Monday, February 16, 2009

Communicative Communism

With all the talk about socialism in the USA, talk that has nothing to do with socialism but is a misnomer for describing finance capital's war of maneuver to drain more money from the public, I thought I would share a scaled back and re-edited version of something I presented last October to the USC Rhetorical Theory Conference in Columbia, South Carolina. A paper with the title of "Communicative Communism."

Everyday life expresses a commonality, a common humanity that exceeds the control and precarity of complex social systems. However, the ability of everyday life to provide a common ground for a critique was increasingly foreclosed by its organization into what Lefebvre calls the “bureaucratic society of controlled consumption." For Lefebvre, communication provided the connective tissue organizing the control of everyday life and, then, through a world market in information communication globalized everyday life.

To think then with Lefebvre, the idea of a global everyday life would refigure the common humanity expressed at the intersection of work, family, and leisure, as the daily life made planetary by the merger of capitalism and communication. The global financial panic of 2008 reveals more clearly what Randy Martin (2002) described as the “financialization of daily life.” Martin describes how over the last thirty years financialization become a key technique for managing the risks and contingencies of daily life. The global trade and speculative bubble in mortgage based securities is illustrative of how the merger of communication and capitalism envelopes daily life into the world market.

My tendency is to agree with Hardt and Negri (2000) that the world market is the diagram of power that orients the production and governance of postmodern subjectivity. As such communication is increasingly the infrastructure by which capitalism attempts to produce and consume daily life. Jodi Dean (2004) describes the merger of capitalism and communication as “communicative capitalism” and argues it risks foreclosing the possibility of democratic politics. It does so because communicative capitalism, as Agamben (2000) argues, promotes communication without communicability. Massumi (2002) agrees with Agamben to observe how communication and capitalism merge together into a new model of power based on usurpation. Massumi writes: “What is being usurped here?” The very expression of potential. The movement of relationality. Becoming-together. Belonging. Capitalism is the global usurpation of belonging [as such] “belonging per se has emerged as a problem of global proportions. Perhaps the planetary problem” (88).

Communication should not be left to the world market and capitalism's modulation and usurpation of belonging. We must begin the work of illustrating how, as Stuart Murray notes, new forms of life, new ways of belonging, are possible through the “art and labour of speech” (2005, 2). As Levebvre notes, “the project no longer consists in unfolding daily life to disclose what is concealed in it … or in an effort to transcend it … but in a metamorphosis through action and works –hence through thought, poetry, love” ( 166-167).

One name for this metamorphosis of daily life is communism. For once we have knowledge of daily life at the intersection of capitalism and communication, “we must leave it without hesitating” (Levebvre, 166). The potential of communicative communism might then be appreciated as an exodus of communication from the capitalist control of the common belonging of daily life and the rhetorical expressions of new forms of life to better communicate a life in common.

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