Andrew Robinson - Theory Blog

Friday, October 08, 2004

Constructing Revolutionary Subjectivities (prepublication version of a paper the full version of which is to be published in Utopian Studies)

Constructing Revolutionary Subjectivities. Resistance as Condition of Possibility for Emancipatory Practice*

The concept of 'revolution' is closely connected to the concept of 'utopia', since the realisation of a better world is usually the goal of a revolutionary praxis. But what 'is' a revolution? The term's occurrence in left and radical writings, both academic and activist, often treats its meaning as self-evident. It often operates in a binary opposition with reformism, as a telos of process or praxis, or as a goal of political movements. But its meaning is often assumed. Does it mean, as critics such as Pellicani (1981) have argued, a moment when perfection is achieved, a moment of gnosis, palingenesis or harmony, when the pre-formed project embedded in a utopian blueprint is realised in the world? If this were unproblematically the case, then the 'loss of revolutionary imagination' would not necessarily be a reason to mourn. A particular person's claim to know that such a moment can be achieved, and how it can be achieved, would almost certainly require a 'fantasmatic supplement' mobilising blame, ressentiment and projection to point the finger at a scapegoat Enemy. If George Lukács (1971), for instance, can extract such a perfect emancipatory theory from the working class, he can only achieve this by transmuting inference into ascription (Lukács 51), so he himself becomes the bearer of Truth and his gesture is the gnostic one of positing an impossible standpoint of extra-historical knowledge. In the theory of Lukács and others (such as Louis Althusser), emancipation becomes a new oppression via what Mandel (1992) terms 'substitutionism': the theorist stands for the working class, so the actually-existing working class equals the bourgeoisie, and is treated accordingly.
But no concept can be disposed of so easily; each word-label is subject to a process of articulation and slippage. Just as the concept of 'utopia' is open to alternative interpretations, so the concept of 'revolution' carries, apart from its gnostic sense, another sense which has no need for a fantasmatic supplement, and which offers more hope of an actually-existing emancipation, an achievement of a world which is 'utopian' at least in the sense of being substantively better than the present. Utopia does not have to be conceived along the lines of a fixed blueprint, but can also be seen as a way of overcoming the blockages in the present by opening a space for thinking the possibility of other social relations. One might, in Hakim Bey’s terms, refer to a utopia as an “autonomous zone”, a space in which autonomy from oppressive social structures is achieved (whether it is achieved only in thought, in temporary experimental practices, in communities of resistance or in a permanent break with oppressive structures). The utopian energies of hope and creativity emerge in connection with the construction of open life-worlds – what Deleuze and Guattari term “smooth space” – and, so long as this type of spatial arrangement is possible, there is no need to conceive of utopia either in finalistic or tragic terms. My understanding of utopia is therefore similar to that articulated by Susan McManus (2003), who argues that the articulation of hope and creativity through social movements such as the Zapatistas allows the construction of new forms of subjectivity in opposition to those promoted by the reified structures of the status quo. It is also related to the reassertion of the function of the social against the function of the political, as understood by Martin Buber in his book Paths in Utopia (1949) and the article “Society and the State” (1951). In the context of Buber’s analysis, it becomes clear that totalitarianism arises from the victory of the state over society, ‘the picture of a State that has devoured society entirely’ (1949: 128), and not from the “fantasy” of social change. It also becomes clear, however, that those utopias which do aim to become blueprints tend to congeal into systems which dispossess utopianism of its messianic dimension. Rather, utopia should base itself on the release of ‘still hidden tendencies’ (1949: 12-13) in a process of opening (rather than closure) which constructs a world based on smooth space, rhizomatic social forms and the ever-present potential for new, as yet unrealised utopian energies to emerge and be expressed even (or rather, especially) “after the revolution”. This image, inspired also by the theories of Deleuze and Guattari, gives a specific content to Ruth Levitas’s claim that utopia should be understood as the actualisation of a particular type of desire (1990: 7-8). As Guattari explains, ‘[m]olecular analysis is the will to a molecular power, to a theory and practice which refuse to dispossess the masses of their potential for desire’ (1995: 237). It should be kept in mind that such a politics implies a refusal of what Guattari terms ‘fascist’ structures, whatever the social scale on which these arise (1995: 239), and therefore that the resultant politics is directed, not simply at emancipating any and all dreams and projects, but specifically at releasing actively-structured desire and its socio-political correlates from entrapment in reactive and repressive schemas.
'Revolution' does not have to be thought as a total 'break' with existing alignments, even when conceived as overthrowing the present social system. Though people are confronted by hostile forces and 'conditions' inherited from the past, the world of social practice is subject to variation in line with changes in conceptions of the world and of life, forms of existence, and modes of thought and action. If, as Paolo Freire views it, oppression is a structure of violence whereby one person or group blocks another’s pursuit of self-affirmation (1972: 37), the overthrow of oppression should be conceived in terms of the overcoming of such blockages through the construction of a life-world radically different from the present. The gulf of radical difference (in excess over the systems of difference permitted within a logic of sameness) which separates different life-worlds even today (from the mysteries of the so-called 'savage' mind when viewed by a western anthropologist, to the world of the psychotic as it intrudes into the 'normal', neurotic world) shows that ways of being can be changed, and that the future may be different from the present. Revolution, therefore, can be reconceptualised as the moment when one mode of life – a way of thinking and acting, a 'discourse' in the Foucauldian sense, encompassing structures of action and orders of things as well as forms of language and cognition – is overcome and supplanted by another. (In such a context, discourse should be conceived more broadly than language. It should also encompass, for instance, the organisation of physical spaces in ways which control and limit others. For instance, capitalist discourse operates partly through the sublation of people into the role of workers through a repressive territorialisation of space as “owned” by capitalists, and through its striated organisation as systems of control, such as the work system. A revolution therefore overthrows arrangements of space and relations of physical violence, as well as signs in the narrower sense).
Such revolutions have happened in the past – in Britain, France, America, Russia, and so on – even though what was ultimately achieved in each of these cases fell short of its utopian promise. However, this failure should be seen as contingent, not ontological. It was a result of the particular logics at work in the conceptions of the world around which revolutionary energies were mobilised. There is no reason why the ultimately conservative recuperation of these revolutions by structures of power, and/or their transmutation into new regimes of domination, should be taken as the final word about the relationship between revolution and political change. In Deleuzian terms, one could suggest that such revolutions failed because they were reterritorialised: the activation of forces of direct action in everyday life was ultimately neutralised in a return to systems of control. However, revolution is an inherently deterritorialising process, and there is no reason to assume that this deterritorialisation must find its completion in a new striated order. The possibility of revolution, conceived in the terms outlined above, provides also the possibility of overcoming oppression, since the controlling territorialisations and prejudices of the present need not be reproduced in a radically different mode of social action. The partial break involved in the process of revolutions – the deterritorialising demolition of the fixed oppressive discourse of the present dominant system –shows a possible path towards a revolution which could overcome oppression in general. Therefore, I am neither proposing a return to a modernist conception of revolution, nor a continuation of the enervating negativism which is so predominant in critical theory today (especially among the advocates of so-called constitutive lack). I am proposing a conception of utopia and of revolution which involve a general opening of social relations and an overcoming of closed, oppressive structures of all kinds.
Such a revolution is not, however, easy to achieve. In this paper, I shall discuss the conditions of possibility for a revolution of this type. While retaining a conception of a moment of transformation, I shall concentrate on how revolution, far from being a simple 'refusal' which can be constructed in terms of a revolution/reform or resistance/conformity binary, grows out of partial resistances in everyday life. The possibility of a progressive transformation is constructed whenever members of the subaltern strata hold or push back the flows of territorialising power through which oppressive systems of dominance are constructed. The 'utopian' creative forces which emerge at 'revolutionary' junctures are not, therefore, ex nihilo constructions or explosions of inexplicable Otherness; still less are they mere 'hysterics' or 'mindless' troublemakers. Rather, their praxis involves attempts to actualise alternative conceptions of the world which have already developed nascently in partial resistance and 'escapist' thought – the actualisation of a social logic different to that of existing society. Thus, while everyday resistances do not directly generate revolutions, they are a precondition for the latter: revolution occurs when everyday resistances are radicalised. Theorists and others can therefore make an important contribution to the possibility of emancipation by supporting such nascent resistances and encouraging their development into a rejection of oppression per se.


If Karl Marx's theory of revolution is fantasmatic, it is because of the metaphysical primacy accorded on occasion to the concept of production. Many Marxists, and at times Marx himself, write as if production - conceived in terms of what might be termed 'the industrial' - is an eternal nodal point for social phenomena, to which other struggles are secondary. This is not, however, the only model operative in the Marxian text. Marx's concepts are looser than is often imagined1, and 'production' sometimes functions as a synonym for life-activity in general. In some texts, the decisive moment of social life is 'sensuous activity' or 'human practice' (Marx and Engels 63-4, 122), not production in the narrower sense. It is this tendency which is picked up by authors such as Rick Fantasia (1988:10) and Craig Calhoun (1982: 224), which is rendered by Buber as a ‘Marxist utopics’ counterposed to Marx’s systematising tendencies (1949: 13) and which is further developed by authors such as Antonio Gramsci. In Gramsci's work, the concept of 'mode of production' is largely replaced by the formulations 'conceptions of the world and of life' and 'modes of thought and action', so that history becomes a process of successions of ways of thinking and acting, with each stage operating as the immanent critique and transcendent metalanguage of the previously hegemonic conception. Everyone has a conception of the world of some kind. Everyone is, in a sense, a philosopher, since in 'the slightest manifestation of any intellectual activity whatsoever, in "language", there is contained a specific conception of the world' (1971: 323). This also means that everyone is politically active in some way, promoting conceptions of the world and the ethical and/or normative orientations these generate (1971: 9, 265-6). Gramsci writes of historical change, not in terms of technical systems, but in terms of 'the struggle between ways of viewing reality' (cited Nemeth 167). Before being actualised in praxis, new social forms must be 'ideally active' in the minds of those struggling for change (1985: 39), and '[t]he first step in emancipating oneself from political and social slavery is … freeing the mind' (cited Ransome 180).
Since everyone is involved in philosophical activity related to their material and existential situation, the conceptions of the world favoured by ruling elites and classes rarely penetrate entirely into the subaltern strata. Gramsci draws a distinction between belief-systems which are 'organic', i.e. lived directly within actual social relations, and those which are superficial, arising without emotional commitment in the context of purely formal relations (and academic philosophies). Organic ideologies meet psychological needs and have an organising (motivating and meaning-producing) function; they therefore have an important historical place (1971: 376-7). A specialised philosophy or ideology can only become historically effective if it can 'change, correct or perfect ... conceptions of the world ... and thus ... change ... norms of conduct', so that it can 'incorporate itself in ... reality as if it were originally an expression of it' (1971: 344, 201).
Subaltern strata have their own conceptions of the world, many of which Gramsci groups under the heading 'common sense'. He is deeply critical of this, which he views as confused and contradictory and accuses of containing a number of submissive and oppressive discourses (eg. 1971: 326, 422, 324, 423). Large parts of the life-world of subaltern strata are constructed or territorialised by dominant elites, and this often has a profound effect on members' identities and attitudes, leading to fatalism and the naturalisation of the status quo. Nevertheless, some parts of subaltern conceptions of the world contain what Gramsci terms 'good sense', which tends towards the construction of new conceptions of the world over and against common sense (1971: 326-7). This provides a basis for the elaboration of new, revolutionary conceptions, in ways which need not construct pseudo-revolutionary elites and which may occur 'organically' within everyday life-worlds. Partly because of the barriers constructed by good sense (and occasionally common sense), ideas emanating from dominant groups are sometimes unable to gain support among subaltern strata. The resultant struggle between social groups promoting conceptions of the world figures in many of Gramsci's political discussions, from the war of position in the trenches and fieldworks of civil society (1971: 235) to the passive revolution in which an elite achieves a position of political control without successfully organicising its conception of the world2.
Such struggles continue today. Dominant groups, such as the capitalist class and state elites, continue to find new ways to penetrate everyday life. The 'society of the spectacle', the reduction of subaltern strata to the position of spectators instead of agents, is in many ways a reproduction of the logic of 'passive revolution' across society. Behind this are a whole range of myths and structures, from the logic of self-alterity involved in a consumerism where one can be sold one's essence, to the fear of freedom produced by identification with authorities and by character-structures built around the suppression of desire (Brinton 1975; Albert and Hahnel 1978; Baudrillard 1998; Barthes 1993). Nevertheless, from Oldham and Genoa to Chiapas and Buenos Aires, resistance continues to emerge, motivated by subversive elements in everyday world-views. While this resistance sometimes leads to revolutions, it can be charted across a range of socio-cultural phenomena, as a force active in a perpetual struggle against the imposition of dominant modes of thinking and acting. Such a mapping of resistance provides a counterpoint to images of 'revolution' as a simple break, suggesting the presence of revolutionary impulses within everyday life, in a constant struggle both against other aspects of subaltern worldviews and against dominant systems of oppression, domination and exclusion.


Even when alternative ideas are pushed out of 'public' discourse by the powerful, there is no guarantee that dominant ideologies will become hegemonic, in the sense of actually gaining an 'organic' emotional and praxical attachment. Indeed, when dominant ideas are demeaning, exploitative or even merely unsatisfactory to people in particular situations, they are unable to gain such existential commitment. Initially, resistances may emerge in the imagination even when no visible alternative is present. Imagination becomes a kind of storage-space for impulses which are denied outlets in the world due to the Oedipal trap or other confining territorialities. As Maria Montessori puts it, '[t]he mind that should have built itself up through experiences of movement, flees into fantasy' (cited Greer 84), and, as Ruth Levitas adds, ‘desire may outstrip hope while not necessarily outstripping possibility’ (1990: 164). Desire beyond hope can survive social pressure by reconstructing itself in imaginary forms. Imagination therefore represents a kind of minimum space of resistance which could be extended into other practices, but which for the time being is confined to thought. As a minimum, it is sometimes encouraged by oppressors, although they are careful to keep it confined, hedged in, overcoded or otherwise controlled. But 'escapism', and the imagined challenge it poses to existing social structures, contains a logic of flight from which more extensive deterritorialising processes can emerge. It constructs identity as irreducible to the status quo by connecting subjects to the not-real, and in this way, it is a first step towards emancipation from existing hegemonies and territorialities.
Fantasy and utopia therefore have an ambiguous structure. On the one hand, they offer a space for thinking the not-real which resists the repressive reduction of language to the present and which allows possible futures - both desirable and undesirable - to be conceived, in such a way as to motivate action. That fears generated by state surveillance are often expressed in language drawn from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four ('big brother' etc.) is a case in point. However, fantasy and utopia can also be appropriated by the status quo. If the not-real is projected psychologically into the present, a social system can present itself as something it is not. Through a second-order connotative signification, fantasmatic reference-points can be read into actual events in such a way as to make them seem to be moments in an entirely different process – for instance, to make the war in Afghanistan seem to be a struggle between good and evil. Roland Barthes (1993) reveals a case of this kind of use of imagination in the psychological narrative used to convict Gaston Dominici, a narrative he labels 'the Triumph of Literature', and which he claims robbed the accused man of his language in order to insert him in an unreal text of literary origin (43-5). Utopianism can also take the form of the deliberate construction of impossible images, a practice which reinforces the confinement of resistances to the mind. Fantasy and utopia are only directly progressive when they are prefigurative, i.e., when they are at least imagined to be possible, although thinking the not-real has a certain progressive function of its own, at least in terms of resisting control. Any particular escapism, therefore, operates on a continuum: depending on its content and the way it is 'read' or used, it may be a 'line of flight' from the present or a chain which binds its users to the existing system. Some escapisms, such as those based on financial gain, are predominantly the latter; others, embedded in projects of resistance, are predominantly the former. But the freeing of the mind from the present is always potentially a line of flight, and the problem with the former is mainly the paucity of their break with the present. ‘The reinvention of daily life means marching off the edge of our maps’, suggests Bob Black (n.d.), and this excess over the present system is unthinkable without some form of “escapism”, however problematic some of the manifestations of “escapism” might be. The idea of a “line of flight”, which I have taken from Deleuze and Guattari, expresses clearly the role of imagination in utopia. Indeed, Louis Marin goes so far as to argue that ‘utopia as a figure remains fantastically exterior to [existing] society, history, and ideology’, so that it can open the field of ideologies closed around the present (1976: 72).
Despite its crucial role in utopian thought, imagination has a dual or divided social function. The ambiguity is shown clearly in science-fiction author China Miéville's (2000) remarks on fantasy literature. 'Terry Pratchett put it very simply: "Jailers don't like escapism". The trouble is that, as Michael Moorcock pointed out, jailers love escapism – what they don't like is escape' (159). Escape, however, requires an escapism of sorts; '[y]ou have to know how the world isn't in order to transform it' (161). The problem, therefore, is not that fantasy is escapist, but rather, 'that it's not nearly fantastic enough. It's escapist, but it can't escape', because the author imports real-world commitments and myths into it (159). Imaginary escape can be confined in escapism and rendered non-subversive, but the drive to escape, if followed through consistently, puts imagination on a collision course with the status quo.
What should be resisted here is the assumption that, because imagination can sometimes be confined and defused, it is inherently recuperative - a position proposed in the Frankfurt School model of 'substitute gratifications' and, more recently, by Slavoj Žižek. James Scott's (1990) discussions of peasant resistance reveal a far more complicated situation. For instance, inversion woodcuts, showing images such as bulls killing butchers and rats chasing cats, were common in peasant societies. Scott attacks theories which view these as 'a trick of the playful imagination', a safety valve or even 'a conspiracy of the dominant, actually devised ... as a symbolic substitute for the real thing' (168), i.e. social change. Rather, inversions 'create an imaginative breathing space' which de-naturalises the existing social system, reminding its audience of the contingency and historicity of existing social relations. It is unclear, Scott argues, why dominant groups would support anything that did not naturalise it – 'if it is claimed that this is a cultural concession ... to ensure order, it suggests that inversions are less something granted than something insisted on from below' (168). Furthermore, the social history of inversion woodcuts makes the idea that they are entirely recuperative implausible. The powerful sometimes tried to ban the woodcuts, which also frequently appeared during peasant insurrections (168, 171).
The theory of imagination as a 'safety valve' is undermined still further when imagination is extended beyond the level of literature and fantasy and into social practices. In the case of carnival, often attacked as a safety valve for social tensions, Scott asks why ritualised revolt, though less dangerous for elites than actual revolt, should reduce the likelihood of the latter. 'Why couldn't it just as easily serve as a dress rehearsal or a provocation for actual defiance? (178).
Scott's account is supported by evidence. According to a study by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, carnival in the town of Romans, in France, became a site of conflict between dominant and subaltern strata. Subaltern participants did not stick to designated channels and refused to hand over the carnival to the elite strata at the designated time; the elite responded by assassinating a leader, which sparked a small civil war (cited Scott 180). Buber similarly suggests that the Paris Commune was only possible ‘because in the hearts of passionate revolutionaries there lived the picture of a decentralized, very much de-Stated society’ (1949: 103). Thus, there is no iron dividing-line between purely imaginary resistances and actual revolt; the former can pass across into the latter. The imaginary and ludic spaces into which repressed drives retreat can become the launching-pad for new advances. The struggle for free spaces for imagination is therefore a first step towards reclaiming one's life from the system.
This explains why dominant groups are determined to prevent the emergence of even the most innocuous uncontrolled spaces. Take, for instance, police persecution of the relatively innocuous Severn Revels festival, a small free festival supported by the Forest of Dean District Council, the National Lottery and UNISON. There was an aggressive police presence throughout. Police made 40 arrests on minor pretexts and even threatened to arrest someone for petitioning. Local residents later complained that police were not responding to calls from the public and that they were 'very, very aggressive', while an MP accused them of a 'threatening' presence. Perhaps, as SQUALL suggest, this was a deliberate attempt to spoil the atmosphere (103). This incident throws light on the broader pattern of attacks on raves, teknivals, street parties, Reclaim the Streets events, and free festivals (for instance, the successful attempts to blackmail organisers of Glastonbury into submitting to official control, and the threats to musicians involved in the government's new plans for a draconian licensing system for live music). The powerful are threatened by the emergence of imaginary and ludic forces in society because these are the first step towards reconstructing free spaces and revitalising resistance. To construct emancipated spaces, one needs to bring existing relations into question, which requires the construction of an 'imaginative breathing space' in which one can think the not-real.


Dominant strata force creative impulses into the imagination through territorial control of physical and social space, either by the state or by other more-or-less coercive institutions. The emergence of free spaces therefore goes through a stage of deterritorialising existing spaces, a process which goes beyond imagination of the not-real and begins, nascently, to create and construct. This process is more straightforward in the case of primarily territorial assemblages such as the carceral system than in the case of capitalist relations, which contain their own partial tendency to deterritorialise. Capitalism always, however, reterritorialises the flows it releases by means of axiomatics (Deleuze and Guattari 1984, 1988), so that, while there is no longer a fixed content of relations of domination, an imposed form remains operative. This form – of the commodity and the spectacle – has a reductive and limiting effect on the flows it encodes, and it has a tendency to monopolise social space. As Guy Debord puts it, '[t]he accumulation of commodities ..., which had to break down all regional and legal barriers and all the corporative restrictions ..., also had to destroy the autonomy and quality of places' (section 165). 'Urbanism is capitalism's seizure of the natural and human environment; developing logically into absolute domination, capitalism can and must now remake the totality of space into its own setting' (section 168). The organisation of space is such both to capture and to isolate, and the imperative to prevent the coming-together of possible communities of resistance is strong (section 172). The reterritorialisation of space is therefore central to the reclamation of agency. Evidence for the importance of autonomous spaces in constructing subjectivities able to challenge dominant social realities is provided by Craig Calhoun, who suggests that the relatively greater degree of distance from capitalism in processes of identity-formation specific to the older kinds of worker explains the relative militancy of such workers compared to later ones (1982: 231).
An alternative future which does not reproduce the oppressions of the present should, according to Deleuze, aim to organise itself in smooth, rhizomatic, non-hierarchic spaces, rather than to reconstitute territorialities. Nevertheless, the extension of self into objects, territories and social relations is not necessarily possessive and territorial, provided the self in question is molecular and minoritarian. Such active assertion offers the possibility of a break with the submissive discourses of self-alterity which sustain the homogeneity of the spectacle, while also opening the possibility for an identity in which self and environment are implicit in each other, such as is proposed in deep ecology. Such a broader conception, offering the possibility of non-oppressive relations, is already partly present among some groups. 'Guatemalan Indians, hunted by "low intensity" warfare, felt that their collective body had been wounded, one which included the ants, trees, earth, domestic animals and human beings gathered across generations' (Summerfield 17). Thus, ‘dirty war’ should be conceived, not only as an atrocity against human beings, but as an attempt to smash territorial and deterritorialising alignments incompatible with existing oppressive relations.
Processes of deterritorialisation and territorial subversion are therefore a step towards constructing social forces able to oppose oppressive territorial systems. At its most basic, this can take the form of syncretically re-using existing spaces to construct alternative territorial arrangements. Erving Goffman (1961) discusses a number of activities of this kind even in carceral contexts, ranging from concealing oneself in the personal territory provided by a blanket to building hidden shelves underneath tables (219, 225). In another case, originally recounted by Dendrickson and Thomas, a 'little army' of illicit books were smuggled into Dartmoor or sneaked out of the library. These books 'pursue a furtive, underground existence, rather like crooks on the run. They are passed from hand to hand, under the cover of shirts or jackets', hide under tables and on top of cisterns, and even 'leap precipitously from cell windows rather than face discovery and arrest' (226-7). The creation of such alternative spaces under the noses of the powerful is an important step towards revolt, since it sustains the sense of autonomy of the oppressed and prevents their being subsumed entirely within dominant discourses. Resistance is already ideationally and socially active, even while the public appearance of conformity is maintained. 'An inmate meeting and passing an officer without causing the officer to correct the prisoner's manners appears to be ... properly accepting of his imprisonment. But ... such an inmate may be concealing under his coat a couple of bed boards to be used as roof timbers in an escape tunnel'. In such a case, the inmate is not the person the guard sees, and is not fully trapped within the life-world supposedly imposed in prison. 'The inmate is fixed ... but his capacities have migrated' (171). Such a prisoner is at once beginning on a Deleuzian line of flight and engaged in a Gramscian war of position, creating the conditions necessary for a change in social conditions (in this case, escape). Also, and crucially, the prisoner has wrested his identity from the territoriality imposed on it by the prison, not only in imaginary ways but through actual practices.
In Domination and the Arts of Resistance, James Scott discusses similar phenomena, sometimes expanded on a massive scale, among peasants and others. To retain alternative collective structures in a situation where official discourse is imposed by dominant groups such as landlords, colonialists and state officials, the oppressed often conceal entire areas of their life-world by careful acts of subterfuge. 'This requires an experimental spirit and a capacity to test and exploit all the loopholes, ambiguities, silences, and lapses available to them. It means somehow setting a course for the very perimeter of what the authorities are obliged to permit or unable to prevent' (138-9). In Scott's account, one passes from concealed objects and spaces to concealed communication. 'By the subtle use of codes one can insinuate into a ritual, a pattern of dress, a song, a story, meanings that are accessible to one intended audience and opaque to another' (158). In this way, a basically compliant (though often parodic) performance in the 'public transcript' can coexist with a 'hidden transcript' expressing a distinct conception of the world (or in Scott's terms, a 'moral economy'), which can provide a basis for resistance, revolt and revolution. While members of subaltern strata continue, however grudgingly, to enact their official role in spaces territorialised by dominant groups as 'public', they develop their own conceptions of the world which find expression in contexts where the situation, the speaker or the message can be disguised. Concealed or private areas may be used or constructed, disguise or numbers may be used to establish individual invisibility, or messages comprehensible in terms of a subterranean discourse may be smuggled surreptitiously into public performances under the noses of the powerful. In the Phillipines, for instance, Christian passion plays were reclaimed to carry subversive meanings. 'As Reynaldo Ileto has deftly shown, a cultural form that might have been taken to represent the submission of the Filipinos ... was infused with a quite divergent meaning', and 'the ideology implicit in the [plays] appears in militant garb in a large number of violent uprisings' (159).
The existence of a hidden transcript makes everyday resistances far easier, and provides a possible basis for the emergence of discursive alternatives outside the confines of the public discourse. It can also provide the ideational and social-relational basis for attempts to overthrow this transcript and the powerful groups which impose it. In hidden transcripts, 'good sense' gains a social expression. This allows social spaces freed of official control to be defended and extended. As Raoul Vaneigem (1994) puts it, 'shelters must be built from which future offensives can be launched. The realisation of the [emancipatory] project ... will be the task of micro-societies already in gestation' (214). Struggles should therefore be those of a 'mole' working 'beneath the pluralisms of the spectacle's immobility' (278). It is no wonder, therefore, that Vaneigem attaches (in his terms) poetic value to apparently petty resistances. In a seemingly foredoomed strike in 1895, Vaneigem notes, someone 'stood up and mentioned an ingenious and cheap way of advancing the strikers' cause: "It takes two sous' worth of a certain substance used in the right way to immobilise a locomotive". Thanks to this bit of quick thinking, the tables were turned on the government and capitalists' (200). It is from such wars of position that a revolution in everyday life can be achieved
Rick Fantasia’s study of American workers similarly reveals that the construction of autonomous spaces creates the possibility for lines of flight, even when the political agenda arising from this alternative space is primarily defensive. ‘In the process of defending rights and ways of life, new associations, institutions, and valuations may be required, representing a distinctive social creation’ (1988: 231). Even the defence of a formally recognised right can occur in a way which challenges existing authority-relations (1988: 232). In all of the three diverse cases Fantasia studies, cultures of solidarity which emerge from everyday struggles ‘represent nascent movements that could potentially have reshaped local patterns of life’ (1988: 238). The emergence of alternative spaces can thus produce resistant countercultures even when these did not previously exist. Some activists have already spotted the subversive potential involved in resistenz. For instance, J. Kellstadt draws attention to ‘a whole layer of … “everyday” forms of resistance – from slacking off, absenteeism, and sabotage, to shopfloor “counter-planning”… [and] various forms of cultural and sexual revolution. Maybe in such places we can find the groundwork of the class power and solidarity that burst forth during the periods of “general upsurge of struggle”’ (n.d.). Fantasia’s conclusions are also duplicated by other authors such as Calhoun (1982), Piven and Cloward (1979) and McAdam (1982). For instance, McAdam provides extensive quantitative evidence that the civil rights movement relied for its effectiveness on the mobilisation of pre-existing informal and organisational networks operating in everyday life in the black community, such as black colleges, churches and NAACP chapters. Similarly, Calhoun suggests that the ‘radical underground’ of Jacobinism, Luddism and Chartism in early British working-class movements was able to operate because it was sheltered and nurtured by a largely autonomous working-class or popular culture and society (1982: 39).
Even in totalitarian societies, the total control and territorialisation demanded by rulers is undermined by a multitude of apparently petty resistances. The metaphors historians use to discuss such resistances in the context of German fascism are particularly telling, since they reproduce the model of counterposed flows suggested by Deleuze and Guattari in their discussions of resistance. The regime's project of control relied on the conversion of all fields of life into extensions of its power through the regulation, coordination and political infiltration of activities. This project was known as gleichschaltung, a term which refers metaphorically to attempts to push flows of electricity through materials. The resistances they faced rarely took the form of widerstand - organised political resistance – but more often that of what historians, beginning with Martin Broszat, term Resistenz, something similar to a resistance of materials to electrical flows. What occurs in fascist regimes is an attempt to push flows of power into everyday life which is met by social processes operating in everyday life to limit, push back or neutralise such flows. 'Broszat explained Resistenz as a structural concept ... which – implying "immunity" as used in medicine, or "resistance" as deployed in physics – could help in examining the actual effects of actions limiting the penetration of Nazism and blocking its total claim to power and control' (Kershaw 159). This allowed acts motivated by partial opposition to be reintegrated into discussions of resistance.
Resistenz was diverse in form, often defensive, and coexisted with official conformity to – and in some cases even support for – Nazi goals and tactics. Ian Kershaw lists a number of actions under the heading, including 'refusal to give the "Heil Hitler" greeting; insistence on hanging out the church flag instead of the swastika banner; objections by farmers to farm legislation; public criticism of anti-church measures by Catholic priests; continued trafficking with Jewish cattle-dealers; or fraternization with foreign workers' (159). Such activities may seem petty (though some, such as hiding Jews, hardly deserve such a label); actually, they were crucial to limiting the regime's control. Even though often not intentionally political in the first instance, they tended to be politicised by the regime's criminalisation of them. As Gramsci puts it in discussions of fascism, the conflation of political and socio-cultural questions renders political conflicts insoluble (Gramsci 1971: 149). Furthermore, as Peukert claims, 'the National Socialist attempt to totalitarianise society transported a large portion of everyday conflict into the realm of anti-Nazism', as punishment turned 'acts of individual deviation ... which were possibly not meant to be political into opposition to the regime in toto' (Peukert 119). Resistenz was important in limiting the regime's control and at times seriously impeded its activities. For instance, 'workers in the Third Reich were able ... to impose demands on their employers ... sufficient to limit seriously the potential of the Nazi regime to fight the war for which it was preparing on the terms and at the time it would have wished' (Kershaw 159). Also, when concerted resistance emerged, in cases such as the Edelweiss Pirates, the White Rose movement and the KPD and SPD undergrounds, it emerged from and was sustained by the broader context of Resistenz.
The relationship between Resistenz and resistance is, crucially, not one of simple exclusion but one of mutual implication and support. This point is especially important, because authors as diverse as Herbert Marcuse (72-3), Germaine Greer (369) and Slavoj Žižek (361) have based their work on an assumption of an iron dividing-line between refusal and petty resistance. This view is not supported by evidence, which points towards important functions of resistances which stop short of refusal: constructing a milieu able to sustain active resistance; creating and sustaining hidden transcripts which make resistance thinkable and contribute to its social-relational structure; and constructing tendential alternative conceptions which can pass over into refusal and revolt. In addition, such resistances are often vital in their own right, as a means of surviving and preserving at least a modicum of autonomy and dignity. As Vaneigem puts it, '[s]o long as we have not managed to abolish any of the causes of human despair we have no right to try and abolish the means whereby men [sic] attempt to get rid of despair' (163). Similarly, Buber stresses the destructive effects of an overemphasis on the moment of revolution. ‘The Either-Or principle applies primarily to the moments of genuine decision. … But this same principle becomes an obstruction if … it does not permit less than the absolute to take shape. … If the State is a relationship which can only be destroyed by entering into another relationship, then we shall always be helping to destroy it to the extent that we do in fact enter into another’ (1949: 47). (What the concept does, however, undermine is 'reformism' of the kind which identifies with the existing social system and tries to use it for alternative goals; people engaging in Resistenz use their public-transcript performances to impede the spread of control and to slow down or reverse gleichschaltung while relying on positive conceptions constructed elsewhere – a process incompatible with a positive identification with processes of gleichschaltung and control).

Nazism is in some ways a bad case of such transitions from Resistenz to refusal because it was destroyed in war before resistances could overthrow it. Similar examples arise, however, in the context of Stalinism in Russia and eastern Europe. The movements of active resistance which generated several uprisings and eventually rendered Stalinism unsustainable were rooted in Resistenz. For instance, Milan Kundera notes a case where prisoners, knowing they were expected to lose a race to the guards, 'spoiled the performance by purposely losing while acting an elaborate pantomime of excess effort'. This 'small symbolic victory', as Scott puts it, had 'real political consequences'. Kundera noted: '[t]he good-natured sabotage of the relay race strengthened our sense of solidarity and led to a flurry of activity' (Scott Domination and the Arts of Resistance 139-40). Furthermore, as William Echikson (1991) suggests, actual social life was predominantly outside the control of the Stalinist regimes well before their eventual collapse, operating mainly through informal exchange, family relations and connections. Although such a situation was compatible with public conformity, it also created spaces which sustained resistance and refusal. In one case Echikson recounts, a Communist Party member in Poland 'proudly' asserted that his daughter had attended the Solidarity May Day demonstration, and recounted that he 'secured the release of several of her friends, arrested on suspicion of having engaged in planning' the demonstration (196-8). This is an example of how a space of opposition can be constructed through actual everyday relations which escape official control, and how official power can be bypassed by superficial conformists engaged in Resistenz in support of dissidents.
Contemporary resistances and revolts are equally based on the construction of spaces of resistance, hidden transcripts and deterritorialised spaces. Referring to road-blocks in Argentina, activist Ariel Ogando (2001) writes: 'in these struggles, many in the micro-political social movements who have very precise grievances ... express the idea that it is possible to resist and win, at least partially, for now'. Through the construction of alternative spaces – the road-blocks – the excluded, 'a population that almost does not believe in anything', learns to struggle to overcome its beaten-down status, 'outside of what has been predicted', 'on the margins' (26-8). Similarly, Fantasia points to the ‘cultures of solidarity’ which tend to arise when workers manage to subvert or circumvent routine channels of class action (1988: 19), while Piven and Cloward suggest that many protest methods used by the poor are mistakenly defined into ‘the shadowy realms of social problems and deviant behaviour’ (1977: 5). The tactics used by such ‘cultures’ are usually resistenz in the sense discussed above; for instance, wildcat strikes are statistically almost invisible (Fantasia 1988: 63-4). The same process of emergence can be seen in the cases of Chiapas, West Papua, the Berbers, the indigenous people of Ecuador, and other movements of resistance. In Italy, the social centres and social forums are creating similar spaces. Beneath almost every case of a mass movement, revolt or revolution, there are alternative discourses organised around deterritorialised or alternatively territorialised spaces, operating through hidden transcripts and drawing on a milieu of Resistenz.


Resistenz is frequently a precondition for revolt, but it is often held back at the level of petty resistances. Similarly, escapism and imagination are often unable to make the leap into Resistenz. Peasant communities are aided in forming hidden transcripts by a class structure based on distance and a lack of technological surveillance, while totalitarian societies tend to radicalise Resistenz by politicising individual acts. 'Liberal' capitalism, in contrast, contains intense pressures towards atomisation and panopticism and, with exceptions (such as the persecution of marijuana users and the use of police against workers and community movements), relies on repressive tolerance and axiomatisation to recuperate partial, especially cultural, resistances. The account so far has mainly demonstrated how resistance can occur in a context where antagonisms are already widespread. This is, however, insufficient, especially in the context of present power apparatuses. One needs to supplement the images of hidden transcripts and Resistenz with a diachronic image of the emergence of resistance (of Resistenz from escapism, and also of revolution from Resistenz) as a process involving movement and change. How can an identity compatible with resistance emerge in the context of a social system organised to produce conformity? To construct more extensive resistances, one should examine broader processes of how conformity transmutes into deviance (a process of change which may, but need not, have a revolutionary outcome).
David Matza (1964)has studied such processes in the context of 'delinquency' (a type of discourse and activity which is deviant against the dominant social system, and which, although clearly not revolutionary, can provide evidence of how dominant systems of control can be neutralised). Against widespread myths of a 'delinquent subculture' permanently engaged in deviance, Matza maintains that delinquents predominantly share dominant ethics and ideologies, at least most of the time. Although delinquency is a recuperable and often destructive mode of action, it is also on one level subversive, since it involves the construction of an 'unregulated area' which the state wishes to put 'off-bounds' (Delinquency and Drift 169). The construction of this alternative space often brings youths into conflict with the state. One is dealing, therefore, with a situation similar in certain respects to those discussed in the previous section. How does such a situation arise?
Matza refers, not to a commitment to deviant beliefs, but to a situation of 'drift', generated by a weakening or subversion of systems of control, which involves a postponement or evasion of decision between conformity and deviance (Delinquency and Drift 28). Commitment (libidinal investment) is either deferred or divided. The relation of 'delinquents' to mainstream culture is not, therefore, neatly oppositional (Delinquency and Drift 38). Ambiguity is created by the reinterpretation and rearticulation of mainstream concepts. For instance, to be 'bad' has a double meaning; it can have its conventional negative connotations or mean praiseworthy toughness (Delinquency and Drift 39; cf. Fiddle 1969). Mainstream discourse is supplemented and undermined by a 'subterranean tradition' linked to the past through local legacies, the spirit and substance of which find support and expression in wider cultural forms (Delinquency and Drift 63-4). Such discourse tends to neutralise legal and ethical standards, often by the syncretic application and extention of such standards (Delinquency and Drift 61, 84-5). This process leads to the development of autonomous ethical standards which enable youths to identify social structures as unjust and reconceive the state's activities as oppressive: 'the perspective of subcultural delinquency and the structure of modern ... justice combine to produce the appearance of rampant injustice', and the subculture 'is, among other things, a memory file that collects injustices' (Delinquency and Drift 102, 106, Becoming Deviant 146). This means that, when an individual feels 'pushed around' – objectified and dehumanised by her or his context – she or he may engage in deviant actions (Delinquency and Drift 88-9). Also, the subterranean ethics allows groups like the police to be assessed by standards equivalent to those used against members of the subculture (Delinquency and Drift 142-3). Drift also opens up a space in which people may reconsider their affinities and identity, and which can lead to the emergence of alternative and deviant identities (Becoming Deviant 118). Therefore, drift, which is triggered by a combination of a weakening of existing hegemonies and lived experiences of oppression, opens up the possibility for alterations in conceptions of the world, and therefore for the development of revolutionary subjectivities and aspirations. New subjectivities do not emerge from a sudden refusal or rejection; rather, the 'cathartic moment' when the status quo is disinvested is the final stage of a drift away from conformist affinities (cf. Gramsci Selections from the Prison Notebooks 366-7).
Unfortunately, drift is often neutralised, and many people return to conventional alignments. Also, deviant identities are not always potentially revolutionary. 'Delinquent' and 'criminal' identities are in great part imposed by systems of labelling activated by the carceral system as a means of control (Foucault 278-81). Deviance is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for social change. The project of the elaboration of good sense into a new conception of the world is therefore faced with a number of problems. To the problem of labelling can be added the problems of ressentiment, active nihilism, and transformism. Often, rebellious impulses are rearticulated into a discourse of guilt and blame which defuses them in a mutual destructiveness with little transformative potential (cf. Greer 318-28). On other occasions, it is burnt out in random acts which fail to organicise. 'In a gloomy bar where everyone is bored to death, a drunken young man breaks his glass, then picks up a bottle and throws it against a wall. Nobody gets excited; the disappointed young man lets himself be thrown out.... Nobody responds to the sign which he thought was explicit', and he remains 'suspended in a zone of zero gravity' (Vaneigem 40). In addition to these immanent pressures, movements are often faced with pressures towards recuperation. Transformist strategies employed by dominant elites can disrupt movements by removing particular groups from them (usually their leaders or intellectuals) and reincorporating these groups in ruling elites (Gramsci Selections from the Prison Notebooks 58, 227; cf. Piven and Cloward 1977: xi-xii). In all these cases, and in others where the purpose of revolt is from the start the construction of a new, maybe even a more oppressive, logic of sameness and repression, the deterritorialising logic of revolution is subsumed within a return to the logic of repressive territorialisation. While one should remain on the side of deterritorialisation and against those who would embrace the liberal soft cop lest openness create space which could be used by worse movements, one should remain cautious and aware of the various traps into which escaping flows of resistance can fall. The point is to change it, to continue down the line of flight, and not to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Gramsci suggests a possible solution to these problems via his concept of 'organic intellectuals' (a position echoed in certain respects by Martin Buber and Paolo Freire, and actively propagated by Angela Davis). Not to be confused with 'public intellectuals' or hierarchic leaders, the 'organic intellectual' is a concept defined by its function. An organic intellectual is anyone (regardless of whether she or he is a professional intellectual or not) who performs the role of elaborating good sense, 'the conception implicit in human activity', into a 'precise and decisive will' and 'a coherent ... ever-present awareness' (Gramsci 1971: 333). Gramsci asserts a 'need for contact between intellectuals', defined in this way, and the subaltern strata, 'not in order to restrict scientific activity and preserve unity at the low level of the masses, but precisely in order to construct an intellectual-moral bloc which can make possible the intellectual progress of the mass' (1971: 332-3). The 'intense labour of criticism' (1977: 11-12) resulting from such contact extends drift into libidinal and cognitive rearticulation. This process is crucial, because the emergence of an autonomous belief-system (regardless, within limits, of its content) creates possibilities for cumulative thought outside dominant ideological categories (Calhoun 1982: 37-8). Thus, whereas political revolutions may be 'explosions', processes of revolutionary change are based on cultural transformations which are never so (Gramsci, 1985: 418-19). Although drift does not necessarily produce revolutions, all revolutions are developed through drift, especially when the identification of particular oppressions in one's own life extends into a rejection of the existing system of power-relations and the diversity of oppressions it generates.


Revolution, conceived in this way, need not be connected to an ethics of redemption and harmony. Rather, it is something immediately present in everyday life-worlds, at least as potentiality, which offers the possibility of new ways of thinking and acting. The struggle for revolution becomes an issue of cultural, pedagogical and social praxis, of Resistenz, drift and a 'war of position', not an issue of the sudden realisation of a foundation or telos. Revolution becomes a synonym for the development of a metalanguage and conception of the world which surpasses and overcomes existing systems of oppressive discourse (cf. Gramsci Selections from the Prison Notebooks 239, 462, Barthes The Fashion System 293-4), and of a praxis and discourse generated by such conceptions. This opens up space for the emergence of non-oppressive forms of life - an opening which need not be conceived in terms of a redemptive leap into harmony.
Thus, revolution cannot be counterposed to everyday resistances, but involves a particular development, articulation and elaboration of them. Nevertheless, a 'break' is necessary to construct alternative forms of society. As George Barrett argues, the 'spirit of freedom' develops slowly among ordinary people and pushes tyranny gradually back. 'But there comes a time when the government or tyrannical part has not enough elasticity to stretch so far as the pressure of Liberty, developing within, would make it'. At such times, 'the pressure of the new development bursts the bonds that bind it, and a revolution takes place'. States, tyrants and other oppressors will not stretch to this point, since they are prepared instead to use violence and brutality (344-5). Similarly, Buber argues that revolution results from the coming to fruition of underlying forces emerging in everyday life. ‘Whether forces as yet unnamed are stirring in the depths and will suddenly burst forth to bring about this change, on this question tremendous things depend’ (1949: 128). Furthermore, revolution can only arise from forces which already prefigure its transformation in utopian and “escapist” ways. Revolution will tend to turn into its opposite, unless the new society ‘has so far taken shape before the revolution that the revolutionary act has only to wrest the space for it in which it can develop unimpeded’. Revolution cannot be the force which creates a new society, but only a ‘delivering force’ which sets free forces which have already been foreshadowed and prefigured. ‘[T]he hour of revolution is not the hour of begetting but the hour of birth’ (1949: 44-5), and ‘the spirit that is to be “released” must already be alive in people to an extent sufficient for such “preparation”, so that they may prepare the institutions and the revolution as “clearing the ground” for them’ (1949: 52). Thus, there is a ‘continuity within which revolution is only the accomplishment, the setting free and extension of a reality that has already grown to its true possibilities’ (1949: 132). This image is also expressed by some radical activists. ‘We must create the organization of a free society’ within existing organisational forms, argues one pamphlet, which also advocates the use of Scottian tactics to conceal subversion. ‘When the underground emerges, the collective’, i.e. the existing form, ‘will be that society’ (Anonymous n.d. 11).
The moment of revolution, the cathartic moment when quantity becomes quality, or (in Sartrean terms) the moment when the fused group replaces the atomising logic of seriality, i.e. when a relation of interconnection through action and active desire replaces a logic in which people are interchangeable but competing parts of a mass governed by “laws” such as “rational choice” and by overarching institutions, is an extension of already-active resistances and forces, but it is nevertheless necessary to overcome the structured blockages imposed by repressive apparatuses. There is no reason why overcoming such apparatuses requires conceptions of redemption and harmony. Indeed, the articulation of revolution to redemption often appears to be a misunderstanding generated by liberals' confusion about the existence, role and activities or repressive apparatuses. Since they conceal of make alibis for such apparatuses, they are convinced that humanity is already substantially free, so that no further revolutions are needed and a desire for revolution must be perfectionist. Such assumptions are based on a simple empirical falsehood. Revolution has a certain uniting force, since it constructs a collective will and overcomes divisions resulting from seriality; this is shown, for instance, by graffiti seen during the 1992 Los Angeles uprising regarding the city's street gangs: 'Crips, Bloods, Mexicans, Together Tonite' (Anonymous 2000: 100). Discussing the 1934 Minneapolis strike, Rick Fantasia similarly suggests that the effects of wide-ranging solidarity (from flying pickets to workers’ hospitals) was revolutionary. ‘The cultures of solidarity formed to accomplish [the] tasks and objectives [of autonomy] represented in practice a clear opposition to existing class relations, a struggle which prefigured its objective.… Revolutionary society may not have been envisioned by workers beforehand, but in the course of the struggle, they in effect created a new “society”’ (1988: 22). There is no reason, however, why such occurrences require an explanation in a Fall/Return or telelogical narrative.

Often, indeed, revolutions and revolts occur, not because of a desire for harmony, but because existing social conditions have become intolerable3. They happen because people are 'pushed around' too much, because the conditions of tolerability of the public transcript break down under pressure from dominant groups or economic crises, and/or because the ability of the oppressed to cope with their existential conditions through imagination, alternative spaces and Resistenz is threatened or destroyed by escalating processes of Gleichschaltung, surveillance and repression. Their form and content involves an extension of alternative conceptions of the world developed nascently within hidden transcripts and as good sense. When members of subaltern strata attempt revolution, Resistenz is extended into revolt: petty theft becomes spontaneous redistribution, grumbling becomes transformative action, carnival becomes insurrection. Grudging and partial conformity is replaced by rejection and refusal, a refusal which, however, is not a break with but an extention of pre-existing partial resistances.
To conclude, therefore, revolution conceived as part of a continuum of resistances can be re-thought outside the context of discourses of redemption and harmony, and everyday resistances can be reconceived as conditions of possibility for emancipatory practice. Based in everyday life and developed from already-existing resistances, revolution need not be conceived in metaphysical or fantasmatic terms. A creative and prefigurative approach to the construction of new ways of thinking and acting can avoid the totalitarian trap and provide a basis for refounding or releasing revolutionary imagination. To take such an approach would involve a break both with modes of thought which seek to resolve particular problems in a 'public' and procedural manner, and with reified separations between the moments of partial resistance and general refusal. Rather, it points towards an analytical approach and a politics conceived in terms of an ever-changing balance of forces between different social groups, logics and tendencies, and a struggle in which the moment of the overthrow of the existing system is neither isolated nor expendable.


* The author would like to thank Andreas Bieler, Mathew Humphrey, Athina Karatzogianni, Susan McManus, Simon Tormey, and the two anonymous referees for comments on previous drafts.
1. For example, Bertell Ollman (1979) argues that Marx's use of the concept of 'class' is more fluid than is usually realised. The uses of the concept in Marx's work range from two- and three-class systemic models to specific analyses containing diverse and eclectic constructs such as the "moneyocracy".
2. A “war of position” is analogical to the trench warfare used in World War I, and is used by Gramsci to refer to situations of political struggle in which neither of two competing social groups are able to make rapid advances. Contrary to reformist readings of Gramsci, the “war of position” is still a conflict and does not occur within fixed institutions. Rather, it involves the pedagogical, organisational, ideational and issue-specific struggles which alter the relative positions between the two sides, preparing the ground for a possible war of movement. The war of movement, or overthrow of the present elite, is something which Gramsci never renounces, but his main tactical point is that such a struggle is unlikely to succeed in societies with entrenched structures of control unless first prepared by an alteration in the strategic positions of the contending forces. Most direct action campaigns, especially those which occur over a period of time and involve the cumulative weakening of an opponent (e.g. the campaign against Huntington Life Sciences), can be typified as wars of position.
3. A letter from Argentina, in News and Letters, January-February 2002, p. 8, makes a case for such an interpretation in relation to the uprising there. Scott (The Moral Economy of the Peasant) argues that peasant uprisings are usually motivated by subsistence crises, and bin Wahad (108-9) makes a similar case for the role of despair in the case of the Los Angeles uprising. Piven and Cloward (1977: 7-8) go even further, suggesting that only a high pitch of anger and frustration can cause collective defiance. This may, however, be an overstatement, especially given the evidence that hope, not hopelessness, stimulated the 1950s/1960s black civil rights movement in America (McAdam 1982). Piven and Cloward’s insistence on the responsiveness of rebellion to existing social and physical spaces goes too far in effectively denying the possibility of lines of flight.


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