Kevin & Stevie of Team Colors Organize Panel on Autonomist Marxism in the US at AAG

Call for papers

Work, Crisis, Apocalypse?!: The Power and Promise of Autonomist Marxism in the US

2015 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Chicago, Illinois

Session conveners:

  • Stevie Larson, Department of Geography, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • Kevin Van Meter, Department of Geography, Environment & Society, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Session description:

The 2008 economic crisis coupled with decades of vicious capital restructuring and state revanchism has generated an explosion of discourses around inequality in the US, as vividly seen in Occupy of 2011 and the 2014 wave of minimum wage struggles and fast food worker strikes. Observers might suggest that the accumulated losses and setbacks for the poor and working-class point to a slow-burning catastrophe, one that severely weakened unions and nonprofit organizations will find difficult to address. However, there exists another tradition – a collective conversation of theorists and movements called “Autonomist Marxism” – that sees in the current crisis not the seeds of apocalypse, but the demand to carefully parse the composition of the working-class vis-à-vis state and capital forces. This approach attends to the everyday revolts and self-organization of the working-class in the midst of crisis, and particularly how this activity strives to change the terrain of class war beyond the limits of traditional Left and official working-class institutions.

The Autonomist Marxist tradition in the US has not been well documented beyond Harry Cleaver’s “Introduction” to Reading Capital Politically, often because the major figures associated with Autonomist Marxism are seen as stand-alone theorists, particularly Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt. The work of less recognized Autonomist Marxists – such as Cleaver, historians Peter Linebaugh, Marcus Rediker, and E.P. Thompson, feminist scholar Silvia Federici, philosopher George Caffentzis, and Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James – deserves greater attention. A similar lacuna has emerged as Autonomist Marxism encounters the field of geography, with issues of Antipode and ACME being produced on these themes in the past few years. While this work served as a necessary introduction of these concepts to an American geography audience, these two special releases generally do not address the American Autonomist Marxist current. For this panel, we seek presenters that demonstrate the many uses of the Autonomist Marxism tradition within the North American context and/or draw on the North American Autonomist Marxist current. We hope that the panel will generate a more robust set of encounters between geography, critical theory, Autonomist Marxism, and radical social movements in addressing the most pressing issues of the working class today.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Independent workers’ movements and Autonomist Marxism
  • Capitalist crisis from an Autonomist Marxist perspective
  • Historical and contemporary dynamics of unwaged work for capitalism
  • The commons and history from below
  • Expanding notions and theorizations of what constitutes the working class
  • Class composition and cycles of struggle
  • Working class self-activity
  • Marxist conceptualizations of the refusal of work
  • Constituent power and organizing of the multitudes
  • Cognitive, affective, and immaterial work
  • Inquiry and militant/co-research in North America

Abstracts of no more than 250 words along with 100-word biographies should be sent to slarson [at] email.unc.edu and vanme016 [at] umn.edu no later than October 31, 2014.