Archaeology of the Radical Internet: Reflections on the Early European Counter Network in the Age of ‘Networked Social Movements’

 

ecn1The euphoria of Occupy and the ‘Arab Spring’ seems a long way away. The mass movements on the streets and in the squares from 2010 to 2013 seemed to many to open up new forms of collective politics amidst a new global geography of public spaces – Tahrir Square (Cairo), Gezi Park (Istanbul), Zuccotti Park (New York), Puerta del Sol Square (Madrid), Syntagma square (Athens)…and many more. In his overview Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (2012), Paul Mason wrote that ‘There is a great river of human hope flowing’.
Manuel Castells – who I heard speaking at Occupy London to an audience seated on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral – also saw new hope in the emergence of non-hierarchical, non-programmatic ‘networked social movements’, facilitated and indeed transformed by new social media technologies, with ‘mass self-communication, based on horizontal networks of interactive, multidirectional communication on the internet and, even more so, in wireless communication networks’. Indeed, Castells argued, ‘the internet provides the organisational communication platform to transform the culture of freedom into the practice of autonomy’ (‘Network of Outrage and hope: social movements in the internet age’, 2012).

But right now, towards the end of 2014, it is increasingly difficult to sustain this optimism. [Read more →]

Continuous Crisis – Historical action and passion in Antonio Negri’s Insurgencies

Judicial hermeneutics
The truism that history is written by (or rather, on behalf of) conquerors is more respectable now than ever before among Sunday supplement intellectuals.  The reason  (where it goes beyond a simple, resentful wish to damn historical analysis per se as ‘irrelevant’) seems to be that victors’ history is easily opposed to that of victims, that ill-defined class in whose name a towering moral authority can always be claimed.  If it does nothing else, Antonio Negri’s book on constituent power, recently published in English as Insurgencies, wrecks this convenient opposition.  Its Italian title translates as “constituent power: essay on the alternatives within modernity”: in the shadow of this concept, Negri outlines a modern social and political  counter-tradition which, though defeated again and again, never attains the saintly glow of victimhood, for it has never acknowledged its project to be finished with.  From Machiavelli’s citizen millitia to the LA rioters of 1992 [1.], these historical agents refuse to become patients represented by the politics of empathy. [Read more →]