marcelo on Sat, 10 Jun 2006 12:24:27 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> precarity, social movements and political communication (buenos aires)]

hi there - here is the english translation of the introductory text for
the meeting on "precarity, social movements, and political communication"
held in buenos aires some weeks ago - hope it is of your interest -




Forms of auto-organization and communication strategies in the era of

In our time, human experience finds itself under siege by multiple
threats that underline the fragility of contemporary life.
Environmental catastrophes, international terrorism practiced by
states and elites that have given themselves a license to kill, brutal
social inequalities derived from the rule of the market over citizen?s
rights, offer frequent scenes of barbarity to those who have the
heart to look on them. As well, other threats, perhaps more subtle
but no less real, join in the production of a scenario in which fear,
distrust and terror are the norm.

Our moment, then, appears to us as a scenario in which the production
of the social tie is affected by countless conditions. In recent
years, however, with the pace of civilizing change that marks the
current moment?and within the idea of irreversible crisis previously
generated by classical forms of politics that formed the backdrop
of the 20th century?we have seen a group of dissimilar experiences
emerge (as much in Argentina as in the world at large) that have lead
to the reinvention of forms of experiencing the common good and the
collective where were the market and contemporary fears invite only
the development of individualistic trajectories. This project proposes
to develop a field of interrogation common to these experiences that
have shown us these singular trajectories that share a common horizon:
that which here we call flights from precarity.

The notion of precarity has been revealed to be particularly operative
in describing modes of contemporary existence. In a limited sense,
this notion is useful for designating the recent changes in a
constitutive area of the human: labor. The course of neoliberalism
across the globe, together with the crisis in welfare politics that
constituted the fundamental framework of nation states after the war,
produced a group of radical modifications in the map of productive
activities. As used by certain theorists and social activists in
Spain and other countries in Europe, precarity serves to map, to
de-nature and to politicize the modes in which labor markets in the
era of post-Fordist fluidity try to fix new parameters of control
for productive praxis. The precariat, the contemporary garb worn by
the old proletariat, would permit us, although only potentially, to
illuminate the conditions of labor not only of factory workers, but
also of all those who live off their labor. ?Precarity? then is as
much a descriptive, sociological notion that helps realize today?s
forms of labor, as it is a political one, capable of creating ways of
thinking held in common and of creating methods of cooperation for a
set of very diverse situations.

If phenomenon of this type began to occur in Europe, in a context of
relative abundance ?a context, however, that is increasingly being
eroded? labor precarity is demonstrated in a much more forceful
manner in Latin America, as has been recently exhibited in Argentina.
Speaking here (in Argentina) of precarious work is to speak of, to
start with, half of the workers here: those who work in ?the black.?
To continue, we must note the multitudes of workers who, despite
being not salaried, produce a type of wealth that makes possible
the survival of hundreds of thousands of people. It is necessary to
add, then, those who work under those so-called ?trash contracts,?
contracts of temporary labor, without the recognition of the most
basic labor rights: no bonuses, no vacations, no sick leave. Moreover,
to this situation we would add the variety of scholarship recipients,
workers ad-honorem, volunteers, intermittent artists, etc., a vast
group of situations that implicates large swaths of young people and
of the middle classes. In sum, precarity is a blemish that extends
from excluded sectors to persons living on the edge of penury; it is
also the ground from which new forms of aggregation and cooperation
among segments of workers (i.e., public transit employees, call center
workers, the self-proclaimed ?young precarious scientists,? amongst
others) have emerged.

But here we don?t want to limit ourselves to a narrow use of the
notion of precarity. Parallel to its ability to make visible the
morphology of contemporary forms of work, this category permits us
to focus on other dimensions as well, including precarity derived
from the lack of rights in the area of communication subjugated by
the mass-media empire; the precarity of citizenship in front of the
existence of mechanisms for the coercion of civil liberties that are
trying to kill the use of public space (from railings in parks that
impede free movement to the criminalization of the right to protest);
and psycho-affective precarity derived from contemporary forms of
alienation (stress, fear, etc.).

Taken together, then, the precarization of existence is reflected in
the permanent instability of the most essential aspects of living
that alter, in a profound manner, the very notion of a project of
life, above all for young people. Those who today are parents and
grandparents were able to plan their lives not without difficulties
or essential limitations, but in a relatively stable scenario and set
of conditions. For the new generation, their work is not just that of
determining what they will do in life but also that of reinventing
the very notion of a project of life itself. How do they imagine the
future when instability is the starting point? How can they construct
personal and collective trajectories in which they are no longer
subject to the chance and dispersion of the market? Re-inventing the
notion of living is a job that is directly connected with the work of
reinventing spaces for collective organization that allow would us to
realize these projects of life.


The experiences that have attempted to produce flights from precarity
have to cope with the modes of existence found in contemporary
societies. To be effective, they can?t organize themselves without
acknowledging the changes that have transformed the world in the last
few decades. One of the areas that has recently exhibited radical
levels of change is that of communication.

Communication, taken broadly, has always been constitutive of human
experience. But in recent decades, a series of modifications have
tended to join more closely the communicative sphere to all social
practices, from production to politics. Communication, in the
contemporary moment, appears to touch every area of human existence.

The traditions of the Left during the 20th century, in general terms,
tended to be reluctant to think specifically about communication.
Normally, the moment of expressing oneself served as the only valid
and rather inflexible model for every situation and little attention
was paid to different enunciative textures and diverse subjects or
to the general climates and contexts in which all communicative
experience develops. Moreover, this model tended to be, as well,
repetitive and monotonous in its modes of communicating and frequently
demonstrated its predilection for speaking as opposed to listening.

This situation, insofar as the classical paradigms that structured
the modes of political organization have entered into crisis in
the last decades, has been modified over the last few years. To
cite one important case, zapatismo, in its modes of communication,
has innovated in at least two ways. On the one hand, it understood
when to speak and when to remain silent (those famous ?zapatista
silences?); from this the zapatista experience could be defined as
?a revolution that understands how to listen.? On the other, in
their public announcements, the Zapatistas utilized a wide range
of varying forms of discourse, paying attention to the nature of
their interlocutors. From another angle, we could mention as well
the experiences in Argentina and in other parts of the world that
have experimented with new languages and technics for communication,
from the use of new technologies to the development of a battery of
expressive and artistic resources.

If communication then is a decisive area but one not sufficiently
recognized as such by social movements, the experiences that flee from
precarity should make space and time for themselves to think about
communication. Political communication has at least two dimensions
with direct consequences for auto-organization. On the one hand, the
images and stories that circulate in the ?jungle of symbols? can
have an empowering effect and strengthen a collective of persons, as
well as destroy such as collective. Identity, the ?us? capable of
traversing subjectively (or not) a group of persons and sustaining
this group in a prolonged collective action, depends, in good measure,
on communicational effects, as much in creating an internal dialogue
and the (auto)construction of a communal meaning from inside each
experience as in the ?reception? and interiorization of ?external
noise.? On the other, the modes of existence, the revindications, the
political successes of a political-social experience depend on how we
think our interventions into the public space that constitutes our
societies, which, for good or bad, are saturated by communication.

Communication present us with an area that, like other spheres of the
social in contemporary society, appears marked by radical ambivalence:
it is possible as much to appear as an obstacle as to be a decisive
moment in the creation and recreation of social linkages in a given
political community (neighborhood, local, national, or global). From
here this ambivalence exhorts us to create practices and manners of
thinking that are flexible, open, and creative, if we really mean to
try to win the political battles of our time.

The encounter, ?Precarity, Social Movements and Political
Communication,? proposes to generate a space for the collective
elaboration of experiences of auto-organization that can imagine lines
of flight out of precarity and that can cope with the challenges of a
hyper-communicative world. It?s a gathering that functions as a type
of ?laboratory of experiences? for the uses of diverse communication
strategies. How does the ?external noise? affect the capacity for
auto-organization of the experiences that resist precarization? How
to cope with the global communication system that creates hegemonic
images of organized subjects (a paradigmatic case: the piqueteros)?
In what way can media be used creatively to promote practices of
struggle? What concrete communication strategies contribute to the
empowerment and auto-affirmation of those collectives that are fleeing
from precarity? What practices of communication and what forms of the
circulation of language create the everyday experience of the social
movements? What uses do new technologies have in this process? What
uses do experimental, artistic, etc. languages have? These and other
issues will be debated, beginning from concrete experiences thought as
singular cases, with the common goal of creating a space for exchange
that can be productive for the group as a whole.

Martín Bergel, Julia Risler (Translation: Brian Whitener)

Participants: Amxr Mediactivismo, El Fantasma de Heredia, Marcelo
Expósito, FM La Tribu, Área de Cultura del Frente Popular Darío Santillán,
Grupo Alavío, Grupo de Arte Callejero (GAC), Espacio de Mujeres del Frente
Popular Darío Santillán, Sebastián Hacher, Franco Ingrassia, Jóvenes
Científicos Precarizados, Ana Longoni, Julia Masvernat, Jorge Muracciole,
Precarias a la Deriva, Prensa de Frente, Trabajadores de Atento, Unión de
Trabajadores Costureros

Coordinators: Martín Bergel ( and Julia Risler

Buenos Aires, 9-11 May 2006

Further info, abstracts, and related links and contacts:

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