Book Launch: The Politics of Autonomy in Latin America: the art of organising hope in the twenty-first century, by Ana Dinerstein

This is the paper I will be presenting at the launch of Ana Dinerstein’s new book at the University of Bath, 17th April, 2015.

I must apologise for not being John Holloway. I am as disappointed as you are that he is not able to be here today. John’s work has been very important for Ana and for myself and for other people in this room. However, I am delighted to have been asked to be John’s late replacement and speak at the launch of Ana’s book.

I have known Ana for 20 years. We edited a book together, The Labour Debate, in 2002. It is great to see how Ana has developed ideas we had in that book in this new publication, and brought them to life. I am thinking, in particular, of the idea  ‘anti-value in motion’.  Ana’s book confirms my view that a ‘critique of value’ is the most explosive and dynamic methodology in the social sciences.

Teeming with radical scholarship, this book reports on the explosion of rage and hope against the injustices of neoliberal politics and policy at the end of the twentieth century in Latin America. At the heart of the book lies the concept of autonomy and the way in which it has been used by  movements of protest and resistance – Marxists, anarchists, feminists, libertarians, citizens, workers and indigenous peoples – to imagine alternative utopias beyond the limits of the law, the state and global capital; while, all the time challenging the ideologies of left-wing parties and trade unions. If Latin America has been a laboratory for experimenting with neoliberalism, the book reveals Latin America as a laboratory for resistance against neoliberalism and a place where revolution has sought to reinvent itself (Dinerstein, 2014: 26).

Ana’s work is influenced by John Holloway’s Change the World Without Taking Power (2002), a development of Holloway’s ‘Open Marxism’ brought into very concrete focus through his encounter with the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas Mexico in the 1990s.  What emerges from this book is an attempt to reinvent the concept of revolution, theorised not by capturing the power of the state; but, rather, ‘dissolving the relations of power, to create a society based on the mutual recognition of people’s dignity’ ( Dinerstein 2014: 17; Holloway 2002: 20). Ana  argues that Holloway’s work is nothing less than ‘a turning point in the theoretical activity of revolutionary thinking’ (page). Faced with this revolution in the theory of revolution she argues we  can no longer think about progressive politics in terms of reform or revolution (18); but, rather, as a process of ‘change and becoming’ (18), based on grassroots mobilisation for radical change (18). She points out the forms of grassroot imagination have already appeared in Latin America as horizontalism, self-management, direct democracy, anti-bureaucracy and, above all, the rejection of the state as the main site for political change.

But how can you avoid the power of the state on a continent where the left has been capturing state power through the Presidencies of Chavez, Morales, Rafael? [and before that Allende?] all of whom adopted indigenous and leftist campaigns as the basis for anti-neoliberal, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist social policies. These anti-strategies formed a core part of their neo-developmentalist strategies, that included pluri-national constitutions and Communitarian Socialism. Ana argues that the result of these policies may have been a reduction in income inequality, better education and health systems and welfare, but the extent to which these governments constituted a break with neoliberalism is debatable; and that they might more accurately be regarded as a continuation of neoliberalism, particularly in relation to the way in which natural resources have been exploited in these countries.  In other words these governments have not fully engaged with the emancipatory movements on which they relied for electoral success.

The result has been, she reports, since 2006 a new wave of protests in Latin America by indigenous and non-indigenous people: a key feature of the indigenous protest has been the emergence of the concept of buen viver against the policies of developmentalism. What is important in Ana’s work is the way in which she makes connections between the struggles of indigenous people, informed by their cosmological view of the world, and populations that have been directly exploited by Capital. She conceptualises indigenous people, as having not been fully subsumed by Capital, by which she means people who have not been subordinated to the process of valorisation: she refers to this process of non-subordination as ‘real subsumption by exclusion’. This process of subsumption by exclusion has been an important part of the process of making the Latin American working class and industrial society.

In these cases, autonomy means different things for indigenous and non-indigenous peoples: for non-indigenous people it means freedom, democracy, refusal of work, struggles against poverty, misery and the state. For indigenous people autonomy refers to the struggles over land and territory rights, as well as the desire for self-government based on customs, traditions and cosmologies: to be revolutionary for indigenous people is not to change (52). Most especially Ana argues that identity for indigenous peoples is not a negative concept, but forms an essential aspect of their struggle against colonialism: to be a Maya or a Zapatista; although this ability to self-define is not the same thing as identity which is always imposed (52).

She finds the theoretical link for these different versions of autonomy in the connection between Holloway’s Open Marxism and the Zapatistas rejection of the state as a locus for radical transformation (25): so that autonomy is both emancipatory (non-indigenous) and decolonising (indigenous).

Alongside autonomy as the organising principle of these movements of protest, Ana suggests the concept of prefiguration as a pedagogic device through which autonomy can be achieved, what she refers to as ‘the process of learning hope’ (16). The desire of these forms of resistance is not to achieve the ‘ideal society’ but through the process of struggle in and against the law, state and capital as well as the struggle against colonial oppression to produce what she call excess ( 28): the capacity for human life to overflow the limits imposed by capitalist and colonial regimes of domination. She substantiates the politics of hope through situating it within the work of Ernst Bloch who described hope as the ‘human impulse to explore what is Not Yet’ (30). Despite her Marxist credentials Ana is not afraid of taking on Bloch’s controversial idea that hope is anthropological ‘ a genuine feature of what makes us human’ (page). She understands Bloch’s anthropology as a dynamic conflictual contradictory dialectical process by focussing on the concept of the ‘Not Yet’ and the way in which it offers the possibility of conjuring up concrete utopias out of the conditions that are already present in the world, however oppressively capitalist and colonial. Ana is clear:

‘These spaces are not, however, ‘liberated zones’ but deeply embedded in the capitalist/colonial dynamics. It is precisely because they are embedded that they can confront value with hope, thus producing radical change’ (197).

In this way Ana means to overcome the sterile debate between those who favour the concept of autonomy and those who argue about the importance of the centrality of the power of the state. Ana’s elegant solution is to focus on the prefigurative possibility of autonomy without avoiding the problem of the state, while all the time making the link between indigenous and non-indigenous struggles (32).

Ana offers us a framework by which we might imagine our own concrete utopias. This framework can also be used as an analytical device for research: to set alongside already existing movements of resistance to consider their revolutionary capacity and potential, e.g., student protests in Chile. She refers to this framework as ‘Autonomy in the Key of Hope’, with four distinct registers of hope: negation, creation, contradiction and excess. Negativity, as we have already seen, is encapsulated by the Blochian concept of the Not Yet; Creativity is the creation of a new form of society, understood as the commons or communitarian economics (43); Contradiction is promoted through the invention of a new subaltern de-colonialising commonsense (44) or by the notion of the multitude, or out of the contradiction that forms the substance of the commodity-form through which human life subsists only ‘in the form of being denied’ (48); and, finally, excess, by which she means that which gets beyond contradiction, as the overflow between human capacity and the restrictions of abstract labour (49), i.e., the product of humanity’s subversive energy (50). And all of this with plenty of space for danger and disappointment along the way, including the recuperation of radical ideas and their translation into the logics of capitalist power (63-69).

Ana provides an empirical case study of each of these registers in the key of hope from specific movements of struggle in Latin America. These are Argentina experiences of  dignified work and the movement of popular justice in Argentina in 2001/2 ( creation);  a review of  the Zapatistas armed uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, challenging and reinventing revolutionary traditions in the 1990s (negation); an account of indigenous popular movement  2004-5 and the creation of the plurinational state in 2009 in Bolivia (contradiction),  and, finally, an exposition of the landless workers movement (MST) from the 1980s in Brazil  with the development of ‘territories of hope’ through popular agrarian reform and the democratisation of land ownership (excess). The elaboration of each key with reference to specific case studies is a presentational device as these registers of hope are inextricably interconnected.

A defining feature of Ana’s work is the way in which it is conceptualised and brought to life through Karl Marx’s labour theory of value, reinterpreted through Holloway, Gunn and Bonefeld’s concept of Open Marxism. Excess is derived from Open Marxism’s account of the limits of abstract labour as a practice and principle of human activity, or doing. The possibility of human creativity or doing is subordinated to the production of value, through the forms of abstract labour and money; but given the nature of human capacity perpetual subordination is  impossible due to the mismatch between doing and the value form, which cannot persist without a remainder (184). The dialectical dynamic that forms the core of the Not Yet is the conflictual nature of the commodity form, between use value and exchange value, where human life exists as the resource rather than the project and, therefore, is always in conflict: as class struggle. In this way the categories of capitalism, law, money and the state, are attempts to contain this contradiction as capital seeks to realise itself as surplus value. For example, the state is a political form of the social relations of capital: this means that the specific form of the capitalist state, and its relationship with the market with which it is so closely associated, is derived from class struggle. The capitalist state is not the site in which class struggle takes place but the form of the state is the outcome of class struggle (Clarke 1991, Holloway and Piciotto 1987). That is to say ‘the State is not a State in capitalist society but is the capitalist state’ (153). Ana makes the important point that these capitalist categories are not facts of nature but formal abstractions:  ‘the constant subordination of life to the rule of value’ (187). The real material basis of hope for Ana is that this realisation that value is always contingent on the condition of class struggle. Autonomy in this sense is the struggle in and against the law of value (187): it is a real abstraction.

It at this moment that Ana introduces a negative concept of value based on the notion of the Not Yet: ‘anti-value in motion’, as the substantive basis through which hope might be materialised. Value and the Not Yet are always to be realised, so too with anti-value, ‘hope is also unrealised materiality’ (190). As Ana puts it:

‘Value requires to be socially validated and attains concreteness only through money. Hope is an emotion of the cognitive kind that guides action and is only materialised in concrete utopia…’  (190).

Value and hope are conceived within the value form but they move in opposite directions. Value and hope are confrontational and contested as a Not Yet realised materiality, to be achieved hopefully in the ‘recovery of our power to do’ (191) which is what Ana means by excess. So anti-value in motion is the production of excess through the politics of autonomy (187).

Professor Mike Neary

University of Lincoln


Pedagogy in Paradise: higher learning and the metamorphosis of a derelict city – a rhythmanalysis #pedagogyinparadise #derelictcity



Blueprint for a derelict city (downtown Valparaiso)

‘All that is solid melts into air’ (Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto 1848)

‘All that is solid moves beneath our feet’ (Charles Darwin, Beagle Diary, February 20th 1835: 292, following an earthquake in Chile)


I am a rhythmanalysist, practising rhythmatics in Valparaiso, a surreal city half-way down the elongated seaboard of the Republic of Chile, a country constrained by the Andean cordillera at its eastern edge and the Pacific ocean to the west; so that its topography resembles a cone or sliver of land at the outer limits of the Latin American landmass, hence its given name ‘Chili’ from the Mapuche indigenous peoples, meaning ‘where the land ends’; or, ‘the end of the earth’. More recently, Chile has been described as ‘a country of catastrophes’ (Isabel Allende 1985 19).

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 11.11.23

On the corner of Blanco and Edwards, Valparaiso


If Chile is a ‘country of catastrophes’ then two catastrophes are never far from the surface of public consciousness: major earthquakes (1751, 1835, 1877, 1911, 1960, 2010, 2014) and the Military Dictatorship (1973-1990). While these catastrophes have been linked  metaphorically, e.g., Pinochet’s economic policies have been described as  ‘a seismic event’ (Klein 2008 306), they have not been subjected to a more substantive juxtaposition. In this paper I intend to  bring Chilean earthquakes: terremotos, and the Dictatorship: ‘The Terror’ (Allende 1985 417), together more systematically by means of a rhythmanalysis, after Henri Lefebvre (2004 [1991]), connecting the non-regular time of geological activity with the regular linear time of political violence ( Postone 1993). This rhythmnalysis will be further consolidated as a form of ‘world-ecology Marxism’ (Moore 2014).

 A New Science of Everything

Rhythmanalysis constitutes a new science of everything (Lefebvre 2004 3). The advance of rhythmanalysis, and the Marxism on which it is based, over other social sciences is  ‘Instead of going from concrete to abstract, one starts with full consciousness of the abstract in order to arrive at the concrete’ ( Lefebvre 2004 5): this is  a basic methodology for the elaboration of what Marx refers to ‘commodity fetishism’. A very similar formulation is apparent in the natural sciences and the arts, where it is often referred to as ‘the fourth dimension’, for which Einstein provided a space-time formulation, and Breton a spiritual automaticism  (Dalrymple Henderson 2011, Miller 2001); however, it was only Marx who conjured its magical properties – as a process of social metamorphosis.  Full consciousness here is not a deductive hypothesis, or thought abstraction, but an awareness of the immaterial reality of the social world: a real abstraction in other words, as a form of (im)materiality itself (Sohn-Rethel 1978).

A key aspect of my rhythmatics is that this relationship between the abstract and the concrete has been  misconceived by others working with rhythmanalysis, rendering their accounts underdeveloped. For Elden abstractions are not real abstractions; but, rather, are the ‘abstraction of concepts’ disconnected from the ‘concrete analysis of the mundane’ (2004 viii). Meyer attempts to undermine rhythmanalysis by claiming ‘there is as yet no general theory of rhythms’ ( 2008 150), and suggests that in  ‘Seen from the Window’ Lefebvre ‘does not move any longer strictly from the abstract to the concrete’ ( 153), failing the test of his own methodology.  Edensor (2010) attempts to contain rhythmanalysis as a form of ‘time-geography’ (1), misunderstanding Lefebvre’s point about the violence of abstract space: capitalism does not pervade the everyday ‘commodifying previously untapped areas of quotidian experience’ (Edensor 13); rather, the everyday is a determinate form of capitalist abstraction (Charnock n.d.,Wilson 2014). While others provide a more compelling account of Lefebvre’s Marxist theory of abstraction (Stanek 2011, Charnock n.d.) they have little interest in rhythmanalysis, so there is work to be done.


Two rhythms: natural and social – a body with organs

Rhythmanalysis reveals two fundamental rhythms: circular (natural) and linear (social) – the former appears as cosmology, geology, biology, experienced as  tides, night and day, heart-beats and other life-world movements;  the later is Capital, lived as the everydayness of social life, work-time and leisure, experienced as anomie and alienation. These fundamental rhythms: natural and social, cannot be separated, but disrupt each other constantly as ‘an antagonistic unity’ (Lefebvre 2004 76) leading to compromises. Lefebvre argues these rhythms are united by what they have in common: measure and repetition, providing a logic that cannot be contained, producing difference (2004 11) ‘as a moving but determinate complexity (determination not entailing determinism)’ (2004 12). This moving complexity resonates at different frequencies, all of which are full of practical implications. This is what Lefebvre means by ‘the thought of metamorphosis’ (2004 18).

A Rhythmanalyst starts with the body ‘which serves him/her as a metronome’ (2004 19) as ‘a bundle of rhythms’ (2004 20) and a reference point through which they can experience the natural and the social world, ‘by calling on all his/her senses’ ( 2004 21). The body should not be  confused with an anatomical or functional body but a body that is composed of rhythms: heart, lungs…’ contra Deleuze and Guattari (1972), this is a body with organs….(Lefebvre 2004 67). Nor should the body be understood as simply one’s own body,  but as part of a social body, (69) as a plurality of rhythms (2004 42).

The Rhythmanalysist  ‘thinks with his/her body, not in the abstract but in lived temporality’ (2004 21) through which ‘s/he receives data from all of the sciences’(2004 22).  Using this materialist phenomenology, the rhythmanlyst arrives at the concrete through experience’ (2004 21) and comes to see the world not  as as a series of ‘diverse things’ but as presences: ‘temporalities and their relations within wholes’, as well as absences: the Negative ‘ a malevolent power…the author of all disasters and catastrophes’ (2004 25). For Lefebvre rhythmanalysis, is  amenable to being expressed as poetry, music or theatre; and, in so doing, can  ‘accomplish a tiny part of the revolutionary transformation of the world and this society in decline’ (2004 26). This is what Lefebvre means by  ‘the power of metamorphosis’ (2004  21) which can be experienced as another type of  rhythm: what he refers to  as ‘appropriated time’ (2004 76).

Appropriation – against helplessness

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 10.46.47

‘I am a protagonist in my own learning’ (Public art viewed from Valparaiso Metro train, Baron)

The purpose of my rhythmatic connections is to reverse the condition of helplessness induced by some versions of disaster sociology (Klein 2008, 2015, Davis 1990, Davis 1998) and dereliction studies (Mah 2014) so as ‘to overcome fear and terrors’ [curase despantos] (Canivell 1985, Stallings 1996)  and to consider how further catastrophes might be better survived, in the case of earthquakes (Hough 2007, Solnit 2010), and resisted, in the case of military coups (Guardiola-Rivera 2013). This rhythmatic response is grounded in Chile’s revolutionary appropriation of knowledge and science (i.e. higher  learning) through a pedagogy of paradise, after Freire’s ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’ and concept of ‘conscientization’ (1970). An important part of our conscientization is that  these catastrophes: earthquakes and military coups, must be seen in the context of another catastrophe, not a future event, but as something that has already happened: the Great Catastrophe – Capitalism (Bordiga 2001).  My rhythmanalysis is written against the emerging school of Earth Pedagogy or Ecopedagogy (Gadotti 2003, Kahn 2010 ), where I claim a contrary revolutionary legacy for the future of Freire’s work.

All of this will be reconstructed through a Magical Realism and Surreal sensibility (Allende 1985, Roh 1925), contrived as a new political society: an Orwellian post-catastrophe derelict city making an anarchitecture of capitalist urbanism (Matta-Clark 1974, Ursprung 2012), and building a university on the principle of dereliction.


Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 05.54.23

Seen from my balcony: ‘gravity sickness’

But first I must establish my rhythmatic credentials by producing a ‘seen from the window/balcony’, following Lefebvre’s famous viewing, where he experiences the rhythms of Parisian life below his apartment on the Rue Rambuteau overlooking the Pompidou Centre. My balcony is on the top floor (twenty-seventh) of a high-rise building on Cerro Placeres, one of the forty-two hills that constitute Valparaiso’s topography. Placeres is a residential area with two universities, three churches and shops, selling food, drink and flowers. This is a neighbourhood where people live, work, pray and study, with no sign of hedonism or thrill seeking tourists, despite the hill’s  title. My apartment building is on Avenida Matta, named after Roberto Matta (1911-2002), the Chilean surrealist painter, famous for his cosmic, biomorphic life-form paintings. Matta is an artist of the fourth dimension.

Lefebvre recommends balconies: inside-outsides, as a prime location to be grasped by the rhythms of city life (Lefebvre’s emphasis 2004 page). From the panoramic vantage of my vertiginous balcony: noises, smells, sights, vibrations appear to have no rhythm until I have connected them with my whole body. On the balcony where I go to record the rhythms of this pacific city, the strongest smell is my natural fear of heights: gravity sickness.  At work inside the apartment I am gripped by my fear of failure: anxiety, or time-sickness, a linear rhythm: the fear of the future, which always appears as unemployment, poverty and debt.

In the morning the cyclical rhythm of Valparaiso is a tidal metallic grey, the hardness of docked navy ships; after noon with the sun at its height, the natural rhythm backbeats the primary flash of fishing boats, soft yellow, blue, red; while at night the  rhythmatic pulse of the city lights pollute the galaxy, rendering the starry black cosmic invisible, accentuating the long curve of the bay. It looks like the city has been hit by a meteorite.

In the streets below my balcony the buildings have outer walls made of corrugated tin, like stacked cans, interrupted with other structures that  portray their dilapidated vocation. This fear of gravity and the future makes my heart beat strongly and my blood pressure rise faster than the apartment building’s lift.

High up on the twenty seventh floor I can hear no human voices, only the rhythmic screech of sea birds and the noise of angry car doors slamming on ‘colectivo taxis’, shared rides with clearly marked fixed routes: Recreo, Vina del Mar and Hospital. These automobiles compete with banger-buses for no-prestige passengers and with  the whispering electric Metro train that runs along the shore  to Portales station, taking workers downtown, through Baron, Francia,  Bella Vista and Puerto, the final stop. Valparaiso is a city of dogs, many dogs roaming wild and free, crossing the lines and lanes and sidewalks: barking, shitting, biting, growling, rutting, scratching, pissing, fighting, sleeping day and night, night and day (Maxwell 2010).

Framed in my bedroom window the city looks like a cubist painting, with no spaces in between the curvature of the mountains and the bay, defying Euclidian geometric formulas. The background is foregrounded so that the whole city seems to vibrate like ‘a continuum of facets’ ( Miller 2001), small polished plane surfaces looking like they are cut out of paper or rock. The resonating frequency points to ‘a deeper structure’ or,  ‘dazzling unity’ , where objects appear only after the space itself had been created (Miller 2001).

Screen shot 2015-04-20 at 08.24.42

Stairway, Calle del Cerrano, Valparaiso

Breathing more slowly I sense the Ascensores hanging on the slopes, like endangered  species, lifting Los Portenos up the steep inclines. Across the square a fleet of ancient Valpo trolley-buses parallel the El Plan Portal Zone, venerated as  national monuments in motion. My pulse drops to walking pace until I come to the stairways whose ‘screaming monumentality imposes on the body and on consciousness the requirement of passing from one rhythm to another as yet unknown – to be discovered’ (Lefebvre 2004 97).

Screen shot 2015-04-20 at 08.11.44

El Peral Ascensor, Plazuela Justicia, Valparaiso

 Lefebvre tells us there is a deeper structure to this rhythmic chaos that can not be seen ‘ no camera… can show these images’ [2014 45): an order for everything which comes from elsewhere:  a sort of presence-absence, which he identifies  as the State and Money. These structures can be  recorded and measured on my rhythmatic-scale: The National Congress and its fascistic architecture, erupts from the ground, screaming in a tortured voice: violence; and the Mall Baron, still  a construction site, with plans for a shopping complex so obscene it threatens Valparaiso’s UNESCO World Heritage badge.

Screen shot 2015-04-20 at 08.19.44

National Assembly Building

 A classic mistake is to interpret these constructions as if they were the regulation of order and to attack their personifications. Lefebvre is clear, these are fetishised forms of the Monster, i.e.,  Capital made real by its functioning (53). The balcony shouts : ‘Capital is the fourth-dimension’.  In a seen from the window, Lefebvre describes the Monster as a giant tidal wave that crashes through  Parisian squares and avenues and then withdraws (35). Like a tsunami.  Capital is not a natural disaster, but Valparaiso is a tsunami danger zone, that needs no journalistic imaginations to conceive the horror of a city in flood; now, following  rhythmanalysis, the ‘giant city’ (33) can think itself as  ‘dialectical thought’ (37) or a materialist phenomenology.

Away from the concave of the bay, at the outer edges of the city, high up in the convex hills sits another catastrophe, where the tomas cardboard box bungalows burn, set alight by sparking electric cables and smouldering rubbish dumps. In the middle of the night I wake up, afraid that I will sleep walk  off the balcony: a flying flapping flaneur.



Site of ‘Conical Intersect’, 27 Rue Beaubourg. Lefebvre lived on Rue Rambuteau

Buildings matter. Lefebvre’s balcony could have reported a previous seen: a hole in a wall, Conical Intersect (1975), made by the artist-architect Gordon Matta-Clark ( 1943-1978), the son of the Chilean Surrealist, Roberto Matta. This was a ‘building cut’ made to houses slated for demolition near to Lefebvre’s apartment during the time when the Pompidou Centre was being constructed.  Matta-Clark’s building cuts meant: ‘converting a building into a state of mind…liberating structures from the straightjacket of their makers intentions and recycling them as consciousness-altering artworks’ or ‘making a space without building it’ (Attlee 2007 14). His cuts to buildings made them sometimes look as if they had been hit by an earthquake (see Splitting 1974 below).  


‘Splitting’ 1974, 322 Humphrey Street, New Jersey

Matta-Clark’s work was informed by a ‘Marxist Hermeneutics’ in which he sought to reveal the gap between capitalism and the self, which he refers to as ‘carefully sustained mass-schizophrenia in which our individual perceptions are constantly being subverted by industrial controlled media, markets, and corporate interests’ ( Matta-Clark 1976 76 in Muir 2011 184). He does this through an interpretation of ‘the material dialectics of a real environment…in the form of a theatrical gesture that cleaves structural space’ ( Matta-Clark 1976 76 in  Muir 2011 184). Matta-Clark refers to this practice as anarchitecture: set against capitalist construction and its most modernist apogees, including and in particular, the Pompidou Centre with its pompous exposition as public art (Attlee 2007). The point of Matta-Clark’s Conical Intersect, or hole in the wall, is to reveal an existential void and a sense of loss of community resulting from the dispersal and dispossession of the neighbourhood, Les Halles, in which the Pompidou Centre was built. The physical deformation to this area during the period of development was itself referred to by Parisians as ‘le trou des Halles’ [trans. ‘The hole of Les Halles’]( Lee 185).

Screen shot 2015-04-26 at 10.40.34

Conical Intersect, 27 Rue Beaubourg, Paris

Matta-Clark’s anarchitecture is the inspiration for our derelict city, but our rationale of dereliction as a design principle  is more fundamental. The derelict city process of design is not working on condemned structures as art-architecture, but building derelict structures from the ground up, using the principles of rhythmanalysis.

A manifestation of dereliction is the extent to which unused buildings become overwhelmed by natural rhythms: weeds and other plants, including trees, animals, insects, birds, rust and decay, floods and fire, earthquakes and tsunamis. However, the disintegration of an unused building is not simply a natural process but the result of social rhythms:  struggles between planners, owners, police, architects, squatters, the local state and, of course, the impact of market forces, or the (in)capacity for the building to generate surplus value. These are the processes that were captured by Marx’s  ‘All that is solid melts into air’ ( Marx 1845) and Darwin’s  ‘All that is solid moves beneath our feet’ ( Darwin 1835). These rhythmatic processes are entirely entropic ( Smithson 1996), meaning that from out of this  ‘antagonistic unity’ ( Lefebvre 2004 76)  between natural and social rhythms comes the capacity for another form of existence to be imagined. Lefebvre described this as ‘the thought of metamorphosis’ (Lefebvre 2004 18): the moment when  contradiction is assuaged by the glimpse of a sustaining life which appears in the form of ‘appropriated time’ (Lefebvre 2004 76). It is the practice of appropriated time that makes for one of the design principle of the derelict city:

‘a time that forgets time, during which time no longer counts ( and is no longer counted). It arrives or emerges when an activity brings plentitude, whether this activity be banal ( an occupation, a piece of work), subtle ( meditation, contemplation), spontaneous( a child’s game, or even one for adults) or sophisticated. This activity is in harmony with itself and with the world. It has several traits of self-creation or of a gift rather than an obligation or an imposition come from without. It is in time: it is a time, but does not reflect on it’ (Lefebvre’s emphasis 2004 76 ).

Although granting pre-eminence  to Lefebvre, this is a process that was first identified by Andre Breton and the Surrealists who, according to Walter Benjamin, can:

‘boast an extraordinary discovery: he was the first to perceive the revolutionary energies that appear in the “outmoded” – in the first iron constructions, the first factory buildings…The relation of these things to revolution – no one can have a more exact concept of it than these authors. No one before these visionaries and augurs perceived how destitution…can be suddenly transformed into revolutionary nihilism…They bring the immense forces of “atmosphere” concealed in these things to the point of explosion’ ( Benjamin 1929 210).

These explosions can be set off  in various ways: maybe making walls ‘like wet sheets that change shape to fit our psychological fears’ ( Roberto Matta in Minotaure 1938), or by imitating the way natural catastrophes impact on the city, like a habitation modelled out of a pile of boats marooned on dry land after a tsunami flood ( Attlee 2007). The already made voids and gaps established by the city-plan can be celebrated as ‘non-u-ments’ and reshaped as ‘shelters for inclusion’, based on existing survivalist structures, like hovels; and by reclaiming the spirit of underworld that lives beneath the streets that is currently  home to hobos and sewer rats. At the heart of this attack on Modernism is an understanding of the relationship between architecture and the body ‘and about changes that could be made to structures by the physical actions of a single human being’ ( Attlee 2007 13), so that clothes could be ‘a warm moveable house, a body round thy body’ ( Carlyle 1831 quoted in Attlee 2007 13). Ways can be found for ‘using the by-products of the land and the people….to create an architecture that existed in a different space and time’ (14): as an experience of the fourth dimension (Attlee 2007 14): or the future, in other words.

Benjamin comes close to a definition of dereliction: ‘In such corners one can barely see where building is still in progress and where dilapidation has already set in. For nothing is concluded’ ( Benjamin 1925 166). And in his own version of rhythanalysis ‘This is how architecture, the most binding part of the communal rythm, comes into being’ (166).

None of this is to be confused with the concept of ‘ruins’, which implies a building that is out of time with itself, whose logic belongs to another civilisation that will never be recovered. But within the logic of ruins remains an important historical lesson, that the moment in which we all live will never be the same again. So what is the dynamic principle of our derelict city: the historical history of capitalist cosmology?

The Military Terror (1973 – 1990): Atrocity Exhibition

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 10.58.39

Museum of Memories and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile

Writing about the Military Dictatorship (1973-1990) should commemorate the dead and recognise the ongoing subterraneous trauma that permeates Chilean society, in a country where the Constitution imposed by the Dictatorship has not yet been repealed. While, at the same time, integrate the Military Terror and its aftermath into the temporal and spatial rhythmns of capitalist history at ‘a deep structural level’ so as to ‘think of the future without betraying the past’ (Postone 2003 82).

The Museum of Memories and Human Rights was  opened in 2010 to remember the victims of state repression during the period of the Military government. Situated in the Barrio Yungay, Santiago, the architectural style is Modernist, made of  steel, glass and, colloquially, copper, the main source of Chile’s economic prosperity. The architects describe their building as a conceptual space, constructed on two levels: the Exposition Beam and the Base. The Beam is elevated, appearing to float like an ‘ethereal materiality’  and a  ‘translucid exposition’ abstracted from concrete reality. Its purpose to act as a living memory, providing information ‘so that knowledge germinates interiorly in every individual’ (Architonic 2009). The Base contains the historical archive, buried deep in the ground, like a mine  out of which knowledge and understanding is extracted. The museum is built not as an act of repentance: ‘But it is to look at the future knowing of the past’ ( Architonic 2009). Not only is the modernist geometry of the building detached from the material world, but the description of the building is oblivious to its own history, what it describes as ‘the idiosyncrasy of a nation’ (Architonic 2009). There is no mention in the architects’ description of the Military Terror, therefore,  ‘…shielding and perpetuating political and economic principles connected with the legacies of the dictatorship’ (Estefane 2013 158).

The museum is a monument to modernism, utilitarian and functionalist: another replicant of the capitalist-machine for working in. But Modernism has become a dead hand in need of radical reappraisal (Attlee 2007, Matta-Clark 1976). Anarchitecture provides a formidable critique, but struggles to escape the architectural formalism of which it is a part (Attlee 2007).  Rhythmanalysis requires a more fundamental critique, and not just spatial, but in a way that clocks the temporality of its own historical imagination if it really means ‘to appropriate time’.

This exhibition of memory and human rights says nothing about the Popular Unity government led by President Allende (1970-1973) and, therefore, ‘ prevents citizens from understanding the institutional and political crisis that led to the coup d’état’ (Estefane 2013). The Military Coup did not start on the 11th of September, 1973, as a central feature of the installation implies, with a looping video of the day’s events: the attack on the Mondea Palace by British built warplanes, the siege of the Palace square by Pinochet’s tanks and infantry, the surrender of the Presidential bodyguard, and finally the body of Allende, suicided by the Putsch.

The Coup began long before Allende became the first democratically elected Marxist President, in the attempts to keep him from power by US Governments, the CIA, powerful US corporations and the Chilean elite ( Stern 2006). When Allende was finally elected in 1970 Nixon swore ‘to make the economy scream’ (Kornbluth 2013). But if the coup is a story that could be foretold its victory was not a foregone conclusion. The culture of Allendismo  (1970-1973) saw the  flourishing of left-wing political organisations, MIR and MAPU, as well as forms of  political art, e.g., Brigada Ramona Parra and music, including Victor Jara and many others; not to mention the substantive economic, social, political and educational reforms that might have culminated in a vibrant form of democratic socialism (Guardiola-Rivera 2014, Stern 2006).

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 10.55.26

Roberto Matta Painting with Brigada Ramona Parra:  ‘First Goal of the Chilean People’ (1972)

And yet, for rhythamanlysis remembering is not enough; it does ‘not point towards a qualitatively different future (Postone 2003 104), or provide the tools by which we might ‘appropriate time’ so as to build our derelict city. We need to search more deeply into the structuring logics of capitalist time so that events can be seen as part of ‘a large scale historical process’ (Postone 2003 88) and, in that way, find out what shakes the Monster of Capital to life.

The Coup was not ‘a rupture in the fabric of civilisation and of history’ (Diner on the Holocaust in Postone 2003 81) but, rather, a seismic tremor that forms part of ‘large scale historical processes of the twentieth century’ (Postone 2003 88). What characterises the capitalist state is the violence against Communism, which should not be seen as a war between different ideologies, but a deep structural fissure in the bedrock of capitalist civilisation. This deep structural fissure is the contradiction that makes up the real  nature of the commodity-form. Marx’s theoretical breakthrough was to discover the dual nature of the commodity: as use value and exchange value, a relationship which generates the historical speeded up dynamic for the dysfunctional temporal development of capitalism. Commodities need to be useful, but they are produced in order to be exchanged,  so that surplus value can be realised and the expansive nature of Capital regenerated. In the capitalist process of production  surplus value is created through the exploitation of labour, whose value is calculated on the basis of socially necessary labour time, an Einsteinian concept of space-time ‘materialised’ as abstract labour: the non-empirical substance of value (Neary date, Sohn-Rethel 1978). Given that the law of labour is a social rather than a natural law it has to be imposed and will, therefore, be resisted, as class struggle. The extent of the savagery imposed by the state depends on the condition of the social relation that constitutes the value form: the relation between capital and labour,  as the planner-state (Keynesianism), the rule of money-state (Monetarism), the market-state (neoliberalism) and the crisis, collapse and catastrophe-state (Barbarism), while all the time confronted by its own radical alternative: Communism. In other words, Communism is Capital’s immanent critique and cannot be denied nor avoided. In geological terms, when the Crisis hits it feels like an earthquake, with the realist superstructure collapsing into its overdetermined ontological base, swept away as : ‘the real movement that abolishes the current state of things’ (Marx The German Ideology  1845). This  is  how Marx, ‘The Man of Earthquakes’ (Harrison and Abramsky 1966), describes the outcome of class struggle in France in 1848, as an ‘earthquake’ (18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte), and as part of the functioning of a capitalist economy:

But it is precisely these fluctuations [in the value of labour], viewed more closely, bring the most fearful devastation in their train, and shake the foundation of Bourgeois society like an earthquake, it is precisely these fluctuations which in their course determine price by cost of production. In the totality of this disorderly movement is to be found its order. (Marx, Wage, Labour and Capital 1847).

The Military Coup, based on this deep rhythmatic analysis, is then a non-exceptional event: a regular if unpredictable  occurrence that is part of the ‘structuring and structured processes historically specific to capitalism’ (Postone 2003 90). A peculiar feature of these overwhelming occurrences is that they are entirely social-formal, but appear as if they are natural – informal: as if the law of value had no history at all: ‘hypostatizing or naturalising social relations’ (Postone 2003 90).

The task of the rhythmanalysist then is not only to blood the dual rhythms identified by Lefebvre:  the natural – circular and the social – linear, but, more fundamentally, to see that what appears as a natural quality of a linear rhythmn is actually a social rhythmatic. This level of rhythmanalysis is required so the Monster of Capital and its historical forms can be denaturalised (2003 105-6). This is what is meant by the ‘appropriation of history’ (2003 106); understanding the movement of time and space through the categories of Capital, which are veiled and therefore requires rhythmatic elucidation  to ‘begin thinking a future without betraying the past’ (2003 106). This means more than the accurate recording of historical events and placing them in a museum; but, rather an understanding of the subterranean processes out of which the past, the present and now the future can be constructed. It is on this basis that we must learn how to respond and react to brutal state violence, before we are completely overwhelmed, in Chile and elsewhere.

The Dictatorship was deposed in 1988, following a plebiscite to determine whether the Military Government should be extended by another eight years. While Pinochet was defeated he remained Head of the Army and Senator-for-life, until he was arrested in London in 1998 under international law for human rights violations. He escaped arraignment on grounds of ill- health, but was later held under house arrest in Chile, charged with human rights abuses as well as tax evasion and embezzlement. This arrest was a victory against repression that is symbolised by the building of the Museum, but remember Lefebvre warns against focussing on the personifications of the Monster, and the need to deal with the Monster itself – as if it were a real Subject, without  an ego or consciousness (Postone 1993).

Earthquake – ‘disaster dialectics’ (Davis 1998)

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 06.36.51

On the Corner of Blanco and Edwards, Valparaiso, 1906.


There is no such thing as a natural disaster (Fritz 1996), even in Chile, the most earthquake prone country on the planet (ECLAC 2010).  Earthquakes and tsunamis are forces of nature with their own destructive rhythms, leading to suffering and death, so are well worth avoiding (Munro 2010); but dying or getting injured in earthquakes is a political issue, involving the effectiveness and efficiency of governments disaster relief plans and building regulations (Solnit 2009, Radford 2009). Pinochet’s lack of interest in life-saving construction codes and poor response to the devastating 1985 earthquake is well known (Vegara 2013). His record is compared unfavourably to Allende who legislated life-saving building regulations (Klein 2010). President Bachelet seems to have learned lessons from previous disasters, judging by her responses to the earthquake in  2014 after her failure to heed tsunami warnings in 2010 meant more people died. The earthquake in 2014 was less powerful than expected, but presages another very powerful seismic convulsion  anytime soon, with no means of predicting when it will occur (Choi 2014). Everyone agrees,  predicting earthquakes is a busted flush ( Hough 2007, Davis 1998). Earthquake science is good at measuring shocks ( Richter date, Hough 2007), and pushing for disaster mitigation programmes ( Stallings 1995), but the ‘political economy of disaster’ ( Davis 1998 49) tells us that assumptions about steel framed high-rises are not going to protect us (Davis 1998 40); the seismic engineering theory on which they are based now looks unreliable (Davis 1998 41): ‘we now know that all high-occupancy structures, including steel-frame office towers, are at risk from even a moderate earthquake’ (Davis 1998 54). Although there are plenty of  stories about private consultants and devastated communities working to restore their battered infrastructures and habitations (Long 2015).

There is another political narrative, one that gets less attention than you might expect, but is crucial for our plans to build a derelict city out of  the epicentre of social and cultural devastation. The principle of dereliction on which Paradise is  built is not only about buildings, it starts with the people. This untold story is about how people react in disaster situations, not as the self-interested monsters predicted by ‘panicky elites’ who fear that any breakdown of order following an earthquake will lead to anarchy; but, rather, the way in which ordinary people hit by disaster act for the benefit of the collective and the general interest. Contrary to the rubrics that informs disaster planning, disaster ‘shakes us loose of ordinary time, and replaces it with a utopian prototype’ (Solnit 2005). Fritz (1996) argued: ‘”In everyday life many human problems stem from people’s preoccupation with the past and the future, rather than the present.”‘ He maintained ‘”Disasters provide a temporary liberation from the worries, inhibitions, and anxieties associated with the past and the future because they force people to concentrate their full attention on immediate moment-to-moment, day-to-day needs.”’ And that this change in the perception of time, ‘”speeds the process of decision-making” and “facilitates the acceptance of change”’ (Solnit  2005). In other words, the social world we live in is already  a disaster, stripped bare to conceal alienation and anomie. In this context disaster acts like a sort of liberation, or ‘social utopia’ (Fritz in Solnit 2005 108): ‘disasters may be a physical hell, but they result, temporarily, in the fulfilment of the utopian image’ (Fritz 1996 66).

Solnit builds on Fritz’s work to develop a basis for radical social transformation, using real life examples, e.g., Hurricane Katrina and the Mexico City earthquake in 1985; but, she is clear,  these responses do not prefigure the revolution, rather they provide glimpses of what might be possible (Kay 2011). Nevertheless, it is the case that responses to major earthquakes have led to progressive political transformation, e.g., in Mexico following the earthquake in 1985, as others have noticed, when  ‘the movement of the earth sparked movements of people using the devastation in property and the cracks opened in the structures of political power to break through oppressive social relations and to improve their lives’ (Cleaver 2005). One community of urban dwellers, in the Tepito region of the city, took advantage of the devastation wrought by the earthquake on their rented accommodation to develop their own scheme for urban renewal based on the principles of  ‘autonomy, self-activity, and the subordination of work to social needs’ (Cleaver 2005). For a brief moment the earthquake had destroyed the government’s ability to govern, reducing it’s modernisation programme literally to rubble. The residents of Tepito took  advantage of the ‘crack or rupture in the structures of power which confine us. Only those who benefit from these structures should fear such cracks. For the rest of us, they are openings through which we may gain access to more freedom’ (Cleaver 2005). The problem for the design of our derelict city is how to realise our vision for paradise ‘before or beyond disaster, to recognise and realise these desires and possibilities in ordinary times’ (Solnit 2010 307).

The Day of the Teacher

Screen shot 2015-05-24 at 08.55.06

There are no Ordinary Times. Freire (1921-1997) arrived in Chile in 1964 with his hopes in ‘smithereens’ (Freire 2014 27) after two military coups in Brazil and Bolivia. In Brazil the junta described his teaching as ‘communistic’ and threw him in gaol for 70 days. He fled to Bolivia but left when another coup erupted weeks after he got there. Chile seemed like paradise. Frei, the Christian Democrat, had just been elected President and there was ‘a climate of euphoria in the streets’ (2014 27). This felt like a ‘revolution in freedom’ (2014 28), bringing many leftists to Chile, intellectuals, students and union leaders from all over Latin America. Santiago was a ‘grand context of theory and practice’ with long discussions about socialism, guerrilla theory, liberation theology, metaphysics, love and death and revolution (2014 35-36).

Freire had come to Chile with a reputation for teaching successful mass adult literacy programmes. His vision was teaching the poor to read the world, not just the word, through a process he described as ‘conscientization’: developing a critical consciousness among students about their place in the world and how to liberate themselves and transform the world. He was against didactic teaching, the ‘banking method’ as he called it, which he saw as a form of oppression. He favoured dialogical teaching based on problem-based enquiry, in a context where teachers have much to learn from their students without losing authority or intellectual leadership. The curriculum would be built on themes and issues that the students identified, supported by reading and other materials suggested by the teacher, with the extensive use of drawings and images to stimulate discussion. Freire was carrying on ways of teaching that had been developed by Latin American Trade Unionists, revolutionary priests in Brazil and political refugees from the Spanish Civil War. As a Professor of the History  and Philosophy he interpreted teaching adult literacy through a wide range of sources from European political philosophy (Kirkendall 2010, Fletcher 1970).

Part of the Chilean revolution in freedom was a national literacy programme campaign, linked to a  wider experiment in social democracy that extended to land and other social reforms. Freire quickly found employment on this programme, working with radical associations, including  Movimiento Independente Revolucionario (MIR) and Movimiento de Accion Popular Unitaria (MAPU), who were involved in creating what Freire called ‘political pedagogy’ (2014 29) and ‘democratic popular education’ (2014 31). This was at a time of rising militant working class activity in Chile including the occupation of factories and state repression, e.g., Puerto Montt in 1969 where police killed occupiers (Austin 2003 100). Freire eventually fell out with the Frei government who he felt were more interested in their own political survival than popular revolution and left the country before his work was complete.

Freire learned much from his students, colleagues and the political context during his time in Chile.  What is certain is that ‘Chile from 1964-70 endures as the engine room of Freireian intellectual history’ (Austin 2003 66). If the Chilean poor learned how to read the world, Freire learned to be a Marxist. This is clear from his seminal text, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, written while in Chile, where his Marxist orientation is there for all to see, and which only became more pronounced in later work (Freire 1983). At the end of  Pedagogy of the Oppressed he maintains that liberation lies in workers becoming ‘owners of their own labour’ for the ‘authentic transformation of reality’ (Freire 1970 164), anything else is ‘palliative solutions’ (1970 164). When he came to reflect on his time in Chile he expressed it with a cosmological rhythmatic sensibility: ‘Class struggle is a historical category, and therefore has historicity. It changes from space-time to space-time’ (2014 83).

If Freire had walked into an already existing literacy campaign in Chile, it intensified after he left in 1969. The newly elected Marxist government of Salvador Allende, 1970 – 1973, set up the National Workers Education Campaign (NWEP) with literacy established as a key principle on the way towards socialism, with workers and campesinos, including women and indigenous peoples, at the centre of social transformation, recognised as ‘a protagonist in a process of revolutionary change in society’ (Austin 2003 139). This was to be part of a ‘transition from an economic subject to a political subject, of reappropriating an education with the goal of transforming it into the education of a popular historical project’ (2003 132). Adult literacy was now ‘a potentially revolutionary weapon’ ( Austin 2003 xxxii). This was part of Allende’s much wider programme of educational reform in Chile, including the democratisation of teaching, a state system of formal schooling: the National Unified School, a policy to eradicate poverty among children and opening universities to all (2003 135). In all of this the elimination of literacy was key (2003 135), in ways that are linked to other transformations of society and the state (2003 136); and particularly ‘ sensitising students to the role of productive labour in the revolutionary transformation of a socialist society’ (2003 137).

It is not possible to know what might have been achieved if the programme had been allowed to proceed, but it was abruptly aborted following the Military Coup on 9th September 1973, with those involved in the educational programmes persecuted, tortured and assassinated  by the new regime of state terror ( Austin 2003). Ironically, the coup took place on The Day of the Teacher in Chile (2003 186). The Military Dictatorship replaced the NWEP with a programme of educational reform based on an authoritarian approach to education and literacy limited to instrumental and functional employment skills, reinforcing uncritically gender and ethnic stereotypes, based on the domestication of women, consumerism, individualism and religious themes. The Colleges and Universities were ‘purified’: subjected to militarised occupation  with Directors of Adult Education sacked and replaced with Junta appointments. In all of this the role of the state appeared to be reduced, as part of a privatising marketised regime, in what came to be known as the first neo-liberal experiment in social engineering  (Taylor 2006). The Military Junta introduced their own National Literacy Campaign in 1976, recuperating the language of freedom and self discovery, but within a framework of free-market economics. Trained teachers were replaced by volunteers, and relationships between teachers and students were now formalised around ‘learning contracts’ and education technology, with a talking up of the advantages of distance learning (2003 217). The result was ‘the collapse of all that had been achieved’ under Frei and Allende (Austin 2003 219).

The neo-liberal model  has now been adopted by countries around the world, and particularly in the UK for education and other forms of social engineering. What has come to be known as Thatcherism should actually be referred to as Pinochetism.

The important question is what can be learned from this experience in relation to our plans to construct a derelict city, as a way of ‘appropriating time’. Austin (2003) gives us a framework to consider, based on the work of Freire and those with whom he was working in Chile. Austin refers to this programme as the principles of political economy of literacy and popular education. This is a learning process that should include (2003 320-321):

  • Realising ‘its own history and the new material realities it confronts’
  • Working with other groups and organisations involved in popular education and related matters. This work needs to involve the dispossessed and the marginalised who are recognised as important forms of political subjectivity
  • Overcoming the chauvinism and racism in language
  • Redefining the concept of public so that it does not simply mean the state, but to use the state as an instrument of transition to develop inclusive and democratic education programmes
  • Doing all of this in ways that not only connect the abstract with the concrete by working on real issues, but in ways that connect the local with the global
  • Create new types of economic models
  • Promoting ‘an epistemological rupture with positivism’ so that ‘The elements of crisis can simultaneously become interrogatory instruments with which to problematise reality in search of resolutions’
  • Challenging ‘the hegemonic cultural processes of globalisation’ against the threat of cultural extinction for indigenous civilisations.

Disaster Pedagogy

Screen shot 2015-06-27 at 10.49.22

Miners and Pit Ponies (Nicholas Evans 1981)

‘Animals are part of the working class’ (Hribal 2003)

Radical educators have sought to claim Paulo Freire’s legacy for a new form of disaster pedagogy, referred to as ecopedagogy:

as an alternative global project concerned with nature preservation …and the impact made by human societies on the natural environment…as a new model for sustainable civilisation from the ecological point of view.., which implies making changes on economic, social, and cultural structures. Therefore, it is connected to a utopian project – one to change current human, social, and environmental relationships’ (Attunes and Gadotti 2014 136).

Ecopedagogy reaches beyond humanisation, a key issue for critical pedagogy, to the planetary level, so students can learn ‘to live as cosmic citizens’ (Antunes and Gadotti 2014 136). Some of their cosmologies are too restrictive, as ‘an ensemble of interdependent knowledge and values’ ( 2014 136), informed by biology, economy and ecology ( 2014 136 – 137), or too metaphysical: a mixture of science and theology, with the earth as ‘this sacred, living being, in continuous evolution’ (2014 137).

A more radical politicised version of ecopedagogy frames cosmology as a combination of history and political economy, with ‘ethics at the heart of science’ (Best and Kellner 2001 142, in Kahn 2010 36).  Grounded in Critical Theory and The Frankfurt School, this work argues for ‘a new science of life ‘ as a way to restore a symbiotic connection between ‘human cultural and natural kingdoms’ so as to avoid ecological catastrophe (Kahn 2010 55). This revolutionary ecopedagogy would teach traditional ecological  knowledge (2010 105-106) based on  ‘ways of being, wisdom and  cultural continuity acquired over thousands of years of direct human contact with the environment’ (Berkes 1993 19 in Kahn 2010 105);  against capitalist knowledge, with its technicism, instrumentalism, positivism and naïve empiricism. Traditional knowledge  is not simply an alternative form of knowing, but a counter-hegemonic discourse on the nature and purpose of science in all its socio-political and economic ramifications (2010 107). This would produce  ‘a new science of the multitude’ (Hardt and Negri 2000 41, in Kahn 2010 114-5), as a full blown ‘utopian sustainability’ and ‘ecological democracy’ (Kahn 2010 115).

This politicised pedagogy does not avoid the question of revolutionary violence against the systemic violence of capitalist civilisation, citing the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front as activist inspirations; with an acknowledgement that these uncompromising direct action groups are in need of theoretical education based on a critique of political economy (Kahn 2010 15).

And yet, this critique of capitalist violence is not systematic; only a series of judgemental cliches of causation: ‘transnational corporate globalisation’ (Kahn 2010 6), ‘neoliberal market mechanisms’  (2010 16) ‘big-business as usual’ (2010 17) and  the capitalist greed of a transnational ruling class (2010 125), setting up a dangerous justification for self-righteous force of arms. For these revolutionary ecopedagogues there might be ‘monsters lurking in the collective unconscious’ of the educational project that supports ‘unsustainable transnational capitalism’ (2010 45 – 46), but these are not recognisable as Lefebvre’s  Monster. Remember Lefebvre’s Monster was not the personifications of capital, but the law of value and its violent abstractions: the fourth dimension.

Recently, the idea of rhythmanalysis (1991) as ‘a science of everything’  has been deepened  by ‘capitalist world-ecology’ where the relationship between nature and the social world is viewed through the optic of Marx’s value-relation, bringing out clearly the foundational logic of the disaster of capitalism (Moore 2014).

World-ecology Marxism seeks to dissolve the dualist dichotomy between the social and the natural world, present even in Lefebvre’s’ circular and linear rhythms, by uncovering  ecological crisis not as the direct action of human activity on nature, but as ‘The Age of Capital’ understood as  ‘value-in-motion (Moore 2014). This is the same destructive logic that drives the process of historical time and its  military terrors on display in the Atrocity Exhibition ( see earlier, Postone 1993), now expressed at the planetary level, and through a different series of violent abstractions, including the concepts of society and nature, as well as time and space. This is not the dualism between society and nature, nor even Lefebvre’s  ‘antagonistic unity’ (Lefebvre 1991 2004 85); rather  the relationship is  now defined as ‘value-in-nature’ (2014a 6); not nature as resource, but nature as matrix (2014 13), ‘coercively-enforced’ ( 2014a 23). This is what is meant by ‘capitalist world-ecology:  a civilisation that joins the accumulation of capital, the pursuit of power, and the production of nature as an organic whole’ (2014a 11).

For world-ecology Marxism valorisation is based on the exploitation of labour (paid work) and the appropriation of non-labour (unpaid work). Paid work relates to  the productivity of human energy, while unpaid work relates to the reproductive conditions on which paid work relies: human and extra human energy, including animal toil and domestic work, as well as food, power and other raw materials. In the world of value-in-nature neither labour or nature exist as such, but as the capitalist categories of abstract labour and abstract nature, configuring the ‘web of life’ (2014 13).

This is an historical process, ongoing since 1450 when the wealth of land production was replaced by the wealth of labour production through commodification (paid work) and colonialism(unpaid work). New intellectual powers: scientific and imaginary, were conjured up to service the astonishing discipline of exchange and expansive territorialisation, including quantification, mathematics, geometry, mapping, coding and surveying. This new civilisation has been marked by scientific revolutions in chemistry, botany, biology, physics and life sciences based on the discovery of new forms of unpaid work: steam, coal, electricity, oil, atomic-nuclear and digital electronics. These scientific revolutions were applied as human sciences, with rationality and reason, when forms of state administration sought technologies of power to control paid and unpaid ‘populations’ (Moore 2014).

The world has reached an epochal moment; not only do the  abstract material substances: heat, gas and particles, pumped out by valorisation threaten planetary stability, e.g., global warming, but capital has come up against the limit of its valorisation capacity, expressed as ‘the end of growth’ (Summers 2013, Krugman 2013). Yet, the categories of (un)paid work are not-identical to life, and are everywhere challenged by class conflict, superbugs and other infestations, including weeds and various invasive plants undermining agro-business and factory foundations (2010 20), not to mention animal ‘acts of resistance’ (Hribal 2007 103), as well as other ‘natural catastrophes’.  All of this struggle maintains the promise of pedagogy in paradise and the metamorphosis of a derelict city, adding the re-appropriation of capitalist space as well as time for the benefit of humanity-in-nature.

Opening Ceremony

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 10.49.56

‘Columnas’ (1994) a sculpture in bronze by Marion Irarrazabal,on show in Palacio Baburizza, Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes, Valparaiso, January 2015.

He landed in the bay on a mechanical bird whose structure appeared to disobey the laws of biology and aerodynamics.  The bird-machine had been originally designed as a theatre prop, but was repurposed during the last Andean war as a reconnaissance plane. Its phantasmical plumage, made of rubber and carpet matting, provided a perfect camouflage in this paradisical setting.

The lighter that ferried the Teacher to the shore was skippered by a dog named Cantar. In the city of Paradise dogs and humans lived together as equals, making it the most democratic political society on the continent of Bolivaria, maybe the whole planet. The lighter was pulled by six sea lions attached by harnesses and ropes to the sides of the boat. The sea lions, or escavlos, were regarded as a lower caste, not less intelligent or capable, but without legs. In the city of Paradise political status was determined by numbers of legs: with two as the optimum. Here dogs walked on two legs, some with ease, while others needed sticks and various wheeled contraptions. No dog would be seen walking on all fours, or ‘doggy-style’. Humans and dogs are referred to as ‘Gentle-legs’ to avoid discrimination.

The Teacher had come back to the city of Paradise to open a new institute of higher education: the Derelict University.

Standing on the harbour was the welcoming party: the President, The General and the Priest. The Priest was a higher-bred, or human-dog hybrid: these were rare among the population of Paradise, having been previously illegal; but were now given the highest Gentle-leg status, following recent changes in the law.

The President and the General had brought a new constitution to the city of Paradise and were much loved by all of the Gentle-legs. The Constitution was built on five key principles:

  • We the people and dogs of the city of Paradise exist as one citizenry in perpetual union for posterity for liberty and the commonweal
  • All creatures in Paradise are equal, although some are more equal than others
  • Legs are best, but two legs are better
  • Paradise protects free speech, free education and freedom to defecate in the street. To shit in the street is a collective public act against the privatising of one of our most basic functions (Laporte 2002). Down with privatisation!
  • The President is elected every seven years by universal suffrage, including creatures with two legs, which must be either dog, human, or higher-bred. This does not include monkeys who have been proved by research commissioned by the Bolivarian Science Council to be of lower intelligence.

The President, the General and the Priest gave a warm welcome to the Teacher, recognising the role he had played in instructing the population to read and write Doggerel, the official language of the city of Paradise. The President made a short speech, that was more like an anti-poem (Parra 1985):

‘Your attention, every gentle-legs, a monument for your attention

Turn your gaze to this part of the Republic of humans and dogs

Pleasure and pain in a bottle, like a sexual and intellectual abyss, covered in files and other official documents

Leaving no stone unturned, no skin unskinned

In search of the fourth dimension’

The reception party and the Teacher then walked the short distance across Victory Square to the site of the newly built Derelict University. When they reached the  building the Teacher stood on a raised platform in front of rows of invited Gentle-legs and began his soliloquy:

‘Dear Gentle-legs, if the future is everywhere catastrophe how are we to overcome our fears? We can do this by constructing derelict cities, finding ways in which the natural rhythms of cosmology, zoology, biology and geology can be conjoined with the life rhythms of humans and dogs.

From these rhythms we can produce buildings that reflect the surrealist principles and anarchist architecture of our ancestors. But a city is not just about buildings, it is about people and its gentle-legs. You have shown how the law can sustain the most basic of natural capacities, to protect each other in times of turmoil and trauma as the basis of a new sociality. It is on this basis of science, law and sociability that you have laid the foundations for your new institute of higher learning, and found a way to re-appropriate time and space for the benefit of humans-dogs-in-nature. It gives me great pleasure to formally open the Derelict University of the city of Paradise.’

As the Teacher cut the yellow ribbon tectonic plates moved deep under the Pacific Ocean. Richter’s seismometer clicked into action, reporting a measure that would show 9.5 on its magnitude scale. Far out at sea tsunami warning buoys started to rock and to roll. Somewhere in Bolivaria at a secret location conspirators plotted to overthrow the Republic of Gentle-legs in a coup-d’etat. The first act of the military government would be to murder all of the dogs.

Out in the bay runaway sea lions (esclavos) occupied a derelict dock and dreamed of revolution.



Allende, I. (1985) The House of Spirits, Jonathan Cape, London

Antunes, A. and Godatti, M. (2014) ‘Ecopedagogy as the Appropriate Pedagogy to the Earth Charter Process’ The Earth Charter in Action (

Attlee, J. ( 2007) ‘Towards Anarchitecture: Gordon Matta-Clark and Le Courbusier’ Tate Online Research Journal’

Architonic (2009) Museum of Memories and Human Rights,

Austin, R. (2003) The State, Literacy and Political Education in Chile, 1964 – 1990, Lexington Books

Benjamin, W. (1986) ‘Naples’, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, Schocken Books, New York [1925]

Benjamin, W. (1929) Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligensia

Berkes, F. (1993)  ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Perspective’ in J. Inglis ( ed.) Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Concepts and Cases, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa

Best, S. and Kellner D. (2001) The Postmodern Adventure: Science Technology and Cultural Studies at the Third Millennium, Routledge, London and New York

Bordiga, A. (2001) Murdering the Dead: On Capitalism and other Disasters, Antagonism Press

Canivell, M. (1985) ‘Of Labyrinths in Isabel Allende’s The House of Spirits’

Charnock, G. (n.d.) Challenging New State Spaces: The Open Marxism of Henri Lefebvre

Choi, C. (2014) in Scientific American August

Cleaver, H. (2005) The Uses of an Earthquake,

Dalrymple Henderson, L. (2013) The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art, Princeton University Press, Massachusetts

Davis, M. (2006) [1990] City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles, Verso, London and New York

Davis, M. (1998) Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster, Henry Holt and Company

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1972) Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia

Diserens, C. (date) Gordon Matta-Clark, Phaidon, London

Edensor, T. (ed) (2010) Geographies of Rhythm: Nature, Place, Mobilities and Bodies, Ashgate, London

Elden, S. (2004)  Introduction in H. Lefebvre Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life, Continuum Books, London and New York

ECLAC (2010) The Chilean Earthquake of 29th February 2010: an Overview, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean,

Estefane. A. ( 2013)  ‘Materiality and Politics in Chile’s Museum of Memory and Human Rights’, Thresholds 158 – 177

Fletcher, P. (1970) ‘Paulo Freire and Concientizacion in Latin America’, Centre for Latin American Studies, University of Stanford California

Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Continuum, London

Freire, P. (1983) Pedagogy in Process: The Letters of Guinea-Bissau, Continuum, New York

Freire, P. ( 2014) Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Bloomsbury Academic, London

Fritz, C. (1996) ‘Disasters and Mental Health: Therapeutic Principles Drawn from Disaster Studies’ University of Delaware Disaster Research Center [1961]

Gadotti, M. (2003) ‘Pedagogy of the Earth and the Culture of Sustainability’, Lifelong Learning conference paper, Toronto, Canada

Guardiola-Rivera, O. (2013) Story of a Death Foretold: The Coup Against Salvador Allende, 11 September 1973, Bloomsbury, London and New York

Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2000) Empire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge Massachussetts

Harrison, R. and Abramsky, C. (1966) ‘The Man of Earthquakes – a neglected interview with Karl Marx’, Society for the Study of Labour History

Hough, S. (2007) Richter’s Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man, Princeton University Press, Princeton

Hribal, J. ( 2003) Animals Are Part of the Working Class – A Challenge to Labour History, Labour History 44 4 435-453

Hribal, J. (2007)  ‘Animal Agency and Class Writing the History of Animals from Below’, Human Ecology Review 14 1 101 – 112

Kahn, R. (2010) Critical Pedagogy, Ecoliteracy and Planetary Crisis: The Ecopedagogy Movement, Peter Lang, New York and Oxford

Kay, J. (2011) ‘Earthquakes, Crackheads and Utopias’,

Kirkendall, A. (2012) Paulo Freire and the Cold War Politics of Literature  University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill

Klein, N. (2008)  Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,  Penguin, London and New York

Klein, N. (2010) Milton Friedman did not Save Chile’, The Guardian, 3rd March,

Klein, N. (2015) This Changes Everything, Penguin, Random House, London

Kornbluth, P. (2013) The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, The New Press, New York and London

Krugman, P. (2013) ‘Secular Stagnation, Coalmines, Bubbles and Larry Summers’, New York Times, November 16th,, accessed 14th June 2015

Laporte, D. ( 2002) The History of Shit, MIT Press

Lee, P. ( 2001) Object to Be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA and London

Lefebvre, H. ( 2007) [1992] Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life, Continuum Books, London and New York

Long, G. (2015) ‘The Rebuilding of Chile’s Constitucion: How a “dead city” was brought back to life’ The Guardian  23rd Feb:

Mah, A. ( 2014) ‘The Dereliction Tourist: Ethical Issues of Conducting Research in Area of Industrial Ruination’, Sociological Research Online 19 (4) 13

Matta-Clark, G. (1974) ‘Anarchitecture’, Flash Art 46-47: 70-71

Matta-Clark, G. (1976) ‘Matta-Clark’s Building Dissections’, Arts Magazine, Vol.50, No. 9 74-79

Maxwell, R. (2010) ‘The Problem of Strays in Valparaiso’, Georgetown University

Meiksins Wood, E. (2002) The Origins of Capitalism: a longer view, Verso, London

Meyer, K. (2008) ‘Rhythms, Streets, Cities’ in K. Goonewardena, S.Kipfer, R. Milgrom and C. Schmid (eds) Space, Difference and Everyday Life: Reading Henri Lefebvre, Routledge, Abingdon and New York

Miller, A.I. (2001) Einstein and Picasso: Space, Time and the Beauty that Causes Havoc, Basic Books, New York

Moore, J. (2014a) ‘The Capitalocene: Part I, On the Nature and `Origins of the Ecology Crisis’

Moore, J. ( 2014) ‘The Capitalocene: Part II, Abstract Social Nature and the Limits of Capital’

Muir, P. (2011) Gordon Matta-Clark’s Conical Intersect: “Luxury will be king”‘, Journal for Cultural Research, Volume 15 No. 2 173-192

Munro, M. (2010) (ed) Haiti Rising: Haitian History, Culture and the Earthquake of 2010, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool

Parra, M. ( 1985) Poems and Anti-Poems, D. Unger (ed) New Directions

Postone, M. (1993) Time,Labour and Social Domination: a Reappraisal of Marx’s Critical Theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Postone, M.( 2003) ‘The Holocaust and the Trajectory of the Twentieth Century’, in M. Postone and E. Santner ( eds) Catastrophe and Meaning: the Holocaust and the Twentieth Century, Chicago University Press, Chicago

Radford, T. (2009) ‘Lessons from Past Disasters go Unheaded, The Guardian, 29 January

Roh, F. (1925) ‘Magical Realism: Post Expressionism’

Smithson, R. (1996) Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings (ed.) J Flamm, University of California Press

Sohn-Rethel, A. (1978) Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of Epistemology, Macmillan, London and Basingstoke

Solnit, R. ( 2010) Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disasters, Viking Books, New York

Stallings, R. (1995) Promoting Risk: Constructing the Earthquake Threat,  Aldine Transaction

Stanek, L. ( 2011) Henry Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research and the Production of Theory, University of Minnesota Press

Summers, L. (2013) ‘Transcript to Larry Summers’ speech at the IMF Economic Forum, November 8th’,, accessed 14th June 2015

Taylor, M. (2006) From Pinochet to the Third Way: Neo-Liberalism and Social Transformation in Chile, Pluto Press, London

Ursprung, P. (2012) ‘Anarchitecture: Gordon Matta-Clark and the Legacy of the 70s’, Future Cities Laboratory, accessed 21st January 2015

Vergara, F. ( 2013) Governmental Role in Reconstruction: A Comparison of Post-Earthquake in 1985 and 2010,

Wilson, J. ( 2014) ‘Plan Puebla Panama – The Violence of Abstract Space’ in L. Stanek, C. Schmid and A. Moravansky ( eds.) Urban Revolution Now: Henri Lefebvre in Social Research and Architecture, Ashgate, London and New York