Political Anatomy of the South American Conjuncture: Images of Development and New Social Conflict in the Present Period

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The essay trans­lat­ed below was first pub­lished in Novem­ber 2014 on Lobo Suel­to, a blog linked to the Argen­tine mil­i­tant research group Colec­tivo Situa­ciones. Its appear­ance fol­lowed the reelec­tion of Brazil’s Dil­ma Rouss­eff, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and the elec­tion of Tabaré Vásquez in Uruguay (who returned to the office for a sec­ond, non-con­sec­u­tive term on the the pop­u­lar­i­ty of his pre­de­ces­sor and par­ty-mate José Muji­ca). Despite the­se osten­si­bly “pro­gres­sive” vic­to­ries, San­dro Mez­zadra and Diego Sztul­wark argue that the region’s peri­od of left-wing state dom­i­nance may have reached its lim­its, and in some cas­es, fal­l­en into out­right con­ser­vatism. Con­se­quent­ly, they call for a re-activi­a­tion of polit­i­cal strug­gle at the grass­roots lev­el to over­come the iner­tia of the polit­i­cal cycle. This analy­sis con­tin­ues to res­onate, as sev­er­al suc­ces­sors to the orig­i­nal pink tide lead­er­ship are gear­ing up for anoth­er round of elec­toral pol­i­tics this year, with a gen­er­al elec­tion in Argenti­na (Octo­ber 25) and an impor­tant par­lia­men­tary vote for Venezuela’s Nico­las Maduro (Decem­ber 6). The out­comes of the­se elec­tions and the polit­i­cal tra­jec­to­ries gen­er­at­ed by them will call for yet more con­junc­tural analy­sis; Mez­zadra and Sztul­wark there­fore offer an essen­tial the­o­ret­i­cal start­ing point. With this in mind, we present the fol­low­ing trans­la­tion with the occa­sion­al edi­to­ri­al addi­tion of in-text links to Eng­lish-lan­guage cov­er­age of ref­er­enced events.

I. How should we read the tri­umph of the Movimien­to al Social­is­mo (MAS) in Bolivia, the Frente Amplio (FA) in Uruguay, and the Par­tido dos Tra­bal­hadores (PT) in Brazil?

The recent elec­toral cycle in Brazil, Bolivia and Uruguay per­mits us an ini­tial eval­u­a­tion of the polit­i­cal peri­od of so-called pro­gres­sive gov­ern­ments in South Amer­i­ca, as well as of the region’s pat­tern of devel­op­ment, gen­er­al­ly called neo-devel­op­men­tal­ism or neo-extrac­tivism.

Above all, it offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to ask how South Amer­i­ca has changed dur­ing the past decade. Indeed, a mate­ri­al­ist analy­sis – and not just a pol­i­cy analy­sis, focused on the “achieve­ments” of the pro­gres­sive gov­ern­ments – requires a view of the polit­i­cal anato­my of soci­ety in terms of its sub­jects, changes and con­ti­nu­ities in its social fab­ric, and new prob­lems posed by a more aggres­sive phase of the glob­al eco­nom­ic cri­sis that has affect­ed the region.

To begin, the tri­umph of the forces in gov­ern­ment (PT in Brazil, MAS in Bolivia, and FA in Uruguay, with their respec­tive coali­tions) per­mits us to affirm the per­sis­tence of a “pro­gres­sive” polit­i­cal cycle – very clear­ly in the case of Bolivia where the polit­i­cal con­sol­i­da­tion of the gov­ern­ment was extra­or­di­nar­i­ly force­ful, and in a more lim­it­ed way in the case of Uruguay and Brazil, where both an orga­nized con­ser­v­a­tive oppo­si­tion and, beyond the elec­tions them­selves, per­sis­tent mar­ket pres­sure have shown them­selves capa­ble of restrict­ing the future scope of the gov­ern­ments’ polit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tions.

What does this elec­toral rat­i­fi­ca­tion mean? In prin­ci­ple it extends the “porous” char­ac­ter that pub­lic insti­tu­tions have had with respect to the peri­od of strug­gles that, dur­ing the past decade, man­aged to over­throw the legit­i­ma­cy of the neolib­er­al con­sen­sus of the 80s and 90s. This rat­i­fi­ca­tion pro­longs and affirms the defeat through­out the region of pure­ly neolib­er­al efforts, by elites, to retake direct polit­i­cal con­trol. In that sense, it holds open the pos­si­bil­i­ty for a region-wide devel­op­ment of a polit­i­cal dynamism unen­cum­bered by the hege­mony of the neolib­er­al West.

But the con­sol­i­da­tion of the­se gov­ern­ing expe­ri­ences can­not be assessed only with ref­er­ence to the impass­es that pre­cip­i­tat­ed the cur­rent peri­od more than a decade ago. The ten­sions of the present con­junc­ture, derived from a new con­fig­u­ra­tion of South Amer­i­can soci­eties as well as from a new region­al and glob­al con­text, pose a series of more pre­cise ques­tions regard­ing the mean­ing of the­se elec­toral vic­to­ries.

In the case of Brazil, whose influ­ence over the region is obvi­ous, what has been put in ques­tion is the capac­i­ty of the new gov­ern­ment to rein­vent Lulismo’s insti­tu­tion­al “poros­i­ty” fol­low­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive turn of pub­lic pol­i­cy in the Dil­ma Rouss­eff era and the PT’s retreat from orga­nized mil­i­tan­cy.

This is not mere­ly a rhetor­i­cal point when we recall that the move­ments that erupt­ed in many Brazil­ian cities dur­ing June 2013 force­ful­ly man­i­fest­ed a series of con­flicts linked to pub­lic trans­porta­tion, repres­sion in the fave­las, urban gen­tri­fi­ca­tion (above all around the World Cup and the Olympic games), and the harsh­est fea­tures of the devel­op­men­tal­ist mod­el. The­se move­ments expressed a struc­tural mod­i­fi­ca­tion in Brazil­ian soci­ety and posed a chal­lenge that might well have been an oppor­tu­ni­ty to rein­vent those afore­men­tioned “porous” mech­a­nisms. This pos­si­bil­i­ty, nonethe­less, was not real­ized. And although it is true that those move­ments did not man­age to impose them­selves polit­i­cal­ly – they were bare­ly rel­e­vant in the elec­tions – what is cer­tain is that they illu­mi­nat­ed a new social land­scape vio­lent­ly ignored by the state and the Par­tido dos Tra­bal­hadores.

Sim­i­lar phe­nom­e­na through­out the region show the inten­tion of var­i­ous gov­ern­ments to uncrit­i­cal­ly tie the con­ti­nu­ity of the “pro­gres­sive” polit­i­cal peri­od to the neo-developmentalist/neo-extractivist mod­el. This sit­u­a­tion oblig­es us to real­is­ti­cal­ly con­sid­er sce­nar­ios of clo­sure, polit­i­cal exclu­sion, and grow­ing social vio­lence in the future.

The inten­si­fi­ca­tion of vio­lence, includ­ing both struc­tural vio­lence aris­ing from the mode of accu­mu­la­tion and the more dif­fuse but omnipresent vio­lence in poor urban neigh­bor­hoods, trans­vers­es region­al geopol­i­tics, affect­ing coun­tries with “pro­gres­sive” gov­ern­ments as much as those that are open­ly con­ser­v­a­tive – though not always in the same way. The recourse to mas­sacre, of which Mex­i­co sets an extreme and per­verse exam­ple, sig­nals the extent to which ter­ror has returned to the con­ti­nent as a means for the man­age­ment of social con­flict, appeal­ing to fear and pre­vent­ing any col­lec­tive eval­u­a­tion on the new archi­tec­ture of pow­er.

II. What can we expect from a con­sol­i­da­tion of the cur­rent pat­tern of devel­op­ment?

The estab­lished devel­op­ment mod­el in Lat­in Amer­i­ca, with its clear inter­nal dif­fer­en­ti­a­tions, was con­fig­ured around a suc­cess­ful rene­go­ti­a­tion of its inser­tion into the glob­al mar­ket as a sup­pli­er of raw mate­ri­als (grains and extrac­tive goods). The­se activ­i­ties provide the for­eign reserves nec­es­sary to sus­tain the poli­cies of “social inclu­sion” at the same time that they per­mit the state to play a more active role.

The admin­is­tra­tion of the­se process­es is com­plex and has dif­fer­ent lev­els. On the one hand, the cycle itself depends for its func­tion­ing on exter­nal fac­tors that can­not be guar­an­teed in the long term. On the oth­er hand, given the con­tra­dic­to­ry struc­ture of mul­ti­lat­er­al glob­al dynam­ics – rep­re­sent­ed above all by the for­ma­tion of the BRICs – its man­age­ment requires a spe­cial geopo­lit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ty, and region­al inte­gra­tion becomes a key ques­tion for the inter­nal affairs of each coun­try. Fur­ther­more, neo-extrac­tive economies sup­pose a high lev­el of struc­tural vio­lence (in both rural and urban areas) and it is not clear, at least in pub­lic polit­i­cal dis­course, how it is that gov­ern­ments are weigh­ing the advan­tages of cap­tur­ing rents again­st the con­sid­er­a­tion of future projects for the devel­op­ment of high­er-qual­i­ty democ­ra­cy.

Faced with the­se ques­tions, the pro­gres­sive ide­o­log­i­cal dis­course does not provide accept­able answers. They tell us of a sim­ple evo­lu­tion­ary line with the promise of con­tin­u­ing every kind of improve­ment. We know very well that things do not work that way: the so-called neo-devel­op­men­tal­ist mod­el has already pro­duced pow­er­ful effects (link­ing con­sump­tion and vio­lence) through­out the region, and has sub­stan­tial­ly mod­i­fied social behav­iors and class struc­tures. The results of this pat­tern of devel­op­ment are already present among us, with all their con­tra­dic­tions.

Among the most sig­nif­i­cant changes in the present land­scape, we should high­light the emer­gence of new “mid­dle class­es,”1 as well as the mas­si­fi­ca­tion of con­sump­tion, and the trans­for­ma­tion of a con­tin­u­ing pover­ty under the effects of this mas­si­fi­ca­tion. In the sub­jec­tive order, the­se shifts are accom­pa­nied by an intense new cen­tral­i­ty of the the­me of inse­cu­ri­ty, which serves to repro­duce the the agen­da of the right. In fact, “mid­dle class” and “secu­ri­ty” are two sig­ni­fiers being simul­ta­ne­ous­ly rede­fined by the same dynam­ic: the inten­tion­al pro­duc­tion of a new social sub­ject, intrin­si­cal­ly dis­ci­plined by the polit­i­cal dis­posi­tifs of medi­a­ti­za­tion, secu­ri­ti­za­tion, debt, and rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

III. What are the stakes of the con­junc­ture?

If, as we have argued, the pat­tern of devel­op­ment appears to be con­tin­u­ing with­out change – at least in the short term – and if the con­quests of the peri­od of anti-neolib­er­al in the 90s con­tin­ue to be legit­i­mate and can­not be ignored, the ques­tion “What are the stakes of the present con­junc­ture?” points to some­thing else.

We are refer­ring to the strug­gle to inter­pret and polit­i­cal­ly artic­u­late the social muta­tions that have occurred through­out the region. In this strug­gle, racist and clas­sist dis­cours­es aim to hard­en inter­nal bor­ders, mov­ing the col­lec­tive imag­i­nary and pub­lic pol­i­cy in a puni­tive direc­tion and focus­ing on secu­ri­ty, reaf­firm­ing the inter­nal­ly hier­ar­chi­cal char­ac­ter of nation­al space (and using nation­al­ist rhetoric to do it).

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the “pro­gres­sive” gov­ern­ments are not immune to the­se trans­gres­sions, nor do they always effec­tive­ly take up the task of con­tain­ing them. It is there­fore easy to see how, in Brazil, per­sis­tent vio­lence in the fave­las is dis­placed time and time again from the neo-devel­op­men­tal­ist agen­da, or how the Argen­tine state gives a racist and clas­sist treat­ment to young peo­ple from ghet­tos and infor­mal set­tle­ments. (This cur­rent crim­i­nal­iza­tion of poor, immi­grant cit­i­zens is noth­ing but a new chap­ter in a larg­er sto­ry.)

IV. Argentina’s con­junc­ture, Argenti­na in the con­junc­ture

The pres­i­den­tial elec­tions planned for 2015 will be a dif­fi­cult process of tran­si­tion, marked by, among oth­er things, the intense weight of the strug­gle that the nation­al gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to pur­sue on the plane of inter­na­tion­al finance. The cur­rent posi­tion of the Argen­tine gov­ern­ment with respect to the so-called vul­ture funds has cre­at­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to ful­ly open up the finan­cial world as a space of strug­gle, but this pos­si­bil­i­ty, in order to be effec­tive, will require an intense inter­nal polit­i­cal mobi­liza­tion. And, on the region­al and glob­al lev­els, it will mean the pro­pos­al of con­crete strate­gies for chal­leng­ing the artic­u­la­tion of finan­cial flows, includ­ing the cen­tral­i­ty of the dol­lar as the sov­er­eign glob­al cur­ren­cy.

The com­plex­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion becomes clear when we look at Europe, ever firmer in its role as an obsta­cle to revis­ing the archi­tec­ture and pow­er of finance or chang­ing the glob­al frame­work: reces­sion and cri­sis, which con­tin­ue to be par­tic­u­lar­ly sharp in South­ern Europe, con­sti­tute, in them­selves, the cause of a vicious cir­cle that pre­vents the con­ti­nent from play­ing a role in the dynam­ic refig­u­ra­tion of finan­cial and mon­e­tary man­age­ment.

It is nec­es­sary to add, when look­ing at Europe, that the rise of nation­al­ist forces from the right, like Le Pen’s Front Nation­al in France, only rein­forces the continent’s role as an obsta­cle to change. Only a rup­ture with neolib­er­al­ism from below could per­mit the emer­gence of new cor­re­la­tions and con­fig­u­ra­tions of forces to make pos­si­ble a Europe capa­ble of play­ing an expan­sive role at a glob­al lev­el.

The case of Asia is dif­fer­ent. The impor­tance of Argentina’s swap with Chi­na and of the diver­si­fi­ca­tion of its nation­al reserves as part of its con­flict with the vul­ture funds may sig­nal a still unclear but more mul­ti­lat­er­al future sce­nar­io. Iner­tia, how­ev­er, per­sists with respect to the pat­tern of devel­op­ment, and there is a lack of polit­i­cal ini­tia­tive to revise the ten­den­tial link between Chi­ne­se loans and the con­sol­i­da­tion of mega-extrac­tive activ­i­ties. And it must be said that this link makes future changes in the Chi­ne­se eco­nom­ic mod­el an extreme­ly impor­tant prob­lem for Argenti­na and for the region.

Under the­se com­plex con­di­tions, the ten­den­cy toward a con­ser­v­a­tive nation­al con­sen­sus inside and out­side Kirch­ner­ism based on the afore­men­tioned racist and clas­sist phe­nom­e­na is a reac­tionary fac­tor inso­far as it pre­vents any inno­v­a­tive or demo­c­ra­t­ic wagers at the social lev­el. The­se wagers would be the nec­es­sary con­di­tions to fur­ther the strug­gle on the ter­rain of glob­al finance.

It is there­fore wor­ry­ing, in this sense, that the elec­toral field is dom­i­nat­ed by con­ser­v­a­tive and right-wing can­di­dates, with­out any vis­i­ble alter­na­tive able to expand those inno­v­a­tive ele­ments that, in their moment, sig­naled a vir­tu­ous cir­cle between gov­ern­ment and col­lec­tive mobi­liza­tion (human rights orga­ni­za­tions and social move­ments).

In effect, Kirch­ner­ism has gov­erned by com­bin­ing, over the course of years, a voca­tion for inno­va­tion with a recog­ni­tion of – and pact with – con­ser­v­a­tive pow­ers, as much in local and provin­cial gov­ern­ments as in orga­nized labor.

The large unions, ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the last decade’s eco­nom­ic reac­ti­va­tion and of a gen­er­al rep­re­sen­ta­tive par­i­ty for work­ers, are a notable piece of gov­ern­men­tal­i­ty. They are cur­rent­ly being recon­fig­ured in the face of ampli­fied labor con­flict caused by infla­tion, reces­sion, and lay­offs. In this con­text, the appear­ance of young union­ists with a demo­c­ra­t­ic spir­it of strug­gle – and an incli­na­tion to ally them­selves with left par­ties – is gain­ing trac­tion again­st the pow­er­ful, old union bureau­cra­cy, itself often allied with the gov­ern­ment.

To high­light the full com­plex­i­ty of the polit­i­cal process it’s worth not­ing the deval­u­a­tive pres­sure of the export sec­tor, the nego­ti­a­tions with investors (includ­ing Chi­na and Rus­sia) inter­est­ed in strate­gic zones like infra­struc­tural devel­op­ment and the Vaca Muer­ta region, and the con­stant threat of desta­bi­liza­tion by rightwing groups – increas­ing­ly asso­ci­at­ed with nar­co­traf­ficing and auton­o­mized police forces – as dur­ing the hot mon­th of Decem­ber 2013.

All of the­se ten­sions rever­ber­ate with­in Kirch­ner­ism, chal­leng­ing the numer­ous mil­i­tant col­lec­tives that are a part of it.

On the one hand, the gov­ern­ment cre­ates sce­nar­ios of polit­i­cal con­fronta­tion and mil­i­tant mobi­liza­tion and tries to com­pen­sate for the effects of an infla­tion rate greater than the incomes of infor­mal work­ers by dis­trib­ut­ing resources through social pro­grams. But on the oth­er hand, it finds itself increas­ing­ly com­pro­mised by the fea­tures of a pre­car­i­ous gov­ern­men­tal­i­ty, leav­ing it with few options dur­ing the elec­toral peri­od.

The ambiva­lence of the government’s poli­cies is that although they post­pone the need for a con­ven­tion­al cur­ren­cy adjust­ment, they weak­en the very bases nec­es­sary to coun­ter­act this need, recre­at­ing a divi­sion between for­mal and infor­mal work­ers and link­ing the financ­ing of pub­lic poli­cies to the cre­ation of infla­tion.

V. Can the vic­to­ries of recent strug­gles be a demo­c­ra­t­ic vec­tor for the future?

The out­come of this last decade’s polit­i­cal cycle is very impor­tant not only for Lat­in Amer­i­ca but also for the globe. This impact is due above all to the fact that Lat­in Amer­i­ca has been the only place on the whole plan­et where “left” alter­na­tives to neolib­er­al­ism have been attempt­ed in the last decade: from the rejec­tion of free trade agree­ments to the procla­ma­tion of 21st-cen­tu­ry social­ism; from the rel­a­tive reverse of the ten­den­cy toward pri­va­ti­za­tions to the rise of anti-debt pol­i­tics; from the poli­cies of human rights and social inclu­sion to the cre­ation of South Amer­i­can inte­gra­tion efforts like the Com­mu­ni­ty of Lat­in Amer­i­can and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the entry of new sub­jects into the state, like Evo Morales in Bolivia.

The­se imag­i­na­tive efforts have served as an inspi­ra­tion for new polit­i­cal expe­ri­ences all over the plan­et, as is occur­ring now with the expe­ri­ence of Podemos in Spain and the attempt to stir a pow­er­ful reac­tion from below again­st the Europe of neolib­er­al adjust­ment.

Hav­ing reached this point in our dis­cus­sion, we must clar­i­fy a bit what it is we mean by “neolib­er­al­ism.” In addi­tion to a (Wash­ing­ton) con­sen­sus over struc­tural adjust­ment and pri­va­ti­za­tion, neolib­er­al­ism has become a mode of social gov­er­nance and a pow­er­ful microp­o­lit­i­cal dynam­ic (affects, beliefs, desires), cir­cu­lat­ing and dom­i­nat­ing in dif­fer­ent spheres of social life.

A first ele­ment of our assess­ment of region­al attempts to con­struct a “post-neolib­er­al” process in South Amer­i­ca shows that the­se efforts have been con­cen­trat­ed pri­mar­i­ly at the state lev­el, based on the pre­sump­tion that neolib­er­al­ism equals unreg­u­lat­ed mar­kets. The polit­i­cal will con­sti­tut­ed at this lev­el has embod­ied a neo-devel­op­men­tal­ist ide­al, open­ing impor­tant debates and propos­ing valu­able reforms with­out elim­i­nat­ing, nonethe­less, the fea­tures of a neolib­er­al­ism that per­sists as much in its struc­tural fea­tures (finan­cial hege­mony, con­cen­tra­tion of land), as in its repro­duc­tion “from below.” The “busi­ness” form and the rules of com­pe­ti­tion con­tin­ue to deci­sive­ly orga­nize and man­age con­crete social exis­tence in a large num­ber of spheres.

Indeed, the polit­i­cal will that has act­ed from the state in the name of eco­nom­ic growth and the improve­ment of vast inequal­i­ties has not man­aged to over­come exten­sive degrees of social dis­par­i­ty nor to sub­vert deep struc­tural hier­ar­chies.

This leads us to pro­pose a cer­tain dis­so­nance between the polit­i­cal will of the state and the polit­i­cal poten­tial of the intense insur­rec­tions and revolts of the 90s in many South Amer­i­can coun­tries. The­se strug­gles declared the cri­sis of neoliberalism’s polit­i­cal hege­mony, strength­en­ing and mak­ing vis­i­ble a plu­ral group of exclud­ed sub­jects: work­ers, campesinos, the poor, and the indige­nous. Fol­low­ing this, a process of ple­beian appro­pri­a­tion spread through­out the space of the pub­lic (most evi­dent­ly and per­sis­tent­ly in Bolivia under Evo Morales). The pres­ence of the­se sub­jects, begin­ning with the rise of “pro­gres­sive” gov­ern­ments and the com­plex sys­tem of recog­ni­tions that came with it, forced the open­ing of a new process of region­al inte­gra­tion.

And yet, the lim­its of the project of social inclu­sion pro­posed by the­se pro­gres­sive gov­ern­ments end­ed up weak­en­ing the poten­tial to deep­en the process­es of ple­beian democ­ra­ti­za­tion. As it hap­pened, inte­gra­tion through con­sump­tion and the project of cre­at­ing a new “mid­dle class” did not per­mit any real con­fronta­tion with the struc­tural vio­lence linked to neo-developmentalism/ neo-extrac­tivism, a vio­lence sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly denied by the­se very gov­ern­ments. This dynam­ic has reached the point where vio­lence is a con­sti­tu­tive fea­ture of pro­gres­sive cit­i­zen­ship itself, cre­at­ing a new space of social con­flict over the role of the state.

In light of a hypo­thet­i­cal sce­nar­io of sta­bi­liza­tion (neo-devel­op­men­tal­ism, con­ser­v­a­tive con­sen­sus) obtained by the “pro­gres­sive” gov­ern­ments them­selves, is it pos­si­ble to imag­ine that the achieve­ments of the past decade’s move­ments could act as the basis for a re-open­ing of polit­i­cal pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and a new vir­tu­ous cycle between move­ments and polit­i­cal spaces? Or has this cycle already been exhaust­ed?

Again, it is a mat­ter of con­sid­er­ing the role of the state. The recent polit­i­cal peri­od, as can been seen in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of Venezue­la and Ecuador, shows that even when the state plays a valu­able role in the con­struc­tion of alter­na­tives, it can in no case be relied upon as the exclu­sive strate­gic agent. This is because process­es of change tend to exhaust them­selves in a ster­ile state cen­tral­i­ty if there are no modal­i­ties of artic­u­la­tion for the emer­gence of new, non-state-cen­tric sub­jects and the con­fig­u­ra­tion of a region­al polit­i­cal space beyond the nation­al scale.

If it is true that the Lat­in Amer­i­can sce­nar­io has been sta­bi­lized despite the con­tin­u­a­tion of a “pro­gres­sive” peri­od, is it pos­si­ble to rethink the rela­tion­ship between pol­i­tics and the cur­rent pat­tern of devel­op­ment?

The new socio-ter­ri­to­ri­al con­flict linked to this pat­tern of devel­op­ment is a chal­lenge to the last few decades’ ten­den­cy toward democ­ra­cy – we have already men­tioned the clas­sist and racist vio­lence asso­ci­at­ed with it. This con­flict is essen­tial­ly reac­tionary, since it serves as the prac­ti­cal route for the sub­or­di­na­tion of anti-neolib­er­al ple­beian rebel­lion. This sit­u­a­tion forces us to imag­ine new, more rad­i­cal mean­ings of “social inclu­sion.” We refer to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of rean­i­mat­ing col­lec­tive vital­i­ties around key nodes of the infor­mal and self-employ­ment econ­o­my, around pre­car­i­ous work and strug­gles for land and dig­ni­fied hous­ing that, freed from the dis­posi­tif con­sist­ing of the con­sump­tion pat­tern, cheap indus­try, and neo-extrac­tivist econ­o­my, could form part of a coali­tion of forces to inspire new social and polit­i­cal dynam­ics.

But this coali­tion is not imag­in­able with­out con­sid­er­ing the col­lec­tion of expe­ri­ences and strug­gles linked to the strate­gic task of pro­duc­ing a new sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. The­se expe­ri­ences are root­ed in the mate­ri­al pow­er [poten­cia] opened by the­se strug­gles rather than in an attrac­tion to tran­scen­den­tal author­i­ty [poder]. We have in mind here new ways of life and their col­lec­tive pro­duc­tion around health­care, edu­ca­tion, and human rights. The pro­duc­tion of the­se ways of life can offer a pos­i­tive mate­ri­al­i­ty for the con­struc­tion of autonomous cit­i­zens’ self-defense net­works in neigh­bor­hoods and ter­ri­to­ries fac­ing ever greater dynam­ics of vio­lence.

Far from look­ing back­ward and hop­ing for answers in the move­ments that began the recent peri­od, as if noth­ing impor­tant had changed in the span of a decade, it is worth recall­ing that the mate­ri­al base cre­at­ed by those move­ments con­tin­ues to serve as a con­di­tion for polit­i­cal pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and to gen­er­ate new under­stand­ings of devel­op­ment.

The orig­i­nal ver­sion of this text can be found on Lobo Suel­to

– Trans­lat­ed by Robert Cavooris 


  1. The scare quotes aim to prob­lema­tize the use of this sim­plis­tic cat­e­go­ry whose polit­i­cal func­tion is to indi­cate a sort of homoge­nous inclu­sion, dis­plac­ing a much more plu­ral and het­ero­ge­neous real­i­ty. 

Authors of the article

is a member of Colectivo Situaciones, a militant research collective based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In addition, he is involved with the publisher Tinta Limón, regularly blogs for Lobo Suelto, and participates in the Instituto de Investigación y Experimentación Política (IIEP). Two recent Colectivo Situaciones books have been published in English: 19 & 20: Notes for a New Social Protagonism and Genocide in the Neighborhood.

teaches Political Theory at the University of Bologna, has long been engaged in activist projects, and is an active participant in the "post-workerist" debate (see particularly Euronomade). Among other books, he is, with Brett Neilson, author of Border as Method.