What is Anti-Capitalist Today?

What is alternative? What is anti-?

Citing Gibson-Graham, Eugene Holland argues, “economic activity takes many different forms, even “under” or “within” capitalism, and many of them are in fact non-capitalist, if not explicitly anti-capitalist.” To this end, slow-motion general strike—a strike that is directed “against capitalist industry as a whole” and all aspects of social life—is predicated largely for Holland upon “people gradually extricating themselves from dependence on capitalist markets , goods, and means of life, by instead relying on and further developing alternative means of life. In other words, slow-motion strike takes advantage of and continues to develop the non- and anti-capitalist forms of life of which Gibson-Graham speak. If the ultimate goal of minor Marxism and of slow-motion strike is to evacuate our dependency on capital logic “until a tipping-point or bifurication-point is reached where capitalist markets begin to starve and then eventually wither away,” thereby reversing the original sin of primitive accumulation of capital, then the cartographies for lines of escape that we choose would seem to matter a great deal.

I am very interested in this notion of minor Marxism as predicated upon dependency on capitalism—typified today by concepts such as debt, sovereignty, consumption, production, re-production, and subjectification.

To this end, if slow-motion strike takes its position from a necessity to extricate oneself from the total subsumption of life under capitalism, then how are we to know what forms of life are properly ‘non-‘ and/or anti-capitalist, and therefore represent the proper cartographies of escape from Empire? Upon what ways of knowing are we to rely in deciding what is truly anti-capitalist today? For example, and in thinking through Deleuzian concepts of becoming and non-linear history in relation to enunciation, what processes go into the declaration in present-time that open-source software is an alternative way of life in relation to capitalism? What is the “anti-capitalist” activity’s relation to primitive accumulation today? Is “anti-capitalist” activity really independent from market forces? If we can get anything from Harvey’s very classical reading of Marx, perhaps we should keep in mind that even activity purporting to be “anti-capitalist”
is a priori subject to capitalist markets, not only in a material sense, but also by being forced to accumulate and compete.

I would like to challenge the radical presuppositions subtending “anti-capitalist” activity by forwarding the proposition that perhaps capitalism today and the ideology that re-produces it has gotten really good at communing with its enemies. I am just not convinced that today a clear line can be drawn between what is genuinely capitalist and what is a-capitalist or even anti-capitalist.

In declaring certain ways of life anti-capitalist—despite the precise fact that they are borne of, exist under and within, and constitute the reproduction of capital logic—do we risk constructing imaginary spaces of freedom, which, in reality may end up our well-built, sustainable prisons?


4 thoughts on “What is Anti-Capitalist Today?

  1. Maybe it has to do with how it feels? “Attach yourself to what you feel to be true, begin there,” says the Invisible Commitee. Not end there, of course, begin exploring from there, make little escapes, find your legs, and find others who are testing out a similar truth….

  2. People in my reading group are going to be tired of this old refrain from me, but I try to make a conceptual separation between diagnosing the world as it is — civilized capital machine/capitalist socius — and thinking about ways forward. That said, I completely agree that the risk of “constructing imaginary spaces of freedom, which, in reality may end up our well-built, sustainable prison” exists, but I feel like the the Real of capitalism constantly overpowers the any Imaginary space I might construct. Perhaps this is another “positive” of capitalism, in that it never rests; its constant involutions and evolutions make me want to just keep on runnin’.

  3. I’d say anti-capitalism, or anti-whatever the dominant system of the time happens to be, is always the intellectual’s expression of frustration at seeing how things could be done differently, but not being listened to. It’s very easy for an outsider to think of solutions for anything. In fact, it’s what intellectuals do, they accumulate knowledge and process it. ‘Ordinary’ people on the other hand (I don’t mean any disdain by this) don’t think but act, and leave the thinking to some anonymous system, i.e. the market, which is constituted by many individual actions, but not controlled by anyone. The difference between capitalism and some form of planned economy, resides in the organisation of knowledge. In a planned economy knowledge (statistics, data etc.) and thought are centralised and orders are issued from that centre. In capitalism thought and knowledge are outsourced to the market. Hence our animistic deference to them, as evinced by sayings like ‘the market is always right’.

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