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Geopolitics and Contemporary Art: The Nation-State as the Possible Container for Global Struggles


In the March 2016 issue of e-flux journal, Irmgard Emmelhainz argues that the nation-state is no longer a feasible or desirable horizon for liberation struggles. As global markets and transnational economic organizations such as the IMF have undermined the traditional sovereignty of nation-states, forms of exploitation now cross borders. Liberations struggles, Emmelhainz argues, must respond by striving to develop autonomy outside the framework of the state. An excerpt:

Autonomy is a communal and relational form of organization and thus, an alternative to the state and the market. In this regard, the “common” is a vague and yet necessary concept for today’s struggles; it needs to be posited as an alternative horizon contesting the mercantilization of life and the seduction of the collective imaginary by capitalism. Communality is everything we share, but it also means rejecting our five-hundred-year-old system of socioeconomic relationships. It implies building new relationships outside the logic of capitalism and the market, which people all over the world are attempting to do through an array of experiments with cooperatives, collective work, solidarity, urban gardens, time banks, and free universities. These experiments are the beginning of the production and sharing of wealth in common, which would also fund, plan, project, establish, and organize something that already exists to institute forms of autonomy that are different from the forms of participation offered by neoliberal governance.

These experiments happen within the folds of institutions and against institutional fascisms that oppress and make decisions against our interests. Their aim is to disperse and transform power relationships. Autonomy means creating sites where rules different than those imposed on us by the neoliberal system can be applied to construct different political, social, and economic relationships. To build autonomous spaces is to recover the immediate bases of social reproduction in urbanized areas. What is at stake is the materialization of forms of power and how they are distributed in space. In that regard, art has been, and can continue to be, a privileged laboratory for studying fields of power and for experimenting with sociatry, therapy, and new models of assemblage, organization, exchange, and the reproduction of life, not of capital. But without a social base, without establishing long-lasting collectivity in relation to a political project, it is difficult to begin building and inhabiting the world differently.

Image: Several “Merry Crisis” tags appeared in Athens during riots in December 2008.