stefano harney

stefano harney.png

intro’d to Fred and Stefano and the undercommons via Michael Hardt here:

2015 – 4 min clip on curriculum and study w egs (european grad students)


on the hierarchy of ed.. and egs as the pinnacle of the hierarchy

on the other hand.. egs demands an incredible independence of the people that come here.. all are responsible for their own learning

if egs went on longer.. i think it could end up being a collective project.. it ends up being very individual

and the students who come to egs are ones who are already mature intellectually.. maybe just in life.. that allows for this kind of independence..

i view egs as this tension between something higher than the academic star system plus a kind of mature/independent student activity

2 min – i’m attracted by the idea of study.. via Fred Moten and Stefano Harney .. as some self org’d activity

Fred Moten

Working from and within the social poesis of life in the undercommons Moten and Harney develop and expand an array of concepts: study, debt, surround, planning, and the shipped. On the fugitive path of an historical and global blackness, the essays in this volume unsettle and invite the reader to the self-organised ensembles of social life that are launched every day and every night amid the general antagonism of the undercommons.

book on hold at library.. thank you

poesis – In philosophy, poiesis (from Ancient Greek: ποίησις) is “the activity in which a person brings something into being that did not exist before.” Poiesis is etymologically derived from the ancient Greek term ποιεῖν, which means “to make”

there’s a way in which curriculum is already/always hierarchical.. proposed by admin/profs.. and i really think to overcome that is something that the profs/admin can’t do.. i think it has to be.. transformed in a way that’s org’d by the students .. so this is what they (Fred Moten and Steve Harney) mean by study.. i mean it’s a strange term.. so banal/normal term.. but what they mean by it is students take control of the learning environ

3 min – so if one were then to try to transform curriculum.. as a plan of study..  that’s self org’d from below.. that’s the way i would be interested in curriculum.. t

cc dave cormier


july 2015 – UNIKE Project: Keynote speech by Professor Stefano Harney


6 min – there’s a problem w notion of blm.. it is an appeal to a certain kind of individual rights.. which have always existed.. essentially against the actual conditions of black people in the us.. aboriginal people.. etc..  it’s part of a history of liberalism that only exists.. i would say.. by feeding off of the denial of such rights to others.. so .. there’s something contradictory in blm


7 min – on the other hand.. black life matters.. or we might even say.. black life is a mattering.. and it’s been a mattering recently that has had a new form of opposition in it that’s quite important..

so the reason i’m starting w ferguson.. is a want to make an argument to you.. today.. you can’t really understand the uni.. in its most generalized form.. w/o understanding logistics (the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies) .. and you can’t really understand logistics.. w/o understanding race .. t.. and ultimately.. what Fred and i would call blackness

8 min – what we’re seeing in ferguson.. is a case in which j walking was punishable by death.. and i’d say that that’s not entirely incidental..  even though if i have to admit.. it’s partly symbolic

some of you may know the history of j walking.. it’s part of a transition from colonial capitalism to industrial capitalism in the us.. a j was a country bumpkin.. someone who walked down the street..  because he/she didn’t know better.. and as a result.. there was a public campaign.. but backed my the emerging auto industry.. to get people not to walk down the middle of the street.. because there was a beginning of a flow of traffic.. the streets becoming part of a set of grids that would underpin much of industrial capitalists

i knew there was something about my drive (ha) to walk in the street

9 min – so that j walking had a significance in the period of transition.. that motif of travel is becoming significant again.. in this period of what i’m going to call.. logistical capitalism

so how can we get to the point where j walking was punishable by death..  well of course we know all the reasons that this kind of violence persists in the us.. and yet.. nonetheless.. i do think there’s something here that’s worth us thinking about.. maybe in a new frame.. w/o imagining that those other things necessarily go away

10 min – in particular.. that there’s a transition that goes on in industrial capitalism to what i’m calling logistical capitalism.. which has a figure also..  maybe not the j walker.. but maybe the traveling salesman.. one aspect (many jokes goes to farm.. and loss of innocence of female et al).. but there’s another aspect and that’s what’s sometimes called the traveling salesman problem.. the problem of how to have an efficient movement of goods and people.. a classic logistics problem..

12 min – that traveling salesman figure has gradually morphed.. to the figure of domination today.. and that is.. the consultant..  the consultant today is the bearer of the algo..  and that consultant produces certain set of new class relations..

in order to say more about that and why it’s important for the uni.. i have to say 2 things about what’s changing in the econ.. and what has changed.. 1\ there’s a kind of objective way in which..certainly something like the american econ has become more logistical.. ie in us.. vast majority of states.. the biggest job is trucking.. 2nd is secretary and 3rd is programmer..

13 min – now of course these categories aren’t very good.. but even given the problems w the category of trucking.. which include all kinds of delivery.. there’s a way in which the american econ has a good deal of logistics behind it and a good deal of the algo.. and when that is coupled and doubled as it is.. with the financialization of the econ.. we can get the sense of why the consultant might be the figure of domination today.. the same way i would argue that in industrial capitalism the citizen was the figure of domination.. and prior to him.. the settler was the figure of domination in colonial capitalism.. so this consultant has a lot to answer for but he’s hardly individually responsible for this

14 min – partly what has happened.. i think requires a slight revision of our history of financialization.. we have a tendency to think of financialization as having come into the firm.. and being part of what breaks up the firm.. re orgs the firm..

but in a way i think the road for finance is prepared thru a much more obscure set of processes that take place in businesses and are particularly located in ..operations management

15 min – op management characterized by japaneze term kaisan.. in which a change happens in the labor process.. shift in focus.. a new attention to the continuous improvement of the line.. it’s always there.. competition and improvement.. but there’s a new intensification in how the line moves/operates.. and what it’s capable of doing..

this coincides w a bunch of things including the coming together of op management and logistics.. but this attention to the continuous improvement of the line begins to shift focus away from products and onto the notion of how people can do things.. and this .. will lead to this confusion we have now where it’s quite common to imagine that anybody can run any kind of business.. because they have an ability to improve it..

16 min – but this starts in a very specific way i would argue.. and it has very much to do with beginning to think about moving away from human resources.. it’s not the people who are important.. moving away from accounting and engineering .. it’s not the stuff that’s important.. the line itself becomes important.. but.. as this line is becoming more important.. it’s also exploding.. firstly because.. logistics theorists and operations people have begun to see that there’s a complete line that goes in and out of the factory door and continues both directions.. into society and into nature.. and that line is beginning to be extended.. all along it it’s subjected to this continuous improvement and this imperative to show new ways.. in which essentially one can speculate on the line.. and it’s that speculation on the line and what the line can do that invites finance .. in my view.. at the end of the 1970s.. beginning of the 80s..

17 min – now.. why do i go thru all that.. and what’s the relation of that to the uni and what we’re trying to do here.. well.. what i’m suggesting of course.. is that the thing that i’ve been describing is essentially what is called sometimes the social factory..  the way in which the assembly line now weaves its way thru society as a whole and is no longer confined to the individual firms/factories/etc.. but more importantly.. that that social factory puts so much pressure on us.. because it’s not just a matter of us now being responsible for connecting that line.. and it’s not just a matter that that assembly line itself is always unfinished now.. which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on us.. but it’s also that we’re not just responsible for connecting.. for linking it to the next person/thing.. we’re responsible for improving it.. so you can’t just pass an email along.. you have to pass it along w a comment

18 min – so there’s tremendous pressure w this kaisan being spread thru society in this way and also tremendous uncertainty because we never know when we’re done .. because we are never done.. and one of the things that the consultant has produced in the algo is a notion that the labor process is forever unfinished.. the assembly line is forever unfinished.. even as it weaves thruout

work ness

now that notion of work that’s always unfinished.. of danger of never doing enough.. of course is new to some of us.. but it certainly isn’t new to some of the figures that sit at the background of this talk.. and particularly.. it’s not new to the indentured worker.. to the slave.. to the migrant.. that there should be no end to the labor process and no notion of when it’s ever complete..t

19 min – but more importantly.. what logistical capitalism ask of us.. is not that we continuously improve/connect alone.. but also that we provide and also demand.. complete and absolute access.. to ourselves.. and that we demand of others that kind of access.. that more than anything else is for me the reason that the figures who haunted in their struggles for liberation earlier from forms of capitalism return w such a vengeance today.. because the ultimate figure both of liberation from this access and of complete access itself.. was the african slave.. and not just the african slave.. but anyone who crossed the path at that particularly brutal moment from aboriginals who were enslaved to asians who were indentured.. etc etc

20 min – that notion of access which is what logistics precisely demands of all of us again is in that sense a very old form of exploitation and a very old form of domination.. to me.. j walking today is a form of sabotage.. and in that sense.. i’m not surprised that these forms of decent are meeting with most brutal kinds of responses from the state.. of course.. that’s all the more reason to struggle against that state and i think we’re seeing that in places like ferguson.. but nonetheless i would say.. that the kind of capitalism we’re in now.. one in which what’s demanded of us is not only total connectivity/flexibility/translatability.. but also total access to ourselves.. at every level.. intellectual/emotional/relational/etc.. is something that has long been resisted.. and resisted most by those who have most been exploited and dominated by it

21 min – and it’s for that reason that i think the way we might try to understand the uni today.. is by trying to get a sense of where it sits w/in this logistical capitalism.. and i think we can maybe reach some interesting observations about the uni doing it that way..

22 min – now i’m aware that the uni on the one hand needs to be understood still .. and i don’t deny this as a kind of condensation of forces and that in addition to that there is an ongoing class struggle in the uni..

but i wanted to actually focus on that other aspect of the uni.. that maybe is slightly less fashionable.. and that’s its role in domination.. t.. a short quote from althusser.. he’s talking about schools and he says:

what everybody also knows however.. that is what nobody cares to know..  is that alongside these techniques..  reading/writing/arithmetic.. and this learning.. elements of scientific and literary culture that function as know how.. alongside but also in the process of acquiring these techniques and this learning.. people also learn in school the rules.. good behavior.. that is.. propriety (the state or quality of conforming to conventionally accepted standards of behavior or morals) this to be observed by every agent in the division of labor.. depending on the posts he is destined to hold.. these are rules of professional ethics/conscious.. that is .. to put it plainly.. rules of respect for the social/technical division of labor.. and in the final analysis.. the rule of order established by class domination.. people also learn to speak proper french at school.. to write properly.. which is in fact means.. for future capitalists and their underlings.. to order workers around properly.. which in fact means.. the ideal case.. to talk properly to them .. so as to intimidate them or cajole them .. in short.. to con them.. the literary curriculum in secondary and higher ed served that end among others .. to put this in more scientific terms.. we shall say that the reproduction of labor power requires not only the qualifications be reproduced.. but the submissions to the rules of respect for the established order be reproduced at the same time..  this means for the workers.. reproduction of labor powered submission to dominate ideology.. and for the agents of exploitation and repression reproduction of its capacity to handle the dominate ideology properly .. so as to ensure the domination of the dominate class verbally..

24 min – so .. with that in mind.. that the uni .. in addition to being something that’s been nicely covered at moments.. a place of class struggle.. a place where a lot of labor happens.. it is also.. remains.. *a place where domination is reproduced.. and it’s interesting to think about what domination might look like for logistical capitalism.. and i’ve been trying to think about this w/in the context of my own uni.. singapore management uni.. which is in a sense quite a technical uni.. very concerned w business/law/accounting/econ/etc

*harney domination law

25 min – and yet.. in recent  years..  its emphasis has all been in these directions which make no sense on the surface that way.. ie: they’ve tried to reach 100% of undergrads going overseas at some point; they’ve created all kinds of creative lab spaces for these undergrads who have no obvious interest in sitting in these spaces and playing on these bean bags; and then most remarkably recently.. they’ve created.. what althusser calls a literary culture.. a kind of humanities.. in fact.. that’s the reason i’m there.. and i would suggest that all of those things have to do w forms of domination.. which are taking the form.. increasingly of demanding.. so as providing.. access..

26 min – and that this increased attention to travel, to study that never ends and has no separation from the life a student on a bean bag chair.. and indeed this humanities curriculum.. which does what humanities curriculum has always done.. since the time of kant at least.. which is reproduce a verbal domination.. as althusser would say.. these are all parts of new forms of command that are necessary for those who intend to order around others in logistical capitalism..  as well as to be subject to it themselves.. and it’s no longer enough to merely have professional ethics in accounting but one must branch out into these various forms of open access.. to use the popular term..

27 min – now.. i don’t suggest that other things have necessarily gone away.. primitive accumulation is still w us.. and certainly industrialization is still w us.. at least in my neighborhoods ..but i do think we are facing something quite new here in logistical capitalism.. in that.. one of the reasons we can read its newness is the viciousness with which.. for a long time.. but now.. with increased attention.. many communities are met who fail to provide this access..  who fail to move in the right ways.. who fail to let things pass thru.. from the perspective of logistical capitalism.. but from the perspective of peoples and communities who are involved in these kinds of struggles are in fact.. i think .. showing us the way toward sort of liberation from this logistical nightmare.. as the popular term goes..

28 min – q&a

q: what constitutes the line  a: i would say that the line is constituted by labor..  so the line is constituted and re constituted by us.. what flows in that line and what we bring to that line in order to improve it.. i think are all the things that you’re mentioning .. this is sometimes understood today in national discourse as critical infra.. the heart of the identifiable lines moving thru society.. so on the one hand.. something we’re seeing is .. an increased laboring of the other circuits of production as marx would call it.. so there’s more labor going on in circulation/distribution/consumption/realization.. but on the other hand.. i think we’re also seeing something diff going on in production.. which is why i think it’s worth.. beginning to raise the question about .. we need to think about another way to talk about capitalism today..

30 min – and what i didn’t have time to go into.. but maybe what i would partly suggest.. a notion of logistical capitalism is in opposition to is this idea that we entered this era of immaterial labor.. in which we’re going to be working creatively and in which the model we should have in mind is the student/artist/academic.. who has no division between work and life etc..  google employee didn’t think this was going well.. but independent of that.. from a political/philosophical view as well.. that notion that exploitation is going to be subject based.. it’s always been and i think remains a kind of elite notion.. but i think it’s also really false.. logistics isn’t really interested in our personalities.. and access.. precisely .. is about not giving a shit about your subjectivity.. which is why resistance to or liberation from access is equally about not giving a shit about your subjectivity.. which would be.. i wouldn’t say my critique of blm..  but why that’s not the way i would approach black life as a force of liberation today

32 min – q: can you say more about the humanities in singapore  a: i liked that quote you read from google research.. i think that’s what’s the govt has in mind in singapore.. they want at least a % of their uni population to be able to go into that world that is creative.. w other creatives.. but singapore is also just as happy for everyone else to be in logistical capitalism.. it suits them fine.. that most people aren’t going to be creative and that there isn’t going to be a struggle over their subjectivity at work.. but rather that.. things are simply going to pass thru them.. and if they don’t offer access.. they’re going to have trouble.. so i think that’s their idea of the humanities.. and they want to train a small group of people to have that as part of their ability to establish a class relation w/o others who are going to be .. just doing logistics..

33 min – it’s internally conflictual at the institutional level.. for sure.. because the second that they discover what the humanities actually is.. they discover that it’s dangerous.. in the particular scenario that we’re talking about.. i don’t hold up a lot of hope that that danger is going to add up to very much.. but.. it definitely is yet another proof that you have to be careful what you wish for.. when you’re talking about the humanities..

34 min – q: i think moocs are showing a straight line for us.. ie: textbook co to student.. tracing eye movement.. i think we get distracted w moocs not realizing what they really are..   a: i think you’re right..  breaking down the body functions.. effect.. is part of what logistics does in order to get access.. whether to speed things up.. and to find ways to improve things..  i think that the student experience.. certainly at smu.. but i think in a lot of places.. increasingly has to do with beginning w comfortable feeling like data for instance.. already as we know students are accustomed to instant access to info that also very quickly bleed over into their demanding that from others.. and i think that’s maybe part of the interesting class position of being students.. esp at more elite unis like auckland and smu.. i think what’s happening in terms of that.. althusser separates these two things.. the skills that need to be reproduced and the domination.. but today.. the way logistics works.. most definitely not thru the subject.. we see that these things get blended.. that there are all kinds of ways so it’s sometimes hard to say wether someone is being prepared to command others in lc or is simply learning how to be more openly accessible

36 min – a good ie of this.. in a very concrete way.. is something like alfred..  this service that’s only possible w this kind of break down and opening up of the assembly line thru society.. and it’s .. essentially what alfred is is people who have no jobs who agree to be just-in-time butlers for people who do have jobs.. this works on the one hand .. in places like us and britain we have this pulling away of a class that can do this.. but it also works because people’s lives become so scattered by trying to be affective on this assembly line and try to be continuously improving .. of course.. they can’t manage their own lives.. at the same time lc pushes out anybody who hasn’t figured out how to offer up access.. and they become available to do this kind of alfred butler stuff.. so just like the micro tasking of the mechanical turk..  or something else.. these are all sort of by products we can see that are flowing out of this kind of ridiculous kaisan in the social factory.. that can’t possibly be answered..  and causes the kind of fracturing of society

38 min – q: if we’re all workers and all getting exploited.. who (couldn’t hear)  a: well that’s a nice question.. it’s a sociological way that’s looked at thru things like davos..  but that doesn’t interest me very much .. what does interest me is the way that domination operates.. when the people who are supposed to be able to consider themselves subjects.. are themselves broken apart.. by access and by logistics.. so what i would say to you.. to me.. what is interesting right now.. is that’s a very difficult question.. i think that’s part of what’s going on w the humanities..  they can’t reconstitute the subject because society won’t have it.. so i think it’s a very interesting moment for that.. althusser is out of date in that sense.. but i still want to talk about domination and the way it’s produced in the uni.. because i think it’s still a primary site for that effort.. it’s just that it’s no longer distributed in bodies that can in turn think of themselves as individuals and subjects in the way that it might previously have been


find/follow Stefano:

Stefano Harney teaches at Singapore Management University in Singapore.  He is co-author with Fred Moten of The Undercommons: fugitive planning and black study (Minor Compositions, 2013) and most recently with Moten of ‘Use and Usufruct’ in Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin (eds) Futures of Black Radicalism (Verso, 2017) and ‘Indent: to serve the debt’ in Johanna Burton et al (eds) Public Servants: Art and the Crisis of the Common Good (MIT, 2016).  He curated the show ‘Shipping and the Shipped’ at the Bergen Assembly triennial in 2016 as part of the free thought collective.  With Tonika Sealy Thompson he runs the residency and study project Ground Provisions.  He is part of the School for Study, a nomadic collective of university teachers whose exodus from the university marks the space and time to study.


fred moten and stefano harney both quotes in understand ability