Categories
#9: What do we have in common?

Artem Magun /// Res omnium – Res nullus / Common thing – Nobody’s thing

What do we have in common? What does the common mean? How can we invoke this common, realizing it and by doing so, maintaining its existence? Contemporary global capitalism realizes total communization, the exchange of people and things, but this communization takes the form of a rupture of all social connections. In departing from its initial revolutionary impulses, Soviet “communism” created an alienated, unjust system as a consequence. By the 1970s, this system brought on the atomization of society and the victory of an ideology of individualism and consumerism, comparable to the situation in bourgeois societies. But the Soviet experience also had another side: the “common” or the “collective” really was not appropriated fully; in the bureaucratic system of collective irresponsibility, it often turned out to be unneeded, belonging to no-one.

What do we have in common? What does the common mean? How can we invoke this common, realizing it and by doing so, maintaining its existence? Contemporary global capitalism realizes total communization, the exchange of people and things, but this communization takes the form of a rupture of all social connections. In departing from its initial revolutionary impulses, Soviet “communism” created an alienated, unjust system as a consequence. By the 1970s, this system brought on the atomization of society and the victory of an ideology of individualism and consumerism, comparable to the situation in bourgeois societies. But the Soviet experience also had another side: the “common” or the “collective” really was not appropriated fully; in the bureaucratic system of collective irresponsibility, it often turned out to be unneeded, belonging to no-one

The Soviet landscape – a landscape that continues to entrance artists, directors, and writers to this day – is a landscape of abandoned construction sites, empty lots, or the open street-doors of Petersburg, where one could easily urinate or drink a little bottle of vodka…In many senses, the common remained vacant and free… In spite of itself, through a “trick of history”, the Soviet regime achieved a free common where it was not looking for it…Of course, all of this was uncomfortable and ineffective, and the new bourgeois prophets of the Perestroika began by pointing at this scandalous trait of Soviet “communism”, suggesting to privatize it in order to tie humanity more closely to the material “base” of its surroundings. But for now, none of this has worked: the new private owners have little respect for the world of things, which is why they have subjected this world to predatory exploitation (based on the same disrespect), while disrespect for the public sphere is so much of a part of our very existences that we still hardly worry about the environment in our everyday lives; we never fix up our hallways and are rarely capable of uniting for any action in protest.

The common, however, belongs to no-one. In their total worldliness, empty lots play the role of sacral spaces, segregated “zones”. The sacrality of the profane – let’s call this the formula of democracy…The real common, the common aside from exchange, the common without the universal, lies beneath our feet at the exact place where it is nobody’s. The question is actually, on the one hand, how to preclude the usurping of this common (through bureaucracy or capitalism), and on the other hand, how to preserve the relationship to it: after all, people, once they are deeply involved in their private lives, hardly notice the common void that chases all of these particular little worlds. In order to answer this question, one needs to act in common. This action will not only realize the communal-mimetic energy that we have accumulated, but will be the first step taken toward a free common, owned by none.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *