john holloway


john holloway

intro’d to John via this share from Kevin:

At least Holloway hasn’t gone all verticalist on me like Negri.

Original Tweet:

[still not sure what he means]

In 2002, John Holloway published a landmark book: Change the world without taking power. Inspired by the ‘¡Ya basta!’ [Enough is enough!] of the Zapatistas, by the movement that emerged in Argentina in 2001/2002 and by the anti-globalisation movement,


He discerns another concept of social change is at work in these movements, and generally in every practice—however visible or invisible it may be—where a logic different from that of profit is followed: the logic of cracking capitalism. That is, to create, within the very society that is being rejected, spaces, moments, or areas of activity in which a different world is prefigured. Rebellions in motion. From this perspective, the idea of organisation is no longer equivalent to that of the party, but rather entails the question of how the different cracks that unravel the fabric of capitalism can recognise each other and connect.


We met with John Holloway in the city of Puebla, Mexico, to ask him if, after everything that has happened in the past decade, from the progressive governments of Latin America to Podemos and Syriza in Europe, along with the problems for self-organised practices to exist and multiply, he still thinks that it is possible to “change the world without taking power”.


I think the central element is labour, understood as wage labour…..wage labour is the complement of capital, not its negation.


workers as victims and objects of the system of domination


In the last twenty or thirty years we find a great many movements that claim something else: it is possible to emancipate human activity from alienated labour by opening up cracks where one is able to do things differently, to do something that seems useful, necessary, and worthwhile to us; an activity that is not subordinated to the logic of profit.

These cracks can be spatial (places where other social relations are generated), temporal (“Here, in this event, for the time that we are together, we are going to do things differently. We are going to open windows onto another world.”), or related to particular activities or resources (for example, cooperatives or activities that pursue a non-market logic with regard to water, software, education, etc.). The world, and each one of us, is full of these cracks.


..our experience under capitalism is contradictory. We are victims and yet we are not. We seek to improve our living standards as workers, and also to go beyond that, to live differently. In one respect we are, in effect, people who have to sell their labour power in order to survive. But in another, each one of us has dreams, behaviours and projects that don’t fit into the capitalist definition of labour.

The difficulty, then as now, lies in envisioning the relation between those two types of movements. How can that relation avoid reproducing the old sectarianism? How can it be a fruitful relation without denying the fundamental differences between the two perspectives?


At a certain point, bottom-up movements stall, they enter a crisis or an impasse, or they vanish. Would you say that the politics of cracks has intrinsic limits in terms of enduring and expanding?

John Holloway. I wouldn’t call them limits, but rather problems. Ten years ago, when I published Change the World without Taking Power, the achievements and the power of movements from below were more apparent, whereas now we are more conscious of the problems. The movements you mention are enormously important beacons of hope, but capital continues to exist and it’s getting worse and worse; it progressively entails more misery and destruction. We cannot confine ourselves to singing the praises of movements. That’s not enough.


the existence of any government involves promoting the reproduction of capital (by attracting foreign investment, or through some other means), there is no way around it. This inevitably means taking part in the aggression that is capital.


Could it be a matter of complementing the movements from below with a movement oriented towards government institutions?

John Holloway: That’s the obvious answer that keeps coming up. But the problem with obvious answers is that they suppress contradictions. Things can’t be reconciled so easily. From above, it may be possible to improve people’s living conditions, but I don’t think one can break with capitalism and generate a different reality. And I sincerely believe that we’re in a situation where there are no long-term solutions for the whole of humanity within capitalism.

I’m not discrediting the state option because I myself don’t have an answer to offer, but I don’t think it’s the solution.

Where are you looking for the answer?

John Holloway. Whilst not considering parties of the left as enemies, since for me this is certainly not the case, I would say that the answer has to be thought of in terms of deepening the cracks.

If we’re not going to accept the annihilation of humanity, which, to me, seems to be on capitalism’s agenda as a real possibility, then the only alternative is to think that our movements are the birth of another world. We have to keep building cracks and finding ways of recognising them, strengthening them, expanding them, connecting them; seeking the confluence or, preferably, the commoning of the cracks.

a nother way

If we think in terms of State and elections, we are straying away from that, because Podemos or Syriza can improve things, but they cannot create another world outside the logic of capital. And that’s what this is all about, I think.


We need to keep a constant and respectful debate going without suppressing the differences and the contradictions. I think the basis for a dialogue could be this: no one has the solution.

because we are it.. if free…

we don’t think there’s a solution.. because we’re looking for something too similar..

gupta roadblock law

For the moment, we have to recognise that we’re not strong enough to abolish capitalism. By strong, I am referring here to building ways of living that don’t depend on wage labour. To be able to say “I don’t really care whether I have a job or not, because if I don’t have one, I can dedicate my life to other things that interest me and that give me enough sustenance to live decently.” That’s not the case right now. Perhaps we have to build that before we can say “go to hell, capital.”

we can do that now..

we can’t not.

In that sense, let’s bear in mind that a precondition for the French Revolution was that, at a certain point. the social network of bourgeois relations no longer needed the aristocracy in order to exist. Likewise, we must work to reach a point where we can say “we don’t care if global capital isn’t investing in Spain, because we’ve built a mutual support network that’s strong enough to enable us to live with dignity.”

Right now the rage against banks is spreading throughout the world. However, I don’t think banks are the problem, but rather the existence of money as a social relation. How should we think about rage against money? I believe this necessarily entails building non monetised, non commodified social relations.

perhaps radical econ to start..  money less ness

And there are a great many people dedicated to this effort, whether out of desire, conviction or necessity, even though they may not appear in the newspapers. They’re building other forms of community, of sociality, of thinking about technology and human capabilities in order to create a new life.



2015 talk:

Greece: Hope drowns in the Reality of a Dying World. Or does it?

a no of the 5th of july was a no to the humiliation

no is the language of the world of make believe.. the reality is that there is no other option than conforming

we jumped for joy in the streets of mexico.. and then we wept

the joy of the no on the 5th is not contained in the yes… it remains our starting point… in greece.. that no is our language.. grammar, reality… we recognize ourselves… in that no we search for our own humanity

this is the end of our dreams.. we must now have the courage of hopelessness… of reality..

that is completely unacceptable.. and involves no courage at all..

that’s exactly what we learned out first day of primary school… school teaching us the courage of hopelessness

14 min – no to a system built on meaningless money

15 min – it might be possible to crate something radically different

17 min – spoke a language that did not fit.. of a world that does not yet exist

21 min – a hope that could only be an absolute call for a different world and a rejection to this one

22 min – 2013 – varoufakis in zagreb says we’re not fighting to end capitalism (perhaps in the long run) but now.. fighting for change w/in the system

24 min – this was a conflict between use value and value not greece against germany

29 min – syriza – and merkel… really saying.. there is no hope..

reality won.. hope was defeated… we have to confront this..

dec6 – no.. it was their reality that won… our reality is a different reality.. one of creativity not frustration.. one we’ve not yet had…

32 min – 15 sept 2008 – bank collapse

33 min – not a collapse.. because of the bailout.. a massive nationalization not of banks but of debts…. now not only banks can’t pay debt.. but many states can’t pay debt…

34 min – and so austerity … cutting off welfare payments and selling off state owned assets... ie: 2010 – latvia fired 1/3 of all teachers… slashes pension by 70%, ireland chopped wages for govt employees by 22%, ca cut health ins for 900 000 children…  so… despite drama… greece is really not so special…

36 min – may (2015) zapatistas gather to try to figure out where the storm is coming from…. greece not the storm.. just the center of the storm..

capital dependents on being able to subordinate day to day activity to its logic.. which means our possible lack of subordination… always stands as a potential crisis to capital…

pluralistic ignorance..

38 min – aggression grounded in the fragility of the system..

39 min – like – yanis said.. this capitalism is awful but how do we oppose it..

that can’t see the obvious.. even as we yell it.. that capitalism has failed.. and is a threat to many forms of life…

40 min – what is not clear is if we will die with it.. or if we will be able to create something else before it brings us down..

42 min – capital’s problem is not just that it depends on us.. but that it depends on the constant intensification of our subordination… it is not just that money rules but that the rule of money has a dynamic that forces capital to make us produce/circulate things more and more efficiently.. capital cannot stand still… unlike any other form of domination – capital is driven by its own inadequacy

43 min – debt is essentially a game of make believe.. debt is capital saying.. if not able to impose discipline we need, we’ll pretend we can, we’ll make symbols of wealth…

45 min – debt is an essential element of the reproduction of capital…

46 min – neoliberalism is not a policy chosen by govt it is simply the violence of the game they are forced to play..

the viciousness of the world in which they exist…

50 min – grexit is attractive as a way of shouting no.. but it wouldn’t make the difference.

2008 – not the no of fury and rage.. just a no that capitalism doesn’t work…

51 min – on people saying.. quietly.. no we will not become robots..

54 min – we must have the courage of our own absurdity… to say .. yes.. we don’t fit in… 

1:10 – on the contradiction .. of us wanting free.. but need capital.. there will be a next time… will we be ready to choose.. the hunger and chaos..

you can’t fundamentally reform the system through the state

1:12 – saying.. a nother way is not possible.. close your minds..

1:13 – we have to say.. we don’t know what the answer is..  we know what it means in terms of ed/police-state/et-al… we don’t know what to do… either we close eyes and have the courage of hopelessness… or we talk about it.. that we don’t know…

1:15 – are we ready to eat it… close down on friday… will we want a job on monday..? what does that mean to us in the cities..? how do we actually think…

1:19 – on the deadly nature of borders – keeping people out means a lot of death/misery/violence…

1:22 – i find it very hard to imagine the existence of a capitalist system w/o a system of borders.. borders are part of the violence of the existence of the state 


1:27 – q: do we have this luxury of time.. w/ref to your courage of absurdity a: i’m saying.. this no was massive… so from that starting do we work out from there.. the other thing.. i think it’s what we do in the uni’s.. nobody takes us seriously.. because doesn’t fit into concept of science/rationality…

we must have courage to say.. it’s important to think about society from the perspective of a society that does not yet exist..

1:35 – dignity means – no – we won’t accept a system that threatens existence of human race, makes rich richer, were money/profit rules..

1:36 – i think what between 5th and 13th of july puts on the table.. not option between euro or grexit but between capital restructuring and bye bye capital… even if we don’t know how to answer it… even if grexit might be fine for a while..

1:40 – 1\ we have to look at how to build not-capitalism 2\ we walk we do not run – because we have a long way to go 3\ asking we walk..

for (blank)’s sake… (urgency, humanity, sustainability)


let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

a nother way

ie: radical econ



find John:

wikipedia small

John Holloway (born 1947) is a lawyer, Marxist-oriented sociologist and philosopher, whose work is closely associated with the Zapatista movement in Mexico, his home since 1991. It has also been taken up by some intellectuals associated with the piqueteros in Argentina; the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement in South Africa and the Anti-Globalization Movement in Europe and North America. He is currently a professor at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Puebla.


Kevin writing of John in p 4 of his techno utopianism