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Antipode

Irrelevant Activity and Meaningful Work
This economic relation [of capital and labour] . . . therefore develops
more purely and adequately in proportion as labor loses all the
characteristics of art; as its particular skill becomes more and more
abstract and irrelevant, and as it becomes more and more a purely
abstract activity, a purely mechanical activity, hence indifferent to its
particular form; a merely formal activity, or, what is the same, a merely
material activity, activity pure and simple, regardless of its form (Karl
Marx 1973 [1857]:297).

While not sufficient in themselves for the overthrow of capital, these
nowtopian practices do, in their rejection of waged labor and the
value-form, develop a form of life that is directly antagonistic to
the internal logic of the capitalist mode of production, and as such
are germane to a struggle to destroy capital. Further, they combat
the isolation and atomism that has reduced so many social struggles
to individualized resistance and consumer politics. This is the same
isolation and atomism that produces “free laborers” as a necessary
component of the reproduction of labor power for capital.
Attending to nowtopian practices sets in relief the basic violence at
the heart of capitalist production: the process of turning creative, useful
human activity into abstract labor dedicated to producing value for
people other than those who labor. Marx articulated the “freed” laborer
as someone stripped of all their deep implicit connectivity—free from
the land and the tools of production, from sustained connections with
other humans, and ultimately, from their own labor. And although all
waged labor (and the threat of it, if one is un- or under-employed) is
subject to this fundamental capitalist violence, anti-capitalists, Marxist
theorists, and radicals of all theoretical and practical persuasions have
tended to designate particular people and groups as more and less the
victims of capitalism. There are undeniable differences in the way the
hegemonic global force of capital affects peoples, but there is also
a continuity in the global experience of capital. That is to say, there
is a continuity to capital, even if it plays out very different moments
of its own reproduction in different geographical locations such that
it appears to be actually a different entity in different locations (it is
important to recognize this geographical cunning of capital). Nowtopia
helps us to understand a global continuity of capitalist violence despite
geographical difference and uneven development—which is propelled
by capital’s constant search for spatial fixes (Harvey 1990:196)—
because nowtopians are responding to a violence of capital that is not
usually considered when assessing the destructive forces of capitalist
hegemony. A recognition of the political relevance of the nowtopian
impulse is also an affirmation that everyone in capitalist society—
regardless of location or lifestyle—has a reason to combat it.
2010 The Authors
C 2010 Editorial Board of Antipode.
Antipode ⃝


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