This is an excerpt from the draft of a paper that is a version of a chapter in The Communist Horizon. I'm attaching the draft here. Download Communist desire Critical remarks are appreciated, but please do not cite the piece. It is provisional, an experiment, and I might change how I formulate it.
One of the slogans to emerge with particular power out of the September 17, 2011 movement to Occupy Wall Street was “We are the 99%.” Instead of naming an identity, the number highlights a division and a gap, the gap between the wealth of the top 1% and the rest of us. As it mobilizes the gap between those who have 99% of the wealth and those who comprise 99% of the population, the slogan asserts a collective, a common. It does not unify this common under a substantial identity—race, ethnicity, nationality. Rather it asserts it as a “we” of a divided people, the people divided between expropriators and expropriated. In the setting of an occupied Wall Street, this “we” is a class, one of two opposed and hostile classes, those who have and control wealth, and those who do not. Differently put, the announcement that “We are the 99%” names an appropriation, a wrong. In so doing, it voices as well a collective desire for equity and justice, for a change in the conditions through which one percent seize the bulk of collective wealth for themselves, leaving 99% with the remainder. Additionally, “We are the 99%” erases the multiplicity of individuated, partial, and divided interests that fragment and weaken the people. The count dis-individualizes interest and desire, reformatting both within a common. Against capital’s constant attempts to pulverize and decompose the collective people, the claim of the 99% responds with the force of a belonging that not only cannot be erased but that capital’s own methods of accounting produce: Oh, demographers and statisticians! What have you unleashed?As capital demolishes all previous social ties, the counting on which it depends provides a new figure of belonging! Capital has to measure itself, count its profits, its rate of profit, its share of profit, its capacity to leverage its profit, its confidence or anxiety in its capacity for future profit. Capital counts and analyzes who has what, representing to itself the measures of its success. These very numbers can be, and in the slogan “We are the 99%” they are, put to use. They aren’t resignified—they are claimed as the subjectification of the gap separating the top one percent from the rest of us. With this claim, the gap becomes a vehicle for the expression of communist desire, that is, for a politics that asserts the people as divisive force in the interest of over-turning present society and making a new one anchored in collectivity and the common.