In the modern world, the existing structures of the state and capitalism are presented as the inevitable result of history and progress. A narrative is constructed which proffers one thing: there is no alternative (TINA). An unregulated “borderless global economy in which markets would no longer be locked into nation-states, but nation-states into markets”. An environment of global governance and nominal deregulation which produces a discourse of economic statelessness, where the state is there only to facilitate exchange and production through a legal regime of private property rights. TINA acts as a universalisable narrative where “no one must be allowed to escape from ‘global competition’” and the processes of commodification and marketisation must go unhindered. “Globalized capitalism, so called free-markets and free trade were the best ways to build wealth, distribute services and grow a society’s economy”. Thus a naturalness is given to the processes and structures of neoliberalism, suggesting they are processes inherent to human nature and the best means to achieve growth and economic stability.
However, the narrative of TINA is just that, a narrative. The underlying reality reveals an expansion of the state and the construction of centralising structures which hold politico-economic power. There is no stateless economy under market capitalism, but instead a neoliberal interventionism where “the state attempts to rely more heavily on market mechanisms”. Markets and the processes of capital accumulation are thus not only fallible, but reliant on the very structures which they are in ideological contravention of. “The self-regulating market cannot exist”, and such can be seen with the problems modern capitalism has birthed. There are crisis symptoms that have developed under neoliberalism, including a persistent decline in the rate of growth, an equally persistent rise in overall indebtedness (both private and public debt) and rises in economic inequality. Thus we see a significant dichotomy in neoliberal economic structures, between their ideational understanding and their material circumstances, which shows the boundaries between states and markets as illusory, and the structural modes of production that are present under both states and capitalism as overdetermined concepts.
In this regard, the TINA narrative holds little claim to truth. The structures that make up modern capitalism, particularly states and markets, are themselves composed of complex structuration that makes any claim to a singular truth on their innate capacities or contexts suspect. It is in these processes of overdetermination that resistance is possible. The production of both ideational understandings and material consequences presents a multiplicitous, complex order of things that is not reducible to one mode of production, but is rather a genealogy of possibilities, that “resists being a linear and frictionless account of the emergence of modern practices”. Thus there exists a number of possibilities and potentialities that can be developed through organisation and the construction of resistance, both in the ideational sense of opposing singular, centralising discourse and in the material sense of developing new orders of things that can constitute an alter-modernity of pluralistic complexity. Such can open up the market and the state as processes of debate and change, in opposition to their presentation as pre-defined, totalising concepts.
A diverse economy presents itself as the discursive and material field that resistance can engage itself upon, playing forth on a centralising-decentralising axis where a pluralistic, reflexive form of governance and economics is the development of an exodus, a means of exit from the current systems of production and exchange and the development of decentralised alternatives that make-up the postmodern prince: the sum of movements and networks that constitutes an organism of civil society, pushing against centralised structures and toward new, ground-up ones borne of a meta-political understanding that moves beyond simplistic consensus and the TINA discourse. From the multitude of movements and alternative governance structures, we see a plethora of socio-economic opportunity and resistance, that develops new ideational understandings around things like economies of scale, power relations and the structuration of the modern polity. This produces a new organisational ecology, that opens the debate and develops a genealogy of possibilities and a means of exit from the centralised means of production of states and capital.
The Failure of TINA
Foucault recognised that with relations of power, resistance will always be born due to the multiplicity of its existence. “Power is exercised from innumerable points”, unable to be pinned down to one particular node in the wider network of power relations. However, he also recognised that “power comes from below”, never exterior to one particular group or collectivity. These “manifold relationships of force” are a part of the social body of institutions, governance structures and market relations. In this regard, resistance is not in itself simply a means to becoming something, a never-ending revolt against the innumerable structures of power found in modernity. It is also a means to recreate these relations and develop new subjectivities that “traverses social stratifications and individual unities”, developing new ideational conceptions which inform the heterogeneous forms of power.
The ‘There is No Alternative’ narrative is a discourse that attempts to construct a singular power, producing a generalised ideology that is purported to be natural and all-consuming. Such can be seen in the understanding of neoliberal governance, where the political dynamics between states and markets are changed. Neoliberal economic management depoliticises the processes of “economic policy by redefining economic events as the product of ‘market forces’ rather than the activities of state officials”. An ideational narrative is developed that offers the self-regulating market as the nexus of economic norms. The market under capitalism is thus a natural system of economic governance, with other institutions and forms of governance as secondary to the axiomatic importance of markets. There is a “dichotomous view of state and market” which history does not bear out. To take one example, that of railroad construction in the United States, state and municipal governments that existed on a number of scalar levels were vital in the development and construction of a railways industry. Here, governance structures are market-makers instead of passive actors secondary to the market. However, “this government activity” was viewed “as synonymous with private…action”, a nominally market-based system that was effectively planned by government.
In a similar way, the development of modern politics has taken on a materiality that supports this ideational view of a market economy. “Neoliberalism had become the pensée unique of both the centre left and the centre right. The old political controversies were regarded as obsolete. Attention now focused on the ‘reforms’ needed to increase national ‘competitiveness’, and these reforms were everywhere the same”. A wider technocracy of experts that acts to exclude alternative forms of politics and resistance is produced with a form of consensus politics serving to depoliticise regulatory frameworks, moving them away from stakeholders and the wider demos and into forms of corporate managerialism, all the while painting this as the natural progression of society toward market acclimation. Thus we see the ideational construction of the market as the only system for the economy. Any genealogical understanding is limited to particular pathways, constructing a narrow organisational ecology where “the neutralization of strong competitive tensions” is required for its legitimation and the spread of its innate power relations. But, as with the case of US railroad construction, this narrative is fallible, unable to fully concretise to the surrounding material reality of state-market relations.
Instead of the singular understanding that TINA presents as the social norm, it is better to view the myriad institutions that make-up states and capitalism as overdetermined concepts, both in their ideational and material elements. States and markets are “the irreducible specificity of every determination”, making their construction as a singularity a nonsense that is void of historical reality. They are only parts of “the organization of the complex totality”, making them a “decentred” or “acentric” set of concepts that is not totalised by the wider ideational construct, instead open to reform and resistance in the Foucauldian sense. It also presents an inherent fallibility that is witnessed by the continual problems of crises and recreation necessary to maintain ideational power.
Modern capitalism finds itself in a series of disorders and crises that limit its potential for growth and innovation. There has been an inability to bring forth “the structural economic and financial reforms needed to return economies to the real growth paths authorities and their publics both want and expect”. Instead there have been processes of financialisation, with the development of $33 trillion of debt in the US alone, and the creation of fictitious capitals: “paper claims on wealth (in the form of profit, interest and ground rent) in excess of the total available surplus value”. In the realms of labour, there is the continual problem of accumulating unemployment and deregulation. “Deregulation of labour markets under international competition has undone whatever prospects there might once have been for a general limitation of working hours”, while labour markets themselves are failing to clear, with unemployment remaining around 7-8 percent. From this view, capitalism is unstable and contingent on the involvement of states to subsidise it.
Modern capitalism exists on many levels, as seen in its development of the railways industry of the US. It requires the continual sublimation of alternative structures, producing a centralised ecology that presents everything as relational to itself, while relying on differing levels of centralised and decentralised structures for the means of accumulation. We also see that it is fallible, caught in crises of secular stagnation that involve limited growth and productivity, and the development of underconsumption. These crises exist in different spatial areas, and on different levels of accumulation within the wider state and capitalist modes of production. However, these processes and crises are viewed as an ideational universality. This universality is considered unquestionable, limiting any genealogical debate. In this regard, they are like the Deleuzian city: “a city where one would be able to leave one’s apartment, one’s street, one’s neighbourhood, thanks to one’s (dividual) electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be rejected on a given day or between certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that tracks each person’s position – licit or illicit – and effects a universal modulation”. This is a society of control constructed through liquid structures, such as the corporation, where power is exercised through new matrices of control that can be nominally decentralised while maintaining a high degree of centralised power. The nominal freedom provided under the totalising narrative of neoliberal governance is freedom under the market, as a market subject, governed by its rules and axioms that make up the universal modulation.
However, in the consideration that the structures of neoliberalism are overdetermined, this city presents a dualistic model, where resistance is possible due to the existence of the technology in the first place. Resistance then must engage in the multi-scalar arenas that capitalism exists within, presenting this dualism as an antagonism that can tear the ideational narrative open, leading toward that genealogy that can bring forth new modernities and alternatives.
The dualistic city acts as an interesting metaphor in regards to modernity. It shows that the physical manifestation of control is not the main parameter through which we can view where the boundaries of resistance and change are. Instead, it is the social control that creates definitions, producing an ideational framing around identity, sovereignty and citizenship. The sociality of control, and the singularity of power are just as important as the physicality of that control. This dualistic nature is present in modern politics and the institutions that shape them. There is a lack of solidity in the institutional structures, being effected by multiple stakeholders that overlap in interests and disagreements. Resistance is not so much the construction of a fully realisable model, a worked-out administration of things that controls the levers of the economy and the state. Instead, resistance is the construction of a plurality that pushes against a singular narrative, revealing many different forms of ordering and forms of modernity thereof.
In terms of resistance, this puts a question mark over the concept of capturing the heights of the economy. For one, these heights are unstable and reliant on other, non-capitalist and quasi-capitalist forms of production and exchange to either subsidise them (as in the case of the state mode of production) or encompass them by dumping or indirect control (primitive accumulation). Thus we see the nominal decentralisation or localisation of political power while the territorial integrity of the nation-state, as the locus of power, remains intact. Thus cities, as centres of culture and the shaping of a cosmopolitan (or “globapolitan”) mindset become new means of accumulation, due to their international proximity and location in the centralist-decentralist matrix. However they are not separable from the “national economy”, a “political space, transformed by the state…into a coherent, unified economic space whose combined activities may tend in the same direction” that is integrable to the wider globalised economy of capital flows. The nation-state, while being reconstituted in terms of space, is still the main variable for modes of capitalist organisation as it can develop both a “national space” that contains a capitalist infrastructure with the “city as its center” and a social framework of laws and conventions that coalesce into a “state mode of production” which processes the relations of growth, urbanisation and spatialisation. It is a twin to the capitalist mode of production, axiomatising states and other spatio-territorial units to its flows in an ideational sense and providing outlets of production and consumption in a material sense. This produces a narrative of certainty, whereby production, exchange and the state are permanent and concrete, rather than challengeable and historically constituted. The sovereign has become a “secularized God” given domain over an imaginary peoples who are themselves a “squeezed entity, desubstantialized, a purely formal figure without social characteristics”. However states and governance are only partially territorial, part of a matrices of decentralised and centralised tendencies that furthers the view of the state as an overdetermined structure, only defined in relation to other structures in capitalism’s ideational field.
Thus the functions and institutions of modernity are but one interpretation that has discursive power, which constructs forms of citizenship and sovereignty around a desubstantialized people. In this regard, Kropotkin pointed out during the latter developments of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, the large centralised factory relied on the workshops and tiny enterprises to maintain output and keep the flows of production moving, showing that the ideational framing of industrialism as that of competition and capitalism is a false singularity. Forms of cooperative behaviour and mutual aid can be seen historically, underlying the overlays of capitalist diktat. The idea of a capitalist totality, defined by ruthless competition and the disenfranchisement of the worker, are simply one condition in a sea of possibilities. Many facets of the Industrial Revolution, such as the organisation of production, were done along cooperative modes as Kropotkin noted, integrating a multitude of workshops and small-scale enterprises that were not placed under the edicts of capitalist governance. Again, the processes of ideational construction are broken by the reality of their underlying structures, which reveals discursive breaks where resistance can grow and develop, producing an altermodernity that recognises capitalist modernity isn’t the “end of history where all antagonisms can be absorbed, but rather the limit on which resistances proliferate throughout the sphere of production and all the realms of social life”.
An altermodernity can open up the multifaceted, overdetermined nature of capitalism, where the amenability of a concept and its essence are pliable to centralised or decentralised structures. As Foucault recognised in his conceptions of power, power relations have a mutualistic element, whereby different hierarchical orders influence each other. This opens room to resistance as much as it does to acquiescence, pushing against universal narratives of existence that suggest the undefined heights of the economy are either capturable or concrete. Instead, governance surrounding the polity and the economy can be a “self-reflexive self-organization of substantively interdependent” actors. This is a metagovernmental framework that develops around multiple concepts like the state and the market, opening their overdetermined structures to critique and redevelopment. Within these systems that organise the degree of market activity, hierarchical organisation and network forms, there exists the ability to construct an alter-modernity, informed by resistance to the current system and a desire not to merely fight it in a revolutionary praxis that will maintain the centralised elements of the economy, but construct meaningful alternatives that supersede the existing system by fighting it on many different spatial fronts.
Diverse Economies and Spaces of Possibility
The conception of an alter-modernity is not an all-encompassing alternative that minutely details everything into an administration of things, but instead sees economies and polities as naturally diverse structures who are defined by ideational narratives that have the dualistic capability of constructing either a centralised singularity of limited possibilities (the Deleuzian city of control) or a world of decentralised, interlinked understandings that involve political debate and a fluid, pluralistic infrastructure of governments and institutions. Recognising this dualistic nature, where the amenability of a concept and its essence are pliable to centralised or decentralised structures, is important when thinking of resistance. As Foucault recognised in his conceptions of power, power relations have a mutualistic element, whereby different hierarchical orders influence each other. This opens room to resistance on many fronts, “distributed in irregular fashion” as the capacity not to destroy power, but to reconstruct and distribute it amongst different interdependent actors (as with Jessop’s concept of reflexive metagovernance).
Such resistance rejects “any fixed dialectic between modern sovereignty and antimodern resistance”, instead giving resistance and the constitution of power “new meaning(s), dedicated now to the constitution of alternatives”. There is a transcendence through a wider radical-reaction dialectic, that allows us to react against modern structures by looking back to the past with a critical eye while aiming at radical constructions of sovereignty and politics in the present and future, presenting new ideational frameworks which show a genealogy of multi-faceted possibilities. Such is the development of an altermodernity, that neither recognises some utopian past nor believes that capitalist modernity will bring forth a golden age. It is critical, reacting toward the past when necessary and pushing forth a radical meta-political vision of plural structures and an organisational ecology for the future.
Dualities between centralisation and decentralisation are present in many structures, showing their lack of solidity and reliance on narratives that legitimate them, giving them the appearance of unquestionable truth while limiting the extent to which alternatives are seen as possible. In the realms of technology and governance, this is seen acutely. With technology, we see realisable power that “threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth”, producing a controlling system of ordering instead. However, technology also presents the possibility of a revelatory “techne”, a means to the control of technology as a craft that is not pyramidal and controlling, but that can produce an alter-modernity of “revealing that brings forth truth into the splendor of radiant appearance”. The neoliberal narrative of TINA places the market in this ordering as the primary ideational variable, with everything placed secondarily to it. Markets and states are pyramidal ideas, from which flow the truths of politico-economic laws and actions. In this case, politics is reduced to a simplistic techne of concretised premises and simplistic debates, not dissimilar to the current consensus politics. The liberating effects of a wider techne are placed firmly under the yoke of a singular means of production running through the circuits of capital and states. Resistance comes from rejecting this narrowing in favour of the potentialities a wider techne brings.
In a similar manner, spaces of governance also contain contradictory axes that exist between forms of centralisation and decentralisation. In the governance of production, Hardt and Negri have noted the “passage of the informational economy” that has moved from the Fordist assembly line to “the network as the organizational model of production” which allows workers to “effectively communicate and cooperate from remote locations without consideration to proximity”, limiting the degree of geographic centralisation. These “information networks also release production from territorial constraints insofar as they tend to put the producer in direct contact with the consumer”, creating a situation where nation-states (who compliment capitalism with the state mode of production) are facilitators of capital flows rather than spatial means for its accumulation. However this geographic decentralisation and dispersal of production comes alongside “a corresponding centralization of the control over production” that extends surveillance and increases scale. On the other hand, networked governance can also produce a form of “peer production…that depend on individual action that is self-selected and decentralized”. This produces an ideational framework of economic and governmental plurality, that doesn’t treat the individual constituents as monolithic in their requirements.
These politico-economic dualisms show the narratives that many of the structures of capitalism rely on as tendential and ideologically weak. They require consistent inputs and outputs that rely on structures outside the ideational framework. Thus capitalism needs a state mode of production both to produce legitimacy and have a scaleable facilitator of capital’s globalised flows. Resistance should aim to do the same, looking toward a system of neo-medievalism, a plural world based around “overlapping structures and cross-cutting loyalties that hold” varying cultures and peoples together through multi-scalar forms of governance (such as reflexive metagovernance or networks) that come together in a complex layering of international, national and sub-national organization. This is in lieu of traditional understandings of resistance as an all-encompassing alternative that aims purely at capturing and controlling globalisation. In this regard, treating the world as a complex set of governance relations and institutions presents multiple means of resistance, rejecting the idea of a singularity.
Resistance through the framework of neo-medievalism is a rejection of centralising narratives, whether that be the Deleuzian city, the neoliberal state or the corporation, in favour of a diverse economy that recognises a multiplicity of modes of production. Looking at and distinguishing “the different ways in which a large proportion of social wealth is generated and deployed, we are able to represent an “economy” as something more extensive and less concentrated than our usual, common sense understanding of capitalism”. In a similar manner, the areas of economic governance, its spatiality, can “be a means of governance when it defines horizons of action in terms of ‘inside’, ‘outside’, and ‘liminal’ spaces and when it configures possible connections among actors, actions, and events through various spatiotemporal technologies” that see states (and other governance structures), in their overdetermined construction, as “a differentiated set of institutions and personnel” that aren’t homogeneous. The diversity of forms and organisation that are shrouded under the ideational framework of capital can be opened in a diverse economies perspective, allowing for resistance that recognises the multitude as a social category, a diversity of interests that conflagrate and confederate in a variety of ways. A constituent power is created that exists to develop counter-institutions and move the directions of economics and politics toward something liberating, that provides the means of self-legitimation and creates spaces that aren’t limited to simplifications like the ideas of states or markets. The “Stasis Syntagma” of Greece presents one such movement that developed this conception, bringing together the concepts of the multitude and a wider demos of political debate together into an alter-modernity that changes the ideas surrounding citizenship, the state, and the market, opening their overdetermined nature to critique and moving them beyond an ideational singularity. This has been achieved through a politics of the square that engaged in assembled debate around constructions like identity and the economy, alongside forthright action such as factory occupations. The Syntagma movement took over the Vio.Me factory and ERT broadcaster, bringing them under worker self-management, as well as pushing forth Initiative 136 in Thessaloniki that would bring the city’s water company under citizen control. Here, the combination of debates and action began to develop constituent power that brought forth an alter-modern future of diverse possibilities, creating an infrastructure of resistance and organisation.
Similar movements exist across the globe, ranging from new production models and worker ownership to localist systems of politico-economic engagement. The Piqueteros in Argentina developed “different ideologies and goals” that “engendered diverse approaches to the movement, and separate lines, or coordinadoras, developed with distinctive regional bases, organizational styles and political alliances”. It constructed a distributed governing networks that inculcated its members into protest, decentralised economic planning and the construction of a realisable alternative. There is the development of “a system of productive workshops and enterprises, like local construction teams and self-sustaining neighborhood bakeries” that provides autonomy from the social aid currently provisioned by the state. Thus we see resistance creating meaningful infrastructure that doesn’t just rely on endless radicalism, but that creates institutions that are solid in their constitution.
In the Shanzhai economy of Shenzhen, there exists new production and exchange systems which question the scale of international economies, instead cultivating innovation and new forms of subjectivity at a local and regional level. Firm control is spread out and extremely flat, with multiple producers, and minimal capital is needed to create a firm in this economy, which produces autonomy and independence from the wider capitalist economy and the necessitation of wages, with intense economies of scale that grow from the bottom-up. These production processes, characterised to an extent as hackerspaces, contain “numerous and at times conflicting ideas and values” ranging from the desire to reconstruct the legal and political systems that govern production to the questioning of social relations which surround the production and distribution of technology. A new form of citizenship can be seen developing from this, a network of netizens that collates involvement in technological processes as an identity marker, pushing against the narratives of the Chinese state who aim to define economic involvement in relation to the wider international system of trade and innovation.
Such movements, as well as the multitude of other movements that open debates surrounding citizenship, production and the making of states and spaces, are a “social world” of “rule-governed, layered self-organising system(s) that display emergent properties” and that grow from the ground-up, rejecting the centralised narratives of neoliberal capitalism and its attendant modes of production. Resistance then becomes the making of subjectivities and identities that allows for multitudinous patterns of identity construction and creation, rejecting a centralistic narrative in favour of constructing an alter-modern world of movements and resistances aptly described as a postmodern prince, “‘an organism, a complex element of society’” that contains a ecology of pathways and organisational conceptions, and that recognises the overdetermined nature of things like states and markets. It is heterogeneous and diverse in its applications and ideologies, producing new structures that move beyond simple protest and don’t aim at the failed revolutionary praxis of taking over the commanding heights of the economy.
However even this postmodern prince can fall into its own reductive language of leftist politics as domineering all else. This makes such a system amenable to a simple varieties of capitalism framework, where a left-wing capitalism can be developed that includes a welfare system and a co-opted form of metagovernance, governing through the urban and suburban spaces of sociality and power. Capitalism itself has different modes of regulation and reproduction that display a heterogeneity of power and governance not normally recognised. By recognising the overdetermined nature of capital and the state, we can develop a multi-faceted resistance. But this does not mean that movements aren’t co-optable or easily quelled. They can be opened to new modes of capital accumulation, akin to Gramsci’s framework of trasformismo where resistance itself can be motivated in the direction of capitalist interests, as with the environmental discourses of green capitalism and corporate environmentalism.
The concept of the postmodern prince was written in the immediate aftermath of the Seattle anti-globalisation protests. Their subsequent failure to truly develop a radical politics of resistance should warn us that movements need to be adaptable and cannot rest on their laurels. It also shows that protest by itself is useless, and instead a discursive politics that ignore the false dichotomies of existing politicking is needed that can develop understandings of citizenship, sovereignty and identity in a meta-politics that goes beyond the production base. The Occupy movement brought some interesting innovations to assembled resistance that sees structures not as purely reformable, but as replaceable from the ground-up by rejecting their ideational framework that aims at control. However, even here we see failure, with the spirit of Occupy easily quelled by the state.
Thus resistance must take the direction of developing the alter-modern, creating infrastructures and networks of alternative power that provide solidity and continuity while developing radical change, placing themselves in the radical-reaction dialectic. This means rejecting the discourses of modernity while using its structures and means for different ends, as is the case with technological development and the use and creation of political/governmental space. In this regard, institutions like markets and states aren’t variables that are purely singularistic. Instead they are overdetermined structures whose prevailing narrative has been placed by the politics of neoliberalism and the TINA discourse. Resistance that develops degrees of permanency, along the lines of the Piquetero movement or the Shanzhai economy of hackerspaces, is the best means for growing spaces of exodus that develop a means of exit from the centralised modes of production of states and capitals. It also means reproducing new means of economic understanding, particularly in the area of scale. Scale should be that that is relative to the human and the community. It should aim at harmony and the development of a steady state of distribution and exchange, not one that emphasises continual growth and the mass commodification of all institutions, which themselves are producing crises points as Streeck has noted. Fundamentally, it is not about being anti-modern or reactionary when looking at modern structures like technology, the state and economic scale, but instead viewing all structures as questionable, containing no innate truths but instead ideational frames that produce particular realities. Resistance should foundationally be about opposing the singularity of neoliberal narratives, instead showing the genealogy of possibilities and allowing for the autonomy to realise these diverse potentialities.
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