Rethinking Anarchism


The Production of Gender
December 5, 2009, 8:01 am
Filed under: Analysis, Random Shit | Tags: , , , , ,

For most of my life, I’ve felt that men and women were different. Women like to do certain things and men like to do certain things. I felt like this had something to do with the special character of men and women. It seemed to be true because in fact, most of the men and women I know conform to these basic stereotypes. Growing up, I was told that it was OK to break with these stereotypes because, frankly, it wasn’t a big deal and it doesn’t hurt anyone if some men love other other men and act feminine, or some women love other women and/or act masculine. But the categories remained intact, despite the acceptability of some deviations.

It seemed like there was a natural way for the majority of both sexes of act.

I started working at a multinational clothing retailer recently. I only work a few days, mostly nights. Actually, I’ve probably been fired because I haven’t been scheduled to work in the last two weeks because I called in sick too much because I work too much because none of my jobs pay enough so I work too many hours.

Anyway…

Most of the time at this job all I do is fold clothes. Somethings I work in the early morning unpacking new shipments of clothes and putting them on the sales floor.

I mostly work on womens’ floor, because womens’ clothing sells much more than mens’. There is more work to do because women buy way more clothes than men do. Maybe they’ve got something to sell, too.

One day I focused the lights on both floors. The boss told me to focus the lights on certain things in order of priority  1) Visuals (this means mannequins that are set up by the “visual team”- a labor aristocracy of workers who set up mannequins while the mass workers fold clothes) 2) Marketing- there are giant blow-up photos of women and men wearing the clothes we are selling. The womens’ floor has pictures of all women. The mens floor has pictures of all men. 3) Product- piles of shirts and jeans. This was the order of priority for what the corporation wanted customers to notice.

The company I work for launched a marketing campaign to market womens clothes to women and mens clothes to men. They bought ads on TV and on Facebook.

People came streaming into the store to buy the products. Men bought the mens clothes. Women bought the womens clothes.

Would anyone know what was right for women and men if the corporations didn’t tell us? I doubt it.

Corporate America controls the media. The media produces the common sense of our society- our idea of what is right and what is wrong. In our own time, the means of production also includes the means of producing culture. The corporati0ns produce our sense of self-hood through control of culture. They tell us what is right for women and men. Without the perpetuation of the gender binary by corporate america, people would likely find expressions of their sexuality much more comfortable than those given to us by the bosses.

Which makes me wonder- why are they so invested in producing men and women?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that until workers control the means of production, the bosses will control our most basic emotions about what it means to be a man, a woman, and to be human.

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What We Say We Are
May 16, 2009, 12:33 am
Filed under: Analysis | Tags: , , , , , , ,

There is a gap between what we are and what we say we are. This is the gap between reality and representation. The reality: we are a collective of workers seeking to undermine the very foundations of the capitalist system. The representation: we are the oppressed, seeking gradual reform within the system, making use of the provisions of liberal democracy to better our lot in life.

We seek tactical allies. Priests, politicians, cops, lawyers, liberals, and bureaucrats come to our aid. We do not turn them away. We polarize society against one boss after another, dividing and conquering the ruling class. This is the air war, the corporate campaign, the liberal cause.

We build our strategic base. Workers unite on the job and in the community. We build our power. We reach a tipping point. The proletariat comes into its own. We take off the training wheels and ride. We turn the world upside down. This is the ground war, the revolution itself. The reality destroys the representation. We lose our allies and win the war.

There are dangers to this strategy. We can mistake the representation for reality. We can become dependent on our allies, the means altering the ends. We can lose our best people to our tactical allies. Nevertheless, as we rebuild our power, we must use every weapon available against the bourgeoisie, including their own.

There is more to be said about this. Particularly about the subjective effect on workers of winning struggles largely through corporate campaigning or NLRB process. I wanted to get a few thoughts out there to help me sort through this stuff. I’m also not so sure that building community coalitions with liberal groups or bureaucratic organizations is the right way to go, although it’s hard to imagine organizing these days without doing so.



A Good Idea: We Interrupt this Message
December 25, 2008, 5:52 am
Filed under: Books, Random Shit | Tags: , , ,

I just finished reading a book called “Prime Time Activism: Media Strategies for Grassroots Organizing.” It is the ONLY book I could find about this topic. It was published in 1991.

Problem? Hell yes. The fact that there is, as far as I can tell, NO more recent literature on this subject speaks volumes about the blindspots and weaknesses of North American social movements.

I went hunting around the Internet for more up-to-date resources on media activism and was happy to find that there are some folks who are thinking about this kind of thing. They call themselves “We Interrupt this Message,” and you can visit them here: http://www.interrupt.org/

Here’s their philosophy:

Interrupt’s strategies are predicated on five beliefs:

  1. Disenfranchised peoples face significant media stereotypes and media bias. These distortions hurt marginalized communities, the advocates that work in the community interest, and public policy.
  2. The rules of media work are fundamentally different for advocates working on behalf of marginalized communities. Traditional PR strategies are not sufficient for these advocates.
  3. Public interest groups will usually face opponents with much larger PR budgets. The challenge for public interest groups is to develop innovative strategies that play on their strengths.
  4. Broad-based grassroots organizations representing disenfranchised communities must build their own media capacity. They cannot depend upon PR consultants with no stake in the community or media accountability groups with no institutional connection to them.
  5. Media capacity-building in these organizations requires more than just training. It requires ongoing technical assistance and at times collaborative campaigns to change coverage as well.


Social Networking Taxonomized
December 1, 2008, 5:37 am
Filed under: Random Shit | Tags: , , ,

Here’s a link to a map of all the social media/netorking sites known to humankind:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_TWDIyi5pqlc/SS1e_XRCTsI/AAAAAAAADAg/uyGT4Nm5LAg/s1600-h/rmx-social-media-landscape.png

Crazy.



Don’t Just Vote… Go to Starbucks, too
November 30, 2008, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Analysis | Tags: , , , ,

Unless you’re some kind of leftist hermit (no offense, just sayin’), you probably heard that Starbucks gave away a free cup of coffee to anyone who said they voted on November 4th. I emphasize the word “heard.” Starbucks aired a 60-second commercial during Saturday Night Live the weekend before the election advertising the offer. Word spread like wildfire. Here’s the commercial, too be followed by some analysis…

It’s an incredibly effective piece of propaganda. The promotion itself was a stroke of genius for the company. On November 4th, everyone was talking about Starbucks at the polls, and everyone headed in for their free cup of coffee after voting. With this kind of an impact, you might be surprised to learn that Starbucks did not advertise on television or in the newspaper until Winter 2007. They were able to establish themselves as a national brand without recourse to the traditional avenues to consumers brains. Maybe this explains why they were so successful.

But there’s more to this than a stereotypical narrative of entrepreneurial success. The rise of Starbucks is a story about capitalism and culture. Starbucks is the most insidious of the multinationals because it’s own success depends on its ability to permeate the social fabric. The corporation must become part of the city, the “heart of the neighborhood,” as Howard Schultz likes to say. There you have it- corporate America at the heart of every neighborhood.

This is a disturbing notion. Whether or not you think Starbucks is a “good” company, the acceptance of one corporation at the “heart” of America culture has deep implications for the acceptance of corporate power in general. If we uncritically accept one multinational corporation in our midst, this implicitly destroys the potential for any deeper critique. Instead of losing faith in the corporate system in general, people will think that the other “bad” corporations just need to be “more like Starbucks.” What is at stake is the very ability to envision a life beyond capitalism.

So how does a corporation secure a spot close to a nation’s heart? Marketers across the US are wringing their hands over the new “cynicism” of the American consumer. Like heroin junkies, advertising executives are searching for a new vein to deliver their drugs to the consumer brain. Preferably, they want consumers to think that they are not being advertised to at all. The impulse to buy should appear in the consumer brain as if by immaculate conception; no one should know where it came from.

Instead of speaking directly to consumers, Starbucks infects the social medium with its message, and lets us do the work. Their advantage is that they have some 150,000 workers who they can command to tell customers about their products at over 15,000 locations worldwide. For most promotions, Starbucks puts its employees on the front line facing customers, and lets us do the work. They walk a delicate balancing act between heavy-handed coercion of Baristas to treat customers well, and allowing for the improvisation which is what makes human interaction unique.

Starbucks depends on tapping into the very core of what it means to be human, a part of society, in order to sell their product. In the case of the “Don’t Just Vote” advertisement, they captured the zeitgeist, creating a script that was copied and repeated by people across the country for a day, endlessly. Through a careful tactical intervention, they turned millions of people into ambassadors for their products.

Their success with this promotion illustrates both a weakness and a strength. Corporations are forced to insert themselves into the social medium, always trying to stay one step ahead of those of us who would delegitimize them and break their power. So how do we do this? We have to out-organize them. We need to build a movement. Movements are made up of the anonymous acts of millions of people. We need to give the public ways to participate in our cause– the Revolution. We need to enlist millions of people as  participants, not just as voters or consumers but as organizers of actions outside the officially-sanctioned forms of civic participation cynically encouraged by the corporations.

The corporations are afraid. Viral marketing will fail. They have brought about a crisis that free cups of coffee on election day cannot solve. It is up to us to put out another message: solidarity and direct action is the solution.



Wobbly Baristas vs. Post-Left Anarchists
November 15, 2008, 8:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

From Infoshop.org:

Baristas Present 500 Petition Signatures Demanding Improved Security at a Minneapolis Starbucks

Scroll down to the comment section- some Post Leftists have a problem with workers demanding a security guard. If the post-leftists anarchists ask for insurrection or nothing, they’re going to get nothing. The question is how to get from point A to point B.

And I doubt the answer to that question involves the crew change or butt flaps.