of us is a machine of the real, everyone of us is a
machines obviously work only if they are not out of
order. Desiring machines on the contrary continually
break down as they run, and in fact run only when they
are not functioning properly. Art often takes advantage
of this property by creating veritable group fantasies
in which desiring production is used to short-circuit
social production, and to interfere with the reproductive
function of technical machines by introducing an element
Deluze, Felix Guattari, L'anti-Oedipe
is knowledge sharing? How does the knowledge economy
function? Where is the general intellect at work? Take
the cigarettes machine. The machine you see is the embodying
of a scientific knowledge into hardware and software
components, generations of engineering stratified for
commercial use: it automtically manages fluxes of money
and commodities, substitutes a human with a user-friendly
interface, defends private property, functions on the
basis of a minimal control and restocking routine. Where
has the tobacconist gone? Sometimes he enjoys free time.
Other times the company that owns the chain of distribution
has replaced him. In his place one often meets the technician.
Far from emulating Marx's Fragment on machines
with a Fragment on cigarette machines, this unhealthy
example is meant to show how postfordist theories live
around us and that material or abstract machines built
by collective intelligence are organically chained to
the fluxes of the economy and of our needs.
than of general intellect we should talk of general
intellects. There are multiple forms of collective
intelligence. Some can become totalitarian systems,
such as the military-managerial ideology of the neocons
or of Microsoft empire. Others can be embodied in social
democratic bureaucracies, in the apparatus of police
control, in the maths of stock market speculators, in
the architecture of our cities (every day we walk on
concretions of collective intelligence). In the dystopias
of 2001 Space Odyssey and The Matrix,
the brain of machines evolves into self-consciousness
to the point of getting rid of the human. 'Good' collective
intelligences, on the other hand, produce international
networks of cooperation such as the network of the global
movement, of precarious workers, of free software developers,
of media activism. They also produce the sharing of
knowledge in universities, the Creative Commons open
licenses and participative urban planning, narrations
and imaginaries of liberation.
a geopolitical perspective we could figure ourselves
in one of Philip Dick's sci-fi paranoia: Earth is dominated
by one Intelligence, but inside of it a war unfolds
between two Organisations of the general intellect,
opposed yet intertwined.
Used to the traditional
representative forms of the global movement we
fail to grasp the new productive conflicts. Concerned
as we are about the imperial war, we do not appreciate
the centrality of this struggle. Following Manuel Castells,
we define the movement as a resistance identity that
fails to become a project identity. We
are not aware of the distance between the global movement
and the centre of capitalist production. Paraphrasing
Paolo Virno, we say that there already is too much politics
in new forms of production for the politics of the movement
to still enjoy any autonomous dignity.
events of 1977 (not only in Italy but also in the punk
season) sanctioned the end of the 'revolutionary'
paradigm and the beginning of that of movement, opening
new spaces of conflict in the fields of communication,
media and the production of the imagery. These days we
are discovering that the 'movement' as a format needs to
be overcome, in favour of that of network.
kinds of action, well separated in the XIXth century
- labour, politics and art - are now integrated into
one attitude and central to each productive process.
In order to work, do politics or produce imaginary today
one needs hybrid competences. This means that we all
are workers-artists-activists, but it also means that
the figures of the militant and the artist are surpassed
and that such competences are only formed in a common
space that is the sphere of the collective intellect.
Marx's Grundrisse, the general intellect is the
patriarch of a family of concepts that are more numerous
and cover a wide range of issues: knowledge-based economy,
information society, cognitive capitalism, immaterial
labour, collective intelligence, creative class, cognitariat,
knowledge sharing and postfordism. In the last few years
the political lexicon has got rich of interlaced critical
tools that we turn over in our hands wondering about
their exact usefulness. For the sake of simplicity,
we only accounted for the terms that inherited an Enlightenment,
speculative, angelic and almost neognostic approach.
But reality is much more complex and we wait for new
forms to claim for themselves the role that within the
same field is due to desire, body, aesthetics, biopolitics.
We also remember the quarrel of cognitive vs.
precarious workers, two faces of the same medal
that the precogs of Chainworkers.org describe
in this way: "cognitive workers are networkers,
precarious workers are networked, the former are brainworkers,
the latter chainworkers: the former first seduced and
then abandoned by companies and financial markets, the
latter dragged into and made flexible by the fluxes
of global capital".
point is that we are searching for a new collective
agent and a new point of application for the rusted
revolutionary lever. The success of the concept of multitude
also reflects the current disorientation. Critical thought
continuously seeks to forge the collective actor that
can embody the Zeitgeist and we can go back to
history reconstructing the underlying forms of each
paradigm of political action: the more or less collective
social agent, the more or less vertical organisation,
the more or less utopian goal. Proletariat and multitude,
party and movement, revolution and self-organisation.
the current imaginary the general intellect (or whatever
you want to call it) seems to be the collective agent,
its form being the network, its goal creating a plane
of self-organisation, its field of action being biopolitical
spectacular cognitive capitalism.
are not talking about multitude here, because it is
a concept at once too noble and inflated, heir of centuries
of philosophy and too often called for by marching megaphones.
The concept of multitude has been more useful to exorcise
the identitary pretences of the global movement, than
as a constructive tool. The pars construens will
be a task for the general intellect: philosophers such
as Paolo Virno, when they have to find a common ground,
the lost collective agent, reconstruct the Collective
Intelligence and Cooperation as emerging and constitutive
properties of the multitude.
a different paranoid fable, we imagine that technology
is the last heir of a series of collective agents generated
by history as in a matryoshka doll: religion - theology
- philosophy - ideology - science - technology. This
is to say that in information and intelligence technologies
the history of thought is stratified, even though we
only remember the last episode of this series, i.e.
the network that embodies the dreams of the previous
did we come to all this? We are at the point of convergence
between different historical planes: the inheritance
of historical vanguards in the synthesis of aesthetics
and politics; the struggles of '68 and '77 that open
up new spaces for conflict outside of the factories
and inside the imaginary and communication; the hypertrophy
of the society of the spectacle and the economy of the
logo; the transformation of fordist wage labour into
postfordist autonomous precarious labour; the information
revolution and the emergence of the internet, the net
economy and the network society; utopia turned into
technology. The highest exercise of representation
that becomes molecular production.
perceive the current moment as a lively world network,
some as an indistinct cloud, some as a new form of exploitation,
some as an opportunity. Today the density reaches its
critical mass and forms a global radical class on the
intersection of the planes of activism, communication,
arts, network technologies and independent research.
What does it mean, to be productive and projectual,
to abandon mere representation of conflict and
the representative forms of politics?
is a hegemonic metaphor in political debate, in the
arts world, in philosophy, in media criticism, in network
culture: that is Free Software. We hear it quoted at
the end of each intervention that poses the problem
of what is to be done (but also in articles of strategic
marketing.), whilst the twin metaphor of open source
contaminates every discipline: open source architecture,
open source literature, open source democracy, open
are immaterial machines. The metaphor of Free Software
is so simple for its immateriality that it often fails
to clash with the real world. Even if we know that it
is a good and right thing, we ask polemically: what
will change when all the computers in the world will
run free software? The most interesting aspect of the
free software model is the immense cooperative network
that was created by programmers on a global scale, but
which other concrete examples can we refer to in proposing
new forms of action in the real world and not only in
the digital realm?
the '70s Deleuze and Guattari had the intuition of the
machinic, an introjection / imitation of the industrial
form of production. Finally a hydraulic materialism
was talking about desiring, revolutionary, celibate,
war machines rather than representative or ideological
and Guattari took the machine out of the factory, now
it is up to us to take it out of the network and imagine
a post-internet generation.
labour produces machines of all kinds, not only software:
electronic machines, narrative machines, advertising
machines, mediatic machines, acting machines, psychic
machines, social machines, libidinous machines. In the
XIXth century the definition of machine referred to
a device transforming energy. In the XXth century Turing's
machine - the foundation of all computing - starts interpreting
information in the form of sequences of 0 and 1. For
Deleuze and Guattari on the other hand a desiring machine
produces, cuts and composes fluxes and without rest
it produces the real.
Today we intend
by machine the elementary form of the general intellect,
each node of the network of collective intelligence,
each material or immaterial dispositif that organically
interlinks the fluxes of the economy and our desires.
At a higher level,
the network can itself be regarded as a mega-machine
of assemblage of other machines, and even the multitude
becomes machinic, as Negri and Hardt write in Empire:
"The multitude not only uses machines to produce,
but also becomes increasingly machinic itself, as the
means of production are increasingly integrated into
the minds and bodies of the multitude. In this context
reappropriation means having free access to and control
over knowledge, information, communication, and affects
because these are some of the primary means of biopolitical
production. Just because these productive machines have
been integrated into the multitude does not mean that
the multitude has control over them. Rather, it makes
more vicious and injurious their alienation. The right
to reappropriation is really the multitude’s right to
self-control and autonomous self-production".
In other words in
postfordism the factory has come out of the factory
and the whole of society has become a factory. An already
machinic multitude suggests that the actual subversion
of the productive system into an autonomous plane could
be possible in a flash, by disconnecting the multitude
from capital command. But the operation is not that
easy in the traditional terms of 'reappropriation of
the means of production'. Why?
Whilst it is true
that today the main means of labour is the brain and
that workers can immediately reappropriate the means
of production, it is also true that control and exploitation
in society have become immaterial, cognitive, networked.
Not only the general intellect of the multitudes has
grown, but also the general intellect of the empire.
The workers, armed with their computers, can reappropriate
the means of production, but as soon as the stick their
nose out of their desktop they have to face a Godzilla
that they had not predicted, the Godzilla of the enemy's
Social, state and
economic meta-machines – to which human beings are connected
like appendixes - are dominated by conscious and subconscious
automatisms. Meta-machines are ruled by a particular
kind of cognitive labour which is the administrative
political managerial labour, that runs projects, organizes,
controls on a vast scale: a form of general intellect
that we have never considered, whose prince is a figure
that appears on the scene in the second half of the
XXth century: the manager.
As Bifo tells us
recalling Orwell, in our post-democratic world (or if
you prefer in empire) managers have seized command:
"Capitalism is disappearing, but Socialism is not
replacing it. What is now arising is a new kind of planned,
centralised society which will be neither capitalist
nor, in any accepted sense of the word, democratic.
The rulers of this new society will be the people who
effectively control the means of production: that is,
business executives, technicians, bureaucrats and soldiers,
lumped together by Burnham, under the name of managers.
These people will eliminate the old capitalist class,
crush the working class, and so organise society that
all power and economic privilege remain in their own
hands. Private property rights will be abolished, but
common ownership will not be established. The new managerial
societies will not consist of a patchwork of small,
independent states, but of great super-states grouped
round the main industrial centres in Europe, Asia, and
America. Internally, each society will be hierarchical,
with an aristocracy of talent at the top and a mass
of semi-slaves at the bottom".
At the beginning
we mentioned two intelligences that face one another
in the world and the forms in which they manifest themselves.
The multitude functions as a machine because it is inside
a scheme, a social software, thought for the
exploitation of its energies and its ideas. Then, the
techno-managers (public private or military) are those
who, whether consciously or not, plan and control machines
made up of human beings assembled with one another.
The dream of General intellect brings forth monsters.
Compared with the
pervasive neoliberal techno-management, the intelligence
of the global movement is of little importance. What's
to be done? We need to invent virtuous revolutionary
radical machines to place them in the nodal points of
the network, as well as facing the general intellect
that administers the imperial meta-machines. Before
starting this we need to be aware of the density of
the 'intelligence' that is condensed in each commodity,
organization, message and media, in each machine of
Don't hate the
machine, be the machine.
How can we turn the sharing of knowledge, tools and
spaces into new radical revolutionary productive machines,
beyond the inflated Free Software? This is the challenge
that once upon the time was called reappropriation of
the means of production.
Will the global radical
class manage to invent social machines that can challenge
capital and function as planes of autonomy and autopoiesis?
Radical machines that are able to face the techno-managerial
intelligence and imperial meta-machines lined up all
around us? The match multitude vs. empire becomes
the match radical machines vs. imperial techno-monsters.
How do we start building these machines?
by Arianna Bove