Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Learning from urban revolt

by Yousuf Al-Bulushi, 2012

This paper brings into conversation two texts that were written 40 years apart—Society of the Spectacle in 1967 and The Coming Insurrection in 2007—and yet share great lines of continuity. Both texts are situated within their economic, cultural and political conjunctures in order to ground their theoretical contributions. The paper emphasizes the important influence that urban rebellions in Watts and the Parisian banlieues had upon both texts, and in so doing, highlights the over-looked debt these theoretical projects owe to marginalized and racialized populations in struggle. Henri Lefebvre’s theory of autogestion is developed as a mediator between the two books, and as a way to engage their theories through the eyes of a more obviously spatial and Marxist thinker.

The argument expands upon the spatial perspective central to both texts, while highlighting the urban implications of both their conjunctural analyses of capitalism and the territorial nature of the adequate forms of resistance that Debord and The Invisible Committee propose in the form of workers’ councils and metropolitan communes. These two works provide a foundation for a heretical Marxist tradition that both remains loyal to something we can continue to call Marxism, even as it departs from and extends this tradition in new and exciting directions by way of what Debord calls detournement. The paper concludes with an examination of Frantz Fanon’s writings on spontaneity and the relevance of the discussion for contemporary political praxis.

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Learning from urban revolt: From Watts to the banlieues by TigersEye99