interpretive labor

mostly via David Graeber‘s revolution in reverse:

same on issuu


via David Graeber‘s revolution in reverse:

No doubt all this makes it easier to see the two as fundamentally different sorts of activity, making it hard for us to recognize

interpretive labor,

for example, or most of what we usually think of as women’s work, as labor at all. To my mind it would probably be better to recognize it

 as the primary form of labor.

Insofar as a clear distinction can be made here, it’s

the care, energy, and labor directed at human beings that should be considered fundamental.

The things we care most about — our loves, passions, rivalries, obsessions — are always other people; and in most societies that are not capitalist, it’s taken for granted that the manufacture of material goods is a subordinate moment in a larger process of

fashioning people.

In fact, I would argue that one of the most alienating aspects of capitalism is the fact that it forces us to pretend that it is the other way around, and that societies exist primarily to increase their output of things.

yet we let/watch it (interpretive labor/us) die everyday…

In the twentieth century, death terrifies men less than the absence of real life. All these dead, mechanized, specialized actions, stealing a little bit of life a thousand times a day until the mind and body are exhausted, until that death which is not the end of life but the final saturation with absence.

— Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life

rev of everyday life

Creativity and desire — what we often reduce, in political economy terms, to “production” and “consumption” — are essentially vehicles of the imagination. Structures of inequality and domination, structural violence if you will, tend to skew the imagination. They might create situations where laborers are relegated to mind-numbing, boring, mechanical jobs and only a small elite is allowed to indulge in imaginative labor, leading to the feeling, on the part of the workers, that they are alienated from their own labor, that their very deeds belong to someone else. It might also create social situations where kings, politicians, celebrities or CEOs prance about oblivious to almost everything around them while their wives, servants, staff, and handlers spend all their time engaged in the imaginative work of maintaining them in their fantasies. Most situations of inequality, I suspect, combine elements of both.

on hold ness

now taking rev in reverse – out of order:

the kind of imagination I have been referring to here is much closer to the old, immanent, conception. Critically, it is in no sense static and free-floating, but entirely caught up in projects of action that aim to have real effects on the material world, and as such, always changing and adapting. 

One might get a sense of how important this distinction really is by returning to the ‘68 slogan about giving power to the imagination. If one takes this to refer to the transcendent imagination — preformed utopian schemes, for example — doing so can, we know, have disastrous effects. Historically, it has often meant imposing them by violence. On the other hand, in a revolutionary situation, one might by the same token argue that not giving full power to the other, immanent, sort of imagination would be equally disastrous.

.…. Political economy tends to see work in capitalist societies as divided between two spheres: wage labor, for which the paradigm is always factories, and domestic labor — housework, childcare — relegated mainly to women. The first is seen primarily as a matter of creating and maintaining physical objects. The second is probably best seen as a matter of creating and maintaining people and social relations. The distinction is obviously a bit of a caricature: there has never been a society, not even Engels’ Manchester or Victor Hugo’s Paris, where most men were factory workers or most women worked exclusively as housewives. Still, it is a useful starting point, since it reveals an interesting divergence. In the sphere of industry, it is generally those on top that relegate to themselves the more imaginative tasks (i.e., that design the products and organize production), whereas when inequalities emerge in the sphere of social production,it’s those on the bottom who end up expected to do the major imaginative work (for example, the bulk of what I’ve called the ‘labor of interpretation’ that keeps life running).

going backwards still (in r in r)

Women’s (and/or suppressed/oppressed/hidden men’s) logic was always being treated as alien and incomprehensible. One never had the impression, on the other hand, that women had much trouble understanding the men. That’s because the women had no choice but to understand men: this was the heyday of the American patriarchal family, and women with no access to their own income or resources had little choice but to spend a fair amount of time and energy understanding what the relevant men thought was going on. Actually, this sort of rhetoric about the mysteries of womankind is a perennial feature of patriarchal families: structures that can, indeed, be considered forms of structural violence insofar as the power of men over women within them is, as generations of feminists have pointed out, ultimately backed up, if often in indirect and hidden ways, by all sorts of coercive force. But generations of female novelists — Virginia Woolf comes immediately to mind — have also documented the other side of this: the constant work women perform in managing, maintaining, and adjusting the egos of apparently oblivious men — involving an endless work of imaginative identification and what I’ve called

interpretive labor. 


The result is that while those on the bottom spend a great deal of time imagining the perspectives of, and actually caring about, those on the top, but it almost never happens the other way around. That is my real point. Whatever the mechanisms, something like this always seems to occur: whether one is dealing with masters and servants, men and women, bosses and workers, rich and poor. Structural inequality — structural violence — invariably creates the same lopsided structures of the imagination. And since, as Smith correctly observed, imagination tends to bring with it sympathy, the victims of structural violence tend to care about its beneficiaries, or at least, to care far more about them than those beneficiaries care about them. In fact, this might well be (aside from the violence itself) the single most powerful force preserving such relations.

further back

It’s not that interpretive work isn’t carried out. Society, in any recognizable form, could not operate without it. Rather, the overwhelming burden of the labor is relegated to its victims.

and further back

Around the same time, utopian socialists like St. Simon were arguing that artists needed to become the avant garde or “vanguard”, as he put it, of a new social order, providing the grand visions that industry now had the power to bring into being.What at the time might have seemed the fantasy of an eccentric pamphleteer soon became the charter for a sporadic, uncertain, but apparently permanent alliance that endures to this day. If artistic avant gardes and social revolutionaries have felt a peculiar affinity for one another ever since, borrowing each other’s languages and ideas, it appears to have been insofar as both have remained committed to the idea that the ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and, could just as easily make differently. In this sense, a phrase like “all power to the imagination” expresses the very quintessence of the Left.

avant garde ness

further back

Marx himself, for all his contempt for the utopian socialists of his day, never ceased to insist that what makes human beings different from animals is that architects, unlike bees, first raise their structures in the imagination. It was the unique property of humans, for Marx, that

they first envision things, then bring them into being.

It was this process he referred to as “production”

and back

Why is it that projects like DAN’s — projects of democratizing society — are so often perceived as idle dreams that melt away as soon as they encounter anything that seems like hard material reality

again huge to martin be bold ness…


We soon discovered that legally, it is impossible for a decentralized network to own a car. Cars can be owned by individuals, or they can be owned by corporations, which are fictive individuals. They cannot be owned by networks.

we blindly assume reliability’s B and b ness.. rather than martin be bold ness.. and so.. we get fuller too much ness

all power to the imagination

empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

from David (when asked if he would distinguish interpretive labor from empathy..via twitter)..I think of empathy as more spontaneous






meta meta (from days following above)

It seems to me no coincidence, then, that so much of the real practical work of developing a new revolutionary paradigm in recent years has also been the work of feminism; or anyway, that feminist concerns have been the main driving force in their transformation. In America, the current anarchist obsession with consensus and other forms of directly democratic process traces back directly to organizational issues within the feminist movement. What had begun, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, as small, intimate, often anarchist-inspired collectives were thrown into crisis when they started growing rapidly in size. Rather than abandon the search for consensus in decision-making, many began trying to develop more formal versions on the same principles.

huge questioning of this below.. freeman/male-female/interpretation/timing-of-imagination ness.. perhaps that was our interpretation (ie: obsession w consensus).. but we were missing that it was..

..more a consensus of 7 billion people with their gut.. not 7 bill people with each other..

the daily gut check being the true north.. rather than some political mech for decision making.. to get us all to waggle/consent on an idea..

This, in turn, inspired some radical Quakers (who had previously seen their own consensus decision-making as primarily a religious practice) to begin creating training collectives. By the time of the direct action campaigns against the nuclear power industry in the late ‘70s, the whole apparatus of affinity groups, spokescouncils, consensus and facilitation had already begun to take something like its contemporary form. The resulting outpouring of *new forms of consensus process constitutes the most important contribution to revolutionary practice in decades.

*most important contribution?.. perhaps.. but i’m thinking more.. worst damage.. because like shaw’s take on communication.. we assumed it/interpretation had been done.. and quit questioning the whole premise of decision/consensus making..

It is largely the work of feminists engaged in practical organizing — a majority, probably, tied to the anarchist tradition. This makes it all the more ironic that male theorists who have not themselves engaged in on-the-ground organizing or taken part in anarchist decision-making processes, but who find themselves drawn to anarchism as a principle, so often feel obliged to include in otherwise sympathetic statements, that of course they don’t agree with this obviously impractical, pie-in-the-sky, unrealistic notion of consensus.

perhaps even more – unrealistic notion of consensus w/in each gut

asking david… if perhaps interpretation of intent on consensus (in large groups-by said men) and/or perception of possibility/capability of consensus/decision-making (in large groups- by said women) was missed/ misunderstood (like how I’m perceiving his *Jo freeman take)
and that.. we still haven’t gone deep enough… ie: to no consensus on an idea… rather regrouping people (freeman small enough ness).. to the like idea… so their work/interpretive-let’s-just-call-it-art….isn’t compromised.. by having to buy in sell out to a diff mindset on their art…messing with the..

one ness

..of the dance we’re missing

which begs we quit saying man/woman/feminism ness.. rather just call us human.., but today… in a nother way to live…humans that listen deeper.. that act/see it/us(all of us or it won’t work… www ness) as one..

this has potential/capability of freeing all the time we spend on labeling… and section ing off into groupings…(that are never authentically separate.. thinking e langer’s.. prej decreases as discrimination increases.. and thinking all our current separations (blm, lgbt. refugee, et al)).. that we are spending our days justifying our justifying of them

like bucky’s inspectors of inspectors… being too much

taking away our time/energy/luxury/quiet/still/imagination
so that we spinach or rock our way thru life (ie: leave or remain; man or woman; black or white… ie: separate rooms at idea/idec retreat.. where many didn’t know which to choose.. main fear.. making some in each room mad if picked the other)

binary ness is keeping us from us.., and killing/suffocating us

let’s take what I hear you saying about freeman… and rather than say… see large doesn’t work… creat mech that keeps it/us small… ginormously small

What had begun, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, as small, intimate, often anarchist-inspired collectives were thrown into crisis when they started growing rapidly in size. Rather than abandon the search for consensus in decision-making, many began trying to develop more formal versions on the same principles

freeman ness
perhaps mech simple enough wasn’t yet imagined… to fit in mind/rationale/practicality of interpretive labor…. but now it is… now we can… which means we don’t have to continue compromising/misunderstanding/misconceiving.. smaller-size/intent issues because of larger-size/agenda issues

more formal versions on same principles … always compromise all of us ness
has to reain… antifragile/stigmergic/rhizomatic/et-al


The organization of mass actions themselves — festivals of resistance, as they are often called — can be considered pragmatic experiments in whether it is indeed possible to institutionalize the experience of liberation, the giddy realignment of imaginative powers, everything that is most powerful in the experience of a successful spontaneous insurrection. Or if not to institutionalize it, perhaps, to produce it on call. The effect for those involved is as if everything were happening in reverse. A revolutionary uprising begins with battles in the streets, and if successful, proceeds to outpourings of popular effervescence and festivity. There follows the sober business of creating new institutions, councils, decision-making processes, and ultimately the reinvention of everyday life. Such at least is the ideal, and certainly there have been moments in human history where something like that has begun to happenmuch though, again, such spontaneous creations always seems to end being subsumed within some new form of violent bureaucracy. However, as I’ve noted, this is more or less inevitable since bureaucracy, however much it serves as the immediate organizer of situations of power and structural blindness, does not create them. Mainly, it simply evolves to manage them.

This is one reason direct action proceeds in the opposite direction. Probably a majority of the participants are drawn from *subcultures that are all about reinventing everyday life.

well.. esp true if we see *subculture as individual.. and if we believe we are each hard wired toward revinventing everyday life.. (yr to be 5)

listen – a simple message ness

Even if not, actions begin with the creation of new forms of collective decision-making: councils, assemblies, the endless attention to ‘process’ — and uses those forms to plan the street actions and popular festivities. The result is, usually, a dramatic confrontation with armed representatives of the state. While most organizers would be delighted to see things escalate to a popular insurrection, and something like that does occasionally happen, most would not expect these to mark any kind of permanent breaks in reality. They serve more as something almost along the lines of momentary advertisements — or better, foretastes, experiences of visionary inspiration — for a much slower, painstaking struggle of creating alternative institutions.

don’t give into assuming the state…ness… be/cause then we start w us/it… not being truly human being ness.. and spend our days incremental/partial/ing back out of broken feedback loop.. to us

for (blank)’s sake

One of the most important contributions of feminism, it seems to me, has been to constantly remind everyone that “situations” do not create themselves. There is usually a great deal of work involved. For much of human history, what has been taken as politics has consisted essentially of a series of dramatic performances carried out upon theatrical stages. One of the great gifts of feminism to political thought has been to continually remind us of the people is in fact making and preparing and cleaning those stages, and even more, maintaining the invisible structures that make them possible — people who have, overwhelmingly, been women.

perhaps problem here however.. is that this work has been a clean up mode work.. rather than an art/commons work.. so we have people/women/whoever.. interpreting/cleaning/prepping for toxic people/men/situations.. rather than people doing/being their art.. rather than what we are now capable of eudaimoniative surplus.. for everyone.. has to be everyone or won’t work.. www ness

The normal process of politics of course is to make such people disappear. Indeed one of the chief functions of women’s work is to make itself disappear. One might say that the political ideal within direct action circles has become to efface the difference; or, to put it another way, that action is seen as genuinely revolutionary when the process of production of situations is experienced as just as liberating as the situations themselves. It is an experiment one might say in the realignment of imagination, of creating truly non-alienated forms of experience.

indeed.. a nother way.. where the whole idea of seen/unseen work is irrelevant/disengage\able..


more meta (repetition ing)

david – could it be the *jo freeman interpretation of misconception (by you and/or her because of the imagination/capabilities of the time) is off/short/compromises the potential of a mech to facilitate us.…. ie: focus on consensus.. when idea in small ness is more about hearing everyone than everyone consenting.. rather than spending time waggling/defending/pitching/selling each other toward one idea… we use mech to facil us according to daily (or 24/7 ish) thinking/curiosity/interpretation/idea/desire.. and then this is huge/different… trusting that if we are living a nother way.. where people have 23 plus hours of luxury/solitude/silence/freedom.. to decide for self and have bravery to change mind et al.. that what we are trusting in.. isn’t some man made mech/system of decision making (ie: polling/voting/waggling/et al) but rather.. we are trusting in 7 billion hearts/guts/whimsies..

the huge ness acknowledges the reliability oriented thinking.. ie: here we go again.. w tragedy of the commons ness; w tragedy of the structureless ness; et al… but have we honestly ever give it a fair shot.. have we ever honestly trusted people.. enough.. along with.. a mech to facilitate alive trusted people..?

i think not.

i think that’s why this is so huge/diff.

key is – nationality: human

we play any binary card.. and we’ve lost/compromised from the get go.. we have to help ourselves out of this mess by constantly reminding ourselves.. of the stories going on in each head .. the every actor has  a reason ness.. the danger of a single story ness..

ie: men vs women…

on assumed group we call men – and their condition today.. toxic… because we all placed on them the responsibility of: finances – owning/measuring/valuing money; wars- killing other humans to keep us from killing humans; work – bring home money from jobs they don’t love

and to show how intoxicated that has made us all.. in regard to the assumed feminist movement ness.. remnants include women wanting responsibility for assumed honorable/desirable men’s responsibilities: finances – wanting pic on bills; wars – wanting to help kill in order to keep us from killing; work – wanting to spend hours of our day doing things we don’t necessarily/always love for money

let’s let our combined/unified true north (for decision making/consensus/et-al).. be found/heard/seen w/in each gut/heart/soul everyday.. that’s a foundation we haven’t yet tried

ie: hosting life bits where the data we focus on is self-talk .. but within a completely diff/nother way to live..




on my take of David’s take on *Jo Freeman from structurelessness page

added (structurelessness) page because of David Graeber‘s insight/share of Jo Freeman’s the tyranny of structurelessness in his (utopia of rules) bureaucracy (and while re reading David W and NN Taleb)

[in progress]

As activists sometimes put it: in most circumstances, if you bring together a crowd of people, that crowd will, as a group, behave less intelligently, and less creatively, than any single member of the crowd is likely to do if on their own. Activist decision-making process is, instead, designed to make that crowd smarter and more imaginative than any individual participant. It is indeed possible to do this, but it takes a lot of work. And the larger the group, the more formal mechanisms have to be put in place. The single most important essay in this whole activist tradition is called “The Tyranny of Structurelessness,”170 written in the 1970s by Jo Freeman, about organizational crises that occurred in early feminist consciousness-raising circles when those groups began to attain a certain size. Freeman observed that such groups always started out with a kind of rough-and-ready anarchism, an assumption that there was no need for any formal, parliamentary rules-of-order type mechanisms at all. People would just sit down in a sisterly manner and work things out. And this was, indeed, what happened at first. However, as soon as the groups grew to over, say, twenty people, informal cliques invariably began to emerge, and small groups of friends or allies began controlling information, setting agendas, and wielding power in all sorts of subtle ways. Freeman proposed a number of different formal mechanisms that might be employed to counteract this effect, but for present purposes, the specifics don’t really matter. Suffice it to say that what is now referred to as “formal consensus process” largely emerges from the crisis Freeman described, and the debate her intervention set off. What I do want to bring attention to is that almost everyone who is not emerging from an explicitly anti-authoritarian position—and no insignificant number even of those who are—..

completely misread Freeman’s essay, and interpret it not as a plea for formal mechanisms to ensure equality, but as a plea for more transparent hierarchy.

..Leninists are notorious for this sort of thing, but Liberals are just as bad. I can’t tell you how many arguments I’ve had about this. They always go exactly the same way. First, Freeman’s argument about the formation of cliques and invisible power structures is taken as an argument that any group of over twenty people will always have to have cliques, power structures, and people in authority. The next step is to insist that if you want to minimize the power of such cliques, or any deleterious effects those power structures might have, the only way to do so is to institutionalize them: to take the de facto cabal and turn them into a central committee (or, since that term now has a bad history, usually they say a coordinating committee, or a steering committee, or something of that sort.) One needs to get power out of the shadows—to formalize the process, make up rules, hold elections, specify exactly what the cabal is allowed to do and what it’s not. In this way, at least, power will be made transparent and “accountable.”

so perhaps formal ish mech.. (that Jo and/or others haven’t yet seen).. would be one that’s simple enough for all of us.. one that focuses on self talk as data… so that the small can remain ginorm small no matter how many people.. even beyond 7 bill..


now working on .. femin\ism ness (aka: binary\ness (aka: spinach or rock ness))