revolution of everyday life
got me reading – revolution of everyday life.
fitting w Michael Hardt‘s:
The Revolution of Everyday Life (French: Traité de savoir-vivre à l’usage des jeunes générations) is a 1967 book by Raoul Vaneigem, Belgian author, philosopher and one time member of the Situationist International(1961–1970). The original title literally translates as, Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations. John Fullerton and Paul Sieveking chose the title under which the work appears in English.
Vaneigem takes the field of “everyday life” as the ground upon which communication and participation can occur, or, as is more commonly the case, be perverted and abstracted into pseudo-forms.
A minute correction of the essential is more important than a hundred new accessories.
For as long as there have been men — and men who read Lautréamont — everything has been said and few people have gained anything from it. Because our ideas are in themselves commonplace, they can only be of value to people who are not…..The modern world must learn what it already knows, become what it already is, ..
The best arrangement of a book is none at all, so that the reader can discover his own.
Nothing is so valuable that it need not be started afresh, nothing is so rich that it need not be enriched constantly.
people without imagination are beginning to tire of the importance attached to comfort, to culture, to leisure, to all that destroys imagination. This means that people are not really tired of comfort, culture and leisure but of the use to which they are put, which is precisely what stops us enjoying them.
Nothing surprising any more, there’s the rub! The monotony of the ideological spectacle makes us aware of the passivity of life: survival.
People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have corpses in their mouths.
The same people who denounce police violence from the heights of their lofty ideals are urging us on toward a state based on polite violence.
No more Guernicas, no more Auschwitzes, no more Hiroshimas, no more Setifs. Hooray! But what about the impossibility of living, what about this stifling mediocrity and this absence of passion?
What about the jealous fury in which the rankling of never being ourselves drives us to imagine that other people are happy? What about this feeling of never really being inside your own skin? let nobody say these are minor details or secondary points.
That which produces the common good is always terrible.
The door remained open and the cage became more and more painful.
The atmosphere of false communication makes everyone the policeman of his own encounters.
Shaw ness – communication
Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Cry, evokes for me something I feel ten times a day. A man carried along by a crowd, which only he can see, suddenly screams out in an attempt to break the spell, to call himself back to himself, to get back inside his own skin. The tacit acknowledgments, fixed smiles, lifeless words, listlessness and humiliation sprinkled in his path suddenly surge into him, driving him out of his desires and his dreams and exploding the illusion of ‘being together.
People will be together only in a common wretchedness as long as each isolated being refuses to understand that a gesture of liberation, however weak and clumsy it may be, always bears an authentic communication, an adequate personal message.
What drives us to despair is not the immensity of our own unsatisfied desires, but the moment when our newborn passion discovers its own emptiness.
Alienation never takes such firm root as when it passes itself off as an inalienable good. Transformed into positivity, the consciousness of isolation is none other than the private consciousness, that scrap of individualism which people drag around like their most sacred birthright, unprofitable but cherished. It is a sort of pleasure-anxiety which prevents us both from settling down in the community of illusion and from remaining trapped in the cellar of isolation.
But of course, revolutions demonstrated that the social evil of pain was not a metaphysical principle: that a form of society could exist from which the pain of living would be excluded.
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 exhaustion of mind and body, until that death which is not the end of life but the final saturation with absence;
this is the quote that got me reading – from revolution in reverse.. ch 3
Consciously or not, most people would rather die than live a permanently unsatisfying life. Look at anti-bomb marchers: most of them were nothing but penitents trying to exorcise their desire to disappear with all the rest of humanity. They would deny it, of course, but their miserable faces gave them away. The only real joy is revolutionary.
A sort of nationalized philanthropy impels man to find consolation for his own infirmities in the spectacle of other people’s.
Consider disaster photographs, stories of cuckolded singers, the ridiculous dramas of the gutter press; hospitals, asylums, and prisons: real museums of suffering for the use of those whose fear of entering them makes them happy to be outside. I sometimes feel such a diffuse suffering dispersed through me that I find relief in the chance misfortune that concretizes and justifies it, offers it a legitimate outlet. Nothing will dissuade me of this: the sadness I feel after a separation, a failure, a bereavement doesn’t reach me from outside like an arrow but wells up from inside me like a spring freed by a landslide.
Hierarchical social organization is like a system of hoppers lined with sharp blades. While it flays us alive power cleverly persuades us that we are flaying each other. It is true that to limit myself to writing this is to risk fostering a new fatalism; but I certainly intend in writing it that nobody should limit himself to reading it.
For myself, I recognize no equality except that which my will to live according to my desires recognizes in the will to live of others. Revolutionary equality will be indivisibly individual and collective.
re wire ness
And all the while everyone wants to breathe and no-one can breathe, and many say “We will breathe later”, and most do not die, because they are already dead.
The duty to produce alienates the passion for creation.
Every call for productivity in the conditions chosen by capitalist and Soviet economy is a call to slavery.
Why has nobody seen that the principle of productivity simply replaced the principle of feudal authority?
Statistics published in 1938 indicated that the use of the most modern technology then available would reduce necessary working time to three hours a day.
earn a living ness. crazy us.
Has anyone bothered to study the modes of work of primitive peoples, the importance of play and creativity, the incredible yield obtained by methods which the application of modern technology would make a hundred times more efficient?
only creativity is spontaneously rich
The hierarchical principle remains common to the fanatics of both sides: opposite the capitalism of Lloyd George and Krupp appears the anticapitalism of Lenin and Trotsky. From the mirrors of the masters of the present the masters of the future are already smiling back. Heinrich Heine writes:
LSchelnd scheidet der Tyran Denn er weiss, nach seinem Tode Wechselt WillkŸr nur die HSnde
Und die Knechtschaft hat kein Ende.
The tyrant dies smiling; for he knows that after his death tyranny will merely change hands, and slavery will never end. Bosses differ according to their modes of domination, but they are still bosses, owners of a power exercised as a private right. (Lenin’s greatness has to do with his romantic refusal to assume the position of absolute master implied by his ultra-hierarchical organization of the Bolshevik party; and it is to this greatness also that the workers’ movement is indebted for Kronstadt, Budapest and batiuchka Stalin.)
As soon as the leader of the game turns into a Leader. the principle of hierarchy is saved, and the Revolution sits down to preside over the execution of the revolutionaries.
We must never forget that the revolutionary project belongs to the masses alone; leaders help it, Leaders betray it. To begin with, the real struggle takes place between the leader of the game and the Leader.
It died under the heels of the people’s *commissars. The speeches of La Pasionaria already sounded like funeral orations; pathetic whining drowned the language of deeds, the spirit of the collectives of Aragon — the spirit of a radical minority resolved to sever with a single stroke all the heads of the hydra, not just its fascist head.
*commisars: an official of the Communist Party, esp. in the former Soviet Union or present-day China, responsible for political education and organization.
• a head of a government department in the former Soviet Union before 1946.
• figurative a strict or prescriptive figure of authority : our academic commissars.
Never, and for good reason, has an absolute confrontation been carried through. So far the last fight has only had false starts. Everything must be resumed from scratch. History’s only justification is to help us do it.
…Workers of the World, unite” celebrates the union of the world’s bosses. A touching scene. The common element in the antagonism, the seed of power, which a radical struggle would have rooted out, has grown up to reconcile the estranged brother.
There is no one who is not accosted at every moment of the day by posters, news flashes, stereotypes, summoned to take sides over each of the prefabricated trifles that conscientiously stop up all the sources of everyday creativity. In the hands of power these particles of antagonism are moulded into a magnetic ring whose function is to make everybody lose their bearings, to pull everyone out of himself and to scramble lines of force.
Therefore, the movement of decompression appears to have the function of shackling man’s most irreducible desire, the desire to be completely himself.
Individualism, alcoholism, collectivism, activism… the variety of ideologies shows that there are a hundred ways of being on the side of power. There is only one way to be radical. The wall that must be knocked down is immense, but it has been cracked so many times that soon a single cry will be enough to bring it crashing to the ground. Let the formidable reality of the third force emerge at last from the mists of history, with all the individual passions that have fuelled the insurrections of the past! Soon we shall find that an energy is locked up in everyday life which can move mountains and abolish distances.
Only thirty years are left if we want to end the transitional period of slaves without masters before it has lasted two centuries.
From now on, the revolt against the State of Well-Being sets the minimum demands for world revolution. You can choose to forget this, but you forget it at your peril… as Saint-Just said, those who make a revolution by halves do nothing but dig their own graves.
Primitive man’s unity with nature is essentially magical. Man only really separates himself from nature by transforming it through technology, and as he transforms it he disenchants it. But the use of technology is determined by social organization. The birth of society coincides with the invention of the tool. More: organization itself is the first coherent technique of struggle against nature. Social organization — hierarchical, since it is based on private appropriation — gradually destroys the magical bond between man and nature, but it preserves the magic for its own use: it creates between itself and mankind a mythical unity modelled on the original participation in the mystery of nature. Framed by the ‘natural’ relations of prehistoric man, social organization slowly dissolves this frame that defines and imprisons it. From this point of view, history is just the transformation of natural alienation into social alienation: a process of disalienation becomes a process of social alienation, a movement of liberation only produces new chains; until the will for human liberation launches a direct attack upon the whole collection of paralyzing mechanisms, that is on the social organization based on privative appropriation. This is the movement of disalienation which will undo history and realize it in new modes of life.
The hierarchical principle is the magic spell that has blocked the path of men in their historical struggles for freedom. From now on, no revolution will be worthy of the name if it does not involve, at the very least, the radical elimination of all hierarchy.
Sacrifice is the archaic form of exchange.
When money appears, the element of exchange in the feudal gift begins to win out. The sacrifice-gift, the potlatch — that exchange-game of loser-takes-all in which the size of the sacrifice determines the prestige of the giver — could hardly find a place in a rationalized exchange economy. Forced out of the sectors dominated by economic imperatives, it finds itself reincarnated in values such as hospitality, friendship and love: refuges doomed to disappear as the dictatorship of quantified exchange (market value) colonises everyday life and turns it into a market.
Rigorously quantified, first by money and then by what you might call ‘sociometric units of power’, exchange pollutes all our relationships, all our feelings, all our thoughts. Where exchange is dominant, only things are left: a world of thing-men plugged into the organization charts of the computer freaks: the world of reification. But on the other hand it also gives us the chance radically to restructure our styles of life and thought. A rock bottom from which everything can start again.
In order to consume, the specialist makes others consume according to a cybernetic programme whose hyperrationality of exchange will abolish sacrifice… and man. If pure exchange ever comes to regulate the modes of existence of the robot-citizens of the cybernetic democracy, sacrifice will cease to exist. Objects need no justification to make them obedient. Sacrifice forms no part of the programme of machines, or of the antagonistic project, the project of the whole man.
The crumbling away of human values under the influence of exchange mechanisms leads to the crumbling of exchange itself. The insufficiency of the feudal gift means that new human relationships must be built on the principle of pure giving. We must rediscover the pleasure of giving: giving because you have so much…
The system of commercial exchange has come to govern all of man’s everyday relations with himself and with his fellow men. Every aspect of public and private life is dominated by the quantitative.
How could even spontaneous laughter last in a space-time that is measured and measurable, let alone real joy? At best the dull contentment of the man-who’s-got-his-money’s-worth, and who exists by that standard. Only objects can be measured, which is why exchange always reifies.
The less importance a piece of news has, the more it is repeated, and the more it distracts people from their real problems.
pre ch 11
Radical theory, which is the only guarantee of the coherence of such a rejection, penetrates the masses because it extends their spontaneous creativity. “Revolutionary” ideology is theory which has been recuperated by the authorities. Words exist as the frontier between the will to live and its repression; the way they are employed determines their meaning; history controls the way in which they are employed. The historical crisis of language indicates the possibility of superseding it towards the poetry of action, towards the great game with signs (4)
What is this detour in which I get lost when I try to find myself? What is this screen that separates me from myself under the pretence of protecting me? And how can I ever find myself again in this crumbling fragmentation of which I am composed? I move forward with a terrible doubt of ever getting to grips with myself. It is as though my path is already marked out in front of me, my thoughts and feelings following the contours of a mental landscape which they imagine they are creating, but which in fact is moulding them. An absurd force — all the more absurd for being part of the rationality of the world, and seeming incontestable — keeps me jumping in an effort to reach a solid ground which my feet have never left. And by this useless leap towards myself I succeed only in losing my grip on the present; most of the time I live out of step with what I am, marking time with dead time.
Grace, a piece of God transplanted into man, outlived its Donor. Secularized, abandoning theology for metaphysics, it remained buried in the individual’s flesh like a pace-maker, an internalised mode of government. When Freudian imagery hangs the monster Superego over the doorway of the ego, its fault is not so much facile oversimplification as refusal to search further for the social origin of constraints. (Reich understood this well.) Oppression reigns because men are divided, not only among themselves, but also inside themselves. What separates them from themselves and weakens them is laos the false bond that unites them with power, reinforcing this power and making them choose it as their protector, as their father
“Mediation”, says Hegel, “is self-identity in movement.” But what moves can lose itself. And when he adds “it is the moment of dying and becoming”, the same words differ radically in meaning according to the perspective in which they are placed: that of totalitarian power or that of the total man.
As soon as mediation escapes my control, every step I take drags me towards something foreign and inhuman. Engels painstakingly showed that a stone, a fragment of nature alien to man, became human as soon as it became an extension of the hand by serving as a tool (and the stone in its turn humanised the hand of the hominid). But once it is appropriated by a master, an employer, a ministry of planning, a management, the tool’s meaning is changed: it deflects the action of its user towards other purposes. And what is true of tools is true for all mediations.
Power is the sum of alienated and alienating mediations. … returning to the etymology of the word: ab-trahere, to draw out ..
The energy which the individual expends in order to realise himself and extend into the world according to his desires and dreams, is suddenly braked, held up, shunted onto other tracks, recuperated.
But the mechanism of abstraction is never completely loyal to the principle of authority. .. if he finally loses his way, it is because he has already lost his Ariadne, snapped the sweet thread that links him with life: the desire to be himself. For it is only in an unbroken relationship between theory and lived praxis that there can be any hope of an end to all dualities, the end of the power of man over man, and the beginning of the era of totality.
Common sense is a compendium of slanders like “We’ll always need bosses”, “Without authority mankind would sink into barbarism and chaos” and so on. Custom has mutilated man so thoroughly that when he mutilates himself he thinks he is following a law of nature.
science of people ness
.. the survival was guaranteed at the price of a new alienation: the safeguard was a prison, preserving life but preventing growth
Not only does the struggle to survive prevent us from really living; once it becomes a struggle without real goals it begins to threaten survival itself: what was ridiculous becomes precarious.
Power no longer protects the people; it protects itself against the people.
Gombrowicz at least gives due respect to Form, power’s old go-between, now promoted to the place of honour among pimps of State:
“You have never really been able to recognize or explain the importance of Form in your life. …considering Form to be at most a harmless ornamental addition. When the widow weeps tenderly beside her husband’s coffin, we think that she is crying because she feels her loss so keenly. When some engineer, doctor or lawyer murders his wife, his children or a friend, we suppose that he was driven to the deed by violent or bloodthirsty impulses. When some politician expresses himself vacuously, deceitfully or shabbily in a public speech, we say that he is stupid because he expresses himself stupidly. But the fact of the matter is this: a human being does not externalise himself in an immediate manner, according to his nature, but always through a definite Form; and this Form; and this Form, this way of being, this way of speaking and reacting, does not issue solely from himself but is imposed on him from outside.
“And so the same man can appear sometimes wise, sometimes stupid, blood-thirsty or angelic, according to the Form which affects him and according to the pressure of conditioning… When will you consciously oppose the Forms? When will you stop identifying with what defines you?”
whoa. labels et al..
To be radical is to grasp something at its roots.
radical theory gets hold of the masses because it comes from them in the first place
The only time to talk about revolutionary moments is when you are ready to live them at short notice.
ready. a nother way.
Whenever the powers-that-be get their hands on theory, it turns into ideology: an argument ad hominem against man in general. Radical theory comes out of the individual, being-as-subject: it penetrates the masses through what is most creative in each person, through subjectivity and the desire for realisation. Ideological conditioning is quite the opposite: the technical management of the inhuman, the weight of things. It turns men into objects which have no meaning apart from the Order in which they have their place. It assembles them in order to isolate them, making the crowd into a multiplicity of solitudes.
Ideology is the falsehood of language and radical theory its truth. The conflict between them, which is the conflict between man and the inhumanity which he secretes, underlies the transformation of the world into human realities as much as its transmutation into metaphysical realities. Everything that men do and undo passes through the mediation of language. Semantics is one of the principal battlefields in the struggle between the will to live and the spirit of submission.
The fight is unfair. Words serve power better than they do men; they serve it more faithfully than most men do, and more scrupulously than the other mediations (space, time, technology…) ..When a half-completed action, suddenly obstructed, tries to continue in a form which it hopes will eventually allow it to finish and realise itself — …at this moment language swoops down on living experience, ties it hand and foot, robs it of its substance, abstracts it. it always has categories ready to condemn to incomprehensibility and nonsense anything which they can’t contain, or summon into existence-for-power that which slumbers in nothingness because it has no place as yet in the system of Order. The repetition of familiar signs is the basis of ideology.
And yet men still try to use words and signs to perfect their interrupted gestures.
Let nobody underestimate power’s skill in stuffing its slaves with words to the point of making them the slaves of its words.
Anarchists don’t need to know one another to think the same thing.” In radical groups which are able to reach the highest level of theoretical and practical coherence, words will sometimes acquire this privelege of playing and making love: erotic communication.
The language of the whole man will be a whole language: perhaps the end of the old language of words. Inventing this language means reconstructing man right down to his unconscious. Totality is hacking its way through the fractured non-totality of thoughts, words and actions towards itself. We will have to speak until we can do without words.
Where constraint breaks people, and mediation makes fools of them, the seduction of power is what makes them love their oppression. Because of it people give up their real riches: (a) for a cause that mutilates them [chapter twelve], (b) for an imaginary unity that fragments them [chapter thirteen], (c) for an appearance that reifies them [chapter fourteen], (d) for roles that wrest them from authentic life [chapter fifteen], (e) for a time whose passage defines and confines them [chapter sixteen].
human beings are not exchangeable
lt is hard to be oneself, so we give up as quickly as possible, seizing whatever pretext offers itself: love of children, of reading, of artichokes, etc, etc. Such is the abstract generality of the ill that our desire for a cure tends to evaporate.
oscar wilde ness
Revolution is made everyday despite, and in opposition to, the specialists of revolution. This revolution is nameless, like everything springing from lived experience. Its explosive coherence is being forged constantly in the everyday clandestinity of acts and dreams.
No other problem is as important to me as a difficulty I encounter throughout the long daylight hours: how can I invent a passion, fulfill a wish or construct a dream in the daytime in the way my mind does spontaneously as I sleep?
anyone who tries to live is an artist
As for the progressive sociologists, once they had finished shaking their heads sadly over the discovery that the value of the art object had become nothing but its market price, and that the artists were working according to the norms of profitability, they decided that we should return to the source of art, to everyday life — not in order to change it, of course, for such is not their function, but rather to make it the raw material for a new aesthetic which would defy packaging techniques and so remain independent of buying and selling
Aside from the machinery of war, all machines of ancient times originated in the needs of the theatre.
..during this period theatre left the theatre, so to speak, and colonized the entire social arena. The cliché which likens life to a drama seems to evoke a fact so obvious as to need no discussion. So widespread is the confusion between play-acting and life that it does not even occur to us to wonder why it exists. Yet what is ‘natural’ about the fact that I stop being myself a hundred times a day and slip into the skin of people whose concerns and importance I have really not the slightest desire to know about? ..The roles we play in everyday life, on the other hand, soak into the individual, preventing him from being what he really is and what he really wants to be. They are nuclei of alienation embedded in the flesh of direct experience. The function of such stereotypes is to dictate to each person on an individual, even ‘intimate’, level the same things which ideology imposes collectively.
15Stereotypes are the dominant images of a period, the images of the dominant spectacle. The stereotype is the model of the role; the role is a model form of behaviour. The repetition of an attitude creates a role; the repetition of a role creates a stereotype. The stereotype is an objective form into which people are integrated by means of the role…
..Skill in playing and handling roles determines rank in the spectacular hierarchy.Access to the role occurs by means of identification. The need to identify is more important to Power’s stability than the models identified with. Identification is a pathological state, but only accidental identifications are officially classed as “mental illness.” Roles are the bloodsuckers of the will to live (3). They express lived experience, yet at the same time they reify it.
We have to break free of roles by restoring them to the realm of play (4Specialists are those initiates who supervise initiation. The always partial expertise of specialists is a component part of the systematic strategy of Power, Power which destroys us even as it destroys itself (5). The degeneration of the spectacle makes roles interchangeable. The proliferation of unreal changes creates the preconditions for a sole and real change, a truly radical change. The weight of inauthenticity finally provokes a violent and quasi-biological reaction from the will to live (6).
15.1Our efforts, our boredom, our defeats, the absurdity of our actions all stem most of the time from the imperious necessity in our present situation of playing hybrid parts, parts which appear to answer our desires, but which are really antagonistic to them. “We would live,” says Pascal, “according to the ideas of others; we would live an imaginary life, and to this end we cultivate appearances. Yet in striving to beautify and preserve this imaginary being we neglect everything authentic.” This was an original thought in the seventeenth century; at a time when the system of appearances was still hale, its coming crisis was apprehended only in the inhibitive flashes of the most lucid. Today, amidst the decomposition of all values, Pascal’s observation states only what is obvious to everyone. By what magic do we attribute the liveliness of human passions to lifeless forms? Why do we succumb to the seduction of borrowed attitudes? What are roles?
the role is thus the means of access to the mechanism of culture: a form of initiation.the satisfaction derived from a well-played role is in direct proportion to his distance from himself.For brief moments his daily life must generate an energy which, if only it were not rechannelled, dispersed and squandered in roles, would suffice to overthrow the world of survival. Who can gauge the striking-power of an impassioned daydream, of pleasure taken in love, of a nascent desire, of a rush of sympathy? Everyone seeks spontaneously to extend such brief moments of real life; everyone wants basically to make something whole out of their everyday life. But conditioning succeeds in making most of us pursue these moments in exactly the wrong way by way of the inhuman with the result that we lose what we most want at the very moment we attain it.The essential thing, after all, is to alienate people from their desires and pen them in the spectacle, in the occupied zone. It matters little whether people are good or bad, honest or criminal, left-wing or right-wing: the form is irrelevant, just so long as they lose themselves in it.There is no such thing as mental illness. It is merely a convenient label for grouping and isolating cases where identification has not occurred properly. Those whom Power can neither govern nor kill, it taxes with madness.True madness is a function not of isolation but of identification.If identification were maximized through increased isolation, the ultimate falseness of the distinction between mental and social alienation would soon become clear.The game ceases to involve play: it petrifies because the players can no longer make up the rules. The quest for identity degenerates into identification.If individuals could stop seeing the world through the eyes of the powers-that-be, and look at it from their own point of view, they would have no trouble discerning which actions are really liberating, ..This task is at once individual and collective. Though all roles alienate equally, some are more vulnerable than others. It is easier to escape the role of a libertine than the role of a cop, executive or rabbi. A fact to which everyone should give a little thought.what is gained on the level of appearances is lost on the level of being and becoming.the more daily life is thus impoverished, the greater the attraction of inauthenticity and vice versa.
The role is at once a threat and a protective shield. ..This ambiguity accounts to my mind for people’s addiction to roles. It explains why roles stick to our skin, why we give up our lives for them. They impoverish real experience but they also protect this experience from becoming conscious of its impoverishment. Indeed, so brutal a revelation would probably be too much for an isolated individual to take.where communication is genuinely sought, misunderstandings are no crime.16partial cures are preferred because they leave the overall social pathology untouched.to consume is to be consumed by inauthenticity… the consumer is killed by the things he becomes attached to, because these things (commodities, roles) are dead.everything that makes you into an owner adapts you to the order of things makes you old. time-which-slips-away is what fills the void created by the absence of the self.17passion destroyed is reborn in the passion for destruction.inertia is the surest killer, the inertia of people who settle for senility at eighteen, plunging eight hours a day into degrading work and feeding on ideologies.so general is survival sickness that the slightest concentration of lived experience could not fail to unite the largest number of people in a common will to live. the negation of despair would of necessity become the construction of a new life. the rejection of economic logic (which only economizes on life) would of necessity entail the death of economics and carry us beyond the realm of survival.18.2The renunciation of poverty and the poverty of renunciation. Almost every revolutionary movement embodies the desire for complete change, yet up to now almost every revolutionary movement has succeeded only in changing some detail.
The worst inhumanity is never anything but a wish for emancipation that has settled for compromise and fossilized beneath the strata of successive sacrificeThe game we are about to play is the game of our creativity. Its rules are radically opposed to the rules and laws controlling our society. It is a game of loser wins: what you are is more important than what is said, what is lived is more important than what is represented on the level of appearances.19My creativity, however poor it may be, is a more certain guide than all the knowledge I have been forced to acquire.
We haven’t chosen the reversal of perspective through any kind of voluntarism. It has chosen us. Caught as we are in the historical phase of NOTHING, the next step can only be a change of EVERYTHING. Consciousness of total revolution, of its necessity, is our final way of being historical, our last chance, under certain conditions, of unmaking history. The game we are about to play is the game of our creativity. Its rules are radically opposed to the rules and laws controlling our society. It is a game of loser wins: what you are is more important than what is said, what is lived is more important than what is represented on the level of appearances.
ie: as the day ness first. here we have people perhaps willing ready for 1 yr to be 5, to try commons…
20Human beings are in a state of creativity twenty-four hours a day. .. Spontaneity is the mode of existence of creativity; not an isolated state, but the unmediated experience of subjectivity. Spontaneity concretizes the passion for creation and is the first moment of its practical realization: the precondition of poetry, of the impulse to change the world in accordance with the demands of radical subjectivity20.1In this fractured world, whose common denominator throughout history has been hierarchical social power, only one freedom has ever been tolerated: the freedom to change the numerator, the freedom to prefer one master to anotherThe bourgeois democracies have clearly shown that individual freedoms can be tolerated only insofar as they entrench upon and destroy one anotherBut what people do officially is nothing compared with what they do in secret. People usually associate creativity with works of art, but what are works of art alongside the creative energy displayed by everyone a thousand times a day: seething unsatisfied desires, daydreams in search of a foothold in reality, feelings at once confused and luminously clear, ideas and gestures presaging nameless upheavals. All this energy, of course, is relegated to anonymity and deprived of adequate means of expression, imprisoned by survival and obliged to find outlets by sacrificing its qualitative richness and conforming to the spectacle’s categories. … Even more to the point, consider the incredible diversity of anyone’s dreams — landscapes the brilliance of whose colors qualitatively surpass the finest canvases of a Van Gogh. Every individual is constantly building an ideal world within themselves, even as their external motions bend to the requirements of soulless routine.Argus is blind to the danger right in front of him. Where quantity reigns, quality has no legal existence; but this is the very thing that safeguards and nourishes it. I have already mentioned the fact that the dissatisfaction bred by the manic pursuit of quantity calls forth a radical desire for the qualitative. The more oppression is justified in terms of the freedom to consume, the more the malaise arising from this contradiction exacerbates the thirst for total freedom
Whatever the capitalist system and its avatars (their antagonisms notwithstanding) lose on the production front they try to make up for in the sphere of consumption. The idea is that, as they gradually free themselves from the imperatives of production, people should be trapped by the newer obligations of the consumer. By opening up the wasteland of ‘leisure’ to a creativity liberated at long last thanks to reduced working hours, our kindly apostles of humanism are really only raising an army suitable for training on the parade ground of a consumption- based economy. Now that the alienation of the consumer is being exposed by the dialectic internal to consumption itself, what kind of prison can be devised for the highly subversive forces of individual creativity? As I have already pointed out, the rulers’ last chance here is to turn us all into organizers of our own passivity
With touching candour, Dewitt Peters remarks that, “If paints, brushes and canvas were handed out to everyone who wanted them, the results might be quite interesting”.
Power cannot enlist true creativity. In 1869 the Brussels police thought they had found the famous gold of the International, about which the capitalists were losing so much sleep. They seized a huge strongbox hidden in some dark corner. When they opened it, however, they found only coal. Little did the police know that the pure gold of the International would always turn into coal if touched by enemy hands.
The creative spark, which is the spark of true life, shines all the more brightly in the night of nihilism which at present envelopes us. As the project of a better organization of survival aborts, the sparks will become more and more numerous and gradually coalesce into a single light, the promise of a new organization based this time on the harmonizing of individual wills. History is leading us to the crossroads where radical subjectivity is destined to encounter the possibility of changing the world. The crossroads of the reversal of perspective.
Spontaneity is the true mode of being of individual creativity, creativity’s initial, immaculate form, unpolluted at the source and as yet unthreatened by the mechanisms of co- optation.Whereas creativity in the broad sense is the most equitably distributed thing imaginable, spontaneity seems to be confined to a chosen few. Its possession is a privilege of those whom long resistance to Power has endowed with a consciousness of their own value as individuals.The instant of creative spontaneity is the minutest possible manifestation of reversal of perspective. … in losing myself I find myself; forgetting that I exist, I realize myself.The concepts and abstractions which rule us have to be returned to their source, to lived experience, not in order to validate them, but on the contrary to correct them, to turn them on their heads, to restore them to that sphere whence they derive and which they should never have left. This is a necessary precondition of people’s imminent realization that their individual creativity is indistinguishable from universal creativity. The sole authority is one’s own lived experience;
Spontaneity can never spring from internalized restraints, even subconscious ones, nor can it survive the effects of alienating abstraction and spectacular co-optation: it is a conquest, not a given. The reconstruction of the individual presupposes the reconstruction of the unconscious (cf the construction of dreams).The commonsense view has always treated spontaneity as a primary state, and initial stage in need of theoretical adaptation, of transposition into formal terms.The centre of lived experience is that place where everyone comes closest to themself. Within this unique space-time we have the clear conviction that reality exempts us from necessity. Consciousness of necessity is always what alienates us.The traveller who is always thinking about the length of the road before them tires more easily than his or her companion who lets their imagination wander as they go along. Similarly, anxious attention paid to lived experience can only impede it, abstract it, and make it into nothing more than a series of memories-to-be.21The refusal to be a slave is really what changes the world.The principle of organisation classifies individual existences like fractions, according to their managerial or executive faculties.Domination is a right, exploitation a contract, organisation an order of things. The tyrant dominates according to his will to power, the capitalist exploits according to the laws of profit, the organiser plans and is planned. The first wants to be arbitrary, the second just, the third rational and objective.Already by 1867, at the Congress of Basel. Francau, a member of the First International, was declaring: “We’ve been towed along by marquesses of diplomas and princes of science for far too long. Let’s look after our own affairs and however inept we are we can’t make more of a mess than what they’ve done in our name.” Ripe words of wisdom, whose meaning grows as specialists proliferate and encrust individual life. Those who succumb to the magnetic attraction exercised by the huge Kafkaesque cybernetic machine are nicely divided from those who follow their own impulses and try to escape from it.
The child’s days escape adult time; their time is swollen by subjectivity, passion, dreams haunted by reality. Outside, the educators look on, waiting, watch in hand, till the child joins and fits the cycle of the hours. It’s they who have time. At first, the child feels strongly the imposition of adult time as a foreign intrusion; he ends up succumbing, and agrees to grow old. Not knowing conditioning’s subtle ways, he allows himself to be snared, like a young animal. When finally he possesses the weapons of criticism and wants to aim them at time, the years have carried him far from the target. In his heart his childhood lies an open wound.
Children are playing in the street. Suddenly one of them leaves the group and comes up to me, bringing the most beautiful dreams I can remember. He shows me — ..the possibility of living many events; not just seeing them pass by, but of living them and recreating them endlessly. And now at this point where everything slips away from me and everything becomes clear to me, how could a kind of wild untamed instinct for totality not surge up in me from under so many false desires, my childishness turned dangerous through the lessons of history and class struggles? There cannot be a new proletariat unless it possesses in its purest form the realisation of childhood in an adult world.22.4Linear time only has a hold over men to the extent that it forbids them to transform the world, and forces them to adapt to it. Freely radiating creativity is power’s public enemy number one.
Roles never have a present.This is the historian’s role. He organises the past, by breaking it up according to the official line of time, then classifies events according to ad hoc categories. These easy-to-use classifications place the event in quarantine. Unshakable parentheses isolate and contain it, stop it coming to life, being reborn and breaking out again in the streets of our daily 1ife. The event is frozen. One is forbidden to rejoin it, remake it, perfect it, lead it on towards its supersession. It is just there, for all eternity suspended for the appreciation of aesthetes. Slightly alter its signification, and, hey presto! it can be transposed straight into the future, which is just the historians repeating themselves. The future they foretell is a collage of their memoriesEncouraged to identify himself with some other time and some other person, today’s individual has managed to have his present stolen from him under the illusion of gaining a historical perspective.23The repressive unity of power is threefold: coercion, seduction and mediation. ..The new society, as it develops underground, chaotically, is moving towards a total honesty — a transparency — between individuals: an honesty promoting the participation of each individual in the self-realisation of everyone else. Creativity, love and play stand in the same relation to true life as the need to eat and the need to find shelter stand in relation to survival (1). Attempts to realise oneself can only be based on creativity (2). Attempts to communicate can only be based on love (4). Attempts to participate can only be based on play (6). Separated from one another these three projects merely strengthen the repressive unity of power. RPeople rely on Causes because they haven’t been able to make their own life a Cause sufficient unto itself.Almost everyone is fed up with their life. Almost everyone is sick of being pushed around. Almost everyone is sick of the lies they come out with all day long. All that is needed is a spark — plus tactics. Should delinquents arrive at revolutionary consciousness simply through understanding what they already are, and by wanting to be more so, then it’s quite possible that they could prove the key-factor in a general social retake on reality. This could be vitally important.as long as individual creativity is not at the centre of social life, man’s only freedom will be freedom to destroy and be destroyed.And he who thinks for you judges you, he reduces you to his own norm and, whatever his intentions may be, he will end by making you stupid — for stupidity doesn’t come from a lack of intelligence, as stupid people imagine it does, it comes from renouncing, from abandoning one’s own true self. So if anyone asks you what you are doing, asks you to explain yourself, treat him as a judge —24The revolution of everyday life will blot out ideas of justice, punishment and torture, which are notions dependent on exchange and fragmentation. We don’t want to be judges, but, by destroying slavery, masters without slaves recovering a new innocence and gracefulness in living. We have to destroy the enemy, not judge him. Whenever Durruti’s column freed a village, they would assemble the peasants, ask which were the Fascists and shoot them on the spot. The next revolution will do the same. With perfect composure. We know there’ll be no-one to judge us, nor will there ever be judges again, because we will have gobbled them up.
25The moment of revolt is childhood rediscovered, time put to everyone’s use, the dissolution of the market and the beginning of generalised self-management.
2009 convo with Raoul:
HUO: How do you see cities in the year 2009? What kind of unitary urbanism for the third millennium? How do you envision the future of cities? What is your favorite city? You callOarystis the city of desire. Oarystis takes its inspiration from the world of childhood and femininity. Nothing is static in Oarystis. John Cage once said that, like nature, “one never reaches a point of shapedness or finishedness. The situation is in constant unpredictable change.”2 Do you agree with Cage?
RV: I love wandering through Venice and Prague. I appreciate Mantua, Rome, Bologna, Barcelona, and certain districts of Paris. I care less about architecture than about how much human warmth its beauty has been capable of sustaining. Even Brussels, so devastated by real estate developers and disgraceful architects (remember that in the dialect of Brussels, “architect” is an insult), has held on to some wonderful bistros. Strolling from one to the next gives Brussels a charm that urbanism has deprived it of altogether. The Oarystis I describe is not an ideal city or a model space (all models are totalitarian). It is a clumsy and naïve rough draft for an experiment I still hope might one day be undertaken—so I agree with John Cage. This is not a diagram, but an experimental proposition that the creation of an environment is one and the same as the creation by individuals of their own future.
huge. experimenting with a non-finished, non-predictable ness. ie: acting as if we are already free. and that that is enough.. what we already are.
it is useful to remember that technical inventiveness must stem from the reinvention of individual and collective life. That is to say, what allows for genuine rupture and ecstatic inventiveness is self-management: the management by individuals and councils of their own lives and environment through direct democracy. Let us entrust the boundless freedoms of the imaginary to childhood and the child within us.[..]
New Babylon’s flaw is that it privileges technology over the formation of an individual and collective way of life—the necessary basis of any architectural concept. An architectural project only interests me if it is about the construction of daily life.
there are so many bureaucratic and parasitical buildings that can’t wait to give way to fertile, pleasant land that is useful to all.
HUO: Learning is deserting schools and going to the streets. Are streets becoming Thinkbelts? Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt used abandoned railroads for pop-up schools. What and where is learning today?
RV: Learning is permanent for all of us regardless of age. Curiosity feeds the desire to know. The call to teach stems from the pleasure of transmitting life: neither an imposition nor a power relation, it is pure gift, like life, from which it flows. Economic totalitarianism has ripped learning away from life, whose creative conscience it ought to be. We want to disseminate everywhere this poetry of knowledge that gives itself. Against school as a closed-off space (a barrack in the past, a slave market nowadays), we must invent nomadic learning.
HUO: How do you foresee the twenty-first-century university?
RV: The demise of the university: it will be liquidated by the quest for and daily practice of a universal learning of which it has always been but a pale travesty.
HUO: Could you tell me about the freeness principle (I am extremely interested in this; as a curator I have always believed museums should be free—Art for All, as Gilbert and George put it).
RV: Freeness is the only absolute weapon capable of shattering the mighty self-destruction machine set in motion by consumer society, whose implosion is still releasing, like a deadly gas, bottom-line mentality, cupidity, financial gain, profit, and predation. Museums and culture should be free, for sure, but so should public services, currently prey to the scamming multinationals and states. Free trains, buses, subways, free healthcare, free schools, free water, air, electricity, free power, all through alternative networks to be set up. As freeness spreads, new solidarity networks will eradicate the stranglehold of the commodity. This is because life is a free gift, a continuous creation that the market’s vile profiteering alone deprives us of.
HUO: Have you dreamt up other utopian cities apart from Oarystis? Or a concrete utopia in relation to the city?
RV: No, but I have not given up hope that such projects might mushroom and be realized one day, as we begin reconstructing a world devastated by the racketeering mafias.
The absurdity of money is becoming concrete. It will gradually give way to new forms of exchange that will hasten its disappearance and lead to a gift economy.
HUO: What are the conditions for dialogue in 2009? Is there a way out of this system of isolation?
RV: Dialogue with power is neither possible nor desirable. Power has always acted unilaterally, by organizing chaos, by spreading fear, by forcing individuals and communities into selfish and blind withdrawal. As a matter of course, we will invent new solidarity networks and new intervention councils for the well-being of all of us and each of us, overriding the fiats of the state and its mafioso-political hierarchies. The voice of lived poetry will sweep away the last remaining echoes of a discourse in which words are in profit’s pay.
The productivity- and profit-based economy has implanted into lived human reality a separate reality structured by its ruling mechanisms: predation, competition and competitiveness, acquisitiveness and the struggle for power and subsistence. For thousands of years such denatured human behaviors have been deemed natural. The temporality of draining, erosion, tiredness, and decay is determined by labor, an activity that dominates and corrupts all others. The temporality of desire, love, and creation has a density that fractures the temporality of survival cadenced by work. Replacing the temporality of money will be a temporality of desire, a beyond-the-mirror, an opening to uncharted territories.
My priority is to live better and better in a world that is more and more human. I would love to build the “urban countryside” of Oarystis, but I’m not just waiting patiently, like Fourier at the Palais Royal, for some billionaire to decide to finance the project only to lose everything to the financial crash a minute later.
It will be up to the communities to secure their own energy and food independence so as to free themselves from the control of the multinationals and their state vassals everywhere. Claiming natural power for our use means reclaiming our own existence first. Only creativity will rid us of work.
HUO: Last but not least, Rilke wrote that wonderful little book of advice to a young poet. What would your advice be to a young philosopher-writer in 2009?
RV: To apply to his own life the creativity he displays in his work. To follow the path of the heart, of what is most alive in him.
Raoul Vaneigem (Dutch pronunciation: [raːˈul vɑnˈɛi̯ɣəm]; born 1934) is a Belgian writer. He was born in Lessines(Hainaut, Belgium). After studying romance philology at the Free University of Brussels (now split into theUniversité Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel) from 1952 to 1956, he participated in theSituationist International from 1961 to 1970. He currently resides in Belgium and is the father of four children.
so might refugee camps be an ideal space for modeling (for the rest of the world) the revolution of everyday life..?
In this daily and often invisible struggle, it is the everyday actions of people who are marginalised from political decisions that can be the most creative and lasting.
I think this brings hope. It connects with Edgar Pieterse’s concept of ‘radical incrementalism’. This is the idea that alternatives can be produced through everyday practices, which aim for an improvement in people’s immediate circumstances, but also lay the basis for building upon that for even greater change in the future. Over time this can lead to cumulative transformations that contribute towards a more equitable future and re-awaken our imaginations.
By embracing the everyday, a brighter future is possible.