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A post-capitalist horizon

Radical Futurisms – Ecologies of Collapse, Chronopolitics and Coming Justice
Forfatter: T. J. Demos
Forlag: Informations Forlag, (Danmark)
SOLIDARITY / For a recipe for an ecological revolution, the subject that can constitute the active social force that can move society towards a radically different future is missing. Radical futurisms are here a new thinking for what may come.


The financial crisis of 2008 exposed the vulnerability of the international economy to such an extent that one had to ask where socialists and their allies were at an otherwise obvious opportunity to replace the international political regime with a new world order. The left wing's defensive position was demonstrated i.a. with the book Capitalist realism (Mark Fisher, 2009). The book opens with the words "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism".

To visualize a radical future of collectivized ownership.

New thinking was thus necessary! With the book Radical futurisms – of collapse ecologies, chronopolitics and coming justice (Radical Futurisms, English 2023) TJ Demos searches for answers to the question of what comes after the narratives of the capitalist, racist, patriarchal, colonialist civilization breakdown. How do we get there with a vision of a post-capitalist horizon that holds a collective liberation in an alliance between the radical black tradition, the decolonization struggle of the indigenous peoples and the socialist resistance to capitalism? For TJ Demos – art historian and professor of visual culture at the University of California – it is central to examine which narratives are available and which enable the future-as-rupture and thus a post-capitalist emancipation.

Four challenges

The demos are based on TJ Cuthand's video Claim (2018) set in a post-apocalyptic future. Survivors of the original population here demand to get a destroyed globe back from colonists. Gone are capital's endless wars and destructive forms of extraction, in addition to the racism and heteronormativity that characterize its destructive social relations and land tenure.

Past and future are woven together in a complex symbiosis. It becomes possible to think beyond the techno-economic horizon and market fundamentalismn. A different temporal organization is unleashed (chronopolitics). It challenges the prevailing ways of thinking about time and being in it, and enables us to choose a different form of life – called by Demos radical futurism – in which he finds inspiration for a comprehensive movement that enables world-historical action. Whether this trade will be able to come in time to prevent further disasters will, among other things, depend on addressing four key methodological challenges developed by Demos:

Can we – by a policy focused on solidarity – avoid an atomization of people in the future development of society?

Will it be possible to preserve personal discretion and integrity as well as a future everyone can live in – when capital elevates technology to a savior status with automation and a colonization of the future?

Can an art of internationalism with its own platform organize transnational and worldwide solidarities – when at the same time there is an interweaving of different global temporalities combined with a coordination with artificial intelligence and algorithmic control?

How can a solidary practice on a collectivist basis overcome a power constituted by forms of confiscatory debt, structural racism, military violence, etc., in the end capitalismn yourself?

Common sense

On Ruhr-three-year 2019 in Germany saw a variety of radical futurism actions presented. According to the author, collective training activities within the cultural sphere were also included, including «Training for the Future».

The aim was to build infrastructures – political, economic, media and technological – that will be able to be scaled up common sense could be shaped in accordance with progressive interests that are shaped in solidarity. How can we not only imagine the not-yet-is in progressive and liberating ways, but also begin to actually enact meaningful change through the world-buildings of social movements? This includes, among other things, a dismantling and decolonization of the patriarchal social structures at the interconnected levels of the family and the state. What «Training» has in common is that it stands in opposition to the ruling consensus of global neoliberal capital and is united in its support for imagining alternative life possibilities. Here it operates at the crossroads between socially engaged art, organizational work in groups and local communities and collective aesthetic experiments in the extended field beyond the art institution. In continuation of Training useful experiences emerged with the creation of new assembly infrastructures, spaces for new political imaginary worlds and places of resistance.

Examples of radical futurism

Activities The Combative Purchase (combat-ready procurement) was conducted in the spring of 2020 in San Juan (Puerto Rico, capital). Activists from La Colectiva Feminista en Construcción addressed people queuing in supermarkets to talk about political issues at the local and international level. Drawing on current political themes, the situation inspired wider conversations about the reasons for the general absence of welfare schemes on the island. To a large extent, the problems were due to the fact that public activities such as the energy grid have been privatized in a country plagued by corruption and a debt that has grown over many years. With such a confrontational intervention, La Colectiva wanted to reject the status quo of consumerist satisfaction and the degradation of public space to a capitalist predatory logic. Against the multifaceted colonial oppression in Puerto Rico, La Colectiva had developed a practice of street performance, sit-ins and social media propaganda with the intention of developing a solidarity-building infrastructure. Furthermore, the action was intended to build an oppositional political consensus through demonstrations for the common good, where La Colectiva encouraged customers to carefully consider their consumption choices.

The Progressive International (PI, 2018) is an organization consisting of social movements with the intention of connecting labor struggles around the world in a united effort for post-capitalist emancipation. In the long term, PI must establish an alternative infrastructure, based on ongoing movements that contain struggles that intersect internationally. After decades of absence of such initiatives, and with many unanswered questions about the initiative remaining, PI "brings a renewed promise of creating a progressive future", according to Demos. See:

The recipe for an ecological revolution is missing subject that can constitute the active social force that can move society towards a radically different future.

Og Make Amazon Pay (2020) – an offshoot of PI – is a campaign in relation to Amazon's empire. The campaign aims to visualize a radical future with collectivized ownership. In the campaign, trade unions, environmentalists and activists around the world challenge Amazon's monopolistic and predatory dominance of global capitalism. The goal of Make Amazon Pay is nothing less than to win a better world, where cooperative production for all can overcome the companies that serve the interests of the directors, exploit the labor and avoid paying taxes; where economic activity does not destroy the environment; and where the markets are governed by democratic institutions, and not by the random whims of one of the world's richest men (Jeff Bezos). The campaign does this by exercising «the only power that can match the strength of transnational capital: solidarity».

How to proceed?

If we are to avoid a continued course towards a social and environmental disaster, interventionare, as above, necessary. With even stronger movements and coordination between the movements. With also «a new political party devoted to creating new worlds». At the center is «solidarity between the different struggles». What is decisive is whether, in moments of struggle, it is possible to formulate a coherent political analysis of society, oppression and exploitation, which makes sense in relation to the world we live in, but which also «contains the vision of a different kind of society – and a way, on which this can be achieved».

Demos refers to Swedish Andreas Malm, as in the book Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergency# argues for implementing necessary changes to the energy systems as well as accompanying societal changes towards CO2 neutrality and freedom. But the recipe for an ecological revolution is missing subject that can constitute the active social force that can move society towards a radically different future. Therefore, it remains a challenge to amplify the radical energies and make the movement for change a power factor at the national level and of course at the world level. For example, for the US-based collective Not an Alternative, which works at the intersection of art, activism and critical theory, this implies that the infrastructures and forms of organization that are necessary "to keep the space open for the emergence of such a will" must be established.

Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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