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What does “organizing the common,” mean?

Making Worlds, the OWS group that organized the Forum on the Commons Feb16-18, will participate on May 5 in this seminar/conversation. 

Organizing Molecular Knowledges and Networked Militancy – Toward an Autonomous Network of Space, Knowledge, and Subjectivity


1. Information on a “spontaneous seminar”
2. Prolegomena to an American Spring
3. Inquiries

1. Information on a “spontaneous seminar”

Who: Organizers and participants of the 16 Beaver Group with David Harvey, Miguel Robles-Duran, friends from Edu-Factory, Making Worlds, and friends and organizers from May Day

What: A Seminar for Molecular Knowledges and Networked Militancy

Where: 16 Beaver

When: Saturday, May 5th 6pm to 10pm

How: Collectivize our intelligence on the politics and strategic questions of organizing networked militancy, autonomous knowledges, and practices.

2. Prolegomena to an American Spring

Just days after May Day, with its joys and passions still reverberating, we call for a spontaneous seminar around the theme and title of ”Organizing Molecular Knowledges and Networked Militancy.”

From the perspective of variegated and evolving processes of organization in the last months and years, the seemingly contrasting notion of a “spontaneous seminar” is meant to invoke a time for usto think and organize anew, starting from the most recent irruptions of energy in which we’ve found ourselves. These include a series of convergences from which we’re advancing where the space of the city and the space of autonomous education combine. Thus, the seminar seeks to organize our collective intelligence and investigate the processes that make the city a site of struggle and a site of autonomous learning.

We approach the city as the site of divisions and hierarchies, but also the site of common composition and horizontal organizing. We therefore want to think about the class forces of both commons and capitalist accumulation, and advance forms of militancy that build alliances and new political compositions that enable us to take initiative in the protracted struggles over our city, our education, and our future.

Months of organizing for the May Day demonstrations brought together new working groups, assemblies, affinity groups, organizations, and loose associations in order to reorient the strategic field of alliance across the city’s many workers. The experiences of “The Free University” in Madison Square Park on May Day opened a day-long portal to a commons of education, space, and militancy, wherein a collective vision of autonomous learning was built, elaborated, and animated. In a gathering called “The University is Ours!” in Toronto last weekend, militants took stock of the conflicts that surround the neoliberal university in North American and globally, “through a series of debriefings on experiences of resistance and the creation of a cartography of local and global struggles.” Their gathering was a linking of struggles and a call to develop a North American network that can deepen our relationships and advance our struggles.

This call to network suggests one pathway for combining our organizational energies in NYC and for building powerful transnational circuits of struggle.  On Saturday, we have the opportunity to collaborate with visiting Italian comrades Gigi Roggero and Anna Curcio from the militant research networks Edu-Factory and Uninomade, who have built up processes of collaboration, inquiry, and organizing across Europe in the last years precisely through networked forms of militancy. 

We will also be joined by David Harvey, Miguel Robles-Duran, Making Worlds, and other friends and organizers from May Day. 

3. Inquiries

The city and the university are two sites on a common plane from which we assess our present situation and ask “what next?” in the organization of our autonomy. Some basic organizing questions we have before us:

(1) How do we understand the space of the city as the site of capitalist accumulation as well as the site of the production of our commons? What is the analytic reach of ‘the urban’ or ‘the social factory’ in understanding how our daily lives, relationships, and subjectivities are entwined in both practices of resistance and autonomous creation, as well as exploitation, command, and accumulation of money and power over us. What does “knowing the urban” help us know about ourselves, our struggles, and our vision for autonomy?

(2) While the “network” has become the primary form for linking social movement organization, we know that networks are not necessarily enough to build power and reorganize daily life. What common forms does a network take, and through what practices, does it emerge? How do we understand the network as both everyday institutions of our cooperation, sociality, and mutualism but also sites of command, domination, appropriation? That is, how do we organize ourselves and our struggles by transforming the networked social factory into a militant organized network of struggles? What is a “organized network,” and what does it mean to equate the “organized network” with the “autonomous institution”? Upon what bases, principles, and politics does a network become organized into a common? How can we organize networks of flight from the institutions that capture our common intelligence, work, and relations and how can we reappropriate resources, time, and relationships in the process?

(3) What is the dual role of knowledge and subjectivity in both the present political economy and in organizing revolutionary transformation? How can research and education open political processes and practices? How can militant research and learning practices reshape/modify/transform traditional notions of “movement building”? In other words, from this perspective it is not a question of how to use education to build some sort of conscience, that helps to movement to “attract people”, “become political”, etc. but rather a question of how the interaction established in an educational/research process is already a way of political participation which empowers people and, at the same time, transforms the movement itself in this very operation.

Through presentations and discussions we aim to think about the organization of autonomous knowledges within and beyond the university as well as the terms of networked organizing in the urban field/social factory. A relatively dense set of alternative practices and solidarities within and beyond the university already exists, and more are emerging. They have been important in our collective attempts to amass knowledge for our struggles in a new militant context. Our organizational, work, and learning experiences in the pores of the university, whether public, private or ‘free’, comprise an uneven field of politics, from city to city, from institution to institution, and from our varied subjective experiences of governance.

In this context, what does “organizing the common,” mean?

The seminar seeks to build upon the experiences of people and projects currently undertaking the work of plotting, planning, and scheming autonomous networks of space, knowledge, and subjectivity. We view this as an opportunity to think and organize into a network of autonomous practices across the city, within and outside the university system. We take both the city and the university to be a physical setting but also a set of elaborate power-knowledge relations that are diffuse across the urban terrain and social factory. We aim to use our time together to collaboratively, and spatially, think of our role in the aggregation of new knowledges and subjectivities in our urban struggles. We therefore pose the question of organizing and aggregating the common, so that we may think more clearly about what it means to organize our cooperative networks beyond the borders of the urban/knowledge economy.

Join us in thinking about (1) the stakes of autonomous education and inquiry into urban processes, and (2) how it can build power in the organization of networked militancy. Your thoughts, experiences, and wagers are welcome and necessary.