation states, regions, communities and localities and across different complex modes of living and continuum of discourse/practice. One can make generalisations – against, for example, capitalist economic and political forms, structures and outcomes- but this is immediately complicated on the ground by historical, geographic, and cultural differences. All of which suggest that only a grass-roots bottom up anti capitalist struggle will be effective in delivering change and that the nature of such locally based movements will not be accommodated by the traditional forms of left organisation or discourse.

    I think digital media might offer ways of enabling a broader co -ordination and interaction of locally based grass-root movements, against the backdrop of a more academic social/economic/philosophical/theoretical critique. In fact that is already happening.

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