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Monday -- 10.28.13 -- They Say Privatize, We Say Common(s) -- Week 7

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Monday -- 10.28.13 -- They Say Privatize, We Say Common(s) -- Week 7

0. About Monday
1. Update From Detroit Solidarity Gathering on Wall Street
2. Fragment on Urban Common(s)
3. Related Readings for Monday
4. Related Event on Tuesday

0. About Monday

What: Meeting / Conversation
When: Monday, October 28 (from 5:15 to 7:15)
Where: 16 Beaver Street
Who: Free and open to all

At the heart of practices of commoning a city, there are several central questions.

Among them, there are questions which confront the reproduction of everyday life autonomous from and against forces which would like to dictate what form that life takes, namely, capital or the state. Moreover, one would also have to consider the kinds of spaces and temporalities which such practices of commoning could produce and reproduce.

This week's meeting, we will attempt to consider these questions via two anchor points:

A, will be a conversation we will be having with one of the contributors to the common(s) course, Ben Morea.

B, will be an introduction to thinking about an urban common(s), by mapping certain critical points and/or questions which emerge from David Harvey's text, "The Creation of the Urban Commons", which is found in Rebel Cities.

Ben has been contributing different thoughts to our inquiry on money and common(s) through different sessions. This week, we hope to discuss in a deeper way his involvement with Black Mask, Up Against the Wall Motherfucker, and the activities of the 'Family' during the sixties as they revolted against the community of money and invented different practices of commoning the city: from providing homes to runaways; to doctors, legal defense and advice for those in need; to free meals and free store for anyone, to self-defense of the neighborhood from police abuse and others agents of violence. They contested and liberated spaces in the city for common use. They created together different temporal and spatial relations to the territories they inhabited, developing different social relations, and modes of conjoining residents who lived in the same neighborhood. We will speak with Ben about this experience of a kind of networked urban commune or common(s) in 1960's Lower Eastside and consider together ways one could imagine an urban common(s) today.

In the conclusion of the chapter previous to the Urban Commons chapter, entitled "The Urban Roots of Capitalist Crises," David writes:

"...the Chinese "model" is far from trouble-free, and that it could all too easily morph overnight from benefactor to problem child of capitalist development. If this "model" fails, then the future of capitalism is dire indeed. This would then imply that the only path open is to look more creatively to the option of exploring anti-capitalist alternatives. If the capitalist form of urbanization is so completely embedded in and foundational for the reproduction of capitalism, then it also follows that alternative forms of urbanization must necessarily become central to any pursuit of an anti­ capitalist alternative."

If David's assertion is correct, what kinds of spaces and times do practices of commoning produce and reproduce? And what kinds of social relations are engendered in such practices inside a city? How could different forms of common(s) shape experiences of the urban and processes of "urbanization" (rurbanization?) which could counter the modes of capitalist urbanization which poison, destroy, dispossess, and displace the residents of the city (and countryside) who don't possess or don't want to employ the social power of money?

With this discussion, we return to some of the basic questions being explored in the course. How can we imagine forms of withdrawal from the chronological and spatial nets produced by "the community of money" and what counter-practices are emerging inside the city which could propose other relations to the "urban," to the "periphery," to "the rural," and to other inhabitants.

For those who are interested in the discussions from previous weeks, we have posted audio from them on the common(s) course web page:

1. Update From Detroit Solidarity Gathering on Wall Street

At 7:30pm, we assembled in solidarity with our comrades in Detroit, and the following video was produced.

2. Fragment on Urban Common(s)

If we had an image, at an instant, what practices of commoning the city and commoning in a city could look like; surely, the experiences of both the occupation of the parks and squares, as well as the response after the Hurricane Sandy could offer fleeting glances. But as we also wrote in the description for our gathering last December "On Radical Meshworks of Mutual Aid in Apo-capitalist Times", the line between practices deemed "charity" and those that could define themselves as "mutual aid" are rather difficult to discern yet alone defend in a contemporary metropolis like New York - a city where the community of money has played such a powerful role, continuously, in determining not only the inhabitants' relations to time, space, and the city, but also to gender, to race, to ethnicity, to class, and to social relations in general.

One way of entering this discussion could be a small note made by David Graeber in the second meeting of the common(s) course, in which he said that one way of understanding a difference between a historic Right and Left, is that the Right always wants to keep separate this field called economy from another field one could call charity or helping others. And that whatever one could call a Left has attempted to see the two as not separate, that is to seek modes of social reproduction which are in and of themselves mutually beneficial.

In other words, if economy is not defined, as many dominant economic theories posit, by the production of commodities, but rather at its base by its modes of social reproduction and reproduction of everyday life; then what kind of economy do we seek? Does whatever we are calling practices of commoning, as George Caffentzis suggested in a recent meeting, give us more power to reject capital or does it do its bidding?

In fact, in "The Creation of the Urban Commons", David suggests that the common is being reproduced every day in the city. One could say that the common produces the city and our experience of it everyday. And yet, as we have also discussed over these last weeks, that common is shaped by modes of cooperation which benefit and preserve the social power of money. In fact, when we have discussed money as a social relation, we have also noted that it is the glue which holds things together, just as it is a force of the greatest modes of separation and dispersion.

How could the urban (or rurban) practices we are imagining help construct different economies. Whereby with "economy," what is meant is not a sphere for the production and circulation of goods, but rather based first on questions of how we reproduce our lives (in relationship to all other forms of life). And how do and can the formation of these alter-economies diminish, withdraw from, or destroy those created by the economic logic of the community of money.

3. Related Readings for Monday

David Harvey's Rebel Cities

Suggested Chapters:
The Urban Roots of the Capitalist Crisis
The Creation of the Urban Commons
The Art of Rent

4. Related Event on Tuesday

Reclaiming Land, Building the Urban Commons

Tuesday October 29th, 7 PM

GSAAP Studio X: 180 Varick Street, room 1610


This event will resonate with ongoing discussions at 16 Beaver concerning the creation of the urban commons, housing, and habitation, and it will also extend the questions raised at Studio X on last week about the the territorial conditions of urban struggle in the aftermath of Occupy. It is concieved as one iteration of a larger conversation that is currently percolating throughout the city among many different groups and spaces.

Participants will include Scott Hutchins of Picture the Homeless; Manissa McCleave Maharawal of the NYC Anti-Eviction Network, Quilian Riano of DSGN AGNC, Caroline Woolard of Trade School NYC, and Benedict Clouette of C-Lab and LA Open Acres.

The event will bring together researchers, activists, and artists to address the role of land in urban struggles, and to brainstorm strategies and visions for cultivating the commons at the scale of the metropolis. How might urban land be liberated from the overlapping powers of private property, real-estate speculation, gentrification, and neoliberal state policies? What tools, skills, and knowledges might enhance our efforts to both liberate and cultivate a new commons? What role does collectively-held land play in expanding our capacity to create non-capitalist forms of social reproduction? What lessons can we learn from histories of land-liberation in the United States and throughout the world? How do struggles to build the urban commons overlap with struggles for racial justice more broadly?

Issues to be addressed include campaigns against eviction and displacement, housing as a human right, Community Land Trusts, urban agriculture, food justice, and more.


16 Beaver Group
16 Beaver Street, 4th fl.
New York, NY 10004

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