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Re: [xmca] Project
It's unfortunate that I can only focus on one thread within this tapestry
of discussion about projects, but that's how it is :)
"The projects I have in mind here might be a social movement, such
as the women?s health movement, or a campaign against asbestos
production, or it might be a capitalist firm promoting a new product
under its own brand name, or a fashion or youth trend, a government
program to mobilise for war, or a branch of science. But in every
case, it is an evolving and expanding social practice which arises
as a protest against and remedy for some problem. A project begins
with a break from the former practices of the community. In
particular projects generally arise within some definite form of
practice or institution which is intolerant of contradictions, and
overcoming a problem necessitates a self-conscious break."
This shows very clearly what I have called the failure to
appreciate reproduction. Certainly, social protest movements, such
as the one you are currently studying, are of great interest. But
surely we can't say that the fundamental unit of human activity is
protest? The fact that Andy refers here to "the former practices"
shows that the project, defined in this way as protest, cannot be
Well, firstly, to be fair "social movement" is just one of *five* examples
of projects Andy presents in the quote above. It's not because I gave the
example of "strike" as a specific form of project relevant to the broad
activity of "workers' struggle" that project = protest. That is just the
way I deploy the UoA in my research project.
Secondly, a project does not break away from existing practices *because*
they are reproductive, routineous, repetitive, or institutionalized, but
because these social forms, structures, or systems of activities, however
one may call them, are standing in the way of overcoming a problem. Or an
emerged "need" if you wish. Project collaboration does not stand in
opposition to institutionalization or the reproduction of actions. It
stands in opposition to social forms that obstruct the *development* of
the institution or practice (which have been projects in the past, as you
pointed out). Here we also see a connection to Vygotsky's notion of
development from a predicament, the process of becoming conscious of a
problem in development and thereby creating the will and means to escape
it. This can be either a more or less gradual process or a moment of
Thirdly, social movements, or "mobilizations", and institutions are
different moments of the same process. A strike and the formation of a
trade union - again just giving examples from my own field - are part of
the same process of development of a project.
Fourthly, and this is perhaps the crux of our disagreement, project is not
only the "objective" and neutral cell-form of activity, it is a highly
normative one. Project only deals with alienated activity, the
"practico-inert", as the kind of activity it wants to escape. It conceives
of such activity as a predicament which it has to overcome. So it *is*
included in the UoA but only as its own negative moment.
Collaboration, as the word is typically used, implies shared goals -
which as Phillip points out shouldn't be built into the definition.
Differentiation is needed too. Andy seems to have in mind, as
examples of his 'project,' protest movements in which everyone does
have a shared goal. But that cannot be the unit of all human activity.
Yes, collaboration implies shared goals. I've addressed this issue,
together with the question of differentiation and "protest as UoA" above.
Yes, of course new needs are continually produced (and not simply
by 'protest'). But that doesn't mean the old needs necessarily go
away. I'm not suggesting that the needs are external and prior.
Agreed, but what do we mean by that the old needs don't go away? Do we
just add layers of needs upon needs? Or are our "original" needs
transformed in some way?
Gastronomy must still satisfy the need for food. Call that an
'animal' need if you wish, but people are still animals, no? Humans
are animals with projects. I don't think you can draw a distinction
between animal base and cultural superstructure; the base becomes
cultural too. And I'm not saying that food is the *only* need. I
picked that as an example because it's a clear contrast to Andy's
fancy-sounding 'contradiction.' Yes, there are many other emergent
needs too, but (to repeat myself) the need to eat doesn't disappear.
Nor does it remain the same. Again, the base/superstructure
distinction seems to me misleading here. As Haydi pointed out, the
fact that we eat with forks is a convention. Except to me that says
that eating is no longer simply an instinct and natural; eating has
become social. And romance without sex... well, that's another email.
This is a strange paragraph. It seems that formally we don't agree while
in content we in fact agree. The point is that eating develops from a pure
reproductive activity, which for humans is always already social, of
course, to an activity of pleasure, of aesthetics, of religion (eating the
body of Christ!) etc. These new "needs" or "objects" emerge from the
already existing "primary" activity, and, in turn, constitute new forms of
activity (cooking, shopping, forms of trade, etc.). What is the
contradiction or the predicament here? That in the course of historical
development of human reproduction by eating *as a social activity*, just
eating to quench hunger was considered at a certain point, because of
certain conditions, unsatisfactory or problematic (we would need
anthropological and historical sources to give this argument a little more
body) and new forms of eating with different goals (taste, symbolic, class
distinction, etc.) appeared.
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