The following is a response to of John Holloway’s novel Change the World Without Taking Power, and Benjamin Noys’ “The Fabric of Struggles” from his novel Communisation and Its Discontents
The first two chapters of Holloway’s work, Change the World Without Taking Power discuss how our recognition that our current system is fundamentally flawed. We are trapped within a hierarchal power dynamic where we recognize what we do not want within the structure of capitalism, but do not know how to achieve the things that we do want. Our initial rejection of this world is through what Holloway refers to as “the scream”. The scream is the starting point for us, the first point of social resistance and disagreement regardless of how subtle it may be. This scream represents a “dream of freeing ourselves […] our scream is a refusal to accept”, founded in our anger and social discontent in the hierarchy and other operating forms of power in our current mode of existence.
Holloway begins by addressing and understanding the negatives, seeing things through a multidimensional perspective: from the top down and the bottom up. He recognizes that we need to attack our entire mode of thinking that has been framed by the capitalist system. We must reject what this system is now and what is might develop into. He focuses on the failure of past attempts to restructure the system, and how these attempts have failed because they have been founded on winning state power. The state is viewed as “the instrument of the capitalist class”; capitalism set in motion by globalization is not limited by these state frontiers, as state boundaries are completely abstract. We are limited in how we are trained in to conquer the state: either as soldiers or as bureaucrats
Noys’, Communization and Discontents, suggests that alternative forms to capitalism (communism) can be enacted from within the holes of the current capitalist framework. He questions whether it is possible to have anything outside capitalism. In the process of creating alternative structures to our capitalist mode of production, we must we find enclaves (communes) to enact communism through the process of revolution. He views the commodity as a malignant form, a product of capitalism that damages our social fiber. He suggests a process of revolution through communism enacted from within the social framework. He speaks of the shift from formal subsumption to real subsumption, the transformation of the proletariat’s identity, which in turn transforms the capitalist system into the neoliberalist system. He questions whether our resistance is futile as we are constantly reproducing the proletariat for capital. Are there fragments of a non-capitalist life that we can cling to? How can we achieve a ‘totalitarian’ capitalism?
Both Holloway and Noys challenge the current framework and desire a shift, each desiring a new model of identity politics and want to achieve this through alternative structures. They are both opposed to capitalism, but do not know what alternative forms of resistance to take. Both address the “what” and “so what” of capitalism, our anger and dissonance in the current framework, but have difficultly proposing solutions for the “now what”. Both recognize what they do not want from capitalism but do not know how to enforce alternative forms. Noys suggests a solution of reframing the power situated in capitalism and distributing it through communization. This contestation of power, reframing power from one system into the alternative, contests the ideas Holloway presents in his text. Holding onto forms of power, through hierarchy, through social organization, whatever the means, binds us to the current system we are resisting. When desire for power, or to conquer political power, seeps into the movement of struggle, we have failed. The revolt against capitalism “is not because we want a different system of power, it is because we want a society in which power relations are dissolved […] Once the logic of power is adopted, the struggle against power is already lost” (Holloway). This alternative structure to disassemble the foundations of capitalism lay in anarchist modes of political and social organization.
My only critique of both works is the limited implementation of these cultural shifts. Noys and Holloway, as most theorists do, present radical shifts and the benefits of decentralizing our current modes of power and development, yet do not give us the “what do we do now” aspect of the transformation. This questions if a cultural shift from the interwoven web of capitalism, globalization and Neoliberalism is possible. This initial resistance, the similarities in the “scream” and revolution through communism both act as the initial stages of this transformation. We have watched as societies have transformed with the spark of the scream, but I wonder what kind of future these transformations hold, and if they are possible, especially in the proto-anarchist communist framework Holloway and Noys present.