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Re: [xmca] Project


I can understand why Andy is interested in movements of protest and revolution. Here's a longer list from his webpage:

"the spontaneous uprising, the secret society, the class-based movement, the mutual aid association, the (Paris) Commune, the mass political party, the (Soviet) Government, popular or united front, national liberation front, the new social movements (such as the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements), the more ephemeral protest movements, identity politics and, more recently, alliance politics."

However, to treat these as illustrations or examples of a fundamental unit of activity leads to a non-dialectical treatment of the 'negation' that any project involves. Yes, protest and revolution are forms of negation (so is selling a *new* product, or starting a *new* war; notice the emphasis). But there is also negation in reproduction. To engage in a quotidian project of simply getting food on the table (in order to eat it with a fork and enjoy it with company, for sure) requires a negation of the current circumstances. It requires struggle against the 'practico-inert' (I'll follow you in appropriating Sartre's term). 

But these reproductive projects get no attention in Andy's analysis. And the consequence is that the reproductive aspect of even a revolutionary project gets overlooked. Strikers have to eat, and they have to sleep, right? That means that successfully organizing a strike requires attention to this facticity of human being. 


On Apr 7, 2013, at 4:43 AM, Brecht De Smet <Brechttie.DeSmet@UGent.be>

> 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 fundamental.
> 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
> crisis.
> 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. 
> Best,
> Brecht
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