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McKenzie Wark on building a new infrastructure within the ruins of the old


In the February issue of e-flux journal, McKenzie Wark continues his reflections on the “vectoralist class” that he began in the framework of e-flux’s Supercommunity project. This time he argues that when it comes to the global capitalist infrastructure that delimits our actions and imagination, neither negation nor acceleration can free us from its hold. Instead, Wark suggests that “perhaps it’s a question not of braking or speeding that infrastructure, but of designing a different one.” Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

What would it mean, then, to understand nature from the points of view not of the dominant classes but of the dominated? To think nature as the farmer or the worker or the hacker might, as symbiotic practices of transforming, respectively, matter, energy, and information? Might it be possible to use the collective struggles of three stages of the commodity economy to critique the dominant worldviews that have emerged about nature, but not to stop there? The task for the historical imagination is to move on, and attempt to extrapolate from what can be known about natural forms the possible morphologies for the design of a new infrastructure.

So, the bad news: the juggernaut that is third nature cannot be negated, as its very form is dedicated to routing around any specific points at which action could be effective. Nor can it be accelerated. There is no subordinate class in a position to push it further or faster than it goes of its own accord. Thinking history from the point of view of the product rather than the producers flips the picture around and shows that the cumulative heft of what collective endeavor has built is what stands in the way of its own transformation.

Which leaves only the option of redesigning it on the fly. This would require collaborative action among the subordinated classes. The differences among such classes cannot be wished away by branding it the multitude or by imposing by fiat a kind of philosophical universalism. It means an approach to coalition building that is more about economic agents than merely political ones, as in most versions of radical democracy. It is time to build a new infrastructure within the ruins of the old.

Image: An illustration retrieved from googling “hacker.”