“And maybe love is really only for monsters”: Interview with Michael Hardt / Sanem Güvenç-Salgırlı & Kürşad Kızıltuğ
This interview with Michael Hardt took place on May 21, 2014 at Bebek Kahvesi. Kürşat Kızıltuğ and myself conducted the interview; yet, Nizam was also with us in preparing the questions. The Turkish translation is by Özge Serin.
Sanem Güvenç-Salgırlı: So, shall we begin? In Don Kişot you talked about how the new horizontal movements have been facing an impasse. We were wondering how you can relate this impasse to the actual conditions of or the composition of cognitive or immaterial labour. Do you think their working hours, conditions had an impact in this impasse?
Michael Hardt: I think of two difficulties that are related to this. One is, the difficulty of organising precarious labour. We haven’t been very effective yet; we haven’t discovered effective ways of labour organizing for these categories of labour that have been so important in the Gezi protests here in Turkey. Another element of the impasse seems to me to be the relatively limited social base of the Gezi protests or similar protests in other parts of the world, which poses the challenge, I think, for going beyond the impasse and articulating with traditional elements of working class or other sectors of labour. This week, many times I felt that Soma disaster could be an opportunity for that kind of articulation. So many people involved in organizing Gezi focused on the Soma disaster and it could have been an opportunity for organizing. So, I think a second element of that impasse has been the limited social base and part of the challenge seems to me to expand that base to the sectors of population, or to forms of labour involved in the movement.
SGS: In Commonwealth, with Negri, you define a strategy of abolition of identity. In relation to this we have a few questions: first of all, did you observe such strategy to take place in the horizontal movements? Did they abolish their identity, or worked towards it? This is not only for Turkey. I think in Turkey it is still debatable whether there is still an identity politics going on or not. But in other parts of the world did you observe it?
Kürşad Kızıltuğ: Maybe we could add the queer movements as an exception, because they challenge their identity that is created with power. But other movements, other revolutionary identity movements it’s a question probably.
MH: It is. At least when I primarily think of these various cycles of struggles, i.e. Egypt, Spain, Occupy in the US… I don’t think of them as being about identity, or even working as questions of identity. I do think that’s an important political task but that’s not something that I’ve seen or focused on in these cycle of struggles. In some ways Turkey and the Gezi Park movement, or the central role that’s been attributed to LGBT and feminist movements might be an exception to it. There has been more focus on questions of identity in Turkey than has been elsewhere. I would love for social movements to pose identity as a central problem but I don’t see that. That isn’t the way I have interpreted.
SGS: I see. And they’re not bringing up the issue of identity. Not really tackling with that question, or with that three-tiered strategy that you have outlined.
MH: Yeah, Tony and I were thinking about it back then, but this doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of these movements. I could say that one of the things movements have been struggling with is politics of multiplicity, which is in some ways tangentially related to that: how constructing and maintaining movements that are open to a wide variety of social subjectivities, of participants and how to do that democratically. That seems to me that kind of question at the forefront of these movements rather than identity questions.
SGS: It was like that in Turkey as well.
MH: And so, I know I am not supposed to ask you questions but I was interested in Don Kişot that someone said (I think I know who at the time, but now I forgot) that here she thought that the centrality of feminist and LGBT participation in the Gezi protests were exaggerated. What do you think about that? I mean the way I took that I suppose that would be recognition: yes it was present, but it wasn’t really an accomplishment, it was more like present but not followed through. How did you understand it? Was it a lament that did not go forward?
SGS: Yes, it was like that. My interpretation was that for the first time the LGBT movement was embraced by a large group of people. And the feminist … they were at the Park as well. But they weren’t a bigger contingency than any other social group, or any other organization that were there.
MH: Do you think there was a sort of general mandate to pay attention to questions of gender and sexuality?
SGS: I wouldn’t say so. That was the thing about Gezi. I’m sure you’ve been to the park. So, its like this…. Feminists were here… trade unions were there… In the middle there were all the other people, people without any organization. But the thing about LGBT was that it was very close to the gay pride weekend, and the weekend against hatred… There were marches on the streets to those ends and they were very visible and were really embraced by other groups.
KK: And not only in İstanbul… In Ankara and other places there were some little LGBT organizations or trans organizations in some parts of Turkey and they are organizing a lot of panels in universities and some demonstrations…
SGS: And also I don’t know what is your sense about it, but the queer movement or the LGBT movement here could also turn into an identity politics very easily.
SGS: And feminism in Turkey is certainly struggling with that.
KK: Can we say feminist movement is closing upon itself?
SGS: In relation to Kürşad’s question: on one of March 8th, there was an incidence: one trans woman wanted to participate and wasn’t let in the march by one branch of feminists. This caused a rather huge discussion in feminist circles here. … All of these could border on identity politics too much. I mean queer definitely has a potential of queering everything.
MH: Yes, it does. Even I would say the academic tradition over the last 15 years of queer studies and even the notion of LGBT … sometimes the most prominent authors do read it as an attack on or way of dealing with identity. But then I would say, in US authors, like Judith Butler and Michael Warner and Laurent Berlant… they do maintain queerness as a subversive identity. But on the other hand, I would say that a large contingency and sometimes less known authors treat it as a new identity. … And so, there seems to be that tension in the academic realm and also in the activist realm.
SGS: So let me ask you. In Commonwealth, you emphasize queer politics and the potentialities of queer politics and also (something that I really like) of becoming a monster. Is this a kind of strategy to remove politics of any fixed subject formation?
MH: I do think that identity is a trap. It might be a necessary trap but it’s a trap.
SGS: Necessary trap in terms of?..
MH: One can’t just ignore identity; hardly because identity is the axis of subordination that has to be addressed. And so you have to recognize identity in order to do that. For instance, in the US now, there is a widespread discourse about race-blindness. So in some ways there is this right-wing strategy to say, ‘OK we’re blind to race, therefore you can never speak about race’. And so we’ll just have race as an act without speaking about it. So, it is required to recognize race in order to contest it; in that sense it is necessary. It seems about gender too. So I think in some ways you need to start with identity and not end up with it. It is easier to say that than it is to do that. But I wouldn’t want the necessity of recognizing identity as a category of subordination. But I wouldn’t want that to mean that’s all we can do.
SGS: So, instead of recognizing the identity what would you propose? But maybe first of all, can we say that the identity is a subject, or a form of subject?
KK: Or the beginning point of a subjectivity?
MH: But it sometimes can be the end point. But I do see it as the beginning point of a subjectivation but … in many frameworks the only way that we can imagine a subject is in terms of identity. And I don’t think it is the only one. But in many frameworks it ends up being the only one.
KK: In Commonwealth, you refer to working class politics as an identity politics in the beginning. This is a scandalous thing for the traditional Turkish left. But as a refusal politics it can be understandable. At the beginning if we can say revolutionary class movements or working class movements are identity politics, how can we express it as a kind of identity? What is the identity of working class? And how we refuse this identity? This is a question not only for traditional distinction between manual and intellectual labour; in Turkey the white collar is a rapidly growing part of working class and there flourishes political movements around white collar, like plaza action movement or teachers movement.
MH: Let me start with the simple parts, because it’s a complicated question about the working class. I think in part working class function as an identity in a way other identities do. It is an identity that is revealed in the violence against subordination. Tony and my argument is aimed at is not ending up with a simple affirmation of worker as an identity. And I think that within the Marxist and communist tradition, certainly there is a division about this, but certainly it’s a longstanding variant within Marx’s own conceptions and within the communist tradition as a whole. For instance, in Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts, in a section called “Private Property in Communism”, before talking what communism is, he tries to distinguish it from what he calls crude communism. And part of what crude communism would be is not only a question of property. He says in crude communism property is not abolished; it is made the property of the whole community. But he also says the category of worker is generalized so that everyone’s a worker under crude communism. What proper definition of communism for him would be actually overcoming the category of worker, so abolishing the category of the worker. That’s at a very conceptual level. But at a more practical level it ties the elements of workers movements and communist struggles that advocate a refusal of work in a variety of ways but not to be defined as worker. That’s what I mean by not ending up with identity. In other words, one of the slogans of that tradition was, “rather than a liberation of work, we want a liberation from work”. So that freedom would be defined not as celebrated work and workers but rather conception of life and freedom that’s outside of, away from, or transforming work; not just meaning creative activity but work meaning a hierarchical relation with capital. So it’s in that sense a refusal of work, a refusal of worker as a category that would be a way of overcoming identity, it seems to me. I am attracted by the notion of a kind of parallelism between that and working class politics or communist politics in the traditional sense and being able to link to other identity struggles. So maybe that’s partly what we are oriented towards here, something that many in the last 40 years trying to do, mainly trying to see how workers struggles, and feminist struggles, and anti-racist struggles cannot only be in sympathy with each other but actually can have correspondence and articulation with each other. That’s the kind of thing we’re aimed at. I guess all of that is saying that this is our aspiration. How to achieve that is not quite so easy and direct. Sometimes though I think sometimes its like where you can make advances at a conceptual level then you run into a wall and then jump to a practical level and see how people are making advances and then you have jump to the conceptual level. And I feel like we’re in that moment. There’s so much you could do conceptually and then you have to learn from what people are actually doing. Gezi seems to be like one of those moments. Maybe now we’re at a moment where there has to be a conceptual advance and then we can come back.
SGS: And I think the concept of multitude is something like this, right?
MH: It’s exactly what we hope for, for such a concept. Its one of those concepts, I like concepts like this; we have the concept that we could fill in. That’s part of how these concepts work. I also like collective concepts; it not like this concept belongs to that person, or this person. But there are different concepts people are working on differently. I remember that Tony was irritated by this, rightly: I said at a certain point, and people were opposed to this, but I said, look so far the concept of multitude is really a poetic concept. And I thought that was true. I actually don’t mean that as an insult. I like poetic concepts. But what I mean that is not that the concept is fully filled in and articulated and all you have to do is to understand and all would be OK. But its sort of like the framework in which different things can happen. But we don’t know what yet. And then even Tony and I, and Paolo Virno and others working on the concept don’t know what yet. Its sort of a concept that could be taken by other people and run in different directions.
SGS: I remember, you, in your talk at Boğaziçi, you answered one question, where you said, Tony answered a question individuals are not members of a multitude. On the conceptual level this idea of multitude worked in Gezi, the idea of singularity worked… But in terms of expressing it… how are you going to express yourself as a singularity, without expressing yourself as an individual? To think different and to think in other ways of how you connect with others, all these social relationships, its very hard and it is a challenge. What we see going on with the concept of multitude is as well. You need a set of concepts: multitude, singularity, the common, and multiplicity… those work at one level. And on the other hand you have individual, society, nation, people, state and so and so forth. And when you start trying to match these two sets, it doesn’t work; they don’t match one another. But leaving this aside… On the other hand, you define multitude in a certain way, but you need to create it at the same time. So, this seems to be a kind of difficulty.
MH: That’s in some way how Tony and I formulate it to one another; I don’t know how much it makes sense to other people: we’re saying multitude is not enough. The project is to make the multitude, and this is something we haven’t been able to do yet. But I wonder… if the way you were describing the geography of Gezi during the encampments might be one way of thinking that the individual might not express it right. Because partly the individual is to me not the right concept but also it poses me as a sufficient unity. In other words, like, part of the day I belong with that feminist group, part of the day I belong with that Kurdish group, part of the day I should be with the LGBT group. So recognizing multiplicity in each of us is another way of breaking apart the singularities within each individual. In practice, I think it can sometimes function that way. I’m not mentally ill and I don’t see myself as one thing. I see myself as many things and its healthy. So recognizing multiplicity in all of us is one of the ways … So one of the things I am interested in is this discussion from the way people have been responding to me about the Gezi movements is that some have lamented to me that in Gezi people functioned as individuals, as a kind of breakdown of the collective identities that functioned collectively. They did not function as part of a group, they functioned as individuals. So, I think that’s an important challenge. I don’t respond to such things as, oh well, we should retreat to traditional groupings to our little party or to different identity groups, either in national terms or in others. But still it can’t just be a process of fragmentation either. It has to be alternative modes of social collective agglutination (I don’t know if this is the word); belonging and fitting together. I sometimes recognize in recent social movements that not only the hatred for but the recognition of the effectiveness of collective social identities has sometimes only led to fragmentation, without alternative modes of coming together and recognizing our belonging to each other.
SGS: I agree with what you’re saying. First of all, my observations of Gezi was that people went there without being called. This was one of the things that was really interesting… nobody called them there. The first three days of events people flooded to the park. They were there, but it wasn’t because of their organization. Most people did belong to trade unions, and other organizations, but I am not sure they were there because they were parts of those organizations. That’s one thing. And later on, different forms of communicating to each other started to emerge. One of them was, which seemed really interesting to me was how we collected garbage. Garbage collection was one the things that made you belong to that park. And one of the things that made you feel part of what is going on there.
MH: And how did that garbage collection function? How did it work practically?
SGS: It worked by taking garbage bags and by picking garbage from the bins and just putting it to the garbage bins… To be contributing to the social life there you picked up garbage; later on kitchens were organized. And if you think about it, in many sociological theories it is the base level of the social organization. If you are at the bottom of the bottom, and the wretched of the earth, you would collect garbage. But in Gezi it didn’t happen like that. You belonged there through there and it was that feeling of belongingness … But on the other hand, after Gezi dissolved and the park forums started, that kind of a hatred started; the one that you were talking about with the organizations and with the everything that people did belong at one point. So if you were coming from the political parties, it didn’t matter if you were coming from the left, far left or the communist party… People were saying, ‘don’t come from the parties, speak as an individual’.
MH: Well, I do think that mandate to speak as an individual … I think it does have a positive effect in certain instances, like you are saying, don’t speak in the name of your organization but speak as yourself. But I think it can’t end there. You know, your story about the garbage collection reminds me of a story from the Zuccotti Park. One that didn’t seem significant at the time but I am interested in the correspondence with it. A friend of mine teaches at a law school and he visited Zuccotti Park and he has very little experience in social movements of the recent years. And he was visiting Zuccotti Park and he saw there was broken glass on the sidewalk, in the park. And he said to someone, look, there was broken glass here. And the person said to him, ‘well, the brome is over there, and the bin over there’; and he didn’t realize things were different here. We have to care for the space ourselves. And he was inspired by the shift in ethos. Seemed to me a very simple thing at the time, but maybe it is a very simple thing, it was significant for him that now I’m entering into a different social space. And in some ways, the encampments all created a different imagination of what social organization could be. I mean that was one of the most beautiful things that made the encampments magical. That people felt like they have existed not only in neoliberal society but also within other forms of social organization. They had a new opportunity for imagining something different.
KK: We saw the force of love as a constitutive power. People were ready to love each other and they were very kind to each other. It was unbelievable moment.
KK: And everybody was full of feelings that they wanted to express to one another.
MH: It is interesting how … and I think Gezi more than the others, there was a very radical shift from politics as reasonand interest to politics as affect. I mean I think that is a very significant thing. As we are saying this… I have a thing at the back of my mind: in each of these encampments something extraordinary that happened. And I think it is important to recognize all the extraordinary parts of experience, while at the same time it is something posing its limitations; both its limitations in space and even social limitations. I’m sure from the perspective of the encampments it seemed like the world had changed. But then you could go out or wait until the next election and see that the world not changed. To both fully recognize the significance of what happened there and to recognize its limited nature.
SGS: I think that limited nature of Gezi was partially because… first of all it was a space of resistance, active resistance against the police and the bulldozers, and also it was a space of living. So we didn’t know at the time which one it was.
KK: Do you remember that slogan: “at the beginning there were only gas, and after life occurred.”
SGS: Yes J There is also the question of scale. For the old left everything was easy: they had the nation-state as their geography, and that’s what they wanted to work on. But now, it is not like that. Like you said, it is very much localized, right now we are dealing with neighbourhood problems. I don’t know if you have anything you have to say with regards to this in your upcoming project. Especially if we want to link it to the institutions that you have been talking about are to be formed.
MH: I do think that the movements in the last three years, the way they focused on very local neighbourhood issues, often, urban issues is very important. The ways of expanding it so far that I have witnessed have mostly been about these kinds of connections: recognizing that ‘what we are doing is what they are doing’; that kind of proliferation of local connections. I’m not sure that is a sufficient expansion. Also, within Turkey, I know I’m not supposed to ask questions, but within Turkey I have an understanding: Ankara and İstanbul, maybe İzmir were the most important centres, but also throughout Turkey there were echoes. How do you think it spread within Turkey and mostly to urban centres, right?
SGS: Only one or two cities, out of 81 cities did not participate in the protests. And I think the official number of the ministry of interior is …
KK: 3 million is the official one. But newspapers said nearly 10 million participated in the protests at the beginning days. But after Gezi, in some other cities, there were a lot of protests, like Antakya, Eskişehir, Antalya… For example, two months ago, there happened a little protest for a park in Edirne. Edirne is a little city at the west side of Turkey, close to the Bulgarian border. And a group of people from a neighbourhood went to this park that the municipality wanted to turn into something else, I don’t remember, and they sent bulldozers, and an old lady put a chair, I can show its picture. And after, the newly chosen mayor of the city came to the park and promised that they will not make any other building. It was the effect of Gezi.
SGS: Your question of how people got out on the street, I think, it was, I am not going to say spontaneous, but I am going to say, it was unexpected.
MH: You mean, even in İstanbul…
SGS: Yes. We weren’t expecting that. I don’t think it was spontaneous. I remember months before Gezi, we were way too much depressed and feeling claustrophobic. Imagine, you are living in a space and anything can change any time; places that you are attached to changes without you being able to do anything about it. So, in relation to the events, here was the notion of an event in a very Deleuzian sense; you were there because something happened to you. And because something happened to you you just went there.
MH: OK, let’s try to pursue this event idea. Because I’m just trying to think myself; I’m not sure if it’s a contradiction or not… In one notion of the event, there is a ‘before and after’ and things change so dramatically that in a way a new world is already created. So, I don’t know, like Badiou’s, his favourite example would be the crisis crucified I think; the moment where there is a radical shift. And I think it is important to recognize events like that, in thinking of the Gezi as an event. But at the same time, it seems not enough to me. One has to construct that something else happened. Because there is a risk that the event always sinks back and we lose what is different. So, maybe it’s just that the event even after it occurred, it has to be organized and realized.
SGS: I agree with you. I think this is the problem with the idea of event as something big. Because, if you want to create this multitude, especially in the sense that you were talking about it in your talk in Boğaziçi, that is, as a strategy, then we have to consider each singularity and how something happens and what kind of event happens to them in an everyday occurrences; how they link to others, to other collectivities and to other multiplicities. Its not only not an idea of a big event that should be there. Because then when it falls back, we immediately get a sense of despair…
MH: As if nothing happened…
SGS: Exactly. You have said it yourself: what people are experiencing in Turkey is specifically that. We thought the revolution has already happened, the event with the big ‘e’. And after the March elections we see that almost nothing has changed…
MH: You know, in some ways, OK, its probably wrong, but I was thinking, it is better that Erdogan didn’t fall, I mean because, I guess what I’m thinking is this: even if Erdogan were overthrown, without a real alternative, it doesn’t necessarily mean any change. I object in Egypt when they used the term ‘revolution’, when they overthrow Mubarek, because the overthrow of Mubarek was certainly important but without the substantial alternative to Mubarek, it doesn’t allow for the event to continue. Revolution was often used in the days of Gezi, a year ago?
SGS: Yes. And what kind of a revolution it was was something that was much debated: a revolution of subjectivities, a political revolution? [And now probably we are thinking that it is the regression, a counter-revolution that is about to happen.] But obviously that’s not enough, especially not enough in the sense of creating something new.
MH: Yes, so, in March was the hope was the HDP would gain more votes? What was the hope for elections in March?
SGS: Everybody had a different hope. But we were hoping that at least in İstanbul or Ankara CHP was going to take one of the municipalities and especially we were hoping that for İstanbul because here is where the financial support of AKP comes from. They have strong financial ties here. So we were hoping that the connection would sever. If it didn’t happen, we were hoping that at least it didn’t get 40% of the votes 40% and would remain somewhere between 30, 35%. … I have one more question.
MH: Oh sure, we’ve ignored the questions.
SGS: Its OK. In Declaration, when you talk about the strategies of the subjectivities, you name it as strategy of refusal. You say that we should refuse to pay our debts, refuse be mediatized, securitized, represented, and be invisible. Is this a flight strategy? How would you name it? You say it is an asymmetrical relationship to power, which is a formulation I appreciated a lot because concepts like resistance or struggle imply a symmetrical relationship with power. And with your proposal of an inversion of strategy and tactics, if we’re going to constitute multitude as a strategy, then it will have an asymmetrical relationship to power I imagine. I don’t know if I could express myself.
MH: No, no, I see what you’re getting at and I’m trying to think how to … At a conceptual level and in many academic discussions, I am both symphatetic to and recognize the weaknesses of certain conception of politics only as flight and invisibility. Certainly there are a lot of ways invisibility would be very appealing as a politics especially when one recognizes that the security regime today functions by making you more and more visible, through security cameras and biometric recognition of your face. It seems like the way to resist power is by becoming invisible, or by being unrecognizable. Sometimes, in the discourse about immigrant politics too, there are notions of being invisible rather than politics of recognition; ‘recognize me as an identity’ would be inadequate as a politics. I think, or every time Tony and I talk about this, it is always that flight is only a first step and that there has to be a constituent moment, or a creation of other social relations, or something to that effect. So, I think that the first moment about flight or exodus (the way we used it for some time) is that exodus is a kind of symmetrical confrontation. But then exodus has to involve a creating an alternative social formation. I encountered many academic and artistic discourses now that are very excited about flight, or invisibility, or imperceptibility, sometimes in a Deleuzian mode, sometimes in others, that I find sympathy with. But I want a generalized social alternative; I want the constitution of a new society rather than only the ways of evading the current forms of power. This is maybe the most productive notion of exodus, even if our subtraction from the current forms of power would make it collapse or fall; that’s even a classical formulation by Etienne de la Biosie, like the notion of voluntary servitude, where you withdraw your consent. The king falls, or the power falls. Even when the power falls, that’s not a guarantee of success. It has to be that accompanied with another constitution. You know, the phrase that Deleuze liked, maybe goes halfway here: he thinks that he is quoting George Jackson. He partly is when he says that, ‘yes, you need to fly’, like the prison inmate flying or the freed slave flying. ‘When you need to flee, but as you flee grab a weapon’, because it will be useful. It gets halfway there. But I don’t want just a weapon to protect ourselves. I want, I would say, a constituent moment. I mean, Tony and I keep turning around the same vocabulary, it has to be built in with something. So, to come back to your question, I do think forms of flight, exodus, imperceptibility, these are much more successful than the symmetrical confrontation of power.
SGS: That I believe is true, and I think we’re experiencing that in Turkey after Gezi; especially these last couple of months, the police force is brutal.
MH: The police will always win.
SGS: They will always win and they are winning.
MH: Yes, and so one has to find a way outside of police repression. You know I can remember many radical left strategies that did think what we needed was a symmetrical opposition. Sometimes it took the form of armed struggle. Even the black block of Western Europe and the United States sees a value in fighting the police and the kind of destruction of property that matches the police violence. In my view those are quickly losing strategies.
KK: Can we say to build a new society or new social relations like Marx said, it must be a process where the new society will be built within the shell of old society. There is no outside and there is no outer space from current power relations.
MH: Yeah, I’m trying to think of a practical way of saying or illustrating this. That’s one way in which I feel very Marxist, or close to Marx. The idea that in combatting capital and capitalist society we need to recognize some of the things that capitalist society produces that can have the potential to create something new. That’s partly Marx’s way of saying that we need to constitute a new society in the shell of the old. The capital not only creates its gravediggers, those that will attack it or bury it but also it creates the conditions of something different, partly through new mechanisms of cooperation, social forms that capital produces. That seems to be a point of disagreement among Marxists; but that’s certainly the Marx I know. So, the practical way that someone has to follow this would be to see what are those elements of capitalist society, or even coordinates of capitalist production today that provide the opportunity for developing alternatives. And that is usually the root that I find with my discussions with Tony that when we’re writing, or when we’re just talking every political discussion always ends up in an economic discussion. The only way to answer these questions would be to answer what do they do at work, how do people produce, how do people think social production and reproduction that forms the opportunities that already creates the potential for autonomy or self-organization; to look at daily life. I think it’s a limitation that we, in looking at daily life, always go to productive and reproductive activities. It’s not all of daily life, but its one part of it. I think most people coming from cultural studies or I suppose sociology and anthropology are able to grasp other features of daily life.
SGS: But production and reproduction are not economic categories, they are also economic, social, political and cultural.
MH: They are. And I think if one starts thinking production economically, first of all by recognizing its inability to extract it from reproduction and then thinking production and reproduction also outside the wage relation you can already start from an economic perspective and reach the perspectives you are talking about that are not economic in the traditional sense but equally cultural, social and affective.
SGS: You know what I find really interesting is that in white collar jobs that keep you within the office from nine in the morning until six or seven in the evening is that instead of getting away from the office space people forms attachments there. They sometimes seek refuge there. They develop a different kind of community, a different kind of social space. And if we dismiss that I don’t think those institutions you are talking about will be very hard to create. Even though the new information technologies are allowing us to go out of our workstations people are also staying in.
MH: And people experience, I mean sometimes its pathetic to recognize that people experience their most intense feelings of cooperation and working together and producing together, that it’s happening at work.
SGS: And we don’t have the factory shop floor anymore but we have the cubical, the cafeterias…
MH: It seems interesting to me that how common this is in İstanbul that concentration of white collar and office work. And I guess that there was a recognition at certain point that at Gezi there was a large participation of people from white-collar work.
SGS: Yes people who worked together also resisted and clashed with the police together; address each other in formal ways during the day, at the office, and ran hand-in-hand at night…
KK: Like fight club…
MH: Its very interesting, because I don’t think in Zuccotti Park in NY that was generally true. The population was not those in the offices. You know, then, it might be symphatetic but they were not the ones fighting the cops. In Brazil it is more different. What I find most interesting in Brazil is that there is large very poor population that is participating in the movements that’s different than in many of the other places. You know the racial question in Brazil is different too, and so for the black youth who are participating in the movements that was generally the case in the US or in Spain. Spain is a little bit different and more complicated, but … its interesting to go around and see the differences in different movements.
SGS: If I remember correctly, people decided to go and occupy the Zuccotti Park. Gezi wasn’t like this. It was very much uncalled for, very much unexpected.
MH: Puerto del Sol in Madrid, there was I think there were ten or fifteen people, and after a march they said, OK we’re going to set tents in the square, and they didn’t expect to stay very long. But the police attacked them, brutally; it was on YouTube and thousands of people went there, because they’ve seen the videos of them. The police created that. In some ways Gezi too.
SGS: Yes, it seems they are bringing their own end. Its like a self-prophesized defeat.
MH: I hope defeat.
SGS: Would you like to ask the last question? It seems to us the new regime of biopower is a new regime of conservatism. Most of the time it is understood as being regressive or reactionary or taking us back to the medieval times, feudal times. But we see new elements in it.
MH: Say a little bit more. What elements seem to be new?
SGS: For instance, the emphasis on nuclear family, or anti-abortion campaigns or using religion as a form of, I don’t like the word but, social control, emphasis on traditional forms of community; what is associated with AKP in Turkey and Tea Party in US.
KK: Or can we see these as a part of biopolitics or dispositifs of biopolitics?
MH: AKP and Tea Party are very different. So my instinct, maybe it’s a methodological principle, is to read these right wing developments as reactions to, in some ways recuperating elements of the threats of liberation. So I have to fill that out in this case. So what are the themes of resurgence of themes of biopolitics about family, reproduction, abortion in that sense, religion as a reinforcement of that biopolitical regime? Yes, I see them as sort of rear guard actions. I wouldn’t see them as a return to the middle ages, but it’s a way of coping with the threats of various forms of freedom. I should try to explain this better. … Let me try another side of it, maybe I can come to this side. I read many elements of neoliberal economic, or economic and political strategies as a recuperation of elements of liberation struggles. In many ways neoliberalism is about do it yourself. Using the language of freedom to describe a decentralisation. Neoliberalism is partly about decentralisation that the state and other social organizations like trade unions and such are subordinated to have each of us responsible for ourselves. There is a kind of self-administration involved in neoliberalism. Each of us has to be responsible for ourselves as an entrepreneur. That seems to me that that kind of a freedom flattening and even distribution involved in neoliberalism I think is a reinterpretation of movements of liberation that’s at work. I would try the same thing. My instinct is to say the same things about the conservative movements that you’re talking about, that the resurgence of the family, of the nation… and when one talks about abortion politics one is really talking about male domination over women’s reproduction rights. I mean all of these are reactions to a threat. I think in all of these, the theoretical terms that serves always is the model for me is that “resistance is prior to power”. Maybe I am just saying something of old hat… that there is a generalized understanding of Foucault that seemed wrong to me that people thought about resistance as all we could do against power. Power seems like a totalizing whole and all we can do is resist it. And so that’s why I find it intriguing and maybe make too much out of a footnote in Deleuze’s book on Foucault where Deleuze says something like, “look, its not that resistance comes after power, he says, resistance is prior to power”. He doesn’t mean that it comes chronologically before it; he means that it’s the creative moment. So maybe we shouldn’t even call it resistance.
SGS: That’s exactly my point. We shouldn’t.
KK: Maybe we can say, the so-called resistance. If we put the term life, life is active, but power is reactive against life.
MH: Yes, and I think that what Deleuze thought Foucault was meaning, which he should have said, which is that power only appears all encompassing when you view it as the author of subjectivities. But if you view it as merely a reactive force then you can always recognize the future possibilities of liberation. Because power is not really what controls; it’s really what can recuperate and temporarily hold our energies.
SGS: Maybe one of the problems is that we don’t think today in very productive or creative terms. It is as if by creation we’re going to unleash a monster in the very negative sense. But I don’t think its true. If we think in terms of creating, or producing something, production not in the liberal or capitalist sense, but production in the sense of creating… If we think in those terms then we wouldn’t see resistance as symmetrical or a reactive strategy to power. It would be like life creating something then power reacting to that.
MH: True, and power trying to control it.
MH: That seems exactly right to me. So I like monstrosity in that sense. I also think monstrosity is important to recognize that… to come back to where we started with identities… that the politics or even the life of the refusal of identities is also painful. I think it is important to recognize that it’s not easy. The pain of telling your parents that you’re gay is only tip of the iceberg, like of the refusal of identities, or subversion of identities. So that’s why I also think that revolution is for monsters. Because there’s something monstrous about being able to support that pain that’s required there.
KK: To be joyful in Spinozian sense is a hard thing. It’s not so easy.
MH: You’re right.
KK: It’s a very serious thing. To create the joyful life.
MH: Since that’s true about joy, it’s more true about love. Love isn’t easy. And maybe love is really only for monsters.
SGS: True, I completely agree.
MH: I can tell you’re monstrous.
SGS: When you think in the 1920s, when you think about the avant-garde movement it was all about these kinds of monstrosities. Think about the movements today: squatting movements: you find something and you appropriate it, you don’t create it. Whereas the 1920s Soviet Union; imagine the horrible tower that Tatlin built. People were experiementing. I don’t think that we’re experiementing enough. I don’t know if you would agree with that
MH: I’m always hesistant … I fear of nostalgia.
SGS: That’s not what I meant… Not in terms of being better, I don’t think they were better. People thought of politics in terms of creating something, whereas we think of politics in terms of recycling something. Maybe for the institutions you are talking about we need a creative moment.
MH: Yes, that’s interesting.
SGS & KK: Thank you very much.