Contemporary struggle in Europe: 'anti-power' or counter-power?

Author:Mathers, Andrew

As soon as you abandon the idea of the state merely as an institution, as a function, and begin to recognise it as a form of social relations, a completely new way of struggle opens up. It is possible to see many courses of action that cart challenge the form of the state's processes whilst we stay within the state. That is the point: such actions cannot be taken from outside the state, only from within. (London-Edinburgh Weekend Return Group [LEWRG] 1980: 77) To struggle through the state is to become involved in the active process of defeating yourself (Holloway, 2002: 214). Much has happened in the decades spanning these two quotations. The collapse of state socialism has demonstrated the contradictions of seizing state power, and the retreat of social democracy has reinforced the limits of reformism. The pervasive pessimism of postmodernism has been challenged recently by an optimism based on the wave of struggles that began with the Zapatistas' rebellion in Chiapas. The utopian hope that 'another world is possible' articulated by the anti-capitalist movement has not, however, been accompanied by a realistic strategy for its achievement. It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a need to reconstruct the links between academics and activists in order to produce insights into the ways in which everyday struggles intersect with capitalist power. The work of John Holloway contributed to significant conceptual advances in our understanding of social form and everyday struggle in the debate that dominated the CSE, and the pages of Capital & Class, during the late-1970s and the early 1980s. To what extent, however, does Change the World Without Taking Power contribute to our under-standing of social form and everyday struggle in the twenty-first century?

The earlier debates highlighted the extent to which capitalist power is embedded in the processes of abstraction that constitute the totality of the capital relation. The fetished and 'thing-like' appearance of money and the state is not illusory, but expresses the reality of how social relations are mediated within a capitalist social order. The social forms of capital are thus both the object and the result of class struggle: the imposition and refusal of bourgeois forms of domination. The contradictory determination of the state provided the space for an oppositional politics that overcame the fetished categories of 'worker', 'client', 'patient', etc. The CSE was an effective...

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