collective self-education in the arts and culture…


In the first part of my lecture in Belgrade (, page January 2009, more about I introduced two concepts, de-linking and de-coloniality, implicating a certain cut with contemporary processes of capitalist institutionalization, control and subjugation. I can say that my proposal was and is a proposal for the intensification of a re-politicization of life. This re-politicization of life is a critical intervention capable of providing means, goals and forces for dealing with the present reality of global capitalism. Today, capitalism is clearly biopolitics, a radical institutionalization, control and subjugation of life, that needs, I argue, to be re-politicized, intensified, by changes brought with modes of management of life outside the First capitalist world, which is necropolitics.

Biopolitics is a horizon of articulating contemporary capitalist societies from the so-called politics of life, where life (it does not matter anymore, via Giorgio Agamben, if bare/naked life or life with forms) is seen as the zero degree of intervention of each and every politics into contemporary societies. But today capital’s surplus value is based on the capitalization of death (Latin necro) worlds. In the text “Necropolitics,” (2003) Achille Mbembe discusses this new logic of capital and its processes of geopolitical demarcation of world zones based on the mobilization of the war machine. Mbembe claims that the concept of biopolitics, due to the war machine and the state of exception being one of the major logics of contemporary societies, should be replaced with necropolitics. Necropolitics is connected to the concept of necrocapitalism, i.e., contemporary capitalism, which organizes its forms of capital accumulation that involve dispossession and the subjugation of life to the power of death. The necrocapitalist capturing of the social implies new modes of governmentality that are informed by the norms of corporate intensified rationality and deployed in managing violence, social conflicts, fear and the Multitude. No conflict that challenges the supreme requirements of capitalist rationalization is tolerable – economic growth, profit maximization, productivity, efficiency and the like. I argued that with this move Mbembe gave us a possibility to re-politicize biopolitics, saying that it is a time for its intensification as well as its historization.

In this second part of my lecture, I want to go on rearticulating, resuming, rewriting Santiago López Petit’s book, entitled Global Mobilization. Brief Treatise to Attack the Reality (La movilización global. Breve tratado para atacar la realidad) published in Spanish by Editorial Traficantes de Sueños, Barcelona in June 2009. Santiago López Petit is one of the key Spanish contemporary philosophical figures who was involved in workers’ struggles in the 1970s. Today, he participates in several political initiatives along with the groups Oficina 2004 and Espai en Blanc.

Petit’s book is a militant demand for further politicization of life. But contrary to numerous analyses of globalization seen as a process, Petit claims (through Badiou or even more so through Deleuze) that contemporary global capitalism is an event. Petit states that if we think of globalization as the result of a process, we imply a development and a progression (also temporarily a regression, crisis), and therefore, we are not capable of understanding the way capitalism functions. If we think about neoliberal globalization, global capitalism, as a process, we therefore even imply capital emancipation (as it had been stated throughout the previous decade in numerous exhibitions, symposia, books throughout Europe and the US, that capital is social, etc.). In such a situation, we are ready to almost naturally accept, I would say, fake discourses of morality with which capitalism tries to cover up the outcome of the crisis these days (financialization of capital) by stating that it was all just some sort of a mistake, as capital is noble and that financialization, making money from money without investing into production, is just a single perversion, a mistake. No!

Capitalism is not an irreversible process but, as stated by Petit, a reversible and conflictual event. Moreover, everything that is going on in the world today is brought back to one single event, and this is not the crisis, nor Obama, but what Petit calls the unrestraintment of capital. Neoliberal globalization, which is the synonym of the global era, is nothing more than the repetition of this only event that is the unrestraintment of capital.

The unrestraintment of capital creates a paradoxical spatialization that requires two repetitions. Petit says, on one side, a founding repetition with which a system of hierarchy is reestablished, leading to the constant reconstruction of a center and periphery and, on the other, a so-called de-foundational repetition that presents itself as the erosion of hierarchies, producing dispersion, multiplicity and multi-reality. The unrestraintment of capital, as argued by Petit, implicates both repetitions at once. Therefore, repetition not only and solely produces the “jouissance” of minimal difference, but repetition is a mechanism of control, subjugation and repression. Repetition of the unrestraintment of capital, repeated vertically and horizontally, rearticulates a global space-time that repeatedly effectuates the co-propriety of capital and power.

The unrestraintment of capital is, as argued by Petit, the only event that – being repeated in any moment and any place – unifies the world and connects everything that is going on within it. Repetition is also de-foundational in the measure with which, according to Petit, capital repeats indifference for equality.

I can propose, therefore, 3 major fields with which Petit tackles global capitalism and life in the book, and these are: reality, capital/power, and democracy. These segments are linked together through two almost old mechanisms that are evidently operative today: circularity in the way of self-referentiality and empty formalism on one side, and tautology that produces obviousness on the other. Tautology means obviousness. This tautology, as argued by Petit, presents itself today as the complete and total coincidence of capitalism and reality. To say that capitalism and reality totally coincide means that reality today is reality. The date of the event that made that reality and capitalism coincide totally is, as argued by Petit, September 11th, 2001. Petit states that the outcome of September 11th, 2001 was the excess of reality, it was the moment when reality exploded. Petit warns us that in the global era the debate in-between modernity and postmodernity has become obsolete.

I will claim, on the contrary, that modernity is important as it allows the rethinking of two emancipative projects that failed historically: enlightenment and communism. The failures are historically clear, on one side we have the brutal history of colonialism, in the recent past we have the Holocaust and in the last decade, so to speak, we have Srebrenica in BiH. Though we could go on and make a list of repetitions: Rwanda, Darfur, Chechnya, Gaza, etc.

To be sure, colonialism led directly to Nazism and Fascism. The other big project of modernism is communism, which has not been reflected well enough either, due to its past failure of Stalinism. The future of communism is paradoxical though, as it is emptied of its historical context today, in order to be presented as an infinite playground model of jouissance, for emancipated Western intellectuals.

I suggest, in relation to Alain Badiou, a political act of “FORCING”; implying a force that is the result of an approach that insists of a continued analysis of knowledge/coloniality/modernity. This forcing is especially based on the demand to de-link contemporary art and theory from contemporary forms of epistemological coloniality (as defined by Walter Mignolo and Madina Tlostanova). Contemporary epistemological coloniality presents only the Western matrix of enlightenment and does not take into consideration the epistemological breaks and shifts taking place in the so-called “exterior,” or rather at the “edges” of Western European scientific thought.

Marina Garcés, in her book In the Prisons of the Possible (En las prisiones de lo possible), published in Spanish by Edicions Bellaterra, Barcelona (2002), states that contemporary capitalism does not circumscribe to the articulation of a determined economic system and its production, but subsumes all spheres of life, thus coinciding with reality itself in the last instance. The outcome is a political consensus, called democracy, whose institutions do not carry any political status anymore, but are seen as an “environment” that can only be adjusted and improved but not subverted and ousted in any case. Garcés talks about the democracy-market in which anything can pass, or be taken for granted and where the world is presented in its naked truth. Meaning: this is what it is! It is a terminal obviousness that presents a world not as open, but as closed and without a future, despite seeing such an intensified theoretical reworking of infinity.

In the back of the unrestraintment of capital, it is nevertheless necessary to think about the limits of capital. But to say that the unrestraintment of capital means going off the limit is, as Petit stated, not at all what this event is about. Because the only limit of capital is capital itself, so the unrestraintment of capital is not something outside of it (as is said about the crisis, being something “abnormal,” and also something that will bring capitalism to its end); the unrestraintment of capital just means something more than capital.

Petit links capital and power in the following ways: 1. Capital is more (than) capital 2. Capital that is more than capital is power. Such a relation presents a new situation between capital and power, which is named by Petit as co-propriety capital / power. Such co-propriety capital / power needs a medium in order to take place. We have three fundamental media today where capital and power own each other: innovation, public space and war.

Innovation: new information and communication technologies, biotechnologies, the pharmaceutical industry and science are proposed as fields of innovation with which we will supposedly overcome the present crisis. Public space is increasingly privatized and depoliticized; instead of politics, we talk about catastrophes (ecological, educational). The re-politicization of de-schooling, that I propose here and now, asks not for the abandoning of public education (of buildings, practices and histories) to merciless privatization and building parallel educational structures outside the public educational system instead, but on the contrary, presents a re-appropriation of the public educational system. War allows for the management of life through the capitalization of death (Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan).

Petit states that such a situation of the changed relation between capital and power, which is the relation of the co-propriety today, asks for a different relation between globalization and the nation-State. The nation-State is not a victim of globalization, as is constantly repeated, rather the nation-State successfully adapts itself to globalization. We see this in the intensified measures that are implemented by the nation-States in terms of privatization of all public sectors, from education to health and culture, and also in the way that class division and racism are managed in our capitalist contemporaneity. Intensified racism, if we just think about EU legislative policy, presents processes of class and institutional racializations that are supported by constantly reinvented new neocolonial structures.

For the unrestraintment of capital to handle conflicts, it needs a formal frame, and this is neoliberal capitalist democracy. Democracy articulates two modes of power. As argued by Petit, one is the war-State (governance and violence  with brutal exploitation, expropriation, discrimination, repression),  the other postmodern fascism. They work as a grid of vertical and horizontal forces, and in order to escape Frederic Jameson’s old cognitive mapping, we can think, I propose, of their working together as in the case of computed tomography. This also means, as I have already stated in the past, that it is not possible to understand global capitalism if we do not include new media technology, the digitalized mode of programming in its logic of functioning. Computed tomography (CT) is a specialized X-ray imaging technique. It may be performed as it is stated in medical technical language as “plain” or with the injection of a “Contrast Agent.” This makes a perfect metaphor for analysis, as we can say that it is used as “plain” in Africa, Kosovo, Chechnya, as well on the workers (without any rights and overexploited) from the former ex-Yugoslav republics in Slovenia, or when “just fixing” the situation with migrants (made illegalized ) in the EU through seclusion and deportation. “Pure,” this is my thesis, means with pure, naked, bare force. Or it can be used with the “Contrast Agent” as in Iraq or Afghanistan, or Pakistan. In these regions, major economic interests are at stake, such as petrol and heroin, vital for the US, EU, etc., and therefore, to cover this, it is necessary to have agents. CT creates an image by using an array of individual small X-Ray sensors and a computer. By spinning the X-Ray source, data is collected from multiple angles. A computer then processes information to create an image on the screen.

The war-State is one face of democracy and serves for dominance. The other is postmodern fascism. It serves as the dissolution of the democratic state in a multi-reality of social technologies. Postmodern fascism, as stated by Petit, is constructed on the autonomy of each individual. As such, it is a self-govermentality that is based on the self-management of a proper autonomy. The war-State produces coherency. It homogenizes. Its action is propaganda. Think of the mobilization of the masses against terrorism, for example. Postmodern fascism, on the other hand, is informal, non-coherent, as it is based on the autonomy of differences. It produces differences. Its action is communication. These differences are brilliantly described in the book by Petit.

I would like to note that the war-State, in its verticality – functioning by way of force, violence, fear – is but a pure fascist state. However, it would be too simple if we would use historical fascism for its naming, because we would fail to emphasize what the major logic of dominance in the world today is, and this logic is the logic of war. The war-State definitely has elements of classical fascism: a sovereign leader, people, death as the management of life. While on the other side there is the neoliberal context of the individuals’ autonomy, which is the neoliberal freedom of having rights to just be an individual brand. It is rightly so, as proposed by Petit, to name it postmodern fascism. As Petit says, postmodern fascism sterilizes the Other, evacuates the conflict from public space and neutralizes the political. It is not strange that we continuously repeat that global capitalism is about depoliticization. Postmodern fascism works through a constant self-mobilization, just think about the last U2 world tour, etc. I can state that although capitalism has brought the world to its end, it is not the end yet!


Marina Grzinic, researcher at FI ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana, Slovenia and professor
at the Academy for Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria.

Category: Lectures Archive

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Deschooling Classroom

Deschooling Classroom is a project that addresses the contemporary independent cultural scenes in the region, researching and offering an alternative to the hierarchical models of education in the art and culture. Methodologically, the project moves away from the concepts of individual authorship and expertise, and advocates open collective educational structures where self-organised communities facilitate horizontal production, exchange and distribution of knowledge.