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June 13, 2011


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Alain Wittman

So what is the status of your blog? And I do not mean this in a glib way - but what is it that remains un-thought in the practice of writing and answering folks like me in this format - a format whose "moment has passed?" While it is clearly the case that you are, for the most part, speaking to a group already sympathetic to your message, I for one have changed a great deal in the years since we began our exchanges. These discussions have done more than simply "raised consciousness" - in some way my view of myself as a political subject has transformed. I would never have entertained communism as a live possibility years ago - I could engage with it "intellectually" but it was not a live option for me. Today, it would seem that socialism/communism provide the only language that remains available to us who wish to speak of the commons, of those things we hold in common. There are somethings that should not be for sale, not privatized or commodified nor monetized. I have always believed this to be the case but I have never before felt as if we lack a common language in which to state the obvious. The internet, as the tool and medium for communicative capitalism, has also enabled these exchanges - enabling this fundamental antagonism to show itself.

Where we go from here is unclear but it is certain we are entering a time of great social, political and economic unrest. Everything is up for grabs - we must do more than tweet about it.:)

Jodi Dean

Thanks for the provocation here. I've also changed my thinking over the last five years, in part because of discussions here. I think that I should do more in thinking about the positive dimensions of communication, what is enabled, like you say in the last two sentences of your first para--I particularly like the way you say 'we lack a common language in which to state the obvious.'

So you are making me think that I'm still too one sided in this post, that I am underestimating some crucial benefits, that not every utterance, exchange, and discussion is completely and entirely coopted and that holding on to these dimensions that continue to be not-coopted is crucial.

It's interesting, though, to note the changes in our part of the blogipelago over the last few years, the blogs that have gone down (Long Sunday), the conversations that have diminished, the blogs that have stopped allowing comments, etc. Persistence isn't nothing, though, and maybe I've been underplaying persistence--after all, there are some important blogs (Daily Kos, Firedog Lake, Lenin's Tomb, and many others) that persist as vital sites for continuing discussion in ways that, as you say, exceed consciousness raising. I need to think more about this.

Thanks again for the helpful comment.

Kurt Ofsthus

Maybe the lubricating effects of social media on organizing people against their own repression can countervail some of its incorporating effects within communicative capitalism.

I'm rediscovering the joy of organizing my union at the worksite level which is at odds with what I believe is my Union's dependency on traditional outlets for activism (kowtowing to corporate democrats, astro-turfy actions the appear to be more 'coalitions of the willing' than an expression of deep democracy). Although, this last legislative session my Union experimented with civil disobedience which energized the membership in a more real way. Whether a break from corporate politicians will be made remains to be seen, in the meantime, I'm focusing at the worksite level where actions must originate.

Jodi, speaking of innovation and experimentation you should consider doing an interview with Douglas Lain who has an innovative podcast called Diet Soap.


Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think you may be right that I agree with you that persistence has a value. Personally, Fire Dog Lake is a god send. They both summarize important news and help organize around key issues (torture, healthcare reform, whistle blowers under attack). But it is also in places like icite that people can talk and think, plan and dream.

It has always interested me that there is little censorship of content of the internet in the US but in China the government is always cracking down on cyber speech. It would seem that words still matter in China while here it is merely more content to be mined and monetized. Still, I think the value of these discussions cannot be underestimated - if I participate in the coming social battles, it will be in part because of thoughts and feelings shared here. Thank you.

Jodi Dean

Kurt--thanks for your comment. Your work at the worksite level sounds necessary and exciting. I don't know Douglas Lain, thanks for the tip.

Alain--thank you. By the way, I just noticed a book on Amazon, The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development, by Michael Lebowitz. It looks interesting.


I'm broadly convinced by your critique of capitalist media. However, with Alain, I would hold to the view that some form of resistance or even subjective transformation remains possible within and through these media. As Steven Shaviro suggests: 'No system of exploitation is ever total, just as no machine is ever one hundred per cent efficient'.

Perhaps wide-ranging resistances are impossible under current conditions. Yet I'd wager that in certain localised networks where dependence on the mechanisms of communicative capitalism is less problematic or conflicted by reciprocity (though maybe that's fanciful thinking) - such as the international milieu of the musical underground - we could identify particularly dense transfer points for aesthetico-political discourse of a critical nature.

By the way, I LOVED Blog Theory!!

Fay Furness

I, too, am inspired by your theory of communicative capitalism and see it as a lens that brings the opaque media world to clarity. But I also have experienced quick and far-reaching transformation through participatory media. It is not only my ideologies which are changing, my hopes, my knowledge, my cyber activity, my writing. I am also changing in the physical world. My counter-hegamonic activity is small so far but has great impact on family and acquaintances. I dumpster dive. This enables us to live about 70% outside of the capitalist food economy. The remarkable aspect of such activity is that it not only perpetuates itself, it actually makes my willingness to engage in other tactical anti-capitalistic struggles grow. I quite imagine that I will be able to track back my future involvement in community building directly to participatory media. Such personal transformation is an invaluable step.

But I agree that we are riddled with fragmentation. It is as if there is a missing link between personal transformation and revolutionary action. Perhaps that link is suffering. We just haven's suffered enough yet. We just haven't been abused enough yet. At the rate things are going, however, this moment will come.

Jodi Dean

thanks for the comments and the kind words about my work

Robots: thanks for the comment from Steve Shaviro. It's interesting to think about. On the one hand, it's clearly correct. On the other, do claims regarding exploitation require or presuppose such an extreme position as 'total' exploitation as an empirical claim? (Also, a lot rides on the notion of exploitation here). Is the moment of non-exploitation a moment of freedom? or is also a moment of co-optation, where one says 'well, it could be worse; at least I have love, my health, my imagination.' Might also make sense to proceed as if exploitation were total and then to think about the ways exploitation comes into contradiction with itself, destroys itself? Also, communicative capitalism thrives on criticism--it circulates it. So, my concern here is that criticism isn't a moment of non-exploitation at all but rather a component of an exploitative system.

Hey Fey. That's wild that you dumpster dive--that seems so much more engaged and necessary than participatory media, but maybe I err in separating what you tie together. On suffering: maybe, but what about organization?

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