Monthly Archives: March 2014

Assignment: Declaration, ch.1

Hi all,

For Wednesday, please read chapter 1 of Declaration. If you did not read the “opening,” please do so.

Today, we discussed the “Opening” of Hardt and Negri’s Declaration. There were four broad themes covered:

1. “Declaration,” not manifesto.

For H&N, recent social movements do not need prophets — the people themselves are expressing what kind of world they want through their revolt and rebellion. The aim of intellectuals like H&N, therefore, is not to describe what the new world must be like, but to interpret the actions of the social movements that are creating a new world.

2. The movements of 2011

2011 saw a global wave of revolt, from Tunisia to Egypt to Spain to Greece to Wisconsin to Occupy Wall Street. Each of these moments was different — there were different local concerns. But, for H&N, there are deep similarities as well. Further, many of these movements were in communication, playing off one another, “passing the baton.”

3. the “forms of subjectivity” of neoliberalism — and the possibility of inverting them through revolt and rebellion.

“Forms of Subjectivity” here means “ways of being a self.” For H&N, who we are is deeply affected by the relations of power in society. They will discuss for forms of subjectivity appropriate to neoliberalism: the Indebted, the Mediatized, the Securitized, and the Represented. For example, to be in debt is to be in the world in a different way from those who aren’t — our perception, our worries, our thoughts are different from how they would otherwise be.

The book will also talk about how in the process of participation in social movements, these subjectivities change and even “invert.”

4. principles of a new constituent power.

The book will propose a set of principles that the authors find in contemporary movements which could serve as the guiding framework for a different society, one with a different conception of what our “inalienable rights” are.

If you didn’t make it today, I think its safe to say you missed a bunch. But we’ll spend some time going through this book.


Reading Assignment

Hi everyone!

For Monday, please read the first chapter (“Opening: Take up the Baton”) from Hardt and Negri’s Declaration (available on the Readings page).

This is a text that is attempting to theoretically interpret recent radical movements of the sort Graeber has called for. I like it a lot.

See you Monday,


Reading, summary notes

For Wednesday, read part 3 of “Revolution in Reverse” (“on alienation”).

Also, here are the notes we put on the e-board today (with a little more explanation):

Graeber, part 2:
1. Violence is a form of human interaction that allows for influence on the other without understanding of the other. 

2. Violence is contrasted with “interpretive labor”: the work of trying to put yourself in other peoples shoes. Interpretive labor requires the exercise of the imagination — we have to imagine how things look from another’s perspective.

3. Here are some situations that show the relationship between violence and interpretive labor:

Situation 1: peaceful society (no real threats of violence). Here, people must engage in interpretive labor in order to get one another to do things.

Situation 2: one side has weapons. This gives them the ability to not engage in interpretive labor, and to ignore the perspective of others. They can simply boss them around with threats.

Situation 3: both sides armed. Now a different kind of Interpretive labor is required, that of military strategy — getting inside the mind of your opponent.

Situation 4: one side overwhelmingly armed. Here, there is unlikely to be overt violence, because if those without weapons rose up, they would simply be crushed. But those in power still have no need for interpretive labor — they can boss the others around without understanding their lives. The point, though, is that there is concealed violence in this situation — structural violence (like race, gender, or class oppression).

4. “structural violence” leads to “lopsided structures of imaginative identification.” Those on top can remain oblivious o the experience of those on the bottom; those on bottom spend a lot of time thinking about and even caring about those on top.

5. Structural violence is often codified through bureaucracy – it is made to look like it is simply the rules. But, any attempt to directly challenge those rules will bring, usually, police. From this perspective, police  are the representatives of the structural violence. 


It was great to stroll and chat with everyone on Friday!

For tomorrow, please have read the second section of Graeber’s “Revolution in Reverse”: “Part 2: On violence and imaginative displacement.”

And please have questions about what stands out/confuses you about the text!


Reading, proposal

Hi everyone,

For Friday, please read the first two sections of David Graeber’s “Revolutions in Reverse.” (from the beginning, through the end of “be realistic”). This is on the “readings” page.

Like everything I’ve assigned, this is a difficult read. But I’ve decided that I want to go through it slowly — we’ll take maybe two weeks with it and make sure we understand it. I’ve been feeling like maybe the class is drifting and needs a little more structure. Do you feel that? If you do, please just take a moment to shoot me an email and let me know where you are at. If things are working for you, feel free to let me know that too — but especially if they aren’t.


Study Guide #2 up, reading assignment, spring break reading

First, I’ve put up the second Study Guide on the study guide page. It is due the Monday after break. Each answer should be a couple paragraphs long. Please use quotations from the readings and, you know, really try to make it nice. 

Second, here is a short essay to read for tomorrow. It is very difficult, and I don’t expect you to get it, but skim over it and see what stands out. In particular, try to think about the phrase “man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt.” I’ll be talking about it tomorrow. Gilles Deleuze, “Post-script on Societies of Control”

Third, over spring break, please read the introduction and the first two chapters of Noam Chomsky’s Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (pgs.7-62).

Also, Track 1, if we haven’t met a second time about your project, let’s do it soon. Track 2, I’ll try to have your first paper back by tomorrow!