Thursday, July 9, 2009

“But, that’s blackmail!”

Ahmed Veriava and Prishani Naidoo

In response to Ahmed Veriava, Prishani Naidoo and Ulrike Kistner’s provocative presentation on the ‘Politics of Life and Survival,’ I would like to take up the matter Ahmed and Prishani admitted is a source of contention in their own work – the politics of survival. As someone whose research is focused on the bio-politics of HIV/AIDS in post-apartheid South Africa, I greatly appreciated the way in which Ulrike make a connection between Ahmed and Prishani’s discussion of the governance of the poor (and the notion of responsible citizenship) in the context of antiretroviral (ARV) provision. For example, she mentioned that in the treatment contracts to which people must agree in order to be provided ARV medication for HIV, Ulrike mentioned 4 factors that can disqualify a candidate: too low CD4 counts, too many opportunistic infections, alcohol or drug use, or insufficient social support. In the minds of policy makers, one of the primary concerns is drug resistancy (especially given the scarcity of drug combinations available within the public sector). Therefore, those who are not able to adhere to a strict drug regimen might pose a risk to the sanctity of the ARV roll-out by introducing drug-resistant strands of the virus within already vulnerable communities. However, the implications of this ‘contract’ are wide-reaching because it does indeed draw a line between the deserving and undeserving of citizenship rights (which was a theme both Prishani and Ulrike mentioned).

However, another complicating factor in this matter is the way in which these policies are also disciplinary in nature, and quite specifically a biomedical form of disciplinary power. As João Biehl (2006) discusses, in the context of ARV provision in Brazil, a kind of ‘biomedical citizenship’ has developed, in which survival is premised on the ability (or desire) to adhere to a strict biomedical drug regimen, which includes not only a calculus of the number of pills and their timetables, but also food intake, social support, and an agreement not to engage in other forms of healing (most specifically, traditional forms of healing). But other forms of social support, including grants, are also being premised on this biomedical discipline. So, for example, there have been recent discussions about replacing the Disability Grant with a Chronic Illness Grant. One of the issues is that the disability grant, in its current administration, is only available to patients whose CD4 count is under 200 (which is not official policy, but rather, the way in which doctors draw the line). This means that ARV provision actually undermines the provision of social support (since ARVs cause one’s CD4 count to rise), forcing the poor to make ridiculous choices between income and life-saving medications. To counter such a trend, there have been recent conversations, introduced and facilitated by SANAC and the AIDS Law Project about introducing a chronic illness grant, which would not punish people (by refusing them state support) for being on ARVs, but rather require people to be on ARVs in order to receive state support. In other words, only people who are enrolled in the state’s ARV programme would be eligible for a chronic illness grant. This switches the terms of providing for the poor and makes biomedical discipline a requirement of citizenship rights.

When I explained the debates around introducing this policy to my informants (who are all HIV-positive residents of urban informal settlements), one response I received was: “but, that’s blackmail!” So, why would people think of this as blackmail, or put another way, why wouldn’t people want to willingly enroll in the state ARV program? There are several different reasons, and I’ll just name a few. First, some people subscribe so completely to a traditional healing paradigm that they don’t utilize biomedical treatment at all. My research shows that at least in urban areas, such a strict divide between using biomedical and traditional healing is quite rare – a large portion of my respondents mix the two. But the fact that doctors are telling people not to combine the two forms of treatment might keep some from enrolling in the programme. Second, people are skeptical of the public availability of ARV treatment. As one informant recently asked me, “if rich people take different drugs, then are the drugs provided for free as effective?” Others are simply scared of the side-effects. Finally, and this is very important, many are simply concerned that their everyday living conditions, which are extremely precarious in nature, make the discipline required to be on the ARV regimen extremely difficult. There are concerns about being able to take the drugs at the same time every day for the rest of one’s life, but also about accessibility to constant and nutritious food sources and clean water.

This brings the question of the politics of survival, the notion of the ban, and the viability of ‘responsible’ citizenship into new light. There are conclusions that can be drawn about these policies, which I hope may spark further conversation on these matters. First, minimal state provision to the poor (in the form of grants, ARV treatment, water provision, debt eradication) is predicated on disciplinary biopolitics (which in the case of HIV are biomedical in nature) which further insist on subjects’ willingness and capacity to assume ‘responsible’ citizenship. So, this constitutes a form of exclusionary inclusion (to borrow one of Agamben’s formulations). And, it draws a clear line between those who are minimally included and those who are deemed unworthy of salvation and biopolitical inclusion. But, then, what role do the poor (and the HIV-infected) play in the constitution of the body politic? Achille mentioned, in his talk on Monday morning, that the poor are given minimal provisions in exchange for their consent. The government, then, provides for the poor in order to quell the violent protests against the lack of proper service delivery and to thus gain symbolic legitimacy by offering bare survival in exchange for political inclusion. However, Ahmed has also pointed out to me (in a personal conversaion) that the poor are also an important political mechanism for promulgating the mythology of the ANC, which is perhaps most apparent in the poors’ overwhelming support of Jacob Zuma.

But, then, the questions of survival and resistance still remain. In the informal settlements where I work, people are so intent on simply surviving from day to day, that the communities are rife with competition over scarce resources, intense social antagonisms, and brutal violence; as a result, there is a real lack of any sense of shared identity and social cohesion. In a conversation with Helena Chávez, she questioned whether this kind of basic service provision really, then, constitutes survival? Does the provision of the most basic of social services actually serve to give the appearance of inclusion while sustaining the conditions of bare life in South Africa’s zones of indistinction (Agamben)?

And further, does the provision of ARVs (and the policies which police that provision) circumscribe resistance because some form of bare survival is at stake? Therefore, poor, HIV-infected South Africans are given the choice between struggling to attain (and sustain) responsible citizenship (through biomedical discipline) and resistance through death?

Claire Decoteau

Is Capitalism Dead?

Workers Vanguard

In a much lauded recent book Architects of Poverty, political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki reflects on why “African capitalism” needs changing. Instead of enriching their societies, indigenous elites and the powerful “sell off the Continent’s assets to enrich the rest of the world”, he argues.

In return for these services, “they receive the crumbs from the tables of the foreigners who make their fortunes by processing Africa’s resources” in the same way they processed African slaves not so long ago. This he calls “mercantile capitalism”.

Mbeki believes that market reforms such as those initiated in India or China are the best way to increase labor productivity, to use and deploy national resources efficiently and lift hundreds of millions of people out of grinding poverty.

In the absence of any realistic alternative to the market economy, the challenge facing us is “how to modernize capitalism from mercantilism to industrialism”. Without new rulers – the people themselves – stronger democracies, hard work, creativity, knowledge and equity, naked greed will triumph and we will go nowhere, he concludes.

Surprisingly, this renewed act of faith in the power of the market, the people and democracy (his advocacy of a Chinese model of “bourgeois revolution” notwithstanding) comes at a time when, according to the new orthodoxy, Anglo-Saxon liberal market economics is dead. Democracy itself is in crisis and globalization is discredited.

The unprecedented loss of wealth during the last 18 months has swept aside many established ideas of how societies and nations should run their economies. The willingness to trust the free play of market forces has been damaged. But that the system will survive, albeit in a different form, is pretty much assured. Such is the cyclical nature of economies that the pendulum will swing back.

Worldwide, the hope is nevertheless that the age of a hegemonic neo-liberal model of the market economy is past and, with it, the delusions of “the unipolar moment”. Capitalism as such is therefore not yet dead and it does not help to write it’s premature obituary. The globalization of markets and the commodification and exploitation of labor will be with us for a long time to come. Even more ominously, being exploited by capital is, at this point in history and for many people, better than not being exploited at all.

In the face of these realities, what is left of the Left seems disoriented. Many on the Left still see capitalism as inherently unjust and its costs in human suffering staggering. They still cling to the hope that the alternative to such an unequal system is some sort of socialism - a political regime run by workers, a mode of production for needs and not for profits, a non-bourgeois democratic socialist state that would expand economic rights.

Today very few advocate the outright abolition of the market or its wholesale replacement by “democratic planning”. Efforts to build a broad-based, global anti-capitalist movement have not yielded much. Nor have the myriad versions of the Left been able to tell us exactly what would a socialized market look like and what kinds of institutions would be put in place to concretely serve what Michael Hardt calls “the common”.

Meanwhile, the fragmentation of left-leaning movements has made it difficult to invent and sustain a culture of resistance. In most instances the alternative institutions they have created have hardly embodied the values they profess to hold. Divisions among so-called progressive forces are not simply the result of their harboring different visions of a non-capitalist future. They are also a consequence of a deep culture of dogmatism ingrained in the theological belief that to be marginal is by definition to be “purer” and “holier” than the others.

All the above is not a reason to resign to the cynicism of our times. More than ever, a renewed critique of capitalism is a political and ethical imperative.

Such a critique should address four dimensions the recent crisis has made ever more obvious. The first is the extent to which capitalism has revealed itself to be if not a gigantic fiction, at least a form of natural and perverse theology. The second is the alignment of capitalism with nihilism. Nihilism is not only the deliberate confusion of means and ends. It is also the profound belief that in the end, there is nothing.

Third, we need to revise our developmental path. According to Chinese author Lin Chun, the Chinese model Moeletsi Mbeki proposes for Africa is in fact a mixture of 19th-century conditions of the English working class, Latin American patterns of rent seeking and dependency, and a Russian-style privatization (Kremlin Inc.) blended with the native Chinese traces of bureaucratic capitalism.

Development must be reconfirmed as “development as freedom”, says Nobel-Prize winning economist Amartya Sen. Ours should be a development model that not only attends to the mass of basic human needs, but also to their aesthetic, intellectual and cultural desires.

Fourth, there is an urgent need to return to the idea of community, or more precisely of “the common” that is, of human lives and life’s capabilities that must be safeguarded and cherished, and their destruction opposed or prevented.

Finally, a renewed critique of democracy is also much needed. Democracy cannot be an end in itself. Democracy is fundamentally a project of human mutuality. It is the means through which we decide on questions about what collective ends are desirable and worthy to pursue. We can have different accounts of what is most worthy of human pursuit. Is it the endless competition in the marketplace? According to what set of rules? Is it true that if one plays the game, one can possibly win even if one is at the bottom of the pile? How many will lose and what should we do about the lot of losers?

Achille Mbembe

@ This article appeared in The Weekender. July 4-5, 2009, p. 4.

Common Cause

Michael Hardt

This evening, after a lively day of discussion led by Michael Hardt on questions of biopolitics and “the common” as a theory of subversion in late capitalism, I returned to my lodging to see the following news item on the BBC:Scientists in Newcastle claim to have created human sperm in the laboratory in what they say is a world first.

Blinking at this newsflash, I first observed how absolutely mundane and unexciting this information appeared to me. We live in a world where artificial insemination, cloned sheep, organ donation, and now baby-making-in-a-box are everyday realities -- and we barely flinch. One might ask whether, in fact, the world is so “disenchanted” and rational at all thanks to scientific advancements, or if, indeed, quite the opposite is true.

Much of today’s conversation with Hardt animadverted between divergent perspectives on what exactly can be characterizable as labor in an epoch of derivatives, housing bubbles, Google Docs, image production, and privatized health care. A consistent thread, however, was the indistinguishability of so-called immaterial and material labor. As people remarked using lived-experiences, observations from field research, and theoretical examples, the immaterial always has material effects (or, affects), and the material always has immaterial effects/affects. As Michael Hardt pointed out, paraphrasing Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, the logic of capital is such that an object requires a subject, which is to say that a commodity requires, and concomitantly produces, a desiring-machine, to suggest the Deleuzian-materialist conception of the subject in capitalist disciplinary regimes.

Without delving into the rich and provoking details of Hardt and Negri’s work (for further reference, see their books Empire (2000) and Multitude (2004)), I would like to ponder over the concept of “the common” in relation to the “multitude.” As Hardt and Negri have proposed, the multitude is “an internal different, multiple social subject whose constitution and action is based not on identity or unity (or, much less, indifference) but on what it has in common”[1]. To paraphrase, if I may, the multitude is a social space in which multiplicities of temporalities, or subjectivities, come together as singularities to express their commonalities. The common can be conceived, as I would like to, as the places, behaviours, and relationships in which the multitude expresses and realizes itself. Neither private nor public, but rather simply un-ownable, the common is, some might argue, a utopian space of harmony without uniformity, collaboration without hierarchy, and organization without domination. I say “some might argue” because, I am going to suggest, the common is already in fact in existence, subjectively and materially, though perhaps not ontologically. But first I want to add some thoughts on the concept itself.

I think it helps to consider the “common” in light of one aspect of Marx’s critique of capital, which can be found in Marshall Berman’s reading of Marx’s texts in All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (1982). Marx, Berman explains, predominantly critiques the bourgeousie not for their Faustian development drive so much as their inability to create what Emma Goldman might call "true social wealth"[2]. To elaborate, Marx laments the ineffective and ephemeral nature of relations of capital and its lack of substantial wealth, and the inability of the bourgeousie to recognize their wasted efforts. We might think of the common, then, as a manifestation of reclaiming the privatization of affective labor for social wealth that reflects the immensely productive and creative nature of human capacities.

In my own lived-experiences as a graduate student in a corporatized university and a privatized city, I brush up against, engage with, and sometimes butt heads with the common on a regular basis. Recently in New York City, where I live, I sat in a church in the East Village with a crowd of thirty or so people to listen to a panel of artists and activists discussing their recent work in relation to the impact of the crisis on the city. The presenters were a representative from Right to the City, a NYC-based national organization that was formed in 2007 to influence urban policies through grassroots actions, the Alliance of Residence Theaters, a collective of off-off-Broadway theatre production companies, and Chez Bushwick, a Brooklyn-based research/practice arts collective that employs critical geography techniques to simultaneously investigate gentrification in Brooklyn and bring community residents together to discuss its impacts. What struck me most during this presentation and the debate which followed it was the ways in which class divisions were constantly provoked with respect to the question of art as a social practice. A member of the audience who was also a member of Picture the Homeless, a direct-action homeless advocacy group, voiced the opinion that his constituency (and family) were too worried about putting food in their bellies to care about art or theatre. Additionally, artists present in the audience challenged each others’ various approaches to intervention, mostly on the question of whether artists should use art as a tool for change, or simply behave as concerned neighbours, when engaging with or living within marginalized communities. To me as a participant-observer, the elephant in the room was the tension surrounding the definition of labor, something which was also central to our seminar with Michael Hardt today. Everybody at this event in New York spoke about activism (and art, and art-as-activism) as a form of labor and a tool with which to subvert capital’s regime of exploitation, while simultaneously performing the work of self-care, or desire-fulfilment. Whether in the form of research, direct action, art-making, teaching, or facilitating community dialogues, each person passionately articulated these forms of creative labor and described, and also challenged, the ways such labor was producing changes in consciousness amongst themselves and those they encountered in such work.

In our conversations with Hardt, Kelly Gillespie reflected on the example of the agora, the ancient Greek market place, as an example of a space of the common. Again, my thoughts travelled to New York City, and to a monthly event called “The Really, Really Free Market,” which takes place in a church in lower Manhattan. At this event, hundreds of people gather in a large room to exchange goods, foods, and service, without using any form of currency. Clothes, books, and household items are piled on tables, hot cooked food is served from a supply gathered by “dumpster-diving” rescue teams, and people sit at tables offering free advice, massage, workshops on radical research strategies, and more. Musicians lend their talents, performing for free and setting a jovial atmosphere in which families, students, and activists sift through a wealth of goods. Tables of radical literature are available for the curious visitor who wants to know more about the social ethos and theoretical impetus behind such an event. What draws such big crowds to these events, one might wonder? The space of mingling within difference without having to explicitly adhere to identity politics, or the satisfaction of collecting wonderful books and useful items without grumbling about our declining salaries, or knowing that such a milieu arises out of a recognition that the accursed share of capitalism is something we can take advantage of for the production of a new kind of society?

When I began writing this reflection, I did not intend to dwell at such length in anecdote, and perhaps I have come nowhere near linking my experience to the aforementioned concepts. As it happens, however, the lively seminar discussions today and over the past few days have caused me to ask whether, in fact, so much of the work of the multitude and the creation of the common is already happening and simply goes unrecognized. I would like to suggest, then, that we begin to address such potential discrepancies by working to consider the multitude and the common outside of the means/ends dichotomy which seems to guide social movements so often. By this I simply mean that the contingent, the accidental, the immaterial, and the perplexing, may indeed be the generative, the purposeful, and the strengthening and sustaining forces which constitute a genuine revolution.

Rachel Signer

[1] Multitude, p. 100

[2] See Anarchism and Other Essays

The Critique of Neoliberalism in Art

Each speaker at the panel on the status of neoliberalism opened with a metaphor: John Comaroff called to mind a scene from a Marx Brothers movie to highlight the misdiagnosis of neoliberalism as dead; Michael Hardt compared neoliberalism to zombies in its existence even after its death; and Ashwyn Desai opened with the title: “Monty Python meets George Orwell in Johannesburg in 2009” to foreground the ridiculousness of its status in South Africa. The multiple metaphors appealed to my sense of the literary and prompted me to consider the realm of art and literature, of which little has been said thus far in the workshop. Art and literature offer an alternative way to think about the social and the political through its imaginative function. Art lends a space for working through contradictions and negotiating social issues.

Neoliberalism is a term rarely employed in literary analyses. Perhaps it lacks the sexiness of more popular political terms, such as globalization, diaspora, governance, transnationalism, among others. Or perhaps it is a term that lacks specificity and actually encompasses the more frequently used terms I have listed. However, the political realm is omnipresent in many African films and novels, and neoliberal policies and practices shape the experiences of fiction and film. Since neoliberalism is not often linked to fiction and film, I want to offer a list of African novels and films that depict the effects of neoliberalism in imaginative ways.

Bamako (2006, Abderrahmane Sissako Mali): In this highly regarded film, Sissako imagines what it would look like for Africa to sue the IMF and the World Bank. He transforms the courtyard of a housing complex into a legal court, juxtaposing the court proceedings with the daily life of the courtyard: women dyeing fabrics, people bathing, children playing, the celebration of a marriage, and the occurrence of death. He creates “the common” Michael Hardt has advocated in his call for Africa to protest the policies that have been imposed on various countries.

Wizard of the Crow (2006, Ngugi wa Thiong’o): Ngugi’s satire of a fictional African country depicts the failing rule of a dictator, who is constricted by the rule of the Global Bank. To facilitate funding from the Global Bank, he encourages the show of democracy by the people forming queues with no beginning or end. Ngugi’s protagonist is a university-educated man who cannot find a place in the economy and resorts to becoming a traditional healer. The Ruler is opposed by the movement for the Voice of the People, a social protest movement that relies on the elements of surprise and creativity to make their voices heard. What Achille Mbembe describes as the “aesthetics of vulgarity” appears throughout the narrative of the failing state. Note: Many of Ngugi’s other novels and plays also critique neoliberal policies.

Hyenas (1992 Djibril Diop Mambety Senegal): Mambety’s film takes place in Colobane, outside Dakar, Senegal, a town forgotten by the railroad that once supported it. Ramatou, once a resident of the town, returns to the community as a wealthy woman and offers money to anyone who will kill the man who spurned her when she became pregnant with his child. Dramaan, the man in question, is a prominent community member and friend to the town. Yet, the enticement of wealth alters the personal and political relationships, and the residents to begin buying on credit, subconsciously entertaining the thought of his death: refrigerators, washers and dryers, fans, among other items. The atmosphere becomes carnivalesque as Draaman, the former lover, tries to save his life amidst the town’s windfall.

Other texts and films feature characters that protest or have been corrupted by neoliberal policies. The film Blue Eyes of Yonta features a hero of the revolution who has become a wealthy entrepreneur taking advantage of his workers, and the title character of Ousmane Sembene’s film Guelwaar protests the neoliberal policies of Senegal that make the Senegalese dependent on foreign aid. The articulation of neoliberal policies in fiction and film is also often concealed under a more prominent narrative. In the film The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun, the girl in question sells newspapers with a headline about the devaluing of the African franc. The penetration of the political into art suggests how deeply “the capillary forms” of neoliberalism, as John Comaroff described them, reach. I could continue describing moments and themes in these films and literature for quite a while, but I will leave it to you to add your own titles in the comments section.

Kathleen Hanggi

What’s left of Neoliberalism?

Ashwin Desai and Michael Hardt

“Everything was forever till it was no more” (The title of Alexei Yurchak's 2005 book on the collapse of socialism)

“Another ideological god has failed. The assumptions that ruled policy and politics over three decades suddenly look as outdated as revolutionary socialism” (Martin Wolf, “Seeds of Its Own Destruction”, Financial Times, March 8 2009).

The fall of the socialist states in the early nineties has since been eclipsed by an equally dramatic collapse of financial markets, crumbling property values and wildly fluctuating commodity prices this past year. Does this collapse mark the end of neoliberalism? What (and why) is left behind? By attaching these questions to each other, the organizers of the JWTC lab have provoked us to think about the potentially productive effects of the current economic crisis, in the wake of what is left of politics.

Prishani Naidoo, lecturer at WITTS introduced the session’s panelists- John Comaroff, Michael Hardt and Ashwin Desai. Drawing on different scholarly traditions, the panelists comments consistently spanned the frictitious divides of political theory and practice. Through the session, it became clear that this commitment was shared not only by the panelists, but also by the audience.

As a visitor to Johannesburg, I have been particularly struck by the ways in which the JWTC Labs have been well attended and engaged with not only by academics and professional researchers but also wide range of others, including those from the city’s social movements such as the Youth Forum and Anti-Privatisation Forum. As self-identified activists and academics filled the room, the session provided a space for electric debate and discussion. For over two hours, we engaged with fiery presentations that invoked at least three kinds of Marx, two ideological impasses and an acerbic attack on the role and work of intellectuals in South Africa today. In what follows, I shall attempt to provide not so much a summary as raise a few key (and therefore limited) points that we engaged through the evening.

Neoliberal Departures

Is neoliberalism dead? Drawing on different incarnations of Marx,[i] Comaroff expressed a hesitation in talking about neoliberalism. The noun, he argued, reifies the concept and makes the program self-evident. Preferring instead to talk about it as a verb or adjective (neoliberal, neoliberalize), he argued that neoliberal tendencies persist despite the rather dramatic financial crisis of the previous year. These tendencies live on in the wake of neoliberalism- manifest through the court and its custodians, and in the proliferation of policies, left right and centre, to save capitalism.

Yet these initiatives, despite their apologies, excuses and rescues of the market nevertheless do betray the fact that neoliberalism- as a doctrine and a set of rationalities through which society is sought to be governed- has effectively been killed through the crisis. It was a point that Hardt would agree with. He argued, that even if we shall have to live with its ‘tendencies’ in the present, neoliberalism is dead, its program has no future. The challenge in practice, he suggested, is fighting its contemporary effects even as we imagine and try and craft a strategy for engaging whatever may emerge in its place.

Here, Hardt presented the first of two impasses that he is trying to work through. He is dissatisfied with Keynsianism as an alternative to neoliberalism in the long term. It is the lack of imagination (on the part of the left) that resurrects it as an alternative. He argued instead for an attention to political formations that may lie outside and beyond political-economic institutions- of public and the private, or states and markets. The primacy of these distinctions are compromised in contemporary state formations, particularly when the “state increasingly fashions itself in the image of the corporation” (Baviskar 2007). As Ashwin Desai and Comaroff would separately argue, debates between the public and private control appear fraught when unions, movements and governments are shot through with neoliberal rationalities of the current political moment.

The state of movements

Neoliberal rationalities that increasingly constitute state relations present the first challenge to social movements. Hardt presented a second impasse that confronts left movements, particularly those that have, over the last few years, effectively mobilized to capture state power through social mobilizations and the representative politics of elections. Drawing on examples from Latin America, Hardt expressed a challenge that may resonate with many in South Africa: Where social movements have successfully mobilized to take control of the state, what is the appropriate relationship between the state and the social movement that now constitutes it?

Suggesting that both unrelenting criticism and its opposite are not quite helpful, Hardt argued that it might be productive to see states only as a “rtial interpretation” of social movements. His suggestion thus effectively questioned the topographical imaginary of the political field- where states are seen to sit ‘above’ social movements and the rest of civil society (Ferguson and Gupta 2002). Hardt argued that it was critical for movements not to be contained by their governments. Instead, he suggested that social movements maintain a restless and tentative relationship with government, at once pushing forward and opposing them where warranted.

Research and Imagination

In a somewhat related move, Desai asked the same of intellectuals who work with social movements. He strongly criticised both the quality and the debilitating effects of leftist scholars writing about social movements. Much of this scholarship, Desai boomed, was not only troublingly uncritical, but also very shoddy. Through such intellectual production, the systemic problems of social movements are not being addressed. Instead, Desai argued, through such scholarship, movements are big set up to be either broadsided by the state or safely incorporated into party politics through the predictable routines and rituals of resistance.

What is needed, Desai asserted, was a rigorous and honest interrogation of movements’ strategies and tactics, research that is grounded in the work, dilemmas and difficulties that are present in all social movements. Such work, he argued, would be better equipped to deal with the challenges that a more sophisticated practice of politics produced. Earlier, Comaroff had also called for more imaginative and engaged research. While this research would need to be based in everyday practices, to understand the workings of the neoliberalizing state, it would also need to envision a coherent set of political practices for the left to work towards, he argued.

To embark on such a program, we would do well to follow Hardt’s provocation to think beyond the relations constituted by states and markets (see also Chakrabarty 2000). To pay attention to the politics of such relations produced by other affinities- kinship, friendship, religious belonging among others- is to situate the practices of politics in wider fields of possibility that can interrupt the production and proliferation of state and market regimes. While Hardt did point out that such ‘alternatives’ may not necessarily be preferable to the quotidian depredations of neoliberal and/or socialist states, they might also provide critical ground for more inclusive and just societies in which both authoritative states and also liberal markets have a substantively diminished role.

Nikhil Anand

[i] Link to Katie’s Blogpost about the use of metaphor in the sessions.