[OPE-L] new (and changing) commoner

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sun Aug 27 2006 - 21:42:17 EDT

_The Commoner_ is changing its organization and format (see 'Introduction'
by Massimo below).

The following also caught my attention --

Nate Holdren and Stevphen Shukatis wrote below:

"Another name for the compulsion to sell labor power is 'enclosure'."

Isn't this a re-definition of 'enclosure'?

In solidarity, Jerry

-------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Massimo De Angelis <m.deangelis at ntlworld.com>
Subject: new commoner

The Commoner 11 is online,


please circulate in your network . . .

The Commoner N. 11. Spring/Summer 2006

Re(in)fusing the Commons

Angela Mitropoulos, Autonomy, Recognition, Movement [.pdf]

Nick Dyer-Witheford, Species-Being and the New Commonism [.pdf]
Precarias a la Deriva, A Very Careful Strike - Four hypotheses [.pdf]

P.M., The golden globes of the planetary commons [.pdf]

George Ciccariello-Maher, Working-Class One-Sidedness from Sorel to
Tronti  [.pdf]

Silvia Federici, The Restructuring of Social Reproduction in the
United States in the 1970s [.pdf]

Ida Dominijanni, Heiresses at Twilight. The End of Politics and the
Politics of Difference [.pdf]


 After ten issues, The Commoner makes the first timid steps toward
changing format and organisation, towards making more explicit and
visible the practices of cyber commoning it is grounded on. Watch this
space, we are slow, but things will happen. Meanwhile, enjoy the
edition that our two guest editors, Nate Holdren and Stevphen
Shukaitis, have put together, an edition in which the different
contributions are traversed by the problematic of commoning.

Commoning, a term encountered by Peter Linebaugh in one of his
frequent travels in the living history of commoners' struggles, is
about the (re)production of commons. To turn a noun into a verb is not
a little step and requires some daring. Especially if in doing so we
do not want to obscure the importance of the noun, but simply ground
it on what is, after all, life flow: there are no commons without
incessant activities of commoning, of (re)producing in common. But it
is through (re)production in common that communities of producers
decide for themselves the norms, values and measures of things. Let us
put the "tragedy of the commons" to rest then, the basis of neoliberal
argument for the privatisation: there is no commons without commoning,
there are no commons without communities of producers and particular
flows and modes of relations, an insight we have focused on in issue 6
of this journal, entitled "What Alternatives? Commons and Communities,
Dignity and Freedom." Hence, what lies behind the "tragedy of the
commons" is really the tragedy of the destruction of commoning through
all sorts of structural adjustments, whether militarised or not.

As the guest editors of this issue rightly point out, the question of
commoning is linked to the question of "refusal of work," that magic
expression used in the 1970s to highlight the frontline clash of value
practices. The term, however, is not meant as a refusal of doing, of
commoning, of (re)producing in common, but on the contrary is an
affirmation of all this in the only way possible when in the presence
of a social force, capital, that aspires to couple its preservation to
that of the commoners through the imposition of its measures of
things. In these conditions, "refusal of work" as refusal of capital's
measures, and commoning as affirmation of other measures are the two
sides of the same struggle. How can we refuse capital's measure
without participating in the constitution of other common measures?
And how can we participate in this commonality without at the same
time setting a limit, refusing capital's measure? The setting of a
limit to the beast and the constitution of an "outside" are two
inescapable coordinates of struggle. It is through the problematic of
this polarity that we could read the very diverse contributions of
this issue of The Commoner.

Massimo De Angelis


In June 2005, at the centenary celebration of the Industrial Workers
of the World, historian and Midnight Notes Collective member Peter
Linebaugh made a provocative remark in a talk about the commons. He
said the World Bank also talks about commons.[i] An important
difference in how we think about the commons, he suggested, should be
that we pay attention to practices of commoning, as human activities.
In light of this remark, we would like to suggest a gloss on the title
of this journal. Commoner, not only as someone who dwells within and
relies upon the commons, but also as someone who commons. To common:
to produce and hold in common. Just as capitalist production has as
its fundamental product social relations in the form of the capital
relation, commoning produces social relations in the form of commons,
freely associated humanity. It is in this sense that we want to link
the commons with the work of Mario Tronti, linking commoning with the
refusal of work.

What is the relationship between refusal of work and commons? Well,
first, what do we mean by refusal of work? It has been noted before
that 'refusal of work' is not simply 'refusal to work,' but it is
refusal of the work relationship. Work has at least two moments: the
purchase by the capitalist of our bodies and time in the form of the
commodity labor power, and the capitalist attempt to make use of our
bodies and time after the purchase is made. Refusal of work spans both
moments: the attempt to break out of the need to sell oneself as a
commodity, and the attempt to resist or completely refuse being made
use of if one has sold oneself.

How does this relate to commons? We see it this way: another name for
the compulsion to sell labor power is 'enclosure.' And it is only
within the enclosed spaces of workplaces (which, to be clear, for us
include homes, classrooms - potentially any moment of life) and by
resort to the violent mechanisms of enclosure that the capitalist can
make use of us for surplus value production. The commons, then, in
these terms is two things. It is a name for spaces, times, histories,
memories, moments of life that are not - or at least not fully -
enclosed, ruled by and functional for capital. It is the uses of our
bodies and times that are different from and antithetical to the
capitalist use. We do not only mean this in an abstract and utopian
sense. The commons were constructed; the new commons are being
constructed. Commoning is a process of organization. In a sense the
commons are always already organized. They do not exist without
organization(s), sometimes formal but more often informal.

The simple fact of producing the commons is a moment of refusal of the
values of capitalism. Refusal of work is simultaneously an attempt to
produce new commons, new forms of commoning (we can all point to
relationships, memories, styles, images, and knowledges produced
through our involvements in strikes, demonstrations, and other forms
of refusal), an attempt to defend existing commons, and a use of
existing commons to attack - or defend ourselves against - capitalism.
If we do not have a type of commons in the social relationships with
our comrades then our efforts are less likely to succeed. Stan Weir
recognized this when he stressed the importance of informal work
groups, and emphasized their empirical existence within important

This issue of the Commoner was originally intended to commemorate the
40th anniversary of the publication of Mario Tronti's Operai e
Capitale, a text which had an enormous impact on the Italian far left
and whose influence is most present today in the work of Antonio
Negri. Part of the project for we commoners is to analyze the facts
and questions that Tronti posed: "How is the working class made, from
the inside, how does it function inside capital, how does it work, how
does it struggle, in what sense does it accept the system, in what way
does it strategically refuse it?"

Our goal for this issue is a modest one: to show the continuing
relevance of Tronti's work and to draw more attention to this
neglected body of Marxist thought.[ii] We expect that we are largely
preaching to the choir when it comes to the readership of the
Commoner. Some of the contributors to this issue have decided to
directly engage with and develop Tronti's work at a theoretical level;
others carry out inquiry into trends and practices within the global
movements of commoners and of capitalism. While Angela Mitropoulos
opens the issue by applying ideas from Tronti's writings to explore
issues around immigration and autonomy, Ida Dominijanni closes it by
exploring the relation between Tronti's thought and the feminist
politics of difference. As Nick Dyer-Witheford explores connections
between species-being and the specter of commonism, George
Ciccariello-Maher begins to draw together a line of thought based on
the logic of separation that connects thinkers such as Sorel, Tronti,
Negri, and Fanon.

In exploring the connection between refusing work and creating new
commons it is important to not give the impression that this is not a
difficult or in some cases even impossible task, especially for those
who are engaged in forms of caring and affective labor. For as argued
by Alisa Del Re, to build a conception of utopia upon refusing work
that does not take into account the labors of social reproduction most
often carried about by females is to base one's notions of freedom on
the continued exploitation of female labor. This issue is taken up by
Precarias a la Deriva in their consideration of what form a strike
from such constrained positions might take as well as a previously
published article by Silvia Federici from the early 80s which
elaborates on the revolt against housework that took place during the
70s coming out of campaigns such as Wages for Housework.

What runs through all the contributions is the attempt to understand
refusal and commoning in order to practice both better. To us,
commoning and refusal are one and the same. Freely associated
production of social relations is precisely the real movement that
abolishes the present state of things. Refusal defends and produces
the commons. Let us then, following the whimsical suggestion of p.m.,
hang golden globes all over marking points for the congealing of new
planetary commons and revolt. The commons nourish and produce refusal.
In the words of the IWW constitution, by the subversive practices of
the global movement "we are forming the structure of the new society
within the shell of the old."
Nate Holdren + Stevphen Shukaitis

[i] Peter Linebaugh, "Magna Charta and Practical Communism," talk
delivered at the centenary of the Industrial Workers of the World,
2005. Those interested can find the text and audio of a similar
presentation that he delivered to the "Contested Commons / Trespassing
Publics" conference at Sarai in New Delhi here:

[ii] At the time of this writing, less than 1/3 of Tronti's first book
and no other work by Tronti have been translated. Interested readers
can consult the available passages online
(http://affinityproject.org/theories/tronti.html), and a recent
electronic discussion of Tronti

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