INTERVIEW WITH A DC WINDOW-DRESSER ON REVOLUTION
Stan Goff interviews Steve McClure
STAN: The antiwar movement in the United States seems to have re-mobilized on September 24th from its 2004 election-year funk. That mobilization brought at least 300,000 people to Washington, DC, where there was a pretty raucous outcry against the war in Iraq. But it also seems to have led right back into the same of what-do-we-do cul-de-sac. There was some token civil disobedience on September 25th, in which a few dozen people were cuffed, fined $65 for demonstrating without a permit, then released. But now many seem to be scratching their heads. It’s as if — with the Democratic party self-neutralized — they just don’t know what to do. You are a resident of Washington DC, which is the repeated site of these mobilizations. What does this look like to you? What do you think about September 24th?
STEVE: I have very mixed feelings about the event. The concert and tents were great, a mix of culture and politics and good for interaction â€“ lots of great dialogue. For many out-of-towners, it was inspiring, but for jaded DC residents, it was more of the same old same old with disturbing new twists.
I think the length of the wait before the main march was very disrespectful to folks who spent long hours on the road getting to DC. Both coalitions used people as a backdrop for internal movement politics. For aging protesters, making a death march to forage for food that could only be found away from the monumental core was an inconvenience. Enduring long hours of the same speeches over, and over, and over always makes people hungry, thirsty and longing for flush toilets.
From my perspective, out of town demonstrators, otherwise known as radical tourists are more or less comparable to a hamburger in the DC body politic: passing through one end and popping out the other, like a healthy bowel movement. Safely contained in the vicinity of the Big White Penis [Washington Monument] and the empty White House, demonstrators hardly altered the people and routines of those in power. Protesters displaying signs to other protesters on the national playground allowed regular DC residents to get on with the more important tasks of laundry, washing the car and brunching undisturbed.
Once again, real local concerns â€“ the war at home â€“ were bypassed as â€œliterally tens of hundredsâ€ of â€œCindy Sheehan`s followersâ€ brought their message to Washington. As inkeepers to the movement, cheap labor and sani-can placement experts, DC residents are relegated to the role of providing local color for a movement that is almost as marble white as the big white penis. Next time, when folks come to DC, remember â€“ â€œDepends are your friends” and bring plenty of food and water.
STAN: How much of what you just said is facetious?
STEVE: That was my summary to friends. Part of it was supposed to be funny but get at some of the real problems of agency.
We can do better than that â€“ I didnâ€™t mean to sound too negative â€“ but we really need to be more creative. The tents were the best part. People are starved for organization and information. We could model future events in a way that builds on that success, making events that focus on organizing and connecting and building. Getting thousands of people in one place at one time is a huge effort for everyone. Making good use of that time to lay the groundwork for organization would be a better use of that time.
Picture this â€“ a weekend of conferences, workshops, films, speakers, tabling and culture, ending with mass marches to the buses home in the hoods of DC, by way of the monumental core â€“ that would give everyone something to take home besides a few pictures, some crumpled leaflets and smelly socks.
STAN: You point to the issues that directly affect the largely African American population of Washington DC. One thing that occurs to me is that is an unrepresented territory, as colonized as, say, Puerto Rico. During this and past marches in DC, there are always token comments about the question of DC statehood, but usually mixed in with such a laundry list of points from The Total Revolutionary Program that it comes across as â€“ well â€“ just an item on a list of complaints. How important is this issue, particularly to people in DC?
STEVE: For me, that’s a big issue. Here in DC we have almost no control over land use or development processes. Itâ€™s like the hood and the federal zone are totally different worlds. Politics on the grand scale of ending wars and changing governments donâ€™t make much of a difference when the bottom line is that we are always on the margins. DC is an African American City. And it should stay that way. As the city has genrtrified, itâ€™s lost its heat and soul. At night in the summer, opening windows meant you could hear the gogo beat from street corner drummers. Now the city is like the tin woodsman from the Wizard of Oz â€“ no heart, just like New Orleans will be if we donâ€™t manage to gain some measure of agency. They are killing us off, one by one two by two and in the hundreds of thousands quickly or by painful increments. A movement that doesnâ€™t see the totality, that doesnâ€™t see the general in the specific, that makes wooden gestures in the abstract doesnâ€™t have a chance.
DC folks have heard it all, and see power up close and personal. After all, we clean the toilets, we serve the hamburgers, and we make the beds. Connecting with us means getting real about power and place. For me there isnâ€™t much difference between a leftie think tank employee saving the world and a neocon. They all shop out in the mall. It would be nice to have a public hospital, affordable housing, better mass transit and decent school facilities instead of convention centers, jails, sports stadiums that we pay for but didnâ€™t want. Things get forced down our throats just like any other colony. We live on Washington Plantation, some people say.
STAN: Coming from Raleigh where merely uttering the words â€œmass transitâ€ could get you fined, I have to say that I like the Washington Metro. But the again, Iâ€™m always there as one of those tourists. I have noted where the Metro does NOT stop.
Speaking of North Carolina, this is the home of former Senator Lauch Faircloth, who made his short career as the nemesis of DC. He never tired of demonizing DC â€“ precisely because it is an African American city. He didnâ€™t say that, but it was a very thinly coded appeal to his white supremacist base â€“ talking about DC as if it is incapable of self-governanceâ€¦ a bit like the way the talk about Haiti.
STEVE: Or New Orleans. Itâ€™s interesting. Not long after Katrina, I found this piece on Indymedia refuting stories of rape and murder in the Superdome. I suspected that the reported rapes and murders in the superdome were fiction, or at least exaggerations, in the same way as the reports of violence in the city were exaggerated to justify the official inaction and incompetence. I hope that folks from the New Orleans social movements in time are able to tell their story. The militarized reaction to Katrina has a lot to teach us.
In my city, sweeps of young people for curfew violations â€“ a zero tolerance way to control street crime is a fact of life, targeting youth of color, not behaviors. These sweeps include all the trappings of a paramilitary action, helicopters, etc.
Meanwhile, A moral panic has gripped the suburbs, with sensational coverage of Mara Salvatrucha, and exposure of a couple lurid high profile violent incidents over the past year. Itâ€™s not surprising that day labor sites were also in the news, as attention has shifted from the war to the “invasion” of undocumented workers to the metro area.
From early springtime, youth homicides have risen in the DC area, while the overall rates have declined, if I remember the Washington Post clearly.
If one considers the context of massive condo conversions and increasing density of repeatedly dislocated people, the pattern is not dissimilar to Palestine, without Hamas.
Genocide might not be the word for whatâ€™s happening â€“ but here in DC, you can have the “lifestyle you want at the price you can afford” starting in the low 300s â€“ I guess the rest of us have to double up in efficiencies with bunk beds and work three low wage barrista jobs to get by?
STAN: You seem to have made some strong structural connections between Katrina and the situation in Washington DC. Can you spell that out a bit more?
STEVE: It seems Katrina might have precipitated an organic crisis of capitalism. Is that structural enough? Too many excess people in a period of permanent capital contraction.
Watching the Sunday morning pundits right after Katrina; they all sounded like raging communists, even the likes of William Kristol from the Weekly Standard. I think the point of all this hot air was to pre-empt the movement, by framing the crisis on their terms, to normalize it.
The destruction of New Orleans is mirrored in the systematic destruction of the infrastructure of urban America, and the paramilitary policing of our neighborhoods.
DC received 400 refugee families, a PR stunt by our mayor. The real deal is that tens of thousands of DC residents are living on the streets, living on the margins making do and getting by already. Why wasnâ€™t the DC Armory opened for DC residents? Iâ€™m happy that New Orleans folks are being helped, but what about displacement here?
I tend to think the situation in New Orleans was the equivalent of genocide, a chain of decisions that placed property ahead of people. Shutting off the water supplies, the closure of communications channels, the suppression of volunteer rescue efforts, the failure to facilitate evacuation of poor Black areasâ€¦ all suggest that the administration, the state, and city governments, the ruling class, have chosen to kill people of color by intent or neglect.
What are the comprador classes saying? Liberal oppressed nationality pundits like Coleman McCarthy have expressed the usual hand wringing nostrums about Black social pathologies. The writing is on the wall, there has to be a resurgent movement, if working class people donâ€™t stand up and organize themselves, â€œuseless feedersâ€ are dead meat or cannon fodder. The comprador classes seem like the Judenrat of the Warsaw Ghetto or the Capos of Buchenwald, choosing who goes on the transport, and who goes up the chimney.
Class shows. In my everyday life, I am surrounded on one side by rock rib republicans who are military retirees and by leftie NGO types on the other. It was surprising to me the anger expressed by working class ex-military classmates currently employed by General Dynamics and Raytheon about the failure of the political leadership. In contrast, in casual conversations with NGO movement folks, there was a hesitation and fear about the race and class dimensions of the disaster. It seems that at critical junctures alignments shift when ruptures expose fault lines in the body politic, and basic class interests expose themselves.
Resources are limited, oil and water are finite on a world scale. The global war to maintain Empire seems to me as much about malicious neglect and destruction of â€œsub-humansâ€ as it is about controlling access to critical assets. Killing â€œragheadsâ€ in Iraq is the same as killing poor Black folks in New Orleans.
I think we can expect more ruptures tossing folks to and fro as the logic of capitalism reveals itself.
STAN: Your comments about paramilitary zones and panic in the suburbs brings up this whole issue of the changing spatial patterns in society. For a lot of people â€“ even on the left â€“ this question of space is strangely uninteresting to them, even though Marx was one of the first to emphasize the spatial patterns of capital. The exceptions are now relegated to a new kind of intellectual ghetto â€“ forgive the spatial pun â€“ called radical urban theory, or RUT. But you are involved in some very interesting research on urban space. Can you describe that, and why it is important?
STEVE: Let me set up an answer with a little biography.
I am a fifty year old window-dresser who can no longer climb ladders and work long hours. I spent 26 years in that industry, trimming displays for a department store, a specialist in menâ€™s fashion. I went into display after I finished college, because it was a hands on job with lots of autonomy and mixed problem solving with manual labor.- and it was gay friendly.
As a result of neoliberal restructuring, my industry is no longer viable as a place to make a decent living, So last year, I returned to school to acquire new skills that could allow me to spend my declining years sitting down in an office cubicle. Carrying large heavy objects around a store and putting them places at 3 AM in the morning is not appealing to old farts like me.
I am currently working on a MA in sociology at George Mason University, and studying Geographic Information Science with a whole gang of aging military retirees, who often donâ€™t share my political or sexual orientations. As a non-traditional student, college doesnâ€™t feel so friendly. After 26 years of being told I was stupid, it feels like Iâ€™m faking it and donâ€™t belong. However, if we as a movement and as a class are going to make headway, I feel more of us have to take the plunge to learn the masterâ€™s tools and use them to tear down the masters house. I am using Geographic Information Science to do just that.
People live in space, have bodies, not matter how much time we spend in cyberspace. Doing display work â€“ dressing mannequins as I did â€“ is creating images in space and time, giving meaning to lifeless commodities by associating one thing to another and linking products to cultural practices and symbols. Thatâ€™s what I did. I linked practices and symbols to get people to buy stuff they didnâ€™t need at a price they couldnâ€™t afford.
In a department store, we constantly rearranged the goods to match the customers expectations, set up sight lines and used proximity to communicate. That lead me to start thinking about politics the same way.
In aerial photography, we donâ€™t see state boundaries or national borders, we see patterns of settlements connected together by roads, powerlines, and rivers.
To me, in a globalized production system, that’s where power is, in the connectivity. Just like in a department store, its the movement and interconnection between things that are important; and like a department store, images are what provide the meanings.
So I got into digital cartography, overlaying features that seem disconnected, but when layered together in the same co-ordinates reveal patterns that we can feel but not see in the real world of the everyday. Text and statistics might describe, but nothing communicates like a picture backed up with a table.
Its scary stuff, locating things in a coordinate system might only be a representation, but finding out how class, race, and gender are linked in space and seeing it on the ground via the remote sensing takes Marx to a whole new level.
Marx didnâ€™t have computers, high speed internet, or satellite images. He deduced the basic premises of dialectics from German philosophical traditions, He inductively generalized from participation and observation of the struggles at the dawn of capitalist hegemony.
A lot has changed since his time. Science has caught up with Marx. We have the tools to deal with issues intractable with statistics or mathematics. Algorithms can quantify dialectics, chaos theory, system dynamics, artificial intelligence, machine learning as methods developed in the heart of neo classical economics, military operations, behaviorism and positive science, but confirmed the things we always suspected but couldnâ€™t prove except by deductive logic.
Geographic Information science is one of those tools. A principle of dialectics is that everything is connected. Making maps demonstrates emergent patterns â€“ validating, for me, the basics I learned in the movements.
Doing research from a spatial perspective is a pain in the ass. Almost any information that is useful is inaccessible, I am trying to find locations, dates and types of gang related activity in Northern Virginia. It is only available at the aggregate level. Crime stats donâ€™t list if a murder or vandalism incident was gang related. Doing human research means a human subjects review board, ostensibly to protect participants but in reality an inhibition on research that might threaten the status quo.
Its funny, you canâ€™t easily locate precinct level voting results, or statistics on condo conversions, even though that information is public record. The ironic thing is that you can buy all of this information from commercial databases.
This relates to my question in that the class nature of the state is painfully apparent â€“ governance is replacing government I wonder if privatized police forces, administrative bodies subservient to commercial interests, commodification of information are the shape of a new form of outright dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, where agency even at the municipal level is sidestepped via informal, or quasi- governmental bodies that dictate policy.
It doesnâ€™t seem like itâ€™s a conscious process, but an emergent pattern following the logic of neo-classical economics, behaviorism, and systems dynamics. These ideological structures are foundational to the technocratic masters of the panopticon where bounded rationality and optimization are the buzzwords of empire. Iraq is an experiment in social engineering; power laws and pareto curves provide the metrics of success. Mathematics, and the formal language of flow-charting disguise the idealist assumptions.
The patterns I found in the spatial configurations of class and race when I mapped census data from Northern Virginia suggest that fragmentation, political exclusion of the Other is a hidden transcript of gentrification. For our friends at the Tenants and Workers Support Committee (TWSC), data runs directly contrary to their program, in that we expected to find large areas of concentration of low wage people of color on the periphery of the urbanized region. In fact, I didnâ€™t find many concentrations at a precinct level. Multiple immigrant groups share the same space, constructing place non-spatially.
In Prince Georges County, across the river in Maryland I found the reverse, an island of African American concentration. Northern Virginia is almost majority minority â€“ but political agency is in the hand of white elites. Concentrations of white people, and people of color reflect density patterns in general; the Other is in close proximity to privilege. Boundaries are social marked by graphics and American flags as high density multifamily rental complexes are being condo-ized incrementally, pushing workers to the next complex over, doubling up, or moving into single family homes. Its not coincidental that legislation to restrict non-related or extended family occupancy of single family homes has been passed in several Northern Virginia jurisdictions.
Remember I told you about the panic attack with regard to gangs that erupted? The explosion of xenophobia?
Actually, reading the Department of Justice reports, gang violence in the DC area, as measured by murders, represents only 1% of all homicides, I can find no data at the street level to map incidents of tagging, vandalism, or assaults; not that it isnâ€™t collected, but that the inter-county gang task force wonâ€™t give it to me, even though it is public record. Neither can I find data about gang activity by specific schools. The day laborer site controversy and the gang hysteria both concern Salvadorian immigrants. In the case of day laborer sites, the image of hordes of aliens stampeding to NoVa was evoked to prohibit the creation of a center. In the case of gangs, it was the image of AK toting MS13 Salvadorans stalking the middle schools. In both cases, policing the Other is the goal. A related strategy is that of high density, high end condominium development that would reverse the demographic advantage of the other. The two strategies of containment are exclusion, and dislocation /replacement.
Just like New Orleans is about to see.
In Northern Virginia, the binary of black/white is destabilized â€“ very unlike the clear lines of demarcation in PG county. The lines in NoVa fall along class as well as racialized boundaries, in that comprador strata from the global empire live and work at the center of the Imperium. No Va is the home of the internet, 90% of transmissions flow through Reston Va. It is also the seat of the defense contractors, and the Pentagon. Power resides in NoVa.
The connective tissue of that power is the hegemonic social imaginary of whiteness that defines place when place is a point of connectivity rather than a fixed locality, The giant white penis is that imaginary.
If we are to contest power in the DC area, constructing a political program has to have as its corollary constructing a social imaginary of the other that links the fragmented, de-centered Other.
Starting from the few areas of geographic concentration at a politically potent level of aggregation, and following the social networks that bind together diffused communities where churches, commercial strips and civic associations constitute place making, it has to be trans-national and hybridized. How else could the majority minority of Asians including Vietnamese, Korean Americans be connected with Salvadorian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and Somali second generation or 1.5 generation immigrants?
Mostly young, from my studies, the median age is in the early 30s. These folks relate to the themes of inclusion â€“ not resistance. Its cultural expression is in the vernacular of hip-hop and punk.
The cultural motifs of whiteness are expressions of nostalgia for the golden age of suburbia, scripted in distressed genres, or in white supremacist metaphors, down at the mall. The mall is the default connector of American culture, where Americanism is defined by consumerism, and the artifacts of technological capitalism. I see Salvadorian youth in independent T-shirts, wearing high end sneakers with cell phones on their way to work at the fast food joints.
I learned a lot from riding the buses, subway and hanging at the malls, as much as I did from mapping census tracts.
STAN: This is very important stuff if we are serious about increasing our theoretical rigor.
We may even have to create a New Revolutionary Glossary that pushes our comrades beyond the stranded categories of past left orthodoxies. I find, for example, that â€œsocial imaginaryâ€ â€“ so long as we qualify it with our materialism and don’t fall into the pomo swamp â€“ is an extremely valuable concept in discussing gender, and your use of it here in talking about connectivity versus spatial co-location is extremely helpful. I think such intellectual projects, internally with the left, have a huge potential to revitalize our work and create new ground for refoundation of a real metropolitan left.
This stuff maps directly onto the theses of exterminism as loss of hegemony and the return to coercion, as well as the corresponding dynamic of appropriation by accelerated dispossessionâ€¦ by war in most cases, when it doesnâ€™t backfire like it did in Iraq.
We need our own think tank… and not just the white male luminaries of the Left of Christmas Past, but stakeholders â€“ organic working class intellectuals, women, oppressed nationalities.
Communications infrastructure is more than reaching multitudes. Its having multi-tiered institutions that set new parameters for public discourse. The right did this extremely well. There has to be that kind of mandarin-theoretical level, then a â€œcriticalâ€ level of communication that enlightens those who are interested and open-minded but unfamiliar with the concepts, then the popular literate commentary level, the counter-logic, then the popular culture level of artistic expression), then the op-ed level of the polemic, then the sound byte level… not a well-thought out schema, but you see where I’m headed.
The left seems to be in this kind of self-flagellating malaise in which it has abandoned the high and low ends of this. We need the institutional framework for resuscitating the whole spectrum or we will continue to have our asses whupped in the ideological dimension of our struggle. We probably also need a network of popular locally-embedded coffee-house/bookstores and our own schools, but that will have to wait a bit… not too long, though.
Now you have me riffing awayâ€¦
STEVE: I am trying to do precisely that â€“ trying to find money to pay for geo-spatial research that links databases from a variety of oppositional entities and interrogates the public record. The advantages of a spatial database are poorly understood by our side. Maps are only one product; the analytical capacity is much more significant.
TWSC is reluctant to give me point data to map, for obvious reasons of data security, as are unions etc. Getting over this hurdle to sharing data would help the process of conscious creation of a cultural resistance linked to program, grounded in empirical studies, just like the other side does. We have better models.
I like the concept of social imaginary â€“ it gets right at the heart of what constitutes an urban area in a post-Fordist production system. An urban area isnâ€™t a center for a tributary network of rural areas locally defined, but defined by ties with other urban centers globally in a period when space-time, the individual, and the public sphere is collapsing into hyper reality.
Pomo stuff is relevant if embedded in Marxist analysis, but doesnâ€™t stand alone. Foucault can only be understood in relation to Althusser, and Althusser in relation to Mao.
Separating Foucault from his Marxist premises means he is unintelligible, even as he was carving out terrain independent of Marxism. I tend to think post-modernity is predicated on modernism, it exists at a different moment in the same place. Post-structuralist theory might be opaque, but it is grappling with problems of representation when it is embedded in its subject. Marx himself had these problems when inventing dialectical materialism and historical materialism at the beginnings of capitalist hegemony.
I like Jameson`s treatment of the problem, finding pomo as an expression of the cultural logic of late capitalism. Juicy nuggets from the pomo literature can and should be incorporated into our work, much as Freud, Spinoza, and Machievelli were integrated into western Marxism of the 20th century. Marxism is a rich meta-theory â€“ but why bother continuously be drawn into debates about it when the real objective is using it to change reality. That’s what I like about pomo studies â€“ much of it is critical and transgressive and can be joined easily with materialism, if it stood on its head and the rational kernel extracted.
I think any structuralism can be linked to any other. The methods of agent based modeling, computer simulations from a neoclassical, behaviorist paradigm can be appropriated and linked to Marxist approaches, just like pomo theoretical concepts, and anarchist tactics. Non-linear thinking needs to be encouraged in our circles.
I might hate my computational social science class, and dislike the assumptions of GIS work, but using these methods can produce representations that support our work. Living in the nest of the enemy so to speak is driving me crazy. I know how to do focus groups, I am learning how to do telephone surveys using probability samples, I can do content analysis, and I can map stuff. But it costs time, pain and money and at some point, I am going to totally melt down financially. GIS software costs 10 K, building databases costs, and I need to be financially stable.
Doing GIS isnâ€™t an individualist project. My project this summer involved two computer scientists, a geographer, a data monkey, a cartographer, and me. Interrogating other technologies and methods means interdisciplinary work â€“ no one person can do it all.
I am going to write up the Alexandria project, we are in the middle of creating a map book and CD. It might be my thesis project, if I donâ€™t fuck up this semester.
Iâ€™m looking at Gang activity in my stuff at school, but it is relevant to the question of power. The internet is a wonderful tool for understanding self representation. This weekend I did a close reading of one particular gang related incident, mapped it, and then went to the county, city, and local school websites for a look see. It was interesting, I found the statistics on the demographic makeup to be multi-ethnic, but representations are steeped in colonial history and images, rather than the multi-national. Projected trends in the county statistics show that the area will be almost majority minority by the next census, yet elected officials are mostly Anglo.
Annandale high school, built in 1954, evokes the fifties, itâ€™s team name is the â€œAnnandale Atoms.â€ By no means is the area an enclave of poverty, but rather the dispossessed are concentrated in apartment complexes and rendered voiceless at the official level.
On the local web site, no mention of gangs or gang activity. However, in the press at a higher level of aggregation, gangs were a front page item, and have been for some time, and the response to gang activity is an issue in this falls elections. Letters to the editor link gangs and immigration, but the actual coverage is ambiguous, jumping from sensationalism to realism.
My raw field notes on the incident in question show an area in transition, a powerless community of renters, divided into three complexes, with one high school between them. School boundaries are a hot political issue, the boundary maps arenâ€™t available on the web, but have to be purchased or examined at the local libraries. The information on gang activity by school and incidences by location are also unavailable. The exclusion of public record data reveals more than it conceals about contested terrain.
I mapped the entire region, and used race and median income to locate areas of stress, undifferentiating between areas of dislocation and those where the displaced are being shifted to.
Finding point data about low-wage workers, talking to folks and having them draw cartograms of their social worlds. I could scan and geo-rectify them into a map of Northern Virginia from the point of view of the subaltern. That would yield useful information. Scanning bus route maps, employment centers, would be helpful in creating a political economy of my region. I would like to find out about homeownersâ€™ associations, and precinct level voting data.
STAN: Is there a way to map gendered power using these methods?
STEVE: I think so-with a lot of digging.
Itâ€™s interesting that power understands the potential. Data that is freely available becomes classified information when it is layered together. From a birds eye view you canâ€™t hide anything physical. Patterns of power and privilege play themselves out in socially constructed space. Most data that’s collected has a geographic reference. Streaming flows of data populate the internet.
Thinking analytically about the voids and gaps in information direct our attention to hot points. In census data about Northern Virginia, the CIA occupies a whole census tract-and itâ€™s a big vacant hole in the set.
To map gendered power you have to figure out what questions to ask first. I mean what does gendered power look like?
In Northern Virginia it looks like defense contractor zones in Crystal city, a big spacious cracker belt in the center of No Va. Homeownersâ€™ associations and American flags planted in front of bungalows in gentrified areas of Clarendon. It means retro urban downtowns, with chain stores like Crate and Barrel, with symbolic boundaries that exclude the other.
Images of whiteness and patriarchy like the big white penis canâ€™t be visualized with remote sensing, but by walking the streets. Mapping tells you where and who, but not why. That’s why remote sensing and GIS mapping arenâ€™t working in Iraq. Empiricism and positive science are an idealist dead end. Dialectical materialism gives us the tools to generate and test our theories adapting them in an evolutionary process. Every method, every theory is an abstraction and of necessity a caricature of reality used to explain and predict.
Ultimately it is in specific practices where the questions and the likely methods for answering those questions will be found.
As theorists, we need to be using multiple methods to create portraiture rather than naturalistic depictions of our social worlds. We can combine political praxis, qualitative methods and quantitative methods- scripted in multiple voices and languages- to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange. A fresh set of eyes might allow us to transcend our current limitations and reposition an emancipatory project I think knowledge is a collective project, as is collective action.
I think we are about transformation and empowerment. Unlike primitivists who reject modernism, we are aware of the fragile nature of the infrastructure that allows millions to live. Technology is something that has to be twisted and transformed to serve the people instead of the law of value. At the end of the Manifesto Marx posed a question, socialism or barbarism, and suggested that without socialism both contending classes would end up in mutual ruin.
As a species we are destroying the planet, we need the tools of science to undo the harm.
Steve McClure lives in Washington DC. He has been involved in a variety of social movements since his undergraduate days from the anti-nuclear movement in the seventies to the anti-war, no-global movements of recent years.
â€œSometimes as a cultural activist sometimes as a political activist, I have been engaged with resistance for most of my life.â€
Smcclur1@gmu.edu is Steve’s email.