Max Haiven, a writer, teacher and organizer in Halifax, Canada, recently posted an essay on the website of ROAR magazine that is excerpted from his forthcoming book, Crisis of Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons (Zed Books). It’s a fascinating piece that dissects the formidable capacity of global capitalist systems to control our sense of the possible.
It seems that Haiven has been thinking quite deeply about how the “financialization of culture” for some time. He writes: “…the system is more invested than ever in preoccupying and enclosing our sense of self and of the future; our hopes, dreams and aspirations; and our capacity to imagine.” A sense of futility preemptively neutralizes any threats to the system without the need to use visible force. Modest incremental improvements within the existing system are the best that anyone can aspire to.
“From this perspective,” writes Haiven, an assistant professor at the Nova Scotia College or Art and Design, “radical social movements that seek to transform society can only be interpreted as vainglorious or pathologically ideological. It is also this fatalism that enables radicalisms to be co-opted and internalized within the system: if the system cannot actually be overcome, the only horizon of dissent is an inadvertent improvement of the system itself. Radical demands for the re-imagining of value are tamed and made to offer piecemeal solutions to capitalist crises; attempts to live out anti-capitalist values are transmuted into commercialized subcultures; anti-racist or feminist movements are co-opted into opportunities for a select few to enter into the middle class.”
So what to do? Haiven brilliantly explains how commoning can be effectively “jam” the usual cooptation strategies deployed by the Market/State: