Mental Prototypes

For quite a while now, a certain portmanteau word has been circulating in the Universidad Nómada’s discussions, in an attempt to sum up what we believe should be one of the results of the critical work carried out by the social movements and other post-socialist political actors. We talk about creating new mental prototypes for political action. This is due to the importance, in our eyes, of the elusive and so often unsuccessful link between cognitive diagrams and processes of political subjectivation. That is, the link between the knowledge that allows powers and potentials to be tested on one hand and, on the other, the semiotic, perceptual and emotional mutations that lead to the politicisation of our lives, become personified in our bodies, and shape the finite existential territories that are channelled into or become available for political antagonism. We believe there is a need to create new mental prototypes because contemporary political representations, as well as many of the institutions created by the emancipatory traditions of the 20th century, should be subjected to a serious review – at the very least – given that, in many cases, they have become part of the problem rather than the solution.

In this respect, the anniversary of the 1968 world revolution – an unavoidable reference given the month in which we are writing this text – shouldn’t be used as an excuse to wallow in amorphous nostalgia for the passing of the “age of revolutions”. Just the opposite – it should be used to demonstrate the extent to which some of the unsuitable signs of that world revolution are still present in a latent state, or, to be more precise, in a state of “frustrated virtuality”. “68” interests us because, even though it didn’t come out of the blue, it was an unforeseeable world event – a historical fork in the road that left a trail of new political creations in a great many different parts of the world. Ultimately, it motivates us because its unresolved connections and even its caricatures allow us to consider the problem of the politicisation (and metamorphosis) of life as a monstrous intrusion of the unsuitable into history (the history of capitalist modernity and postmodernity).

Over the last forty years, this latency has been subject to a series of quite significant emergences. The latest and perhaps most important, the one that is generationally closest to us, is the one in which the “movement of movements”, or the global movement, played a central role. But in spite of its extraordinary power, it hasn’t always been fruitful enough in terms of generating the “mental prototypes” that we believe are so necessary. At least, it’s not clear that it has been able to produce prototypes that are sophisticated, robust and complex enough to generate innovative and sustained patterns of political subjectivation and organisation that make it possible to at least attempt a profound transformation of command structures, daily life, and the new modes of production. The articles included in the monograph we are introducing here emerge from these issues – which, in the present context, we can only summarise and reduce to a few fundamental aspects. We’ve decided to avoid a merely speculative approach, and to remain as far as possible from declarations of how the political forms of the movements “should-be”; rather, we try to present a series of experimentations – not to exemplify, but more in the manner of case studies, as experiences that are being tested in practice – that are currently trying to overcome the predicaments and shortfalls that we’ve just mentioned.

The Universidad Nómada believes there is an urgent need to identify the differentiating features and the differentials of political and institutional innovation that exist in specific experimentations. We’ve chosen to place the emphasis on two aspects that implicitly constitute the two transversal themes for this diverse compilation of texts, namely: (a) we give preference to metropolitan forms of political intervention, specifically looking at one of their most frequently recurring figures – social centres; by this, we don’t mean to lay claim to social centres as fossilised forms or political artefacts with an essentialised identity, but to try and explore the extent to which the “social centre form” today points the way to processes of opening up and renewal, producing, for example, innovative mechanisms for the enunciation of (and intervention in) the galaxy of the precariat; and at the same time, and partially intertwining with the above, (b) the constitution of self-education networks that are developing in – and perhaps result from? – the crisis of Europe’s public university system. Ultimately, “Europe”, not as a naturalised space for political intervention, but as a constituent process; the production of these mental prototypes and mechanisms of enunciation and intervention as an instituent process.

Education, self-education and research in monster institutions

Ultimately, the medley of experiences that this dossier deals with reveals unequivocal traces of the monster institutions that are necessary today in order to bring about the inevitability of new manifestations of the “frustrated virtualities” resulting from the long and unfinished sequence that followed the existential revolution of 1968: this takes us back to the beginning and closes a circular argument that considers present emergences by making the most of the virtualities of the immediate revolutionary past. Needless to say, the case studies shown here aren’t exhaustive and don’t inflate these virtualities. In agreement with the challenges set out in the articles (greater innovation, increased cooperation, more contagion at the European level and beyond), the Universidad Nómada is interested in tackling the possibility of constructing these new mental prototypes linked to the desired monstrosity, to the need to think and do another, different kind of politics based on education, self-education and research. We believe there are four basic circuits to be implemented, as follows:

(a)           A circuit of educational projects, to be developed in order to allow the circulation of theoretical paradigms and intellectual tools suitable for producing these cognitive maps that can be used to (1) intervene in the public sphere by creating swarming points of reference and producing counter-hegemonic discourses; and, in addition, to (2) analyse existing power structures and dynamics, as well as potentials;

(b)           A circuit of co-research projects, to be organised for the systematic study of social, economic, political and cultural life for the purpose of producing dynamic maps of social structures and dynamics that can be useful for guiding antagonist practices, redefining existing conflicts and struggles, and producing new forms of expression endowed with a new principle of social and epistemological intelligibility;

(c)           A publishing and media circuit, to be designed with the aim of influencing the public sphere, areas of intellectual production and university teaching, for the purpose of creating intellectual-analytic laboratories and, consequently, new segments of reference and criticism of hegemonic forms of knowledge and ways of conceptualising the social situation;

(d)           A circuit of foundations, institutes and research centres, to be devised as an autonomous infrastructure for the production of knowledge, which would constitute an embryonic stage for forms of political organisation by means of the accumulation of analysis and specific proposals. Its activities should link the analysis of regional and European conditions with the global structural dynamics of the accumulation of capital and of the recreation of the global geostrategic options that are favourable to the social movements.

In some cases, the devices that make these tasks possible are already operating, and their manifestations can be found or intuited here and there, peppering the texts in the monograph we are extending with this short introduction. To finish off: we are talking about devices that are necessarily hybrid and monstrous:

hybrid, because right from the start they make it necessary to create networks out of resources and initiatives that are very different and contradictory in nature, that appear strange and even seemingly incongruent among themselves; these resources and initiatives mix together public and private resources, institutional relations with relations of movement, non-institutional and informal models for action with forms of representation that may be formal and representative, and struggles and forms of social existence that some would accuse of being non-political or contaminated or useless or absurd but take on a strategic aspect because they directly give a political and subjectivity-producing dimension to processes of allocation of resources and logistical elements that end up being crucial for bursting onto nationalised and/or privatised public spheres and transforming them;

monstrous, because they initially appear to be pre-political or simply non-political in form, but their acceleration and accumulation as described above must generate a density and a series of possibilities for intellectual creativity and collective political action that will contribute to inventing another politics;

another politics, that is, another way of translating the power of productive subjects into new forms of political behaviour and, ultimately, into original paradigms for the organisation of social life, for the dynamic structuring of the potential of that which is public and communal.