Only connect!

“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.”
–E.M. Forster

While I undoubtedly appreciate Harvey’s argument for shifting the class struggle outside the factory and into urban space, I find his conception of a revolutionary class to largely be mired in that rusty bourgeoisie-proletariat duality. In his discussion of the production of urban space, he invokes construction workers, laborers that work in “maintenance, repairs, and replacements,” as well as those involved with transporting materials and products through space, and others constituting food systems, energy, and water infrastructures. There is no question that this “class” of workers is crucial to the production of cities, but I can’t help but see this conception of a revolutionary class as the contemporary incarnation of Marx’s factory workers, and therefore only a slice of a larger productive population of urban service and knowledge workers.

Referring to mining, steel fabrication, bridge construction, and truck driving, he writes:

“All of these activities (including spatial movement) are productive of value and of surplus value. If capitalism often recovers from crisis, as we saw earlier, by ‘building houses and filling them with things,’ then clearly everyone engaged in that urbanizing activity has a central role to play in the macroeconomic dynamics of capital accumulation.”

Thinking of Seattle in particular, where Amazon.com is “driving urbanization,” shouldn’t we be considering the labor constituting Amazon as well? This isn’t a new argument – we just read Virno discussing the melding of Arendtian Work and Action in the post-Fordist (“Virtuosity and Revolution: The Political Theory of Exodus”); Hardt and Negri discuss it at length in Multitude – and I’m not trying to detract from traditional labor. Instead, I’m thinking of increasing the number of connections amongst those who create “value and surplus value” through looking at the internal difference of the clunky categories that Harvey invokes.

Focusing on the three dependencies – work, consumption, debt – that Holland attributes to minor marxism (11), is a straightforward avenue by which we can envision how such knowledge workers can also become-revolutionary. Both the pipe-fitter and the computer programmer must sell their unique forms of labor-power to survive, both must pay the rent, and both likely have some sort of consumer or student debt. Rallying around these similarities, these points of connection, is – at least in my thinking – the most powerful way to create alternatives to contemporary social production. Only connect!

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