Saturday, December 15, 2007

Revolutions without causal explanations - Foucault

Here is an interesting Foucault-quote undermining the notion that revolutions are causally explained: 

Foucault: "The man in revolt is ultimately inexplicable. There must be an uprooting that interrupts the unfolding of history, and its long series of reasons why, for a man ’really’ to prefer the risk of death over the certainty of having to obey."

Per Herngren


Foucauldian Reflections

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hacktivism and postprotest

In ”Abstract Hacktivism” (2006) von Busch and Palmås use the difference between hacking and cracking to illustrate a break between the protest era of ’68 and the constructive hacking era of ‘99.

“In line with Eric Raymond’s distinction between hackers (who ‘build things’) and crackers (who ‘destroy things’) , the hacktivism discussed in this publication is concerned with construction rather than (…) destruction.” “The traditional, cracker-inspired meaning of hacktivism is, after all, largely an extrapolation of the 1968 ideas (culture jamming, detournement, (…)). As already hinted, contemporary theorists are increasingly moving towards a break with this era.” (p 17)

Protest stuck in the metaphor of a motor with steering wheel

Busch and Palmås also show how the metaphor of a motor which someone is steering is explaining how the protest gets caught in reactive, counter-activism:

‘68 “was actually not a radical departure from the worldview that they revolted against. The countercultural revolution maintained the view of society as a motor – based upon reservoirs of fuel, differentials in pressure, circulation.” (p 76)

As “new types of machines enter the social world, they may end up changing our ways of seeing the world. The logic of the motor did not only appear in the contraptions studied by engineers and natural scientists: it also shaped the theories of modern social scientists, philosophers and artists.” (p 21)

“As late as in the 1960s, the field of management was still preoccupied with how to steer the giant corporate hierarchies that had emerged during the first half of the century. Thus, management theorists were elaborating upon how the new breed of salaried professional CEOs was to plan and thus control these huge structures. This preoccupation with bureaucracy, planning and control was clearly reflected in the vocabulary they used in their key texts.” (p 67)

“For the countercultural youth, the only way out of this total system (which operates as a motor) was to throw gravel into the machinery, jamming its modes of operation, thus baring the monstrosity of the machine for all of the world to see. Public demonstrations, (…) and various ways of ‘dropping out’ mainstream culture were all different approaches to achieve this effect.” (p 75)

Blockading is the paradigm for the motor era

With the motor worldview blockades (jamming) and demonstrations (ask the leader steering to turn the wheel) would be the paradigmatic methods for change.

“Counterculture activists do not strive for piecemeal introductions of ways to make the motor circulate in new, and hopefully better, ways. Instead, they aim to ‘jam’ mainstream culture, blocking its circulation.” (p 76)

Innovations are collective processes rather than entrepreneurs and chief engineers

Hacktivism is, for Busch and Palmås, not about computers. They use the concept to show a shift from reactive methods for change to more innovative ways of rearranging products and societies. “Capitalism – no longer a closed, motor-like machine that circulates capital and desire – is seen as an open structure, subject to rearrangement.” (p 79) “The aim is (…) to modify (…) in a very tangible manner.”

Hacktivism, as productive innovation and rearrangement, doesn’t come out of the creativity of a few leaders, chief engineers or entrepreneurs, it is rather a collective process. Busch and Palmås “bring out the fact that users or consumers are engaging in the process of innovation. This body of work has shown that ‘user innovation’ has been around for a long time: There are many of examples of not-so-recent innovations – in automobiles, sports equipment etc. – that have emerged from users’ tinkering with readymade products. It is just that before the ‘widely publicized’ success of the Linux project, researchers simply could not conceive of such processes of innovation. Thus, interestingly, Linux has alerted researchers of a previously unseen mode of innovation.” (p 71)

Per Herngren

2007-11-03, version 0.1


Otto von Busch and Karl Palmås, abstract hacktivism: the making of a hacker culture, London and Istanbul, 2006, copyleft by the authors, ISBN: 9780955479625.s

Stephen Hancock and Per Herngren, Beyond protest-resistance, 2005.

Per Herngren, Postprotest resistance, 2005.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Postprotest and Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard is important for the reflection on postprotest. Postprotest sometimes proposes a combination of civil disobedience and production of positive alternatives, to create some kind of constructive or proactive resistance. In this text, however, Baudrillard criticizes the focus on “alternatives” as a way to defeat a dominant system; instead he suggests singularities. Here he also criticizes reactive protest movements:

”Who can defeat the global system? Certainly not the anti-globalization movement whose sole objective is to slow down global deregulation. This movement's political impact may well be important. But its symbolic impact is worthless. This movement's opposition is nothing more than an internal matter that the dominant system can easily keep under control. Positive alternatives cannot defeat the dominant system, but singularities that are neither positive nor negative can. Singularities are not alternatives. They represent a different symbolic order. They do not abide by value judgments or political realities. They can be the best or the worst. They cannot be "regularized" by means of a collective historical action. [6] They defeat any uniquely dominant thought. Yet they do not present themselves as a unique counter-thought. Simply, they create their own game and impose their own rules.”


Jean Baudrillard, The Violence of the Global, Translated by François Debrix, Initially published as "La Violence du Mondial," in Jean Baudrillard, Power Inferno, Paris: Galilée, 2002, pp. 63-83.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How does Foucault use "strategic"?

Undermining the idea that the meaning in a political action are placed somewhere else in, an instrumental reason, and that this “other” meaning is defining the value of the action, Foucault regards himself antistrategic.

In his own texts though, he is using strategic in different ways. Ali Rizvi suggests three distinct meanings of strategic in Foucault’s usage:

“1) Strategic as related to the space of freedom. In this sense Foucault contrasts strategic to what he calls “techne.”

2) Strategic in the sense of instrumentalism (explained earlier here).

3) Strategic as belonging to an ethos, certain value system. This belonging is strategic to the extent that one cannot give ultimate justification for it.”

Per Herngren

2007, version 0.1

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Protest trapped in transport-metaphor

The protest movement is trapped in the metaphor of transport. The protesters have special information, an insight or knowledge, which needs to get out and then transport itself through some kind of medium into the consciousness of those in power or the public. Speakers, leaflets, web pages or actions, are supposed to transmit the protest message to an audience. Something is then happening inside the recipient and the result will be change. Political work, actions, dialogues are understood as a transportation of information or insights to somewhere else - instead of ways to live the society one wants. I would propose more constructive metaphors like production, imprint and tools. And I still think the resistance metaphor from electricity and biology for disobedience and obstruction is useful. Displacement might be a metaphor to connect resistance and constructive work.


Per Herngren

September 10, 2007, version 0.11

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Seven Peace Activists Acquitted by Jury

Right to Dissent Inside Senate Office Building Upheld

From News Center


WASHINGTON - JULY 13 - Seven peace activists were acquitted today by a jury of their peers in a criminal case stemming from an anti-war protest inside a Senate office building.

The group of activists from three different states and the District of Columbia were arrested on March 29, the same hour the U.S. Senate voted to spend $95 billion more on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They were charged with unlawful conduct.


"Today was a victory for justice and the people of this nation," said Gordon Clark one of the seven defendants pro se, and the coordinator of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance.


The jury deliberated for four and a half hours Thursday before returning a unanimous not guilty verdict. The defense successfully argued their group was not any more disruptive than a comparable sized group of tourists, school groups or others.


The protest was organized by organizers of the National Campaign of Nonviolent resistance and a couple local peace activists.


"It wasn't just us who won today," said Eve Tetaz, 75, a retired D.C. public school teacher. "A jury of our peers decided that we had a right to dissent and to petition our government for a redress of grievances."

Tetaz faces several other charges for nonviolently protesting the war including contempt of court since she has violated two stay away orders from the Capitol area.


"I will not remain silent as long as people are being killed in this illegal and immoral war," she said.

The other defendants pro se in this trial were David Barrows, Gordon Clark, Joy First, Ellen Barfield, Samuel Crook and Malachy Kilbride. The seven had faced a maximum sentence of 6 months in prison and a $500 fine.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Antistrategic resistance according to Foucault

"If someone ask me what it is I think I am doing, I would answer: if the strategist is a man who says "what importance does a particular death, a particular cry, a particular uprising have in relation to the great necessity of the whole, and of what importance to me is such-and-such a general principle in the specific situation in which we find ourselves?" then it is indifferent to me whether the strategist is a politician, a historian, a revolutionary, someone who supports the Shah or the ayatollah. My theoretical morality is the opposite. It is "antistrategic": be respectful when singularity rises up, and intransigent when power infringes on the universal."


Source: "Is it useless to revolt" (Inutile de se soulever?). Quoted here from Foucauldian Reflections. Who quoted from Eribon, Michel Foucault, (pp. 290-91).

Friday, May 25, 2007

You are wanted for civil disobedience in Sweden

Welcome to plant vines and fig trees

on the premises of the weapon factory Microwave

with civil disobedience, nonviolence training, swimming and walking in beautiful nature

Gothenburg, Sweden 4-9 August 2007

 “ Every man and woman will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree,
 and no one will make them afraid” - Micah 4:4

Non violence for a world where people can live in safety
Together with you we would like to plant a garden where people can live in safety. We want to build the world that the prophet Micah speaks of (Micah 4:4); where vines and fig trees give shelter, food and drink. Where everyone can sit in safety under their vine and where oppression is no more. This is a part of ”the Vine and Fig Tree Planters”, which started in 2005 and has planted in Holland, England and Sweden.

Non violence training and planting

We will start on August 4 with two days of nonviolence training. We will practice and plan in friend groups. A friend group consists both of support persons and of those who will conduct acts of civil disobedience. The group will be a support during action, trial and sentence.

After the training we will start laying a vine- and fig tree garden on the premises of Saab Microwave in Mölndal (close to Gothenburg), Sweden, who makes radar systems for weapons. This will be done as a proactive action, where we initiate constructive change without using negative messages of protest. All our actions are conducted in the spirit of nonviolence: we take responsibility for our actions and we treat everyone with respect. 

Civil disobedience means a breach of the law in a spirit of sincerity and nonviolence where we take the consequences of our actions.

We will also have time for prayer, reflection and conversation. We plan to reflect on nonviolence as a liberation theology for the rich part of the world, with the book “I vänliga rebellers sällskap” by Annika Spalde and Pelle Strindlund as a point of departure.

After the civil disobedience action we will have time for stillness and meditation, as well as time to reflect on our actions and on how we can support each other during trial and sentence.

Lodging will be arranged in Rosa Huset, which is accessible for wheelchairs. Rosa Huset is situated close to a beautiful nature area in Gothenburg, Sweden, with swimming possibilities in a lake. Vegetarian/vegan will be served.

Expected personal consequences of the planting are a fine or a short prison sentence, as well as reparations. In case of prison sentence you’ll automatically get a leave from your work without using your vacation, according to Swedish law. The employer is not allowed to fire you because of your sentence.


Fellowship of Reconciliation Gothenburg, Black Smith Fellowship of Reconciliation, The Fig Tree Resistance Community – Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, Speak Civil Disobedience & Nonviolence.

Registration and/or questions

or call Jonas at +46 735 97 09 58. Registration latest by 1 July, 2007

Mention address, telephone, e-mail and special requests regarding food or lodging. 

Transfer at the same time the registration fee to bank account: 9020 41 413 99 (9020 is clearingnumber), name of bank: Länsförsäkringar, Sweden. Mention your name.

The registration fee is at cost price and is 1200 SEK for employed and 900 SEK for students, unemployed and retired. The fee includes lodging and food for six days, as well as action costs. If you engage in the preparation of the event, you will get a reduction of the fee. Contact us!


Gathering and breakfast at Rosa Huset, Gothenburg @ 9.00 AM, Saturday 4 August 2007. Non-violence training and the creation of friend groups: Saturday 4 August and Sunday 5 August. During the week we will also have time for reflection, swimming and walking in beautiful scenery. Support and trial preparations: Thursday 9 August. End: 4.00 PM, Thursday 9 August


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The difference between postprotest and positive resistance

For analytical reasons, I think it is important to see the difference between positive resistance and postprotest resistance. At the Disarmament Camps 92, 93 and 95 in Sweden, we had a rule against all protests and negative messages, which we felt made the resistance camps more constructive and attractive for both locals and the workers from the fighter-bomber company. But it wasn't until the Vine & Fig Tree plantings 2005; the Swedish plowshares started to experiment with a more consistent postprotest/proactive approach.

The narrative and symbolic strength of proactive/postprotest resistance, from what I understand, is that one is directly solving the problem (for a moment, or in a specific place, or by disarming a few weapons, or by dismantling some machines). The focus for proactive resistance would be: How do we solve the problem (at least for a moment)? This is actually the same technique they would teach in creative writing for writing a good book: Show, don’t tell!

Positive resistance, on the other hand, is not actually solving a problem, it is promoting a solution. It doesn’t show us what it wants, it tells us. Then positive resistance is indirect like the negative protest (which is being against something). The focus for positive resistance, which also makes it different from negative protest, would be: How do we as clearly as possible articulate our visions for a better world?

Postprotest doesn't contradict the positive approach; we are not constructing a dichotomy; it is more of an analytical distinction. Postprotest/proactive resistance includes the positive message, but positive resistance doesn't have to include the proactive part: be “doing the solution”.

Ok, this is a quick reflection which helps me understand the dynamics of resistance.

Per Herngren

First published May 15, 2007, at Resistance Studies

Monday, May 14, 2007

How we should prioritize resistance

This map shows where the nonviolent movement should escalate civil disobedience. The size of a territory shows how much that country spends on war, weapons and soldiers.

Military Spending
Mapped here is state military spending. This covers the costs of military personnel, including recruitment and training, supplies, weapons and equipment, and construction. Also included is spending on military assistance to other territories.

In 2002 state military spending was estimated at US$789 billion worldwide. In 2002 the United States was the largest military spender, spending almost 9 times more than the second biggest spender, Japan. In that year the United States spent US$353 billion; 45% of all state military spending worldwide.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Play about Carl Kabat - 15 years in prison

Something about father Carl Kabat who spent 15 years in prison for different plowshares actions. And watch a video about the play that is about him.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Mass media fabricates noncommunication

Jean Baudrillard understands face to face talks as communication and massmedia as noncommunication. Alternative or left mass media would then also be noncommunication. A dialogue can use noncommunication, as quotes or references, but we shouldn’t replace talking and dialoguing with radical speakers or mass media. If you are going to a workshop compare how much time is used to create communication (where you are talking to someone) and how much is used to create noncommunication (listening to the speaker). To create audience instead of talking is a power technique in social movements.

From “The Masses: The Implosion of the Social in the Media” By Jean Baudrillard

""Requiem for the Media." In that I (Baudrillard) described the mass media as a "speech without response." What characterizes the mass media is that they are opposed to mediation, intransitive, that they fabricate noncommunication if one accepts the definition of communication as an exchange, as the reciprocal space of speech and response, and thus of responsibility. In other words, if one defines it as anything other than the simple emission/reception of information. Now the whole present architecture of the media is founded on this last definition: they are what finally forbids response, what renders impossible any process of exchange (except in the shape of a simulation of a response, which is itself integrated into the process of emission, and this changes nothing in the unilaterality of communication). That is their true abstraction. And it is in this abstraction that is founded the system of social control and power. To understand properly the term response, one must appreciate it in a meaning at once strong, symbolic, and primitive: power belongs to him who gives and to whom no return can be made. To give, and to do it in such a way that no return can be made, is to break exchange to one's own profit and to institute a monopoly: the social process is out of balance. To make a return, on the contrary, is to break this power relationship and to restore on the basis of an antagonistic reciprocity the circuit of symbolic exchange. The same applies in the sphere of the media: there speech occurs in such a way that there is no possibility of a return. The restitution of this possibility of response entails upsetting the whole present structure; even better (as started to occur in 1968 and the 70s), it entails an "antimedia" struggle.

In reality, even if I did not share the technological optimism of McLuhan, I always recognized and considered as a gain the true revolution which he brought about in media analysis (this has been mostly ignored in France). On the other hand, though I also did not share the dialectical hopes of Enzensberger, I was not truly pessimistic, since I believed in a possible subversion of the code of the media and in the possibility of an alternate speech and a radical reciprocity of symbolic exchange.

Today all that has changed. I would no longer interpret in the same way the forced silence of the masses in the mass media. I would no longer see in it a sign of passivity and of alienation, but to the contrary an original strategy, an original response in the form of a challenge; and on the basis of this reversal I suggest to you a vision of things which is no longer optimistic or pessimistic, but ironic and antagonistic."

Jean Baudrillard "The Masses: The Implosion of the Social in the Media," trans. Marie Maclean, New Literary History, vol. 16, no. 3 (Spring 1985), pp. 577-89.