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Thinking Collective Self-determination Through Municipalism

The book Anti-Oedipus, by the French thinkers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, has an interesting insight about three types of social formation and their registration surfaces: the primitive society where all is inscribed on land, the bodies are registered on it and everything leads to it; the despotic society where all is inscribed in the despot’s body, everything belongs to him and he demands all for himself as his right; and the capitalist society where all is inscribed in the deterritorialized and fluid body of the capital, all life is oriented towards it, it is organized by and for it, outside of it there is almost no life, the capital encodes desires, shapes the bodies to its molds, to the point of matching the notion of freedom with its own reproduction.

There is not a progressive line between these three social forms that lead from one to another. The first two have not disappeared and their virtualities persist on the capitalist societies, actualizing themselves in several ways. Moreover, in each one of these formations, there is always something that escapes their codes, which is always risky when the ways of being alive themselves inscribe on their registration surface. Considering these social formations features helps us to think about our struggles for reinventing life today.

How to free the life from capitalists’ codes? How to create the conditions of experience of freedom beyond money when even love, charming and libido are stimulated by wealth? How not to let the conscience be subjugated by work, having honesty as the value of appeal through which poor people try to justify the little autonomy they have? All these questions pass by struggles to produce oneself, but this will not go much further if they follow the same individualizing endeavor to conquer freedom through money.

We should not reduce the achievement of freedom to a conception of the free subject as a self-made man, for he is but one who has been well disciplined to do well the functions that have been imposed on him to survive and this is not self-determination.

Ok, self-determination can always be an illusion if we consider that our action or will is always a response to some set of obscure causes that we are almost never conscious and much less do we have any control of. As for some accelerationists who believe that everything we do is an effect of causes of the Capital itself acting upon us and anything we do against it will only lead to improving its ways of self-reproduction and its control of its own entropy. But then, how to produce causes among these causes? I can try to exercise Stoic self-discipline but I know that at any time I could to succumb to a society that unequally distributes precariousness, difficulties, and failures.

Therefore, the question must be about a common cause of freedom. And this very question must encourage us to seek the means to reconnect us collectively, considering the solidarity networks that we create between us allows conditions that make the exercise of autonomy possible, such as better security, hospitality, affection and mutual care, sharing of common use of some goods, among another things without which life becomes even more solitary and narrow.

We need a concept of freedom as sharing between us, and the most challenging thing for this is perhaps to recreate between us the mutual trust and the desire to be together. This may not be enough for restructuring an entire society, but it is crucial to make this path possible. But this trust does not arise like an awareness of virtue to which social forces must conform, but through the propagation of desire by collective experience of blending and being together.

A socio-political organization is first of all an articulation from a place of desire that multiplies itself by the edges. It is in this way that we comprehend that all desiring production is immediately social production. In order for a collective be able to spread socially, it must make its capacities of fabulation and delirium the social field works. It must make the flow of desire cross through the social field. Considering that this flows is the fuel of production of the multitude. The desire has here a connective and diffuse function at same time.

With the recent far-right populist governments, everything seems like a great simulation machine that incapacitate us to orient ourselves towards the State. The continuing polemics of these governments seems to be mobilized to keep us on this paranoid state and keep their bases warm, like a cybernetic system that controls its own degree of intensity.

The Israeli writer Yuval Harari said in his book 21 Lessos for the 21st Century that “Politicians are a bit like musicians, and the instrument they play on is the human emotional and biochemical system. They give a speech – and there is a wave of fear in the country. They tweet – and there is an explosion of hatred”.

The important feature to point out about the current far-right populist governments that are they learned to manipulate these effects. They understood the causality relations of their own speeches and they handle the public opinion as a thermostat, controlling the agitation, attention and intensity degrees of its behavior. For instance, it is the case of an enterprise as Cambridge Analytica, that developed a method for observing data and public behavior through social networks. Then, it can predict what news speeches is better to give to the public as output.

However, this confuses our capacity of discerning and making decisions more towards to choice that impose us in the institutional and the representative dimension of politics. I consider being possible, moreover, a type of action that comes out of having to respond or position itself in relation to the juggling of the representative figures of power as government.

To get out of this always reactive situation of action, which force us to always have to respond as quickly as possible to the paranoid stimuli of the figures of power, it is interesting to think of a kind of unconditional mobilization of the desire of experiencing democracy. This does not mean a mobilization without strategy, but a strategy that is not articulated only as reactive responses to government decisions. A strategy that thinks the concrete conditions that allows us to act and build a shared experience of the ways of producing our life. The municipalism can be a path to do this insofar as it takes the urban space as place of these corporeal and collective experience of democracy.

When I say “shared”, I want to say transindividual. I reject the idea of a collective subject that establishes an identity from that can include or exclude individuals. I also refuse the idea of autonomous and atomics individuals endowed with free will. This shared freedom (capacity of act upon ourselves) happens through what passes between us. It is the desire that draws us, that leads us to say this or that, to meet with this or that group and share this or that, regardless of a center of diffusion that concentrates everything.

It is this capacity to mobilize the desire and the belief that needs to be regained in order for us to be able to make politics a different experience from what is this fight between bosses. The biggest obstacle to this may be really abandoning the strategy that revolves exclusively around the government power and its urgencies and so dislocate ourselves to a strategy that is indifferent in relation to politics personalisms, moving us to a more impersonal way of making politics.

When I talk about an impersonal political practice, I think of a type of throng and diffuse and simultaneous actions that interact with each other, which does not have as condition for existence a binding to a coordination center. An impersonal name here would be in maximum a metonymy for a set of claims and demands. Claims and demands are the concrete names that the desires gain and produce on politics.

Municipalism makes the politics a more concrete experience because it is on space that politics happens as a relation of forces and a corporeal experience. Here we should not oppose local and global because on actual socio-technical conditions we are always connected and the local experiences will be always dialoguing and making exchanges with one another in a translocal way. It is on space that we find the power as a relation of force mutually exercised between bodies. In this way we get out of representative figures of power, such as the government, that maintain us on this paranoid state of constant threat that makes us servants of some other good boss who will never save us.

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