#2: Autonomy Zones
Editorial // Autonomy as a Space for Action
Is free action possible? What are its boundaries? Such questions, which address the issue of autonomy, are fundamental to human existence. Yet the idea of autonomy as such only arises when an individual or a group finds itself in conflict with its surroundings. In this conflict, the self's position needs to be reinformed; a means of action must be chosen. In this sense, the starting point for a discourse on the autonomy of action does not only ask the question of freedom but also addresses the issue of responsibility.
On the history of Worker's Autonomy
The following text is based on Jack Fuller, Worker's Autonomy (Autonomia Operaia), in: International Socialism 8 (Spring 1980). See Articles in Depth for the complete version.
Artem Magun/Dmitry Vilensky // Toward the 100th anniversary of Theodor Adorno
Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno was born in 1903. He attended the University of Frankfurt where he studied philosophy, sociology, psychology, and music. In 1931Adorno joined the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. Escaping from Nazism, the Institute moved to Zurich in 1934, and Adorno in 1938, rejoined the Institute, which was now located in New York. In 1953, at the age of 50, Adorno left the United States and returned to Frankfurt to take up a position with the Institute In 1959 he became its director following the retirement of Max Horkheimer. In 1969 students occupy the building of the Institute and Adorno calls police to clean the office. After that incident, students, in an aggressive form, of happening, boycotted his lectures. Adorno died in 1969 in Switzerland, after being shocked by the aforementioned events, and while writing what many believe to be his most important work, Aesthetic Theory
Anatoly Osmolovsky // Comments on Theodor Adorno's "Aesthetic Theory"
Art occupies the space that it inhabits because of its lack of function. In art, everything functional (or social) has been volted into chaos; means and ends, superiors and inferiors, owners and staff have been switched. The liberation from functionality is art's last political task, a task that is refuted by society, political movements, as well as some segments of art itself. By taking its place - as the result of unspeakable efforts - art makes society aware of its own disorganization. In the sociology of art, this place is known as autonomy. The autonomy of art does not mean that art will always be cut off from society's current problems. In one way or the other, these problems will become the object of artistic reflection, although the result of this reflection has nothing at all in common with ordinary empirical examinations or therapeutic perscriptions. Instead, these problems are understood as signs for universal issues, whose current content is of no importance to art.
Artemy Magun // Theses on autonomy
In our last issue (What is to be done?) we have already raised the question of autonomy. Indeed, a politico-artistic act, especially today, is not somply a demand of freedom but simultaneously a statement of our autonomy. In this sense, one can speak of secession as of the politico-artistic strategy. Such strategy includes three main moments: secession (public declaration of autonomy), confrontation, and (utopian) foundation.
Alexei Penzin // Some Thoughts on Autonomy - Here and Now
1. An Historical-Ideological Critique
1.1.Characteristically, the word "autonomy" has been present actively on the left ideological field since the 1970s. Autonomism as a recognition of the workers' sovereign revolutionary force, which does not require help from a bureaucratic party. Autonomy as a tactic of detecting and arranging free spaces - internet, alternative media, squatting and so on. Since then, on different levels and various platforms, the discussion has focused on a topic that some groups of Trotzkyites then called "entrisme" (from French "entrer"- "to enter"), an oppositional strategy, which academic intellectuals like to call "subversion". Entrisme describes the logic of secretly penetrating the system, making critical use of its local deficiancies and weaknesses, which need only be expanded and widened.
Oxana Timofeeva // Revolution as an art project
Everyday life provides us with a mass of attractive constructs of itself, a kind of defensive army that blocks our access to the space where the quotidian would really be - or is - unbearable. On the level of routine, habitual security, even if we position ourrselves "on the left" - capitalism continues to function as a theoretical crutch, an abstraction that allows us to explain and rationalize reality, which is absurd in and of itself. On the level of political opposition, reality is ritualized, transformed in theatrical gestures of repeating self-representation.Its apogee is a peaceful demonstration, an essentially sacral space, whose limited and strictly reglemented time allows the individual to express him-herself. Here, he-she can say what exactly he-she considers to be shit. Yet from the very beginning, this "what exactly" is kept from ever reaching its referent by the police-force that accompanies the demonstration, surrounding it from all four sides.
Cornelius Castoriadis // In what sense can an individual be autonomous?
Cornelius Castoriadis, was a philosopher, political thinker, social critic, practicing psychoanalyst, renowned Sovietologist, and economist who cofounded the now legendary revolutionary journal and group Socialisme ou Barbarie (1948-1967). Socialisme ou Barbarie developed a radical critique of Communism based upon the idea of workers' management and exerted a great influence upon the student-worker rebellion in Paris in May 1968. Until his recent death, Castoriadis continued to write on politics, society, psychoanalysis, philosophy, and the imagination from his distinctive perspective that was inspired by the "project of autonomy".
David Riff // Discipline and Autonomy
All too often, the assertion of artistic autonomy of art seems like no more than a peaceful demonstration, controlled and held in place by a "living wall" of water-canons and billy clubs. Even if art, in its autonomy, claims the right to make a difference in all of society, it is kept back and fixed in place by the authorities by which it is surrounded. But what of the peaceful demonstration's potential for violence? Or, to put it differently, can we expect art to break the conventions of contemporary society, finally regaining some of the relevance that it has lost?
Nikolay Oleinikov // Possible Zones of Representation Now
So you say that the possibilities of representation of art are totally exhausted, that they have become as tight and narrow as a white box "I don't know, I mean, I'm not sure"
Dmitry Vilensky // Toward the legitimacy of indepedent action
1. When people living in some region of the world declare that their group has the right to live autonomously, they are saying that they ought to be allowed to govern themselves. In making this claim, they are, in essence, rejecting the political and legal authority of those not in their group. They are insisting that whatever power these outsiders may have over them, this power is illegitimate; they, and they alone, have the authority to determine and enforce the rules and policies that govern their lives.