Jason E Smith on the metropolis, Negri, and SI

August 7, 2013

[excerpt from the introduction to written by Jason E Smith for The Winter is over: Writings on Transformation Denied, 1989-1995 by Toni Negri]

… In their 1962 text heralding the coming end of the bad days — a pronouncement echoed in Negri’s declaration that winter is over — the S.I. declared that these riotous days in which the ravages of the 1950s youth rebellion were married to the vandalism of workers striking the metropolis would eventually, and necessarily, be transformed into a positive project, ultimately reconverting the machines of consumption into forces capable of expanding the real power of men. This is why they could speak of a new cycle of struggles: the larval forms of conflict always take a violent, even criminal, form whose value lies not in the destruction they undertake but in the quality of insubordination they articulate. The time of riots eventually wises up, and the machine-breaking and commodity riots necessarily follow an arc that, with an increasing degree of theoretical and strategic comprehension, will seek not to demolish this machinery so much as seize and repurpose it in view of founding another society, another world, another life, one no longer serving the ends of capitalist accumulation and the compulsions of its real abstractions. By 1973, however, Debord — in the film version of his Society of the Spectacle — had come to believe, it seems, that the contemporary capitalist city, whose exemplary figure is that of Paris now assassinated, that just such fundamental project of the S.I. in its earlier phases was one of seizing the machines and means of capitalist accumulation in view of constructing and collectively dominating the environment, the built environment of Paris of the 1970s was to the contrary so unsalvageable that it was good — or so the film, in its intertexts and imagery, suggests — only for the fire. Cruelly alluding to the recent arson of a poorly built middle school that killed 16 children and four adults, Debord asserts that shabby scenery of the metropolis is rebuild so constantly and so shoddily, in the interests of both profit and repressive control, that it can only be an incitement to vandalism and unavoidably produces arsonists: the décor of capitalism in its spectacular stage is as flammable as a French middle school. His next and final film, made five years later, will f course be called In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni: we turn around in the night and are consumed by fire…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: