Thoughts on Argentina's Conjunctures :: Recuperating Work, Recovering Life (2005-2007)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

An excellent bibliographic overview of the Autonomist Marxist tradition and Reading Capital Politically

Courtesy of Prof. Harry Cleaver::Syllabus: Autonomist Marxism

Prof. Harry Cleaver's Texas Archives of Autonomist Marxism, an impressive compendium of much of the literature on Autonomist Marxism in the original languages of publication.

And, of course, Cleaver's Reading Capital Politically.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Latin America-wide economy of solidarity of worker recovered enterprises?

One of the things that el MNER (National Movement of Recovered Enterprises) was working on when I was in Argentina this summer was forging alliances with other recovered factories across Latin America, especially with Venezuela. This is what Eduardo Murúa, president of MNER, personally told me and it was also reported in the local news media. It seems that Chavez is interested in using the Argentinean recovered enterprises cooperative model in his drive to nationalize major sectors of Venezuela's economy. To back his words, he's promised a huge infusion of cash in debt bonds to the Argentinean economy and has promised some of this money to go directly to the recovered enterprises in the form of very favourable loans for them (at around 4% interest per year as Chilavert's Cándida Gónzalez speculated in a conversation I had with him). Both Chavez and Murúa, envision an economy of solidarity across Latin America.

I wrote about this on my blog when I was in Argentina: .

Here's a more recent article on the topic that came out yesterday:

This topic is up for discussion at the the First Encounter of Latin American Recovered Enterprises, scheduled to take place in Caracas, Venezuela on October 27-29 of this year.

Whose University? A conversation between David Noble and Nick Dyer-Witheford...

... this coming Monday, at 7:30 at the Toronto Free Gallery. This is a Toronto School of Creativity and Inquiry event, which I help to organize together with my friends Greig DePeuter, Christine Shaw, and Heather Haynes:


Whose University?
Nick Dyer-Witheford and David Noble in Conversation
A Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry Event

Monday, September 26, 2005
7:30pm - 9:30pm
Toronto Free Gallery
660 Queen St. East (near Broadview Ave.)

Admission is free. Donations appreciated.

Back to school special! How are commercial interests reshaping Canadian universities? How is the neoliberal agenda playing out in the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences? What is it like to teach and learn in a university in an age of entrepreneurship? Is the university a place of diversity? Relevance? Do students and young academics have just cause to be cynical? Can critics really say that the university today is simply a pawn to profit? What strategies might be used to challenge the corporatization of education? What might the university yet become?

Join us for an intimate conversation around these questions with Nick Dyer-Witheford and David Noble-two of Canada's foremost analysts of global capitalism, higher education, and social movements. Nick and David will talk for about 45 minutes and then the event will be open to audience discussion.

We will also screen John Greyson's Motet for Amplified Voices (2004, 8 min.): A Megaphone Choir occupies Vari Hall to euphonically protest the rustication of Dan Freeman-Moloy and the beating of student demonstrators by cops. "Truth wants to be startled abruptly, at one stroke, from her self-immersion, whether by uproar, music or cries for help." -- Walter Benjamin

Nick Dyer-Witheford is a professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at University of Western Ontario in London, where he coordinates the Media in the Public Interest program. He is author of Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-Technology Capitalism. Dyer-Witheford's essay on the university in the era of cognitive capitalism will be published in a forthcoming collection, Utopian Pedagogy.

John Greyson is a film/video artist who teaches in the Film Department at York University.

Scholar and activist David Noble teaches at York University. His books America by Design, A World without Women, The Religion of Technology, and Digital Diploma Mills have reshaped our understanding of the evolution of technology, religion, and education. His latest book is Beyond the Promised Land: The Movement and the Myth. Noble has an essay on the contemporary university in the September issue of Canadian Dimension.

About Toronto School of Creativity & Inquiry
TSCI organizes education events that inquire into the new commercial enclosures: enclosures on time, space, creativity, thought, ecology, love... We seek to understand how these enclosures work. But combating against cynicism, we also inquire into creative pathways within, against, and beyond the enclosures: pathways of thinking, collaboration, organization, experimentation...


Book launch of newest book on recovered factories in Argentina: Las Empresas Recuperadas en la Argentina

From my good friends, Andres Ruggeri and Carlos Martinez, my profs for the recovered factories course that I took this summer at the University of Buenos Aires, and co-authors, together with Dr. Hugo Trinchero, of the book:

Presentación del libro "Las Empresas Recuperadas en la Argentina"
Jueves 29 de septiembre, 19 hs. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras. UBA
Puán 480. Aula 108

Donde llegaron
El jueves 29 se septiembre se presenta en la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras el libro "Las Empresas Recuperadas en la Argentina", publicado por el Programa Facultad Abierta de la Secretaría de Extensión Universitaria de la Facultad y el Programa UBACyT de Urgencia Social "Programa Interdisciplinario de Transferencia Científico-Tecnológica con Empresas Recuperadas por su Trabajadores", integrado por cuatro facultades de la Universidad de Buenos Aires.
El libro es resultado de un relevamiento exhaustivo realizado entre empresas recuperadas de todo el país, realizado por el equipo de investigación del Programa de Extensión Facultad Abierta, durante el año 2004. El trabajo contó con la participación de cerca de 100 docentes y estudiantes de la UBA que colaboraron en forma voluntaria en la realización de encuestas a más de 70 casos de empresas recuperadas y en la conformación de una amplia base de datos sobre el fenómeno.
Juntamente con la presentación del libro, el Movimiento Nacional de Empresas Recuperadas (MNER) informará sobre la realización del Primer Encuentro Latinoamericano de Empresas Recuperadas, que tendrá lugar en Caracas (Venezuela) los días 27, 28 y 29 de octubre.

Donde empezaron

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Argentina's poverty rate is down from last year, but still at historically high levels

La pobreza bajó pero se mantiene en niveles muy altos.

  • Poverty now affects 38.5% of Argentines (15 million people), down from 40.2 percent in the second semester of 2004 and and its peak of 57.5% in 2002

  • 13.6% of Argentineans are indigent (5 million people), down from 27.5% in 2002

  • These numbers, while positive, aren't good enough given that Argentina's economy is said to be improving at a faster rate than the poverty line is decreasing, claims the Buenos Aires daily, El Clarín

Four out of 10 unemployed people in Argentina are less than 24 years old

Cuatro de cada 10 desocupados tienen menos de 24 años.

  • Argentineans under 24 years of age are three times as likely to be unemployed.

  • This means that 718,000 youth cannot find work out of a total of 1.8 million people without work, meaning that 26.3% of Argentina's under-24s are unemployed, more than double the official unemployment rate.

  • Only a minority of these younger Argentineans qualify directly for direct social assistance plans (Jefes y Jefas de Hogar).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Is Argentina the most developed country in Latin America?" today's El Clarín Buenos Aires daily asks

A recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) seems to think Argentina is Latin America's "most developed" country. Buenos Aires's biggest daily, El Clarín, is skeptical:

¿Es la Argentina el país más desarrollado de América latina?

I share the daily's skepticism after having lived there for five weeks this summer. While Argentina might be the "most developed country" in Latin America on the UNDP list, this doesn't seem to trickle down to the country's daily realities, at least amongst its poor, working, and middle classes. As the paper cogently - and with more than a bit of irony - points out: "[w]ith an annual revenue of $2000 per person per year, informing us from Washington that each Argentinean carries with them a value of $130,000 [for the national economy] is not very convincing. To arrive at this exaggerated conclusion, in a country with 40% of its population living under the poverty line, the World Bank uses indicators that don't just account for the actual situation but rather the 'potential' situation, as well.... In conclusion, international reports like these ones that claim that Argentina is the richest country on the continent are more worthy for what they don't show than for the reality they claim to measure."

This brings to mind an apt observation by the German-American philosopher Herbert Marcuse from his 1964 book One Dimensional Man:

    "As a habit of thought outside the scientific and technical language, such reasoning shapes the expression of a specific social and political behaviourism. In this behavioural universe, words and concepts tend to coincide, or rather the concept tends to be absorbed by the word.... The word becomes cliché.... The communication precludes genuine development of meaning...[where]...the functionalization of language has a political connotation.... At the nodal points of the universe of public discourse, self-validating, analytical propositions appear which function like magic-ritual formulas.... The result is the familiar Orwellian language ('peace is war' and 'war is peace,' etc.)" (Marcuse, 1964, pp. 87-88).

Kudos on the editors of El Clarín - part of Argentina's biggest media conglomerate, I might add - for calling this NGO's spade a spade.

Monday, September 19, 2005

An article of mine on the interactional self and Internet-mediated communication just came out in the Iowa Journal of Communication's latest issue

An article of mine synthesizing my MA thesis's theoretical framework - rooted in the work of Heidegger, Mead, and Schutz - for thinking about "Internet-mediated communication" just came out IJC's special issue on computer-mediated communication. Here's the table of contents and the announcement of the issue as it appeared on the Association of Internet Researcher's listserv:

From: Kim Powell

The Iowa Communication Association is proud to announce publication of a special issue of the Iowa Communication Journal on Computer Mediated Communication.

The special issue may be purchased for $15 by contacting the journal's business manager Jill Rhea at or sending payment to her at Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, IA 50588.

COMPUTER MEDIATED COMMUNICATION SPECIAL ISSUE TABLE OF CONTENTS The Application of the Frankfurt Schools' Critical Scholarship to the Internet
Magdalena Wojcieszak

Rethinking Life Online: The Interactional Self as a Theory for Internet-Mediated Communication
Marcelo Vieta

Unique and Ordinary Problems in Internet Research: Research Ethics, the Law, and Power
Mark D. Johns

When Messages are the Medium: Researching Best Practices in Online Education
Sharon S. Kleinman

Exploring the Half-life of Internet Footnotes
Michael Bugeja and Daniela V. Dimitrova

Thursday, September 15, 2005

How to begin to think about the formation of a new political consciousness in the workers making up the recovered enterprises movement in Argentina

The Hungarian Marxist theorist Georg Lukács seems to be a great place to start. In his influential 1920 masterpiece, History and Class Consciousness, Lukács continues the Marxist line of critique of capitalism and its bourgeois advocates by extending the dialectic into the cultural spheres of everyday life. According to Lukács, his formulation of a theory of class picks up where Marx left off (Lukásc, 1920).

Lukács's Theories of the Reification of Class Consciousness
For Marx, his main project, finding its most cogent formulation in his three volume opus, Das Kapital, is to bring the hidden logic of capitalism to light by, as Braverman puts it, using the dialectic method towards "the demystifying of technology" (1974, p. 445), the meticulous detailing of capitalism's mode of production rooted in labour processes and social relations of domination, and the unraveling of the true "value" of the most fundamental aspect of capitalism: the commodity, the actual embodiment of "labour-power" (Das Kapital, chapter 1).

Like Marx, Lukács too is about unraveling the hidden and taken-for-granted logic of capitalism but, rather than rooting his analysis at the base (the economic), Lukács starts to look at the implications of capitalist logics at the superstructural, cultural level. For Lukács , "formal rationality" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 167) - also called "technocratic thinking" (Ritzer, 2000, p. 142) or, more broadly, the privileging of "technological progress" (Marcuse, 1962, p. xii) by modern societies - "is the basis of capitalist culture" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 167). Lukács's analysis, according to Feenberg, thus brings to the forefront how capitalist modes of thinking and action root themselves in an abstracted, fragmented, and piece-meal society; analytic forms of thought; the privileging of technological and scientific imperatives over human ones; and, ultimately, "the autonomization of production units under the control of private owners" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 166) (on this latter theme, see also: Braverman, 1974 and Noble, 1984). Based on Marx's discovery of the law of a commodity's value - the labour embedded in commodities and at the root of "exchange value" - with its tendency, ultimately, towards domination of the labourer by the effacement of the real value of commodities - "labour-time," or the quantity of socially abstracted human labour embedded in it (Das Kapital, chapter 1) - Lukács extends this logic to the cultural realm, showing how the "degradation of [the proletariat's greater] life and work" (Feenberg, 2002, p. 166) is a consequence of making abstract things into objective, stand alone things divorced of all their human values. For Lukács, it is in the interest of dominant social groups to protect the objectivity of things and processes and to conceal the social relations at the heart of capitalist processes and objects - in other words, to reify the capitalist system's processes and objects and hold them separate and apart from the social relations that bring them to bear and sustain them. This veiling of the real social relations inherent in commodified things and economic processes upholds hegemonic social structures and hides, in Marcuse's words, the "potentialities" (Feenberg, 2004, pp. xi-xii) and "real possibilities" at play in historically contextualized alternatives (Marcuse, 1964, p. xi). Ultimately for Lukács, it is only through the formation of a "class consciousness" that the working class can ever come to see these socially contingent alternatives to capitalist forms of domination and thus break free from the bonds of social control. (Note that Marx, Marcuse, and C. Wright Mills also have much to say about this).

The Formation of a New Workers' Consciousness from Within the Struggles of the ERT Protagonists
Might Lukács - in conjunction with Marx, Marcuse, Feenberg, Braverman, Cleaver, and others - be a good place to begin to understand the formation of a radical political consciousness amongst some of Argentina's recovered enterprises protagonists? Might it help me come to a conceptual understanding of what many workers told me in their own words: That the struggle of occupying their workspaces, the subsequent threat of repression, and the continued fight for legal recognition of their worker coops have consequently helped to ingrain a radicalized consciousness in some of them that was, for most, not their before the occupation (see also: Ruggeri et al., 2005)? In other words, how did the "events" (see Maurizio Lazzarato) of their struggles to recover their work, workspaces, and the role of their workspaces within the greater cultural milieus and community spaces that surround recovered enterprises help form workers' new politicized subjectivities? Were these subjectivities already-always there and rooted in Argentina's strong industrial base and union culture? Why is there a tendency for these new subjectivities to not transform into a vanguardist understanding of the ERT protagonists' political plight? Or were these subjectivities transformed in some new way by the imminent moments of the struggles they are engaged in, that is, from within their actual experiences of struggle? And, how were these workers inspired or motivated to take the difficult journey of resistance and control of their workspaces against such daunting political odds in the contemporary Argentinean conjuncture?

For a few inspiring reads on the transformation of consciousness in the working and marginalized classes:

Friday, September 09, 2005

Some excellent articles by and interviews of autonomist theorist Luis Mattini, from La Fogata Digital

La Fogata - Luis Mattini.

An article on Villa 21, one of Buenos Aires's "villas miserias", by Sammy Loren, links to my visit of Villa 21 on July 17 of this year

I visited Villa 21 in the southern Buenos Aires barrio of Barracas with the aap's summer immersion group on July 17 of this year. It was both sobering and inspiring. Sobering in the that many of the villeros -- some of them making up a part of the army of cartoneros that stroll Buenos Aires's streets every day looking for cardboard to recycle -- literally live next to one of the city's massive garbage dumps in humble houses of tin and adobe. Inspiring in that some of them, like Claudia Zerda, have radicalized and organized and are making a better world for themselves and their neighbours, mostly against daunting odds, infernal class divisions, and within an indifferent cultural and political system.

Sammy Loren, a filmmaker and writer currently living in Argentina, recently met up with Claudia and writes about Villa 21 and his conversation with Claudia in an Aug. 30 article in Upside Down World.

The same Claudia, together with MTD Teresa Rodriguez organizer, Franco, took us on a tour of Villa 21 on the 17th of July. Here's a snapshot I took of them both before we set off on the tour as they explained to us the history of Villa 21, the MTD (unemployed workers' movements), and their involvement in both Villa 21 and the movement:

Thursday, September 08, 2005

My entire MA thesis in pdf, from SFU's library database

Finally, here's the SFU library's version of my MA thesis, published last year. Surprisingly, the entire thing is available off of the library's website via pdf: Interactions Through the Screen: The Interactional Self as a Theory for Internet-Mediated Communication.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Thanking the organizers of the aap's 2005 summer educational program with Argentina's recovered enterprises movement

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the
argentina autonomist project (aap) for organizing a
fantastic five weeks of political and cultural
education that facilitated much solidarity building
between a group of North American university students
and activists that I was a part of and various
autonomist social justice movements in Buenos Aires
this summer.

For four of these five weeks I personally interned at
one of the most inspiring worker recovered enterprises
in Argentina, Artes Gráficas Chilavert. My experiences
at Chilavert working with the members of its
worker-run cooperative and hearing their stories of
struggle, community activism, political
transformation, and bottom-up community-building
within Argentina’s recent and complex historical
conjuncture was a moving educational experience. The
internship helped me better understand how our sad
world of capitalist competition and overly-masculinist
enclosures may be transformed into a new world that
embraces both our differences and our lines of
affinity by using methods of direct democracy,
horizontal forms of social organization, and networks
of solidarity rooted in the practices of everyday
life, the local community, and reclaimed cultural

For me, my summer in Argentina served not only as a
sensitively organized reintroduction to the difficult
socio-political realities and most recent grassroots
movements in the country of my birth. It also gave me
access to both the intellectual spaces and the
physical spaces I needed to begin what will be, I am
sure, a life-long dialogue between myself, an
Argentinean-Canadian activist and an early critical
academic, and those actually building new social and
political realities in Argentina.

Kudos to the aap for facilitating this vital cultural
and political encounter.

Marcelo Vieta
PhD Candidate in Social and Political Thought, York
University, Toronto, Canada

Quiero agradecer a los oranizadores del proyecto
argentina autonomista (aap) por organizar cinco
semanas fantásticas de aprendizaje politico y cultural
en Buenos Aires este verano. Estoy seguro que los
encuentros políticos y personales con los que
experimentamos estas cinco semanas ayudaron a
facilitar la construcción de lineas de solidaridad
entre nosotros estudiantes y activistas visitantes
americanos y canadienses y varios grupos autonomistas

Durante cuatro de estas cinco semanas yo trabaje como
voluntario en unas de las empresas recuperadas más
inspirantes de Argentina, Artes Gráficas Chilavert.
Mís experiencias en Chilavert, trabajando y
compartiendo unos hermosos momentos con los miembros
de la cooperativa de trabajadores, me permitieron
aprender de sus historias de lucha, activismo
comunitario, transformación político, y sus
construcciónes de una nueva comunidad basado en sus
vidas cotidianas, todo a pesar de la reciente y
compleja conyuntura historica del país. Estas
experiencias me ayudaron a entender mejor como nuestro
triste mundo de competencia capitalista y recintos
machistas puede ser transformado a un nuevo mundo que
incluye nuestras diferencias y, a la misma vez,
nuestras lineas de afinidades, usando métodos de
democracia directa, horizontalidad, y redes de
solidaridad basadas en las prácticas de la vida
cotidiana, la comundad local, y los espacios
culturales recuperados.

Para mi, este verano en Argentina no solo sirvió como
una re-introducción a las difíciles realidades
socio-políticas argentinas y los subsecuentes
movimientos sociales más recientes en mi país nativo.
También me dió acceso a los espacios intelectuales y
actuales necesarios para comenzar, estoy seguro, un
diálogo de largo plazo entro un activista y académico
argentino-canadiense y ell@s construyendo una nueva
realidad social y político en Argentina.

Kudos al aap por facilitar este importantísimo
encuentro de aprendizaje cultural y político.

Marcelo Vieta
Candidato de doctorado en Pensamiento Social y
Político, Universidad de York, Toronto, Canada

Friday, September 02, 2005

AAP compañeros' Argentina pictures

More photos from our time in Argentina this summer, from my Edmonton friends Karren Huggins and Garry Fry.

And even more pics, these ones from the first week of the aap summer program.

Emily Ladue's pics.

Fantastic pics from our Argentina trip from my American compañero Michael GW