Multitude and Desire, or What does Rain Want?

Mark Fisher reminds us in Capitalist Realism that, “To reclaim a real political agency means first of all accepting our insertion at the level of desire in the remorseless meat-grinder of Capital” (15). In thinking through Hardt and Negri’s conceptualizations of political agency: what would it mean to give attention to the desire of the multitude?

Rain falls because the material conditions in the atmosphere force its hand—it only ever gushes forth when the meteorological conditions are right.

But watching rain land on a hard surface–like cement–is a chance to witness individual drops move in ways that the sky had not intended for them to move—as we all know, rain’s natural vocation is to soak into the dirt, subsuming itself back into the ecological conditions that keep the cycle going. Thus, we see the odd potential of droplets when they land on cement and talk back to the sky. The ripples that these individual drops create as they dance on the cement illustrate, therefore, a certain refusal by rain to be resorbed back into its earthly destination.

And yet, these individual droplets that refuse ‘proper’ vocation by choosing cement remain just that—individual droplets; each with their own size; their own rhythm; their own modality of refusal.

How then, are we to appreciate these renegade rain drops, who not only refuse to land in the alienating mounds of grass that the sky has intended for them , but who eagerly look for the cement as they are falling from the sky in search of excess room to reverberate?

We could, of course, try to make the entire world cement, thereby subverting the sky with a uniform society of refusal. But we’ve tried this before and the world is not quite ready for the dreary gray of Leninist cement.

We could also try talk about networks, using sidewalk chalk to connect the dots between individual droplets in order to construct a multitude of resistant rain. Alas, the natural intractability of these wet droplets wash away any attempt by sidewalk chalk to draw a lucid and lasting network.

To this end, precisely because the ripples of these cement rain drops only resist their natural vocation on the cement for an instant–the dancing ripples on the cement soon die off and are replaced by new ones–we should be careful not to mistake them for answers.

Perhaps then, in the final analysis, we should appreciate the raindrops on the cement for what they are—vanishing mediators between the material conditions of the atmosphere and another world that has yet to appear.

We should also appreciate the fact that cement still occupies a tiny lot on earth and that therefore rain’s repudiation is very rare. Indeed, there is something inspirational about the carnival of refusal that rain drops share on cement—what we need to do is figure out what these defecting drops were thinking on the way down.

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?