File spoon-archives/postanarchism.archive/postanarchism_2004/postanarchism.0403, message 63


Date: Fri, 12 Mar 2004 21:38:58 -0800 (PST)
Subject: [postanarchism] Kroker: "Political Notes: Anti-Streaming Activism"


The following is an excerpt from Arthur Kroker's
latest book, "The Will to Technology and the Culture
of Nihilism: Heidegger, Nietzsche and Marx", the
entirety of which is online at
http://www.ctheory.net/will/index2.html . The excerpt
here ties in his critique of virtual capitalism with
the necessary 'double-movement' resistance to this
that he identifies in the antiglobalization movement,
which he describes variably as the 'anti-virtual
class' or the 'digital proletariat'. While one might
at first get the impression that Kroker is simply
trying to resurrect Heidegger, Nietzsche and Marx in
their original bodies, from my reading of the book, I
think what he is really doing is reading both with
*and* against all three of these thinkers,
synthesizing them into one another, allowing the most
radical elements of each to open up and ultimately
discard the insularity and conservatism of the other -
in the process he ultimately comes out against state
socialism and cheers for the 'direct anarchism' of the
antiglobalization movement...

***

Political Notes: Anti-Streaming Activism

by Arthur Kroker

In the same way that the early hegemony of the
capitalist bourgeoisie called into existence its
necessary objective political antithesis - the
industrial proletariat - so too, the swift emergence
of the virtual class from the ruins of the industrial
economy marks the beginning of a new cycle of
political economy. Lacking a definitive name but not a
definite historical presence, this "anti-virtual"
class takes to the streets and to the net in
spontaneous forms of struggle that quickly resemble a
Paris Commune rebelling against the digital mode of
production.  

Global, connected, fungible, wireless, planetary, the
anti-virtual class necessarily assumes the
technological form of virtuality itself. But unlike
the virtual class that seeks to subordinate the new
mode of digital production to old relations of
capitalist existence, the anti-virtual class can only
exist on the basis of realizing the creative
possibilities of the wireless world. Refusing to
reduce digital reality to the language of equivalence
and exchange that codes virtual capitalism, the
anti-virtual class forces the virtual possibilities of
digital reality to follow a human vector. Opposing the
technocratic closure of the digital nervous system,
the anti-virtual class deals in the symbolic exchange
of digital dirt: noise in the system such as issues
surrounding environmentalism, human rights, economic
justice, labor and education. Constituted on the basis
of the virtualisation of knowledge, this class of and
for virtuality represents the first militant signs of
a political form of digital resistance that in its
immediacy and globality is the historical successor to
the socialization of labor. A net community, a
necessarily planetary community, a community of and
for human rights, the anti-virtual class is, in
effect, the new digital proletariat. It confronts the
virtual class with a vision of the digital future
that, refusing to subordinate the digital mode of
production to capitalist relations of existence,
challenges forth the virtuality in digitality.
Rejecting the fetishism of money, it asks what is the
human meaning of globalism, immediacy, connectiveness,
fungibility, digital knowledge. In this struggle, the
life-and-death question is: is a post-capitalist
digital future possible?

That is why the "Battle of Seattle and ensuing
demonstrations in Washington, Quebec City, Genoa,
Vancouver and Calgary with their political
manifestations against the World Trade Organization
were so symbolically important. Not an accidental
meeting of labor activists, environmentalists, womens'
rights workers, deep ecologists, critical students,
suburban liberals, direct action anarchists, old and
new-guard socialists and social conservatives, but one
of the first real signs of a new political class
resisting the high-intensity market directives of the
new economy. Perfectly symbolic, this political
struggle took place in the streets of the City
Electronic: a network of electronically circuited
cities which with their concentration of virtual
capital represents key nodes in the new electronic
archipelago. Reversing the ruling logic of faux
globalization with its abandonment of the ancient
elements of earth and sky and bodies and water, the
demonstrations against the World Trade Organization
went directly to basic earth. Here, the politics of
electronic resistance first spiked: street politics,
(not the digital nervous system); symbolic politics
(demonstrators dressed in the beautiful costumes of
soon-to-be-exterminated sea turtles, not Bladerunner
swat squads); media theatre (squatting the world
media, not bunkering down in closed sessions to
rewrite the rules of world trade and protection of
intellectual property rights at the behest of the
virtual class); direct anarchism (disrupting even for
an instant the circulation of the digital circuit in
order to allow electronic space for a future of
electronic perturbations). While the leaders of the
World Trade Organization dealt in the market
rationality of so-called "free trade" for the virtual
class, the anti-virtual class in the streets of the
City Electronic put chaos theory onto the electronic
screen. Not politics subordinated to the capitalist
axiomatic, but a new politics that deals in the
political language of chaos theory: symbolism and
virtuality and perturbations and morphological changes
of state, a virtual politics that exists only because
it is aware of unintended consequences of technology
and which rubs the dreams of digital reality against
the human disturbances of third-world labor camps,
environmental shut-downs, genetically engineered food,
and the triumph of economic injustice. 
 Consequently, at first in Seattle and then in other
urban nodes on the electronic vector, it became
apparent that virtual capital creates two opposing
moments: the first moment - the virtual class; the
second moment - a planetary class of popular forces
rethinking questions of ethics, politics and culture
in the technological age. Not simply a reprise of the
struggle of the urban proletariat against the rising
class of the bourgeoisie, the reality of globalization
pits the virtual class against an emergent political
opposition that has a radically alternative vision of
the human situation. Here, the key political issues of
the 21st century are joined: being human versus the
(electronic) post-human; living labor versus a
(robotic) future of post-labor; unrestrained
technicity versus social ethics; an emergent concern
with bio-ethics versus market-driven bio-engineering.
The history of virtual capital begins with a form of
electronic and street struggle between a ruling
virtual class that views itself as the embodiment of a
new (digital) mode of capitalist production and an
emergent democratic and populist resistance that
represents the human absence in technoculture.

In the streets of Seattle, Washington, Genoa and
Quebec City, the ideological hegemony of the virtual
class was directly challenged by its own objective
antithesis. If the virtual class is global in terms of
its necessary control of intellectual property, then
the planetary class of anti-globalization activists is
necessarily universal in terms of caring for the
general human interest. If the virtual class is
digitally connected as a matter of economic
competition, then the forces of anti-globalization
come into existence on the basis of the connectivity
of the general human interest. If the virtual class is
digitally mediated, then protesters in the streets
intensify the meaning of mediation to include the
human and the non-human, the organic and non-organic.
If the virtual class seeks to install a new series of
economic exclusions between the digital elite and
those surplus to its commercial interests, then global
anti-poverty organizations are necessarily inclusive.
Precisely to the extent that the virtual class seeks
to constrain the possibilities of the new mode of
digital production in favor of old relations of
capitalist production, the struggle against
globalization, this powerful expression of an emergent
human class, seeks to make the new mode of digital
production simultaneous with the emergence of a world
of creative virtualities: connected but democratic,
global but not exclusionary, interactive but not
(technically) isolated. Beyond the economics of market
rationality but corresponding perfectly with the
transformation of virtual capitalism into its
metaphysical stage as a value-form, the anti-virtual
class introduces a debate on the intrinsic content of
this value-form. Against the vision of pure
circulation of the digital circuit, the democracy
activists ask: Circulation for what and for whom?
Against the twinning of capitalism and digitality, the
anti-virtual class sometimes works to intensify
digitality, to excess the direction and content of
virtuality until the technological future is forced to
disclose its surplus-value for a more meaningful human
future. When streamed capitalism achieves its purely
virtual stage as an empty value-form circulating at
the speed of light, then the question of value itself
is the decisive storm center of contemporary politics.
In the delirious future of virtual capitalism, there
is already to be heard the ancient rhythms of the
human demand for justice. Political activism is the
uncompromising ethical "no" that today marks the
furthest reach of streamed capitalism. 

Which explains, of course, the ferocity of official
state opposition to the anti-globalization movement.
Acting at the behest of the forces of streamed
capitalism, one critical political function of the
state is to manage public dissent, with a veneer of
democratic participation always accompanied by the
hard reality of policing. Since streamed media always
accompany street protests against streamed capitalism,
the stakes are intensely symbolic, and thus critical
to the political stability of the government of
globalization. Biotechnology firms are trumped
ethically by the Brazilian Landless Peasants Movement.
The Ministers of World Finance attempting to privately
work out the protocols for a new charter of
transnational rights are put off balance by the
demands of street democracy protestors for
transparency and public accountability. The political
modification of the "politics" of the state in the
direction of streamed capitalism is symbolically
challenged by NGO's, anti-poverty organizations, labor
activists, concerned citizens, democracy action groups
all of whom consistently and eloquently call for the
return of the 'real world of democracy.' Against this
symbolic challenge--democracy versus the marketplace,
political transparency versus command globalization,
anti-poverty versus hyper-wealth, deep ecology versus
the biotech millennium--the state can, and does, react
with sadistic violence: capricious tear-gassing in
Quebec City, police provocation in Genoa, effectively
military exclusion zones in Washington, preemptive
disappearances of political activists in Toronto. From
city to city, continent to continent, the symbolic
protest of the anti-globalization movement is met with
escalating and highly coordinated policing strategies
in which state violence is brought to bear on
democratic protesters newly signified as subversives
now, terrorists soon. 


===="Being at one is god-like and good, but human, too human, the 
        mania
     Which insists there is only the One, one country, one truth and
         one way."

- Friedrich Hölderlin, 1799

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