"There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry any more" – Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1974: 156)
“The reform of consciousness consists entirely in making the world aware of its own consciousness, in arousing it from its dream of itself, in explaining its own actions to it.” (Karl Marx, 1843, letter to Arnold Ruge)
Teaching and writing has left me little time to pause and reflect on the rapid emergence of a new protest culture here in the UK. What is indeed clear is that recent student protests on the 10th and 24th of November respectively should not only be seen (rightly) as a collective cry of indignation at the social vandalism being waged by the Coalition government. At stake, it seems to me, are the assembling of constituent practices that seek to compose, fashion, and invent qualitatively different institutions for sustaining and enriching common or public goods. The creativity and spontaneity of the protests cannot therefore be reduced to a strict politics of “refusal” to borrow Marcuse’s overworked phrase but should rather be understood as a source of social creativity and as an opportunity for political innovation.
There have been a number of thoughtful posts on the protests over the past couple of days. See Nina Power and Lenin’s Tomb for eyewitness accounts on the protest at Whitehall on November 24th. It is also worth checking out two articles by Laurie Penny, one in the Guardian, the other in the New Statesman. The University for Strategic Optimism have just posted an excellent letter (in solidarity with the SOAS occupation) in which they insist that the collective ‘right’ to education remains a key component of any society based on community and social justice.
As someone who is currently working on the historical and political geographies of squatting, the adoption of site occupation as a tactic by students across the country highlights once again the centrality of geography to any workable politics of constituent power (not to mention the energy and creativity of the students themselves). I’ve tried to compile a list of recent and current occupations:
Royal Holloway: http://rhacc.wordpress.com/