Radical media, politics and culture.

Stefano Harney, "Governance and the Undercommons"

Governance and the Undercommons Stefano Harney

The Third Term 1. Governance is a third term, beyond sovereignty or governmentality. Although the term governance may still mark a form of government. It is longer only a political term. Governance is also now a term of the economy, not in the sense that the economy is also governed, as in corporate governance, but as economy itself. Governance is a form of economic production itself.

2. Sovereignty establishes the public and private. Governmentality makes this establishment of the private productive, through the production of the public. Governance today marks the emergence of the public as directly productive. No longer is the public, in all its micropolitics of subjectivity and macropolitics of population, an instrument for creating a private that can then be exploited. Today the public itself in all its anti-social glory, because the public is the most anti-social moment of capitalist society, is also a direct and dominant source of capitalist wealth. This is because the public holds all of the social qualities of the general intellect up to the light, making the general intellect obvious even in its disfiguration in the figure of the public, and offering up this captured aspect of the general intellect for exploitation.

3. Governance puts the public to work, or, perhaps we could say, after Mario Tronti, governance is the new labour process. Mario Tronti said the capitalist brings only this labour process, brings only work, while the worker brings her class relation, her socialisation, and her living labour, in short she brings the capital. Today we could say the capitalist brings only governance, as for instance one might understand the Davos meetings, or the rise of the business schools of ignorance, or the sinister efforts of African debt relief, all experiments in governance as labour process, in governance as the effort to locate the general intellect and, as Tiziana Terranova says, to harness it. The capitalist brings governance as a desperate attempt to arrange a labour process beyond his control. And how does he do this? How does governance work as a labour process?

The Mosquito 4. Being in public is different from being public, and being in public has always been criminal. Once that criminality was connected to sovereignty, as in reckless eyeballing and the African slave. The male African slave needed to be in public to work, but if his being in public threatened the idea of being public, he could be accused of looking at a white woman, being in public, ‘reckless eyeballing,’ and punished or killed. The public was dominated by a sovereign definition here. Later this is not enough, and perhaps was never enough, for labour discipline. Malcolm X tells the story of a hanging in London of a pickpocket, and even while the pickpocket was being hanged, other pickpockets worked the crowd watching the hanging. Clearly sovereign power was not enough for the kind of labour discipline emerging in London at that time. Governmentality names the experiments that come to supplement this power.

5. But now to be in public, but not public, is a form of direct sabotage of the labour process. This is why we see the disconnection between the ever smoother operations of governmentality at new ever greater levels of differential inclusion, and at the same time the more regressive uses of prisons, police violence, rendition, and social censure, co-existing in one space. Today being in public does not threaten the public only as the process of securing private exploitation. It threatens exploitation itself.

6. Social time, as Toni Negri says, cannot be recognized as such by capital, as pure social potentiality. But it can be recognized as waiting time, if the wait is for work, as Paolo Virno says. We can call this exhibition time, after Virno, the time during which we exhibit to all who pass our potential to labour. And this is the key to establishing the difference between being in public and being public. Because how do we exhibit this willingness to stand beside production and yet to attend to it (rather than having it attend to us)? In other words, what does ‘sabotage of the capitalist capture of the general intellect’ look like? I would say, it looks like a lack of governance.

7. And what does governance look like? I would say in large part it looks like the continuous production and exhibition of self- generated, intelligible public interests. This is not just our interest in the public, but our interest in generating the public through the production of more interests, more politics if you like, even more politics of difference, as long as this difference is public, and therefore not different. The exhibition of willing labour-power in the form of public interests is increasingly what composes the public. And it is the exhibition that governance seeks to organize. And why public interests? Because public interests are a way to capture all the social cooperation, all the social interests, that reside in the general intellect, and that are, as Michael Hardt and Toni Negri have taught us, the chief source of capitalist wealth today. Governance that provokes the production and exhibition of public interests therefore mines the wealth of the general intellect for what it cannot reach without the aid of all those who identify, volunteer, and offer up their public interests.

8. This is the way, I suggest, to understand the Eighteenth Brumaire of Barack Obama. American interest in politics under this ‘fetish of the public interest’ is a manifestation of the overwhelming labour discipline of that society, the overwhelming willingness to identify, volunteer and offer up public interests, or in other words the overwhelmingly willingness to exhibit the capacity for capitalist work. On the other hand, it is also the way to understand ‘the mosquito’ – a device used by the English police to disperse young people in public squares and malls by using a high-pitched noise only people under 20 years of age can hear. Those who do not exhibit this capacity for capitalist work must be cleared from the public space because it is the site of capitalist exploitation today. Rather than close the public space, as in earlier phases of neo-liberalism still trying to invent governance, it must be open for production and appropriation, but only for this.

NGOs, Art Museums, and the Metroversity 9. As I have said elsewhere, the laboratory of the production of public interests is the NGO. The ethos of the NGO is that populations must be provoked into identifying and volunteering their own public interests. The NGO regards it as counter-productive to speak for the illegal migrant. Only the illegal migrant knows the contours of her own public interests. An illegal migrant ought to know her rights, says the NGO. In this boiling cauldron of neo- liberalism and civil society was this new meaning of governance born, and from there has it spread.

10. This is also the key in my view to the creative industries. It is not a question of business invading culture or even of culture invading business. On the one hand, the creative industries do offer new private sources of exploitation as scholars like Andrew Ross have shown us. On the other hand as I have tried to show, the business school has no subject except itself, and is therefore filled with creativity, politics, and cultural forms. But these two sides alone of the creative industries leave out its real attraction to capital as a vehicle of governance, as a new labour process carved through the general intellect, strip-mining social attention and opinion. The creative industries are harnessed as the way art makes audiences, and audiences make public interests, in the form of taste, attention, prohibition, pleasure, and from all of this, new value. This is art as governance, as labour process. The market is a market in what can be revealed about audiences through new art. This is what is worth millions.

11. And finally the metroversity, which thanks to the Edu-factory collective has come so much into view for me. What seems important here is the reversal of the visibility of the general equivalent. Broadly one could say the university was a place where one acted on the possibility of an original use-value while suspecting (correctly as we see in Christopher Newfield’s work) the world of exchange outside was also inside. Now, in the university this suspicion has become common sense. The university is overtly the place of the production of knowledge as exchange-value, and no one has any illusions about it. Curiously outside the university, however, one is now supposed to act like original use-value is possible. Out in the city one acts as one used to act in the university, like original use-value is possible while suspecting (again correctly) that exchange-value reigns. Thus we fetishize public difference and accept pure command over our time as once was the case in the nostalgic university. Taken together these two conditions and their reversal and blending are for me the definition of the metroversity.

Dumb Insolence of the Undercommons 12. Fred Moten and I tried to think about the metroversity through its workers, through the undercommons produced by the self- organisation of these workers. (In the US the metroversity also remains a form of rural patronage as well as tending toward an urban social factory of a new kind.) For us, the undercommons is, from the revolutionary point of view, the self-organisation of the incommensurate. From the point of view of capital, the undercommons is the unacknowledged self-organisation of the despised, discounted, and anti-social. The first act of self-organisation in the undercommons is a refusal of subjectivation through, and only through, self-organisation. This disidentification through self- organisation is also, for us, not a prerequisite to what Toni Negri calls the common management (gestione) of the commons, but the potential of that organisation.

13. Those who work in the undercommons of the metroversity are often said to be dumb, and often said to be insolent. They must not go out in public. They do not exhibit the right attitude. They are workers from the darkness of the private. To governance they offer only dumb insolence. But they seek a way to be together that does not require explanation or interests first, and is only of use to others who seek a similar ensemble. This is why for us translation is crucial and the work of Sandro Mezzadra and his colleagues so important. But dumb insolence is also about bodies and senses and social affect, not just cognition and language. It is also about, paradoxically, laughter, music, touch, and the invitation to an ensemble of these affects and comprehensions that is not issued but remains possible, even necessary, nonetheless.