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Author: Richard Barbrook

THE HOLY FOOLS (LONG MIX) by Richard Barbrook


a critique of the avant-garde
in the age of the Net

1: The Lost Utopia

The Net is haunted by the disappointed hopes of the Sixties. Because this new technology symbolises another period of rapid change, many contemporary commentators look back to the stalled revolution of thirty years ago to explain what is happening now. For instance, the editors of Wired continually pay homage to the New Left values of individual freedom and cultural dissent in their coverage of the Net. Yet, these old hippies no longer believe in political rebellion and collective provision. Instead, in their Californian ideology, they now claim that their youthful ideals will be realised through technological determinism and free markets. The politics of ecstasy have been replaced by the economics of greed. [1]

Within Europe, it is much more difficult to pull off the Californian scam of camouflaging New Right policies for the Net underneath New Left rhetoric. A long history of class-based politics and compulsive theorising makes such ideological chicanery seem much more implausible. Even post-modernists are much more attracted to pessimism and nihilism than to the reactionary modernism underpinning the Californian ideology. [2] However, this does not mean that Europeans are immune from embracing digital elitism in the name of Sixties libertarianism. Ironically, this bizarre union of opposites is most evident in the writings on the Net by avant-garde intellectuals inspired by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

Although these two philosophers were overt leftists during their lifetimes, many of their contemporary followers support a form of aristocratic anarchism which is eerily similar to that promoted by Californian neo-liberals. The European avant-garde is rediscovering its elitist traditions through the cult of Deleuze and Guattari. By doing so, the Deleuzoguattarians haven’t just unwittingly exposed the fatal weaknesses within what appears to be an impeccably emancipatory analysis of the Net. Trapped within the precepts of their sacred creed, the disciples of Deleuze and Guattari can’t even grasp why the spread of the Net really is such a subversive phenomenon.

Inside the universities, alternative culture and the art world, the popularity of Deleuze and Guattari is the philosophical equivalent of current nostalgia for Sixties pop music. At the end of the century, the superficiality and detachment of post-modernism are no longer fashionable among radical intellectuals. However, because the Soviet Union has collapsed, the European avant-garde cannot return to its traditional obsession with the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Instead, contemporary activists, academics and artists look back to the libertarian spontaneity of the revolutionary Sixties. Just like pop musicians, TJs use samples from this heroic decade to prove their radical credentials. [3] At the peak of the Sixties revolutionary wave, it appeared that old structures were disintegrating and collective subjectivity was about to be realised. During a brief moment, the continent seemed to be on the verge of fundamental social transformation.

‘The movement [of May '68] was a rediscovery of collective and individual history, an awareness of the possibility of intervening in history, an awareness of participating in an irreversible event…It was a generalised critique of all alienations, all ideologies and of the entire organisation of real life…’ [4]

The great change never happened. Despite marches, strikes, riots, occupations and terrorism, the system was able to defeat the challenge from the New Left. During the Eighties and Nineties, even the social gains of the post-war settlement were being rolled back by triumphant capitalism. Yet, after decades of reactionary rule, the folk memory of May ’68 still remains an inspiration for the present. While ‘really existing socialism’ has imploded, the democratic ways of working, cultural experimentation and emancipatory lifestyles initiated in the Sixties have survived – and even flourished – into the harder times of the Nineties. From raves to environmental protests, the spirit of May ’68 lives on within the DIY culture. [5] Deprived of Leninism, contemporary European intellectuals wishing to revive the revolutionary traditions of the avant-garde are drawn to this legacy of the New Left. However, unlike their hippie mentors, these academics, artists and activists realise that the overthrow of capitalism is not imminent. Apparently unrealisable in practice, social transformation must be turned into theoretical poetry: a revolutionary dreamtime for the imagination.

The cult of Deleuze and Guattari is a prime example of this aesthetisation of Sixties radicalism. Their most famous book – A Thousand Plateaus – is a weird pot-pourri of anarchism, therapy, mysticism, art theory, musicology, bizarre science, imaginary history and drug references. Rejecting reasoned sociological arguments, Deleuze and Guattari created free association meditations written in their own inimitable language. As they explained in its opening pages: ‘a book…is a multiplicity – but we don’t know yet what the multiple entails when it is no longer attributed, that is, after it has been elevated to the status of a substantive.’ [6]

Despite this warning from its authors, A Thousand Plateaus has become a sacred text: the Kabbala of the techno-generation. This book provides the buzzwords and concepts for a specifically European understanding of the Net. It is the default setting for discussions on nettime and other on-line political-artistic forums. [7] Precisely because it comes from Europe, Deleuzoguattarian theory is now fashionable from New York to Tokyo. On the West Coast, Kevin Kelly and other Wired writers also use an eclectic mix of hippie rhetoric, weird science and pop culture to create the Californian ideology. [8] However, their hard-line neo-liberalism is irrelevant to most European intellectuals – and their imitators overseas. Instead of seeing the Net primarily as a business opportunity, avant-garde academics, artists and activists are much more excited by the cultural possibilities of new technologies. This is not just a reflection of the relative weakness of the European computer industry. For over two decades, a vibrant techno-culture has been developing across the continent. Pioneered by computer-generated dance music, this digital aesthetic now embraces fashion, art, graphic design, publishing and video games. When it emerged in Europe, the Net was not surprisingly pioneered by this already flourishing techno-culture. [9]

The conservative politics and culture of Wired could never provide a credible explanation of what was happening within this alternative scene. Looking for another approach, TJs have rediscovered the writings of Deleuze and Guattari. [10] Apparently free from the taint of both Leninism and neo-liberalism, these two philosophers seem to provide a theoretical framework for understanding the subversive potential of the Net. While all that remains of hippie ideals in Wired is its psychedelic layout, European cyber-enthusiasts – and their imitators – can still champion the lost utopia of May ’68 by using the theoretical poetry of Deleuze and Guattari. The revolution will be digitalised. [11]

2: Techno-Nomads@Rhizome.Net

A Thousand Plateaus has achieved such a cult status within the on-line community because Sixties radicalism did fundamentally shape the Net. Despite being funded by the US military, many of its most important aspects came from the hippie counter-culture. Above all, most Net users expect neither to pay for items downloaded nor to be paid for others accessing their sites. This DIY ethic was partially inspired by the New Left. Campaigning against the American invasion of Vietnam, the Yippie movement advocated not paying for any goods or services provided by corporations profiting from the war. Among activists involved in developing the early computer networks, this subversive attitude was expressed in the famous hacker slogan: ‘information wants to be free.’ [12] Although now threatened by state censorship and colonised by commercial interests, the content of the Net is still mainly produced through spontaneous collaboration between autonomous individuals within a hi-tech gift economy. People freely swap articles, music, software, pictures and any other form of intellectual labour which can be digitally recorded. On websites, on-line conferences, listservers, newsgroups and other virtual spaces, they can play, learn and work together outside the control of both state and market. [13]

Unable to comprehend any form of human sociability except money-commodity relations, the Californian ideology is completely useless for explaining why the hi-tech gift economy is such a fundamental aspect of cyberspace. In contrast, A Thousand Plateaus does seem to provide a credible alternative analysis of the Net. This book contains theoretical metaphors which illustrate how much of the Net’s content is produced without monetary incentives. It even has concepts which can be used to describe some of the more bizarre aspects of on-line culture, such as cybersex. Above all, this sacred text allows the European avant-garde of the late-Nineties to live within a revolutionary dreamtime inspired by the rebellious Sixties.

For the disciples of Deleuze and Guattari, the rhizome is the key concept found within A Thousand Plateaus. As a metaphor derived from plant roots, this phrase captures how cyberspace is organised as an open-ended, non-hierarchical, spontaneous and horizontal network. Not surprisingly, rhizome has been adopted a shorthand term for websites, listservers, IRC channels, bulletin boards, MOOs and other on-line conferences where people can come together inside the Net without needing the direct mediation of money. [14] One hip New York list server and web site has even adopted Rhizome as its name. [15] According to the Deleuzoguattarians, these non-commodified Net spaces are digital versions of other ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’ liberated by DIY activists, such as squats, pirate radios, illegal raves and environmental protest camps. [16] Far from being the apotheosis of market competition, the Net is seen as heralding a new stage of human civilisation founded on rhizomic collaboration. [17]

The adepts of A Thousand Plateaus believe that the most utopian demands of May ’68 are about to be realised within cyberspace. Social movements will be able to organise themselves freely using the Net’s decentralised structure. [18] Cyber-feminists will use digital technologies to transcend patriarchal oppression. [19] Community media will be able to distribute their output without fear of censorship or other restrictions. [20] The limitations of representative democracy will be overcome through the creation of the ‘virtual agora’ – a real-time direct democracy made possible through mass participation in social decision-making using the Net. [21] As nations disappear and hierarchies collapse, Sixties radicalism will finally realised within cyberspace.

The appeal of A Thousand Plateaus lies in more than its poetic recapitulation of New Left communal utopias. In their holy book, Deleuze and Guattari also propagated the myth of the nomad to celebrate hippie tribalism. During the Sixties, many revolutionaries thought that rejecting the dull routines of everyday life was the most effective method of undermining corporate capitalism. Rather than becoming docile workers and contented consumers, ‘…the children of the ants are all going to be tribal people…’ [22] From crusties to cyberpunks, contemporary youth subcultures still retain this hippie belief in the redemptive power of bohemian lifestyles. European avant-garde intellectuals are particularly attracted by the nomadic version of this tradition. Being relatively privileged, they already enjoy greater mobility as employees and as tourists than most of the population of the continent. These academics, artists and activists are making business and forming friendships at conferences, openings, festivals, exhibitions and parties held across the continent and beyond. Now, in their imaginations, the disciples of Deleuze and Guattari can even be in motion when sitting in front of their computer screens. They are the ‘hunter-gatherers of CommTech’ – a cyber-tribe who follow the ‘flows’ across the open spaces of the virtual world. [23] Within the rhizomes of the Net, the Deleuzoguattarians are forming their own youth subculture: the techno-nomads. [24]

There is an eccentric flakiness in Deleuze and Guattari’s writings which fits well with the mood of the times. As in the Sixties, alternative culture has a simultaneous – and contradictory – fascination with mystical beliefs, such as New Age and UFO cults, and with scientific advances, such as quantum physics and genetic manipulation. Among the Californian ideologues, this strange combination of spiritual irrationalism and technical rationalism has been used to justify their neo-liberal analysis of the Net. Using A Thousand Plateaus, TJs have mixed a European version of mystical positivism as wacky as anything found on the West Coast. [25]

For instance, on-line dating isn’t simply a fun way of meeting new partners and trying to find romance. Someone who talks about sex on an IRC channel or in a MOO is supposedly transformed into a Body-without-Organs – an erotic mind freed by digital technologies from the restrictions of the flesh. [26] According to Pierre Lévy, the Net is forming a ‘collective intelligence’ out of our individual minds – a notion derived by combining neo-Platonist Islamic theology with chaos theory and quantum mechanics. [27] For both Manuel De Landa and Sadie Plant, the self-organising tendencies of the Net are derived from a process of chaotic ‘emergence’ which determines everything from hurricanes through living organisms to computer systems. [28] However, even these forms of mystical positivism are not irrational enough for Hakim Bey. Promoting his own incoherent mix of Sufism, acid, anarchism and cyberpunk, this guru openly denounces: ‘…all born-again knee jerk atheists & their frowsy late-Victorian luggage of scientistic vulgar materialism…’ [29]

The disciples of A Thousand Plateaus are the contemporary version of the European avant-garde. D&G now symbolises more than just Dolce & Gabbana. United by certain ‘signifying practices’, they form an intellectual version of the youth subcultures studied by many of them on Cultural Studies courses. [30] The techno-nomads love computer technologies, they’re fans of techno music, they’re excited by bizarre science, they’re sympathetic to esoteric beliefs, they’re part of the chemical generation and they adore cyberpunk novels. There even is a distinctive Deleuzoguattarian language which is almost incomprehensible to the uninitiated. [31] Above all, the techno-nomads possess a radical optimism about the future of the Net. Intoxicated by reading too much Deleuze and Guattari, these TJs are confident of being able to intervene within cyberspace to maximise its emancipatory social and cultural potential. The development of the Net won’t just undermine the power of the state, but also create a whole new libertarian way of living. The wired future is there for the taking…

‘What we want to do is what we can do: cut new channels, create new temporary autonomous zones, defuse cathecting power. More than any other writers, [Deleuze and Guattari] …have developed a coherent set of conceptual tools that help us understand our situation and act upon it.’ [32]

3: The Politics of May ’68

As the European universities and art world have long been dominated by French formalist philosophy, it is not entirely surprising that avant-garde intellectuals interested in the Net have elevated A Thousand Plateaus into a cult text. Since Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, Baudrillard and Virilio are no longer the latest thing, they have proclaimed Deleuze and Guattari as the philosophers of the moment. Although sometimes included within the inner circle of French post-structuralism, these two thinkers were until recently considered far too radical to receive official artistic or academic recognition. [33] However, in this current period of rapid social change symbolised by the Net, the subversive ideas contained within their writings now add to their fashionable appeal. The cynicism and detachment of the post-modernists was Eighties style. The techno-nomads need a more passionate approach for the end of the Nineties. Although they’re both dead, Deleuze and Guattari have become the philosophers of the cyber-millennium.

Far from deterring an audience educated in structuralism, the hermetic language and tortured syntax used within A Thousand Plateaus are seen as proofs of its analytical brilliance. Yet this idiosyncratic Deleuzoguattarian discourse has caused as much confusion as elucidation among their followers. Although the sacred texts are obviously inspired by Sixties radicalism, most of the techno-nomads seem blissfully unaware of what exactly are the theoretical and practical implications of its New Left politics. For instance, the Rhizome website blandly announces that: ‘rhizome is…a figurative term…to describe non-hierarchical networks of all kinds.’ [34] However, at no point does this web site explain either the political meaning of this peculiar concept or how its principles might be applied within the Net. On the contrary, rhizome is simply a hip European phrase borrowed to celebrate the disorganised nature of the New York cyber-arts scene. Some disciples have become even more befuddled by the strange rhetoric of A Thousand Plateaus. For example, Hari Kunzru claims that Deleuze and Guattari are on the same side as the Californian ideologues in the ‘libertarian-communitarian opposition’ within debates about the Net. Just like Wired, these two philosophers are supposedly champions of the ‘emergent properties’ of individual initiative against the evils of state domination. [35]

Such confusion is partially the consequence of political naiveté among many followers of Deleuze and Guattari. Because the two philosophers didn’t use stilted left-wing jargon, most of their followers have avoided understanding the specific political position which informs A Thousand Plateaus and the other sacred texts. Yet, Deleuze and Guattari weren’t just advocates of avant-garde art – and were certainly never apologists for neo-liberalism. Above all, these two gurus were ‘soixante-huitards’: supporters of the May ’68 revolution. [36] During their lifetimes, they were both participated with high-profile New Left initiatives. Deleuze was actively involved in the Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons – the anti-prisons movement led by Michel Foucault. Guattari was the leader of most influential community radio organisation in France. [37] Although it has confused their disciples, Deleuze and Guattari’s idiosyncratic discourse was inspired by their participation in these New Left campaigns. According to the two philosophers, the problem with the ‘wooden language’ of Leninism was that its lack of radicalism not its revolutionary aspirations. [38] In its place, they composed theoretical poetry to express the new subversive practices which developed following the May ’68 uprising against capitalism. Far from supporting Californian neo-liberalism, Deleuze and Guattari actually championed the most revolutionary form of New Left politics: anarcho-communism.

Like other members of their generation, Deleuze and Guattari wanted to escape from the rigid orthodoxies of Stalinism which had dominated the French Left since the rise of fascism. [39] Trying to find a radical alternative, they took their inspiration from an eclectic range of sources. Along with other young militants, the two philosophers participated in the rediscovery of revolutionary ideologies which had been discarded by their elders, such as anarchism, Trotskyism, Surrealism, council communism and Freudo-Marxism. [40] At the same time, these philosophers also drew on the new ideas and practices which were emerging from the ferment of the New Left, such as Maoism, structuralism, Situationism, urban terrorism, feminism, pacifism, gay rights, community media, psychedelic culture and the anti-psychiatry movement. Despite the profound contradictions between them, all these different currents were united in their disillusionment with the parliamentary parties and trade unions of the mainstream European Left. [41]

For Deleuze and Guattari, anarcho-communism was the most radical expression of New Left politics. As its name suggests, anarcho-communism stood for the destruction of both state power and market capitalism. After bureaucracy and money were abolished, society would be reorganised as a direct democracy and as a gift economy. Initially, anarcho-communists had believed that their utopia would be formed by workers’ councils based in the factories. But, after May ’68, they increasingly identified direct democracy and the gift economy with the social movements and community media created by New Left activists. [42]

The appeal of anarcho-communism did not only derive from its abstract theory, but also from its concrete practice. During the Sixties, anarcho-communists led the search for radical solutions to the historically novel problems facing young people. Because of the struggle against fascism and the development of Fordism, the babyboomer generation grew up in a period when the Left in Western Europe was dominated by Stalinist and Social Democratic parties. Although divided by the Cold War, both movements prioritised representative politics and economic growth over more radical concepts of human liberation. However, with the arrival of consumer society, the policy of unrestricted modernisation appeared to have reached its limits. Once almost everyone had annual rises in income and mass unemployment had disappeared, the problems of everyday life took on increasing importance, such as restraints on sexual and cultural freedom.

Above all, many people now wanted a say in the decisions which effected them. They were no longer willing to accept leadership from above without some form of dialogue. Responding to these historically specific circumstances, young militants rediscovered and updated anarcho-communism not just as a theory, but also as a practice. Unlike their parents’ parliamentary parties and trade unions, the New Left could articulate their contemporaries’ demands for more participation. Within the universities, factories, offices and cultural life, young people were no longer content to have others deciding their lives for them in return for the commodities of consumer society. Instead, they wanted to do things for themselves.

‘[Anarcho-]communism is not a new mode of production; it the affirmation of a new community. It is a question of being, of life…men and women…will not gain mastery over production, but will create new relations among themselves which will determine an entirely different activity.’ [43]

4: The Romance of ‘Schizo-Politics’

In their writings, the disciples of Deleuze and Guattari are invoking this revolutionary spirit of May ’68 to celebrate the libertarian aspects of the Net. Opposed to censorship or commercialisation within cyberspace, they instinctively seize on rhizomes, nomads and Body-without-Organs to attack their statist and capitalist enemies. Bored by the political apathy of post-modernism, the techno-nomads are excited by the subversive attitudes of their two gurus. However, the current aestheticisation of Sixties radicalism makes it difficult to understand the particular political position underpinning Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy. Because of their idiosyncratic language, the origins of their politics in the historically specific circumstances facing the New Left thirty years ago have been obscured. Yet, when read with knowledge of this past, the free association theoretical poetry of A Thousand Plateaus does reveal its rigid political line: anarcho-communism.

Like the traditional Left, Deleuze and Guattari also believed that modern society was the culmination of thousands of years of social conflict. However, the two philosophers rejected the policies for economic modernisation championed by both the Stalinist and Social Democratic parties. Growing up during the post-war boom, they thought that poverty and unemployment were no longer urgent social problems. Along with other anarcho-communists, Deleuze and Guattari didn’t just think that this strategy was a betrayal of the revolutionary heritage of the Left. Above all, they claimed that the reformism of the parliamentary parties had become ‘a historical absurdity’ after May ’68. [44]

While the mainstream Left still sought political power, the Deleuze and Guattari denounced the state itself as the source of all oppression. According to their foundation myth, the state and its allies had been using top-down tree-like structures to subjugate people ever since the dawn of agrarian civilisation. [45] Described as a process of ‘territorialisation’, they claimed that the media, psychoanalysis and language were the primary ‘machinic assemblages’ used by the state to control everyday life in the modern world. [46] For Deleuze and Guattari, economics was only one manifestation of the state’s primordial will to dominate all human activity. [47]

Facing the transhistorical enemy of the state was a new opponent: the social movements. Both Stalinists and Social Democrats believed that the organised working class was the principle enemy of capitalism. In contrast, Deleuze and Guattari thought that this traditional style of left-wing politics was now obsolete. As part of the ‘guaranteed’ sector of the economy, private and public sector workers not only had been bought off by the system, but also had their desires manipulated by the family, the media, the dominant language and psychoanalysis. [48] Like much of the post-’68 New Left, the two philosophers instead looked to the new social movements of youth, feminists, ecologists, homosexuals and immigrants to ‘deterritorialise’ the power of the state. Forming the ‘non-guaranteed’ sector, people in these movements were excluded from the system and were therefore supposedly eager to fight for the revolution. [49]

While the parliamentary Left wanted to unite all workers around common concerns which could be satisfied through reforms, Deleuze and Guattari advocated a ‘micro-politics of desire’ which resisted such homogenisation of individual needs by the state and its left-wing allies. [50] In A Thousand Plateaus, the nomads poetically symbolised the ‘molecular’ groups who were making this anarcho-communist revolution against the ‘molar’ tyranny of political power. Echoing the hippie fascination with American Indians, the two philosophers claimed that nomadic tribes had prefigured the small-scale and non-hierarchical organisations of the social movements. Far from trying to seize political power, nomads used their mobility to avoid the ‘territorialised’ control of the authoritarian state. [51] Inspired this example, the social movements should therefore reject all attempts to unify them behind the programmes for legislative reforms proposed by the Stalinist and Social Democratic parties. Instead, they should form a multiplicity of tribes which were autonomous from all centralising and hierarchical tendencies, especially those supported by the mainstream Left. [52]

Like other members of the New Left, Deleuze and Guattari advocated the replacement of the state by direct democracy. However, because they distrusted the organised working class, the abolition of political power was no longer to be achieved through the rule of the factory councils. Instead, the two philosophers believed that the bottom-up organisations of the social movements should supersede the top-down authority of the state. In A Thousand Plateaus, the rhizome therefore acted as a poetic metaphor for this updated vision of direct democracy. Along the ‘lines of flight’ mapped out by the New Left, the oppressed would escape from the control of the authoritarian state into autonomous rhizomes formed by the social movements. While the parliamentary Left was still committed to its arboreal, top-down organisations, the New Left was creating rhizomic, bottom-up movements which prefigured the anarcho-communist future. [53]

‘To…centred systems, the authors contrast acentred systems, finite networks of automata in which communication runs from any neighbourhood to any other, the stems and channels do not pre-exist, and all individuals are interchangeable, defined only by their situation at a given moment – such that the local operations are co-ordinated and the final global result synchronised without a central agency.’ [54]

According to Deleuze and Guattari, the overthrow of political power was only the beginning of the anarcho-communist revolution. As ultra-leftists, they didn’t just want to replace one type of social organisation with another more sophisticated form. Above all, they sought to create a fully libertarian way of living. Consequently, these two philosophers advocated the destruction of not only the state and the market, but also the family, the media, the dominant language and the asylum. The only truly free individuals were those who had freed themselves from the ‘common sense’ rationality of bourgeois society. In their critique of official psychiatry, the ‘delirium’ of schizophrenics was something to be celebrated rather than cured. Escaping from their oppressive lives under capitalism, the insane expressed their desires at an intensity which went beyond the social limitations imposed by conventional language. [55] Crucially, this meant that anarcho-communism could no longer be expressed through rational arguments used by the mainstream Left. Because language itself was a form of social domination, ‘schizo-politics’ had to be proclaimed through the ‘delirium’ of theoretical poetry. [56]

According to Deleuze and Guattari, political domination was only made possible through personal repression. The anarcho-communist revolution therefore had to liberate the libidinal energies of people from all forms of social control. The individual ‘delirium’ of schizophrenics prefigured the chaotic spirit of collective revolution. [57] This meant that radicals not only had to detonate a social uprising, but also personally live out the cultural revolution. The New Left revolutionary was symbolised as the Body-without-Organs: a person whose spontaneous desires were no longer ‘organised, signified, subjected’ by the rationality of the state. [58] Such individuals were forerunners of the new type of human being who would emerge after the anarcho-communist revolution. Liberated from the repressive culture of the old order, this post-revolutionary person would be the New Left equivalent of Nietzsche’s Superman: a sovereign individual who could constantly ‘… create new values which are those of life, which make life light and active.’ [59] For Deleuze and Guattari, anarcho-communism was therefore not just the realisation of direct democracy and the gift economy. In their ‘schizo-politics’, the revolution had to include the destruction of bourgeois rationality so each individual could become a holy fool.

‘[The Fool]…is the vagabond who exists on the fringe of organised society, going his own way, ignoring the rules and taboos with which men seek to contain him. He is the madman who carries within him the seeds of genius, the one who is despised by society yet who is the catalyst who will transform that society.’ [60]

5: The Moment of Radio Alice

After two decades of domination by neo-liberalism, it is not surprising that the followers of Deleuze and Guattari don’t wish to ‘come out’ as anarcho-communists. It is much easier to transform the two philosophers’ theoretical poetry into a revolutionary dreamtime about the Net. However, this fear of being overtly anarcho-communist has led to a curious – and revealing – omission among the exuberant writings of Deleuze and Guattari’s disciples. Although they eagerly adapt the poetical metaphors of A Thousand Plateaus to praise the Net, the techno-nomads almost never mention the enthusiasm of one of their holy prophets’ for the emancipatory potential of computer-mediated communications.

For, as well as being a philosopher and a psychoanalyst, Guattari was also a prominent community media activist. From the mid-Eighties onwards, he became one of the main proponents of the use of computer networks by the new social movements. Over a decade before the Net became popular in the USA, the French government had set up the world’s first public access computer network: Minitel. [61] Guattari thought that this proto-Net was a harbinger of a new ‘post-media’ civilisation. In his philosophical writings with Deleuze, the media had always been condemned for imposing capitalist subjectivity on people. In particular, Guattari detested television as a ‘hypnotic drug’ which stupefied its audience and cut them off from their fellow humans. [62] However, he believed that the domination of the mass media was almost over. Using a Minitel bulletin board, group Eros – an anti-psychiatry organisation – was already pioneering new interactive forms of communications among its members. [63] Following this example, other social movements would soon be forming their own ‘collective assemblages of enunciation’ over the public computer network. [64] Instead of being brainwashed by a few television channels, people would then be able to participate within a multiplicity of information spaces. According to Guattari, the New Left was imminently going to replace top-down, homogenising media with bottom-up, rhizomic ‘post-media’. [65]

Given the similarity of Guattari’s utopian vision of computer networks with their own, the absence of almost any mention of his enthusiasm for ‘post-media’ by the techno-nomads is indeed very strange. The reason must be found in their – conscious or unconscious – realisation that an examination of Guattari’s involvement within community media would reveal why their favourite philosophical duo do not really provide ‘a coherent set of conceptual tools’ for understanding the Net. This is because Guattari’s enthusiasm for media experiments by social movements was nothing new. In the late-Seventies and early-Eighties, he was a prominent guru of the community radio movement in both Italy and France. However, when the abstractions of the holy prophets were put into practice, they had disastrous consequences. This is why the techno-nomads have so far studiously avoided mentioning Guattari’s own writings about the impact of computer networks. Once these became known, it would be inevitable that people would then look for their origins in the embarrassing history of the application of Guattari’s theory as practice within the community radio movement. Crucially, it is this anarcho-communist adventure within community radio which – paradoxically – provides the answer to why the disciples of Deleuze and Guattari have developed such a curious affinity with the neo-liberal ideology of Wired.

Like many other innovations of the New Left, the community radio movement began on the West Coast of the USA. The protests against the American invasion of Vietnam didn’t just politically radicalise a generation, but also popularised the hippie counter-culture. Alongside conventional political activism such as marches, election campaigns and sit-ins, young militants showed their opposition to the murderous policies of the US government in South-East Asia by rejecting the puritanical lifestyle of their parents. This fusion of political and cultural radicalism found its clearest expression in the alternative media. Utilising the latest technologies, hippies created many different forms of counter-cultural expression from underground newspapers to rock bands. [66]

The development of community radio broadcasting was an integral part of this cultural revolution against the American military-industrial complex. As with many other New Left initiatives of the time, community radio stations were organised in ways which supposedly prefigured the anarcho-communist future. For example, stations democratically elected their managements and all important tasks were rotated among their workers. At the same time, the community radio stations were committed to breaking down the separation between programme-makers and their audience. For instance, stations refused to accept advertising and instead relied on donations from the listeners. In place of money-commodity relations, community stations were run as gift economies. Above all, New Left media activists wanted members of the audience to make radio programmes about their own concerns. By encouraging two-way communications over the airwaves, these hippie radicals believed that community radio stations were creating a truly democratic form of media within the USA. [67]

Across in Europe, young militants were quick to learn from their American contemporaries. The May ’68 French revolution had catalysed a wave of New Left activism across the continent. In particular, Italy was convulsed by increasingly violent protests against the corrupt rule of the conservative Christian Democrats and their clerical allies. However the mainstream Left could not benefit from this popular desire for change. Because of the Cold War, the Italian Communist Party was blocked from coming to power at a national level and was therefore forced into an implicit acceptance of the status quo. [68] With electoral politics frozen, many young people embraced New Left positions. Rejecting existing party and union structures, they not only organised wildcat strikes and sabotage within the universities and the factories, but also created new social movements of feminists, youth, ecologists, lesbian & gays and other minorities. These hippie radicals sparked off a cultural revolution against the oppressive and patriarchal morality of the Catholic church. By the late-Seventies, the Italian New Left had successfully pioneered a exciting and innovative counter-culture which ranged from national newspapers to community theatres. [69]

Félix Guattari was closely associated with this political and cultural ferment in Italy. Being a prominent New Left psychotherapist, he worked with the Italian anti-psychiatry movement. More importantly, he was proclaimed as the theoretical guru of the Italy’s most celebrated community station: Radio Alice. [70] For decades, the nationalised broadcasting company had been used to disseminate propaganda from the ruling Christian Democrats. Although they complained about political bias, the Left parties didn’t oppose the state’s monopoly over the airwaves. Instead, they campaigned for more ideological pluralism within the existing nationalised system. Just at the point where the opposing parties were edging towards a compromise, some New Left activists decided to undermine this emerging consensus by setting up their own unlicensed radio stations. When the police tried to close them down, these pirates challenged the legality of the state’s monopoly over the airwaves.

Much to their delight, the Italian supreme court decided in 1975 that this situation was indeed a violation of the right of free speech guaranteed in the constitution. Following the collapse of the regulations against unlicensed broadcasting, thousands of ‘free radios’ were set up all across Italy. While most of these were commercial, about a fifth of these stations were run by New Left activists. Like their American counterparts, the radical ‘free radios’ not only elected their own administrators, but also encouraged listener participation in their broadcasts. From phone-ins to community programme-making, these stations allowed their audience to describe their own experiences in strikes or other social struggles. Refusing corporate advertising, they survived through gifts of time and money from their listeners. No longer hindered by the state, the Italian New Left had discovered how to propagate the cultural revolution over the airwaves. [71]

Radio Alice was set up as a political ‘free radio’ in 1976. The station was based in Bologna whose reforming local authority was run by the Communist Party. Its name was an ironic reference to how the city was portrayed as a ‘wonderland’ in the party’s propaganda. [72] Like other radical stations, Radio Alice broadcast news about the social struggles led by the New Left and encouraged community groups to make their own programmes. [73] However, the provision of ‘counter-information’ was not the sole purpose of this station. According to Guattari, Radio Alice was replacing the corrupt system of representative democracy with an electronic form of direct democracy. Instead of having their views represented by politicians or other elected officials, people could now directly express their own opinions on the programmes of the community radio stations. Once the ‘immense permanent meeting’ over the airwaves was formed, Guattari claimed that the social movements would then successfully be able to ‘deterritorialise’ the hierarchical power of the state. Although initially limited to community radio stations, this electronic agora supposedly prefigured the imminent reorganisation of the whole of society around direct democracy after the anarcho-communist revolution. [74]

‘The social entity is enabled to speak for itself without being obliged to look to representatives or spokesmen to speak for it.’ [75]

Even this ultra-left utopia didn’t go far enough for Guattari. The ultimate aim of Radio Alice was the subversion of bourgeois rationality and repressive sexuality within everyday life. When people were able to express their own views over the airwaves, Guattari hoped that the ‘delirium’ of libidinal desire would be released within the population. By encouraging ‘poetical-frenzied’ speech, the ‘free radio’ rhizomes would be laying the foundations for a truly libertarian way of living. [76] Not surprisingly, Radio Alice‘s commitment to converting the inhabitants of Bologna to ‘schizo-politics’ was not appreciated by the reformists at the city hall. When the station helped to organise a student rebellion in the centre of Bologna in 1977, the local Communist council finally had a legal excuse to shut down Radio Alice. The first experiment in Deleuzoguattarian community media was over. [77]

‘The police have destroyed Radio Alice – its activists have been hunted down, condemned, imprisoned, its premises have been ransacked – but its revolutionary work of deterritorialisation tirelessly carries on right into the nervous systems of its persecutors.’ [78]

6: Guattari Goes Bankrupt

Back at home, Radio Alice‘s dramatic martyrdom had turned Guattari into the putative leader of the ‘free radio’ movement in France. [79] As in Italy, the French electronic media was controlled by a state-owned broadcasting monopoly which shamelessly promoted the interests of the ruling conservative parties. However, like the Italian Communist party, the parliamentary Left in France initially didn’t support opening up the airwaves. On the contrary, they wanted the nationalised broadcasting corporation to be reformed along public service lines. [80] This impasse created an opportunity for direct action by New Left activists. In 1977, some Greens in Paris set up the first pirate radio station in France. Inspired by this example, many other groups started to experiment with unlicensed radio broadcasting. Despite state repression, soon almost every political movement in France had its own pirate station. Even François Mitterrand, the leader of the Socialist party, was busted for illegal radio broadcasting! [81]

Although some pirates were commercial, most of the ‘free radios’ were run by New Left activists. Before the May ’68 revolution, the Situationists had advocated the replacement of ‘the society of the spectacle’ by the electronic agora. This ultra-left organisation believed that creating direct democracy within the media was the precondition for the victory of anarcho-communism across France. [82] For many members of the New Left, pirate radio broadcasting was the most effective and fun way of putting this revolutionary theory into practice. Instead of being represented by others, people could now express their own views over the airwaves and organise collectively to realise common goals. According to this analysis, ‘free radios’ were prefiguring the electronic agoras which would run society after the coming revolution.

‘Free radio has the effect of allowing people to be aware of the upheavals which are about to happen. But it is above all the proof that our fate is not determined and that citizens are able to be actors of these transformations rather than forever being (TV) spectators…’ [83]

As in Italy, Félix Guattari was associated with one of the leading stations of the ‘free radio’ movement. Along with Gilles Deleuze and other New Left philosophers, he set up Radio 93 in Paris. Like Radio Alice, this radical pirate didn’t just broadcast news about revolutionary struggles and programmes made by community groups. Radio 93 was also committed to the ‘deterritorialisation’ of state power and the subversion of sexual-linguistic oppression. Although repeatedly raided, the fame of Guattari and his colleagues ensured that this radio project received considerable attention from the mainstream media. With all this coverage, Guattari soon became accepted as the ‘voice’ of the radical pirates. Crucially, his celebrity status allowed him to win support for his own particular theories about the media within the French ‘free radio’ movement. [84]

When pirate radio broadcasting started, the lobbying campaign to open up the airwaves was led by pragmatic members of the Socialist party. Although involved with community radio stations, they were willing to form a tactical alliance with the advocates of commercial broadcasting to obtain licences from a conservative government. But, when this compromise was turned down by the ruling parties, their consensual strategy appeared to have failed. Radicalised by police repression, the surviving pirate radio stations moved towards the policies advocated by Guattari and his colleagues at Radio 93. Rejecting any collaboration with the commercial pirates, these ‘soixante-huitards’ argued that ‘free radios’ should concentrate on prefiguring anarcho-communism within their organisations. Above all, this meant that these stations had to refuse any funding from advertising. In order to consolidate this militant position, the radical pirates came together to form a new lobbying organisation: the Fédération Nationale des Radios Libres (FNRL). [85]

According to Guattari, the principle task of the FNRL was to make clear the community radio movement’s opposition to ‘advertising pollution’. As the state’s monopoly crumbled, the philosopher feared that control would be reimposed over radio broadcasting by commercial organisations. Instead of electronic agoras flourishing within a gift economy, private corporations and their political allies would dominate the airwaves with ‘disco radios’ promoting the values of consumer society. The ‘free radios’ therefore had to maintain their anarcho-communist principles. In place of advertising, community radio stations had to be funded by donations of time and money from their audience. They could then exist within a gift economy rather than become dependent on the ‘territorialising’ forces of capitalism. For the FNRL, the refusal to take radio advertising became the main symbol of a pirate station’s radical credentials. A rhizomic ‘free radio’ could never compromise with arboreal powers from the commercial sector. [86]

Yet, despite its New Left politics, the FNRL still welcomed the Socialist victory in the 1981 elections. Because Mitterrand himself had been arrested for radio piracy, the Fédération knew that the new government would rapidly open up the airwaves. When legislation was being prepared, the anarcho-communist FNRL ironically emerged as the principle advocate of tight state regulation over this new sector. Determined to prevent the commercialisation of radio broadcasting, the Fédération argued that only voluntary organisations should be granted licences and all on-air advertising should be banned. Despite warnings from more pragmatic ‘free radio’ activists, the FNRL managed to persuade the Socialist government to include these measures in its 1981 broadcasting law. According to this statute, the new stations could only be run by social movements and organised as gift economies. [87] As well as winning this victory, Guattari and his comrades were also granted one of the much coveted radio licences for Paris once they agreed to fuse their project with other New Left pirate stations. After years of struggle, they now controlled their own legal ‘free radio’: Fréquence Libre. [88]

While many philosophers have theorised in a vacuum, Guattari now had an unrivalled opportunity to turn his and Deleuze’s abstractions into practice. Fréquence Libre had been granted a licence to broadcast to the millions of inhabitants of Paris. It had its own studios, support from leading members of the New Left and even a small subsidy from the government. This ‘free radio’ was a potential rhizome where social movements could make their own programmes, where the gift economy could be developed and where the ‘delirium’ of libidinal desire could be released. Yet it soon became obvious that turning theory into practice was much more difficult than Deleuze and Guattari had ever imagined. In February 1982, the first major survey was made into the popularity of the new local radio stations in Paris. According to its results, the most successful service was a pop music station with a weekly audience of over 500,000. In complete contrast, Fréquence Libre only had 30,000 listeners tuning in each week. [89] During the next three years, Guattari and his comrades were never able to reverse these disastrous results. By 1985, Fréquence Libre was still only 21st out of a total of 23 independent radio stations in Paris. The two stations below Guattari’s station in the ratings both broadcast in languages other than French! [90]

According to Guattari, the electronic agora would be built through the participation of increasing numbers of people within community radio broadcasting. However, soon after Fréquence Libre was launched, it was obvious that only a minority of activists from the New Left were interested in making programmes for the station. Crucially, the sectarian politics of these militants actually discouraged other people – including many on the Left – from getting involved in this community radio station. For instance, leading Fréquence Libre presenters insisted on ‘talking the same way as in political meetings’ when they were on-air. [91] Despite the promise of community involvement, Guattari and his colleagues were more interested in lecturing the audience rather than engaging in discussions with them. Instead of encouraging the ‘delirium’ of desire, Fréquence Libre was often broadcasting in its own ultra-left version of Stalinist ‘wooden language’.

This revolutionary elitism could even be found in the musical policies of the station. Although they were from the baby boomer generation, many New Left activists were hostile towards what they perceived as a mindless and consumerist pop culture. The FNRL habitually used ‘disco radio’ as a dismissive term for commercial broadcasting. So when some rappers approached Fréquence Libre about the possibility of making some programmes, the station’s leadership completely failed to realise why the emergence of this multi-racial style of music in the suburban ghettos of Paris was a major cultural event in France. Unable to appreciate the music, they refused to let any hip-hop crews on-air until their lyrics had been politically vetted! Although much of the station’s airtime was filled with the sounds of punk, reggae and other alternative rhythms, the New Left militants who ran Fréquence Libre never really understood the cultural importance of promoting innovative styles of popular music on their community radio station. [92]

Although ‘free radios’ were theoretically committed to two-way communications among people, Fréquence Libre had in practice become the megaphone for the viewpoints of Guattari and his disciples. However, the station could not survive in the long-run depending on such a limited number of people. Committed to refusing all advertising, Fréquence Libre had to raise most of its income as gifts from its listeners. As well as help in kind, it needed a constant flow of money to pay for its premises, studios, transmitters and other running costs. The station also had to employ a few people to provide essential engineering, broadcasting and administrative support for its volunteer programme-makers. Out of political commitment, people did work for the station for nothing or for very low wages. However, as they acquired family responsibilities or discovered other interests, the first generation of activists slowly started to drift away. Because they’d alienated most of their potential audience, Guattari and his comrades soon discovered that they could neither raise sufficient cash nor recruit enough volunteers to operate the gift economy successfully within their ‘free radio’ station.

Fréquence Libre now entered into a vicious circle of decline. Without more resources, the station couldn’t produce better programming. Without an interesting service, more listeners wouldn’t tune into the station. Without more listeners, the station didn’t receive enough donations of time and money to survive. Despite Guattari’s earlier optimism, the gift economy was no longer working at Fréquence Libre. Reluctantly, the station’s management eventually agreed to start raising money from advertising. But this compromise with economic reality had come far too late. Hardly anyone was interested in buying commercials on an anarcho-communist station with a tiny audience. In 1985, Fréquence Libre finally went bankrupt. To complete the humiliation, the station’s frequency had to be sold to a commercial radio network to pay off some of its debts. Guattari’s attempts to turn theory into practice within the ‘free radio’ movement had ended in tragedy. [93]

‘…the movement [was confined] within the old methods of militancy which came from ’68, while the radio phenomenon proved on the contrary that these were finished.’ [94]

7: From Stalin to Pol Pot

As Fréquence Libre headed towards bankruptcy, Guattari never admitted any responsibility for the disaster. Amazingly, he instead blamed the Mitterrand government for the collapse of the community radio movement in France. Despite being given a statute written to FNRL specifications, a Paris-wide licence and limited subsidies, the philosopher still claimed that the Socialists had deliberately destroyed the ‘free radios’ through the process of legalisation. Being outside the law, the pirate stations had never been forced to compromise with political and commercial interests. But, once the 1981 broadcasting law was passed, the revolutionary purity of the ‘free radios’ had been inevitably corrupted by the state and the market. Whatever the circumstances, DIY initiatives had to preserve their complete autonomy from the rest of society. At the moment of defeat, Guattari portrayed himself as the tragic romantic hero. His ambitious plans had been thwarted, but his revolutionary principles remained intact. By reasserting anarcho-communism in theory, the holy prophet avoided explaining why its application hadn’t worked in practice. [95]

Yet, elsewhere in Europe and in the USA, community radio stations have managed to avoid going bankrupt. When not dominated by a small group of militants, DIY media projects can be much more tolerant and inclusive. As a consequence, community radio stations are able to recruit enough volunteers, produce popular programming and raise sufficient funding, including even from commercial sources. For instance, Radio Populare in Milan is not just financially viable, but also has been the most popular station in the city on several occasions. [96] However, the techno-nomads are not excited by these more successful – and less utopian – examples of community radio broadcasting. On the contrary, as avant-garde intellectuals, they are precisely attracted by the uncompromising theoretical radicalism expressed by Guattari. What they are looking for is a revolutionary dreamtime to project onto cyberspace rather than a practical method of extending access to the media.

Above all, the techno-nomads are unable to realise the failure of Guattari’s ‘free radio’ experiment exposes the severe flaws within the theoretical positions championed by the two philosophers. Far from succumbing to an outside conspiracy, Fréquence Libre imploded because of the particular New Left politics which inspired A Thousand Plateaus and the other sacred texts. Unwilling to connect abstract theory with its practical application, the techno-nomads cannot see how the revolutionary rhetoric of Deleuze and Guattari hid some very reactionary concepts. Crucially, the tragic history of Fréquence Libre demonstrated that the two philosophers’ celebration of direct democracy was simultaneously a justification for intellectual elitism. Although formally committed to opening up the airwaves to the oppressed, Fréquence Libre collapsed because only a small minority of committed activists were actually allowed to become involved in the project.

This elitism was no accident. It came directly from the existential situation faced by much of the baby boomer generation. Because of their very different life experiences, many young people experienced a pronounced ‘generation gap’ between themselves and their parents. As political rebels, New Left activists particularly felt that they had little in common with the rest of the population. This disillusionment extended to left-wing parties and unions which were nominally dedicated to overthrowing capitalism. Feeling so isolated, the ‘soixante-huitards’ not surprisingly valued intense commitment over popular support in their politics. Above all, they believed that society could be changed by a revolutionary vanguard composed of themselves and their comrades. [97] This is why many young radicals simultaneously believed in two contradictory concepts. First, the revolution would create mass participation in running society. Second, the revolution could only be organised by a committed minority.

The New Left militants were reliving an old problem in a new form. For over two hundred years, radical politics had been caught inside the contradiction between popular freedom and intellectual authority. Back in the 1790s, Robespierre had argued that the democratic republic could only be created by a revolutionary dictatorship. [98] In the late-nineteenth century, Bakunin had called for a spontaneous uprising of the people directed by a secret conspiracy led by himself. [99] During the 1917 Russian revolution, Lenin had advocated direct democracy by workers’ councils while simultaneously instituting the totalitarian rule of the Bolshevik party. [100] As the experience of Fréquence Libre showed, Deleuze and Guattari never escaped from this fundamental contradiction of revolutionary politics. While community groups were supposedly free to express themselves through the rhizomic ‘free radio’, the New Left vanguard really controlled who could – and could not – broadcast over the airwaves. As in other social movements, the lack of formal structures meant that Fréquence Libre was dominated by a few charismatic individuals: the holy prophets of the anarcho-communist revolution. The absence of the Leninist party did not prevent the continuation of vanguard politics. On the contrary, anarchy and spontaneity were the preconditions for unchecked domination by the intellectual elite. [101]

‘If the movement continues deliberately not to select who shall exercise power, it does not thereby abolish power. All it does is abdicate the right to demand that those who do exercise power and influence be [democratically] responsible for it.’ [102]

In Deleuze and Guattari’s writings, this deep authoritarianism found its theoretical expression in their methodology: semiotic structuralism. Despite rejecting its ‘wooden language’, the two philosophers never really abandoned Stalinism in theory. Above all, they retained its most fundamental premise: ordinary people were incapable of determining their own destiny. According to Lenin, the mass of the population were trapped within a ‘false consciousness’ imposed by the media and other ideological institutions. [103] During the early-Sixties, this elitist theory was updated through the addition of Lacanian structuralism by Louis Althusser, the chief philosopher of the French Communist party. According to his analysis, ideological domination was an inevitable feature of all societies because of its psychological origins in the unconsciousness. [104] For Deleuze and Guattari, Althusser had explained why only a revolutionary minority supported the New Left. Brainwashed by the family, media, language and psychoanalysis, the majority of the population supposedly desired fascism rather than anarcho-communism. [105]

Deleuze and Guattari’s theoretical poetry was therefore impregnated with Leninist assumptions. [106] Like other structuralists, they never accepted that ordinary people could make their own history without leadership from the intellectual vanguard. All theories celebrating individual and collective subjectivity were suspect because they assumed that the mass of the population could possess some form of ‘free will’. Instead, these philosophers claimed that semiotic ‘machinic assemblages’ controlled the development of society, including the production of human subjectivity. [107] By adopting this analysis, Deleuze and Guattari were tacitly privileging their own role as intellectuals: the producers of semiotic systems. Just like their Stalinist elders, the two philosophers believed that only a minority of revolutionaries were capable of freeing themselves from ideological domination. Illuminated by the ‘holy idea’, the vanguard of intellectuals had the right to lead the masses – without any formal consent from them – in the fight against capitalism. [108]

‘…the speculative notion of the domination of the speculative ideal in history [turns] into the notion of the domination of the speculative philosophers themselves.’ [109]

This authoritarian methodology clearly contradicted the libertarian rhetoric within Deleuze and Guattari’s writings. Yet, as demonstrated by the experience of Fréquence Libre, the philosophical duo did turn the elitist side of their theory into practice. The implosion of this ‘free radio’ was caused by the inability of Guattari and his comrades to expand its support beyond the New Left vanguard. As the rappers who wanted to make a show for their radio station discovered, the Deleuzoguattarian interpretation of anarcho-communism could even involve censoring musicians from the ghettos before allowing them on-air. Although it supposedly prefiguring direct democracy in its internal organisation, the principle role of Fréquence Libre was to propagate the beliefs of the intellectual elite among the unenlightened population of Paris. [110]

For the mainstream Left, the only way out of this contradiction between participation and elitism was to abandon the concept of violent revolution altogether in favour of electoral reformism. [111] However, the New Left had emerged precisely to combat such parliamentary compromises. For young militants, the problem was how a committed minority could make a revolution without ending up with totalitarianism. Some of the New Left thought that the solution to this dilemma could be found in the heroic leftism of the early Bolsheviks. [112] In France, this Leninist revival often acquired an ‘orientalist’ flavour through the influence of Maoism. [113] For others, only anarcho-communism could express their desire to overthrow both political and economic oppression. [114] However, even this revolutionary form of politics still appeared to many as tainted by the bloody failure of the Russian revolution. Had not the experience of Stalinism proved that any compromise with the process of modernity would inevitably lead to the reimposition of tyranny? In the name of a better future, millions had been slaughtered for resisting the programme of forced industrialisation organised by the totalitarian state.

Consequently, anarcho-communist thinkers increasingly decided that just opposing the oppressive features of economic development was not radical enough. Desiring a complete transformation of society, they rejected the transcendent ‘grand narrative’ of modernity altogether, especially those left-wing versions inspired by Hegel and Marx. According to these ultra-leftists, the whole concept of progress was a fraud designed to win acquiescence for the intensification of capitalist domination. While the mainstream Left still wanted to complete the process of modernisation, the New Left should instead be leading a revolution against modernity. [115]

Deleuze and Guattari enthusiastically joined this attack against the concept of historical progress. For instance, although the chapters of A Thousand Plateaus are named after significant historical dates, these are deliberately not put in sequential order. [116] The philosophical duo instead emphasised moments of ‘delirium’ found in intense political, sexual, chemical, psychotic and mystical experiences. [117] For them, the achievement of these ‘becomings’ wasn’t the result of a Hegelian transcendence across time. On the contrary, the immanence of liberation from social controls was Nietzschean: something which always existed potentially within the here and now. [118] For Deleuze and Guattari, there was a hermetic history of ‘delirium’ which could be found within dissident politics and art. However, these intensities had been experienced as particular moments rather than as steps towards the good society. [119] Anarcho-communism was therefore not the ‘end of history’: the material result of a long epoch of social development. Instead, the liberation of desire was a perpetual promise: an ethical stance which could be equally lived by nomads in ancient times or social movements in the present. [120] With enough libidinal intensity, anyone could overcome hierarchical repression to become a fully-liberated individual: the nomad warrior, the Body-without-Organs, the holy fool, the Nietzschean Superman and the New Left militant.

‘Men’s only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming: the only way of casting off their shame or responding to what is intolerable.’ [121]

Once anarcho-communism was transformed into an ahistorical ideology, the New Left’s opposition to economic development soon developed into a desire to abandon modernity altogether. This dream of returning to a pre-industrial past had deep roots within the baby boomer generation in France. At the beginning of the post-war era, nearly half of the French population still lived in the countryside working in small businesses or as peasants. During their childhoods, the ‘soixante-huitards’ had lived through the rapid completion of the urbanisation and industrialisation of France. [122] While most of their parents had welcomed the increase in their material well-being, many of the younger generation reacted against the superficiality of the new consumer society. Believing that economic crisis would never return, they created the New Left movement to seek more autonomy within their daily lives and combat the undesirable results of industrialism, such as inequality and pollution.

As in the USA, this radicalisation of French youth coincided with fierce anti-imperialist struggles in the Third World. During the Fifties and early-Sixties, many French intellectuals had courageously supported national liberation movements in their country’s colonies, such as Vietnam and Algeria. Inspired by Mao, Fanon and Castro, some of them had created ‘Third-Worldism’: a belief that the imperialist sins of metropolitan society would be punished by a revolution of the poor peasants in the periphery. When the USA invaded Vietnam, these ‘Third-Worldists’ were at the forefront of the campaigns against this act of brutal aggression. [123] Following the May ’68 revolution, support for rural guerrillas resisting American imperialism soon became mixed up with hippie dreams of tribalism, green concerns about environmental degradation and nostalgia for a lost peasant past. Disillusioned with the economic progress championed by the parliamentary Left, many on the New Left synthesised these different ideas into hatred of the mass urban society created by modernity. For them, a truly libertarian revolution could only have one goal: the destruction of the city. [124]

Along with many of their contemporaries, Deleuze and Guattari eagerly supported this anti-modernist interpretation of anarcho-communism. For them, the ‘deterritorialisation’ of urban society became the solution to the contradiction between participatory democracy and revolutionary elitism haunting the New Left. If the centralised city could be broken down into ‘molecular rhizomes’, direct democracy and the gift economy would reappear as people formed themselves into small nomadic bands. [125] Like other hippies, the two philosophers dreamed of reviving pre-modern tribalism in a new form. Believing that urban democracy was most advanced form of oppression, they championed the untamed nomads who would eliminate the corruption of the city. [126]

‘Make the desert, the steppe grow; do not depopulate it, quite the contrary. If war necessarily results, it is because the [nomadic] war machine collides with States and cities…from then on the [nomadic] war machine has as its enemy the State, the city, the state and urban phenomenon, and adopts as its objective their annihilation.’ [127]

For Deleuze and Guattari, the destruction of modern urban society was necessary to free humanity not just from the state and the market, but also from the family, media, language and psychoanalysis. What was only immanent in moments of ‘delirium’ within contemporary society would become a fully libertarian way of living once everyone became a member of the nomadic tribes of holy fools. However, as the experience of Fréquence Libre proved, this rhetoric of unlimited freedom ironically contained a deep desire for ideological control by the New Left vanguard. Nowhere was this contradiction more intense than in the two philosophers’ opposition to the process of modernity. Far from expressing the most radical concept of freedom, anti-modernism implied authoritarianism in its most regressive form.

While the nomadic fantasies of A Thousand Plateaus were being composed, one revolutionary movement actually did carry out Deleuze and Guattari’s dream of destroying the city. Led by a vanguard of Paris-educated intellectuals, the Khmer Rouge organised a successful peasant revolution in Cambodia against an oppressive regime installed by the Americans. Rejecting the ‘grand narrative’ of economic progress, Pol Pot and his organisation instead tried to construct a rural utopia. Determined to eliminate the supposedly corrupting influences of urban living, the Khmer Rouge expelled everyone from the cities and turned them into forced labourers within the countryside. When the economy subsequently imploded, the regime embarked on ever more ferocious purges against real and imaginary enemies until the country was rescued by an invasion by neighbouring Vietnam. As a first step in rebuilding Cambodia, the new government encouraged the surviving city-dwellers to return to their homes. Deleuze and Guattari had claimed that the destruction of the city would create direct democracy and libidinal ecstasy. Instead, the application of such anti-modernism in practice had resulted in tyranny and genocide. [128]

8: The Antinomies of the Avant-Garde

The exposure of the Khmer Rouge’s crimes precipitated a profound crisis within the French New Left. The end of the long post-war boom had already weakened the credibility of a political movement which assumed that poverty and unemployment were no longer major social problems. Now it was revealed that the anti-modernist revolution had unleashed the barbarism of the ‘killing fields’ rather than liberating humanity. The ‘line of flight’ from Stalin had led to Pol Pot. Disillusioned with ultra-left politics, most activists gravitated towards either parliamentary reformism or post-modern nihilism as the Seventies came to a close. The New Left revolution had failed. [129]

Ironically, the current popularity of Deleuze and Guattari comes from their stubborn refusal to recognise this defeat. In A Thousand Plateaus and the other sacred texts, Deleuze and Guattari completely ignored the harsher socio-economic climate following the 1974 oil crisis and the disastrous consequences of the anti-modernist revolution in Cambodia. Even when Fréquence Libre went bankrupt, the two philosophers never questioned their strategy of ‘schizo-politics’. Instead, they transformed the historically specific politics of the New Left into theoretical poetry which existed outside history. As opponents of the ‘grand narrative’ of modernity, these holy prophets much preferred the libidinal intensity of revolutionary failure to the limited achievements of parliamentary reformism.

‘The victory of the revolution is immanent and consists of the new bonds which it installs between people, even if these bonds last no longer than the revolution’s fused material and quickly give way to division and betrayal.’ [130]

Because of their ultra-leftism, Deleuze and Guattari remained marginal figures within the pantheon of post-structuralist philosophers throughout the Eighties. Despite supporting social movements and denouncing historical ‘grand narratives’, these gurus were far too closely associated with the defeat of the New Left to be promoted by the fashionable advocates of post-modernism. During the decade of ascendant neo-liberalism, avant-garde intellectuals emphasised formal experimentation over social engagement. [131] However, at the end of the Nineties, post-modernist detachment now seems very dated. Looking for an alternative to Eighties apathy, contemporary intellectuals are rediscovering the revolutionary passion of the New Left. For ‘cutting edge’ TJs, it is now almost compulsory to sample from the writings of Situationists, Autonomists and other ultra-leftists of the period. Above all, they have to embrace the theoretical poetry of Deleuze and Guattari.

Yet, this revival of New Left theories is taking place in very different circumstances from those which produced the politics of May ’68. For instance, only a few ‘deep greens’ still believe in the anti-modernist revolution. [132] However, the contemporary irrelevance of Deleuze Guattari’s politics does not discredit their theoretical poetry among radical intellectuals. On the contrary, the defeat of the New Left has enabled their disciples to complete the transformation of anarcho-communism from the hope of social revolution into the symbol of personal authenticity: an ethical-aesthetic rejection of bourgeois society. Divorced from its historical context, the New Left is now admired more for its emotional intensity than for its practical achievements. Although defeated in reality, the ideals of May ’68 can be used to imagine a revolutionary dreamtime for the Net. The political vanguard of the Sixties is reborn as the cultural avant-garde for the Nineties.

The aestheticisation of revolutionary politics is a revered tradition of the European avant-garde. Back in the Twenties, the Surrealists perfected the fusion of artistic creativity with social rebellion. Inspired by Lenin, this avant-garde movement claimed that the consciousness of the majority of the population was controlled by cultural mediocrity and puritan morality. Therefore radical intellectuals had the heroic task of freeing the people from ideological domination. Their innovative art would undermine the repressive cultural norms of bourgeois society. Their bohemian way of living would challenge the dull conformity of everyday life under capitalism. The Surrealists believed that this assault against aesthetic and personal repression would soon culminate in the people rallying to the revolutionary cause. [133] In culture as in politics, the majority of the population would be liberated by following the leadership of an enlightened minority.

‘The essential is always to look ahead…toilingly to go onward towards the discovery, one by one, of fresh landscapes, and to continue to do so indefinitely…that others may afterwards travel the same spiritual road, unhindered and in all security.’ [134]

In this interpretation of Leninism, cultural experimentation became the privileged expression of revolutionary politics. The Surrealists are still praised for their artistic innovations, such as ready-mades, montages, dream imagery and automatism. They are also remembered for their pioneering use of new technologies, such as film-making and photography. [135] Yet, the Surrealists didn’t make their famous artworks just to transgress the formal limitations of Western aesthetics. Above all, they believed that their experimental art would radicalise the consciousness of the people. For instance, this avant-garde movement borrowed techniques from so-called ‘outsider art’ made by tribal societies, the insane, the intoxicated and the uneducated. Although these groups had little else in common, the Surrealists thought that their members lived more passionately and emotionally than those trapped within the rules and regulations of bourgeois society. [136]

The Surrealists believed that their use of techniques borrowed from ‘outsider art’ would inspire rebellion against the alienation of life under capitalism. Whether from the tribal past or the science-fiction future, any vision of a more authentic life should be used to subvert the cultural philistinism of the bourgeois present. For the Surrealists, breaking the conventions of high art was directly equated with fighting against the ideological domination of capitalism. Their aesthetic eclecticism was always underpinned by a rigid Leninism. According to the Surrealists, innovative paintings, sculptures, photography, films and literature could only be made ‘…in the service of the revolution.’ [137]

Although its language is idiosyncratic, the cult of Deleuze and Guattari is the latest manifestation of this European avant-garde tradition. After years of post-modern apathy, Nineties intellectuals are rediscovering the joy of aestheticising the revolution. [138] Because Leninism is discredited, they’ve instead seized on Deleuzoguattarian discourse to signify their political, moral and aesthetic dissidence. Ironically, this change in language is necessary to maintain a continuity in practice. For, just like its Surrealist predecessors, the contemporary avant-garde models itself on the political vanguard. Experimental art and bohemian lifestyles are equated with the fermenting of social rebellion. The primitive and the future are still counterposed against the present. [139] Once again, radical intellectuals are leading the cultural revolution against bourgeois society.

‘For artistic practice, the adaptation of the model of the [nomadic] war machine can mean that, in order to enhance the transversal tendencies, insecurities have to be triggered, anti-production has to be initiated and parasitic behaviour has to be developed as a series of inversive strategies: infoldings at the boundaries.’ [140]

Despite their involvement with radio broadcasting and computer-mediated communications, Deleuze and Guattari had still hoped that the ‘line of flight’ from modernity would lead back to the tribal past. In the sacred texts, the holy prophets perpetuated the primitivist traditions of Surrealism by composing myths about nomadic warriors and Bodies-without-Organs. [141] In contrast, their contemporary followers are much more excited by the digital future than by tribal societies. They have no ambiguity about their relationship with modern technologies. Far from desiring the destruction of the city, radical intellectuals now hope that the Deleuzoguattarian utopia will emerge from the process of ‘deterritorialisation’ unleashed by the Net. [142]

Using intellectual alchemy, the techno-nomads transmute their gurus’ anti-modernist scriptures into a philosophy of hyper-modernism. The rhizome becomes a metaphor for community networks. The nomad warrior is turned into a hi-tech employee who can easily move between jobs and countries. Semiotic structuralism reflects the digital codes of Net software. The Body-without-Organs is used to mythologise cybersex. For their contemporary followers, Deleuze and Guattari’s ultra-leftism is primarily an ethical-aesthetic stance opposing the conformity of bourgeois society. By separating Sixties anarcho-communism from its specific historical moment, New Left vanguard politics can re-emerge as the hip avant-garde style for the Nineties: ‘What is Fashion? A form of utopia.’ [143]

This aestheticisation of May ’68 is made much easier by the poetical style of Deleuze and Guattari. In A Thousand Plateaus, the ‘schiz-flow’ of the text continually jumps between radical psychoanalysis, art criticism, historical myths, popular science and several other genres. As in modernist painting, the ‘realism’ of the text has been superseded by a fascination with the formal techniques of theoretical production. For Deleuze and Guattari, theory was no longer a tool for understanding social reality. On the contrary, theory became poetry: a piece of literature expressing authentic emotion. Having failed in practice, New Left politics could live on as theory-art.

‘The aesthetic power of feeling, although equal in principle with the other powers of thinking philosophically, knowing science, acting politically, seems on the verge of occupying a privileged position within the collective Assemblages of enunciation of our era.’ [144]

At the beginning of this century, the founders of the European avant-garde pioneered the combination of revolutionary politics and cultural rebellion into the new aesthetic form of theory-art. [145] Faithful to this hallowed custom, techno-nomad TJs now sample Deleuze and Guattari to produce leftfield philosophical writings. Yet, like Britpop bands imitating their heroes from the Sixties, something is lost in these respectful homages to the past. The faithful coping of the holy prophets’ literary style is obscuring their ultra-left beliefs. For Deleuze and Guattari’s theoretical positions are being reproduced for their emotional intensity not for their particular politics. In the sacred texts, the rational analysis of society had already been replaced by the literary celebration of irrational desires. The European avant-garde is now discarding the few remaining connections with the social sciences. Deleuzoguattarian discourse can then become cool multi-media theory-art for the age of the Net. [146]

The techno-nomads are a cultural movement who constitute themselves through Deleuzoguattarian theory-art. Being an avant-garde, they combine revolutionary politics, bohemian lifestyles and experimental aesthetics. Being a sub-culture, they have a distinct set of ‘signifying practices’. Above all, this new generation continues the most hallowed folk custom of the European avant-garde: the cultural revolution. Despite the disappearance of the utopia of total social transformation, academics, artists and activists can still champion the rebellion of holy fools against the oppressive rationality of bourgeois society. Within the revolutionary dreamtime of cyberspace, the avant-garde uses Deleuzoguattarian discourse to recreate May ’68 as a theory-art project.

‘…network-generated operations conclusively undermine political discourses centred on notions such as agency, action, territory, progress and development. Usership, operation, non-linearity, recursivity and chaos appear as traits of computer technology and of cyberspacetime. These are the characteristics of the breakdown of modernity itself.’ [147]

At the end of the twentieth century, the potential influence of the European avant-garde has never been greater. The small number of individuals involved in subversive artistic movements have already had a disproportionate impact on popular culture. Since the Twenties, radical intellectuals have not only created modernist aesthetics, but also pioneered libertarian politics and hedonistic lifestyles. In the late-Nineties, the avant-garde now has a much larger pool of recruits and a much bigger potential audience. The rapid growth of the Net is the most dramatic manifestation of the increasing importance of cultural innovation. Many more people are going through further and higher education. [148] The creative industries have emerged as major employers. [149] Some commentators believe that the ‘virtual class’ is the most significant sector of the workforce. [150] Even the fine arts are recognised as a catalyst for local and national regeneration. [151] The appeal of the European avant-garde is therefore no longer confined within artistic and academic circles. For an increasing proportion of the population, continual aesthetic innovation is the basis for their livelihoods: ‘the creative industries are where the growth is, where the jobs are.’ [152]

The avant-garde tradition of cultural experimentation is now at the centre of socio-economic development in the advanced countries. A minority of dedicated and talented artists can benefit the majority of the population by inventing new aesthetic forms, especially using digital technologies. Within an information society, ‘all power to the imagination’ becomes more than just a utopian slogan from May ’68. A profane economic rationale therefore underpins the recent revival of European avant-garde traditions. Although excluded from serious power, academics, artists and activists do acquire increased social status through recognition of their theoretical erudition and creative innovation. [153] Far from marginalising its proponents, European intellectuals long ago discovered that membership of an avant-garde movement can be the precondition of social success. As the creative industries keep expanding, more and more people are choosing this exciting career path. The rejection of post-modern nihilism is not just morally preferable, but also can often be financially more rewarding too. [154]

The techno-nomads are not surprisingly happy to benefit from the social recognition given to membership of the avant-garde. Although expertise in a particular hardware or software dates quickly, knowledge of an ahistorical ideology can survive across time. After studying the holy prophets, adepts can find employment propagating the sacred creed through teaching, publishing and the media. Sampling from Deleuze and Guattari’s theory-art, they can produce journalism, academic texts, websites and fiction celebrating the Net and other aspects of techno-culture. [155] While others fail to adapt to the new technologies, the Deleuzoguattarians are at the ‘cutting edge’ of theoretical and cultural innovation. ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’, collective intelligence, Body-without-Organs and other phrases from their mystificatory jargon are even entering fashionable speech. Once again, the aestheticisation of revolutionary politics is a successful way of breaking into the highly-competitive art, education and media sectors. [156]

Yet, like the political vanguard, the European avant-garde is haunted by the fatal contradiction between popular participation and intellectual elitism. In their theory-art, the techno-nomads use Deleuzoguattarian discourse to celebrate DIY culture. However, just by adopting its obscurantist style, they are asserting their intellectual authority over this popular movement. According to the sacred creed, most people – including members of the DIY culture – are brainwashed by semiotic ‘machinic assemblages’. But, when illuminated by the teachings of Deleuze and Guattari, radical intellectuals can amazingly cast off the mental shackles of bourgeois rationality and experience the redemption of ecstatic immanence.

The members of the avant-garde are supposedly the privileged few who can produce the ‘holy idea’ which liberates the people from ideological bondage. However, as shown by the sad history of Fréquence Libre, this theorisation of anarcho-communism justifies the practice of vanguard politics. The continual sampling of Deleuze and Guattari’s theory-art therefore reflects elitist tendencies within the contemporary avant-garde. The techno-nomads adopt its post-structuralist method and peculiar jargon to intimidate the uninitiated. The success of their philosophical ‘will to power’ is shown by the increasing incorporation of Deleuzoguattarian phrases within the slang of the techno-culture. Although many are called, only few can become true disciples of the esoteric doctrine.

‘Beautiful language, artistic style and aestheticism are merely the end-products of…the alienation of the logos, and the artist has become the high priest of the logos, its magus, or simply its mandarin.’ [157]

Above all, the European avant-garde embraces the Deleuzoguattarian discourse to emphasise its chosen ‘marks of distinction’: revolutionary politics, experimental art and bohemian lifestyles. [158] For decades, radical intellectuals have adopted dissident politics, aesthetics and morals to separate themselves from the rest of society. According to the European avant-garde, the majority of the population were ‘herd animals’ whose minds were controlled by repressive ideologies. Therefore the ethical-aesthetic rebellion against bourgeois conformity could only be led by the privileged few who were free from all forms of cultural conditioning.

Despite their revolutionary rhetoric, avant-garde intellectuals constituted themselves as an artistic aristocracy separated from the philistine masses. [159] Continuing this elitist tradition, Deleuze and Guattari championed nomadic minorities from the ‘non-guaranteed’ social movements against the stupefied majority from the ‘guaranteed’ sector. As the activists of Fréquence Libre discovered, even having family responsibilities was considered incompatible with personal commitment to the revolutionary cause. [160] In the late-Nineties, Deleuzoguattarian discourse allows the contemporary avant-garde to perpetuate its venerated custom of cultural elitism. Once again, the revolution is the ethical-aesthetic illumination of a minority rather than the social liberation of all people. As Deleuze emphasised: ‘…art realises…the genius of the superhuman.’ [161]

This form of aesthetic elitism has rapidly lead to overtly reactionary positions. For instance, the Italian Futurists looked to militant nationalism for deliverance from the cultural sterility of bourgeois society. In their theory-art, the holy fool was transformed into the blackshirt. [162] At the end of the century, the techno-nomads remain trapped within the avant-garde contradiction between popular participation and intellectual elitism. Some TJs are even repeating their predecessors’ flirtation with fascist positions. For instance, Hakim Bey still preaches the Nietzschean creed of ‘radical aristocratism’. [163] In his NYC remix of the European avant-garde, this blessed guru urges Net activists to form a holy order of warrior-monks modelled on the medieval Assassin sect! [164] The cultural revolution remains simultaneously primitivist and futurist. [165] Although he praises DIY culture, Bey primarily uses Deleuzoguattarian discourse to uphold the most reactionary legacy of the avant-garde: the artistic aristocracy. Within the revolutionary dreamtime of cyberspace, the Nietzschean elite of holy fools are leaders of the pack.

‘These nomads practice the razzia, they are corsairs, they are viruses… These nomads chart their courses by strange stars, which might be luminous clusters of data in cyberspace, or perhaps hallucinations.’ [166]

As the Net develops, the antinomies of the European avant-garde are reaching crisis point. It is now increasingly difficult to be simultaneously participatory and elitist. Nowhere is this clearer than within the writings of the techno-nomads. On the one hand, Deleuzoguattarian theory-art is revolutionary: the sanctification of the hi-tech gift economy. Its poetic phrases and bizarre metaphors exalt every communal and libertarian possibility of the Net. Yet, on the other hand, the aestheticisation of May ’68 is also reactionary: the negation of anarcho-communism as a practice within cyberspace. By definition, the existence of the European avant-garde presupposes that the majority of the population can’t participate within Do-It-Yourself culture. If the minds of the people are controlled by ‘machinic assemblages’, only radical intellectuals can supposedly create the future. When they celebrate DIY culture in their theory-art, the Deleuzoguattarians are simultaneously proclaiming their own superior status as Nietzschean Supermen.

‘Artists…are..physically…strong, full of surplus energy, powerful animals, sensual; without a certain overheating of the sexual system a Raphael is unthinkable…their lives must contain a kind of youth and spring, a kind of habitual intoxication.’ [167]

This dream of an artistic aristocracy sometimes evolves into fascism. More often, the avant-garde has supported totalitarian tendencies within the Left. [168] Nowadays, cultural elitism can easily turn into implicit sympathy with neo-liberalism. Despite its ultra-left origins, Deleuzoguattarian theory-art is becoming conservative: the European version of the Californian ideology. In the USA, Wired already uses New Left anti-statism to sell New Right neo-liberalism. [169] The rhetoric of individual freedom justifies the removal of welfare benefits and health care. The European avant-garde – and its imitators – could never openly support the free market fundamentalism of the Californian ideology. As self-proclaimed cultural revolutionaries, the techno-nomads must remain faithful to the spirit of May ’68.

Yet, as the techno-nomad TJs cut ‘n’ mix, the distinctions between right-wing and left-wing versions of libertarianism are blurring. Crucially, both sides share a fashionable fascination with mystical positivism, such as memes, hive minds, cyborgs, chaos mathematics and artificial life. The convergence of technologies around digital protocols is being paralleled by the adoption of scientific rhetoric for social and artistic debates. [170] The European avant-garde has been performing the trick of combining spiritual primitivism with scientific futurism for decades. As Deleuze and Guattari faithfully followed this hallowed tradition, their disciples can easily confuse Bergsonian vitalism sampled from the holy prophets with the Lamarckian fantasies of the West Coast gurus. [171] The semiotic ‘machinic assemblages’ of Deleuzoguattarian discourse already echo the denial of human subjectivity found within the theory of memetics. An enthusiastic TJ can rapidly make the two concepts seem indistinguishable.

‘From the “bio-adaptor” of language as the proto-meme to the “infosphere” of global networks as the ultimate habitat of the human mind… The possibility of the emergence of a post-biological, cyberorganic line of evolution out of universal binary code, of which the first protozoans have names like Internet, Cyberspace and I-way… Memes…the identification and integration of virtual communities that gather only at the interface.’ [172]

The collapse of Deleuzoguattarian discourse into the Californian ideology through mystical positivism is no accident. These pseudo-scientific concepts supposedly prove that the majority of the population are controlled by outside forces. Just as in the avant-garde tradition, these theories claim that only the enlightened few can determine the future. The two forms of aristocratic libertarianism now appear to be the same. On the one hand, the Californian ideologues claim that this heroic minority is composed of cyber-entrepreneurs emerging from the fierce competition of the electronic marketplace. The covers of Wired have portrayed corporate bosses as Conan the Barbarian and Mad Max. [173] On the other hand, the Deleuzoguattarians believe that the new elite is formed by cool TJs and hip artists who release subversive ‘assemblages of enunciation’ into the Net. In their writings, avant-garde intellectuals dream of becoming nomad warriors and cyberpunk hackers. In both the Californian ideology and Deleuzoguattarian discourse, primitivism and futurism are combined to produce the apotheosis of individualism: the cyborg Nietzschean Superman. [174]

‘…the possibility…to rear a master race, the future “masters of the earth”; – a new tremendous aristocracy…in which… philosophical men of power and artist-tyrants will…work as artists on “man” himself.’ [175]

Amazingly, neo-liberalism and anarcho-communism can now appear to be on the same side of the ‘libertarian-communitarian opposition’ within cyberspace. [176] The re-emergence of the European avant-garde doesn’t just signify the rediscovery of the revolutionary legacy of May ’68. Ironically, the aestheticisation of the New Left is simultaneously a reaction against mass participation within cyberspace. By turning DIY culture into theory-art, radical intellectuals are asserting their superior status over the majority of Net users. Despite the rhetoric of immanence and non-linearity, the social revolution has once again disappeared from the here and now. Instead, the hope of redemption is projected into the revolutionary dreamtime of cyberspace. [177]

Within this imaginary future, May ’68 flourishes as a theory-art project. Yet, in this process, the New Left dream of collective liberation is virtualised into ethical-aesthetic salvation for a select band of artistic aristocrats. Deleuzoguattarian theory-art is impaled on the fatal contradiction between popular participation and intellectual elitism. As was demonstrated by the tragic story of Fréquence Libre, the delirious celebration of DIY culture cannot be reconciled with the simultaneous assumption that most people are unable do things for themselves. The writings of Deleuze and Guattari can therefore never provide ‘a coherent set of conceptual tools’ to comprehend the libertarian potential of the Net. As the millennium approaches, the techno-nomads remain trapped within the antinomies of the avant-garde.

‘Aetheticisation is an alibi. It pretends to fill the chasm between unsatisfied subjectivities and increasing unattainable accumulation.’ [178]

9: The Hi-Tech Gift Economy

Back in the Twenties, the European avant-garde had no doubt about its heroic mission. The enlightened minority could free the people from ideological domination through experimental art and libertarian lifestyles. The cultural avant-garde was an essential element of the political vanguard. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, this Leninist myth has lost all credibility. The ‘grand narrative’ of history can no longer be used to justify the leadership of the few. In the late-Nineties, revolutionary elitism must now be expressed in the words of May ’68. The techno-nomads therefore remix Leninism into Deleuzoguattarian discourse: subversive theory-art ‘deterritorialises’ the semiotic ‘machinic assemblages’ controlling the minds of the majority. Crucially, the contemporary avant-garde must substitute itself for the missing political vanguard. Although supposedly possible for everyone, the immanence of ethical-aesthetic ‘delirium’ can only be experienced by radical intellectuals. Cultural rebellion, bohemian lifestyles and ultra-leftism are now the ‘marks of distinction’ for the artistic aristocracy. Lenin is morphed into Nietzsche.

The current revival of the European avant-garde depends upon the aestheticisation of May ’68. Yet, important pioneers of the New Left were highly critical of this tradition of cultural elitism. Above all, the Situationists attacked aesthetic innovations of the Surrealists for failing to remove the ideological domination of the bourgeoisie. These avant-garde experiments had been too easily incorporated into the fashionable styles of consumer society. The Surrealist experience proved that innovative art could never remain subversive for long. [179] In place of aesthetic experimentation, the Situationists instead advocated transforming the social context of cultural production. Rather than following the avant-garde elite, everyone should have the opportunity to express themselves. [180]

‘The situation is…made to be lived by its constructors. The role played by a passive…”public” must constantly diminish, while that played by those who cannot be called actors but rather…”livers” must steadily increase.’ [181]

The Situationists proclaimed the end of the cultural avant-garde. The New Left didn’t just have to radicalise the content of art. More importantly, young militants had to create opportunities for everyone to express their own hopes, dreams and desires. The Hegelian ‘grand narrative’ could then culminate in the supersession of all mediations separating people from each other. Yet, at the same time, the Situationists never completely escaped from the avant-garde legacy left by their Surrealist predecessors. The movement was predominantly composed of radical intellectuals. [182] This revolutionary minority supposedly prefigured the bohemian lifestyles and ultra-left politics of the future. As with the Surrealists, the ‘holy idea’ of participation for everyone justified unaccountable leadership of the intellectual elite. Once again, the practical transcendence of social oppression had elided into the spiritual immanence of theoretical enlightenment. Despite their invocation of Hegel and Marx, the Situationists remained haunted by Nietzsche and Lenin. [183]

Unable to break with avant-garde tradition, the Situationists inevitably aestheticised the social revolution. Fearful of repeating the fate of the Surrealists, the movement celebrated cultural activities which couldn’t easily be turned into fashionable commodities. Above all, the Situationists looked for ways of living which were free from the corruptions of consumer capitalism. Like earlier avant-garde intellectuals, they thought that the path into the future was also the return to the past. Despite their Hegelian modernism, the Situationists claimed that anarcho-communism had been prefigured by the potlatch: the gift economy of Polynesian tribes. [184]

Within these primitive societies, the circulation of gifts bound people together into tribes and encouraged co-operation between different tribes. In contrast with the atomisation and alienation of bourgeois society, these potlatches required intimate contacts and emotional authenticity. According to the Situationists, the tribal gift economy demonstrated that individuals could successfully live together without needing either the state or the market. Anarcho-communism was therefore a practical possibility. However, the Situationists remained trapped within the antinomies of the avant-garde. Once again, the utopia of mass participation simultaneously justified the leadership of the artistic elite. Unlike the rest of the population, radical intellectuals could supposedly prefigure the libertarian future by producing esoteric theory-art. Anarcho-communism had been transformed into a ‘mark of distinction’ for the New Left vanguard. The giving of gifts therefore became the absolute antithesis of market competition. There could be no compromise between tribal authenticity and bourgeois alienation. After the social revolution, the potlatch would completely supplant the commodity. [185]

‘The crumbling away of human values under the influence of exchange mechanisms leads to the crumbling of [commodity] exchange itself…new human relationships must be built on the principle of pure giving. We must rediscover the pleasure of giving: giving because you have so much. What beautiful and priceless potlatches the affluent society will see – whether it likes it or not! – when the exuberance of the younger generation discovers the pure gift.’ [186]

After May ’68, this purist vision of anarcho-communism inspired a generation of community media activists. For instance, the radical ‘free radio’ stations refused all funding from state and commercial sources. Instead, these projects tried to survive through donations of time and money from their supporters. Emancipatory media supposedly could only be produced within the gift economy. During the late-Seventies, pro-situ attitudes were further popularised by the punk movement. [187] Although rapidly commercialised, this sub-culture did encourage its members to form their own bands, make their own fashions and publish their own fanzines. [188] From punk through rave to the present-day, the ‘cutting edge’ of youth culture has remained participatory. The permanent innovation in styles on the dance floor is driven by people doing things for themselves. [189]

Crucially, every user of the Net participates within a gift economy. Without even thinking about it, people continually circulate information between each other for free. They co-operate together without the direct mediation of either politics or money. During the Eighties, post-modern pessimists claimed that the gift economy would always be defeated by market capitalism. [190] Yet, at the end of the Nineties, DIY culture is thriving within the most technologically advanced sector of the economy. Everyday, Net users circulate gifts of information amongst each other. What was once revolutionary has become banal. Far from being the ‘holy idea’ of avant-garde intellectuals, anarcho-communism is now the mundane activity of ordinary people within cyberspace.

‘Millions of people have been interacting and participating in what they clearly value… There is no question that there are differences between the economic logic – the application of basic economic principles – on and off the Net. To begin with, most of the economic activity on the Net involves value but no money.’ [191]

The invention of the Net was one of the greatest ironies of the Cold War. At the height of the struggle of American capitalism against Russian Communism, the US military funded the creation of anarcho-communism within computer-mediated communications! From the beginning, the gift economy has determined the technical and social structure of the Net. Being a military bureaucracy, the Pentagon initially did try to restrict the unofficial uses of its computer network. However, it soon became obvious that the Net could only be successfully developed by letting its users build the system for themselves. [192] Within the scientific community, the gift economy has long been the primary method of socialising labour. Funded by the state or by donations, scientists don’t have to turn their intellectual work directly into marketable commodities. Instead, research results are publicised by ‘giving a paper’ at specialist conferences and by ‘contributing an article’ to academic journals. The collaboration of many different academics is made possible through the free distribution of information. [193]

Within small tribal societies, the circulation of gifts established close personal bonds between people. In contrast, the academic gift economy is used by intellectuals who are spread across the world. Within their peer group, scientists can receive recognition from colleagues who might never meet them in person. Despite the anonymity of the modern version of the gift economy, academics acquire intellectual respect from each other through citations in articles and other forms of public acknowledgement. If someone is often quoted, their career prospects within the university system are usually much enhanced. Scientists therefore can only acquire personal recognition for their individual efforts by openly collaborating with each other through the academic gift economy. Although research is being increasingly commercialised, the giving away of findings remains the most efficient method of solving common problems within a particular scientific discipline. [194]

When the Yippies proclaimed that ‘information wants to be free’ back in the Sixties, they were preaching to computer scientists who were already living within the academic gift economy. What seemed revolutionary in the rest of the USA was the usual method of working within the university. From its earliest days, the free exchange of information has therefore been firmly embedded within the technologies and social mores of cyberspace. Above all, the founders of the Net never bothered to protect intellectual property within computer-mediated communications. On the contrary, they were developing these new technologies to advance their careers inside the academic gift economy. [195]

Scattered across the world, scientists from the same speciality needed the Net to disseminate their research results to each other and to work together on collaborative projects. Far from wanting to enforce copyright, the pioneers of the Net tried to eliminate all barriers to the distribution of information. Technically, every act within cyberspace involves copying material from one computer to another. Once the first copy of a piece of information is placed on the Net, the cost of making each extra copy is almost zero. The architecture of the system presupposes that multiple copies of documents can easily be cached around the network. As Tim Berners-Lee – the inventor of the Web – points out:

‘Concepts of intellectual property, central to our culture, are not expressed in a way which maps onto the abstract information space. In an information space, we can consider the authorship of materials, and their perception; but…there is a need for the underlying infrastructure to be able to make copies simply for reasons of [technical] efficiency and reliability. The concept of “copyright” as expressed in terms of copies made makes little sense.’ [196]

Within the commercial creative industries, advances in digital reproduction are feared for making the ‘piracy’ of copyright material ever easier. Almost everyone already copies music, articles, television programmes and other information products for personal use without payment. The sampling and remixing of other people’s tunes is widespread within dance music. [197] For the owners of intellectual property, the Net can only make the situation worse. In contrast, the academic gift economy welcomes technologies which improve the availability of data. Users should always be able to obtain and manipulate information with the minimum of impediments. The design of the Net therefore assumes that intellectual property is technically and socially obsolete. [198]

In France, the nationalised telephone monopoly has accustomed people to paying for the on-line services provided by Minitel. [199] Yet, the Net remains predominantly a gift economy even though the system has expanded far beyond the university. The attempt to construct computer-mediated communications around copyright payments ended in failure. [200] The commercial providers of information services have never been able to supplant the free exchange of information amongst the on-line community. [201] Even the porn industry is encountering difficulties in making money on the Net. [202] From scientists through hobbyists to the general public, the charmed circle of users was slowly built up through the adhesion of many localised networks to an agreed set of protocols.

Crucially, the common standards of the Net include social conventions as well as technical rules. The giving and receiving of information without payment is almost never questioned. Although the circulation of gifts doesn’t necessarily create emotional obligations between individuals, people are still willing to donate their information to everyone else on the Net. Even selfish reasons encourage people to become anarcho-communists within cyberspace. By adding their own presence, every user contributes to the collective knowledge accessible to those already on-line. In return, each individual has potential access to all the information made available by others within the Net. Everyone takes far more out of the Net than they can ever give away as an individual.

‘…the Net is far from altruistic, or it wouldn’t work… Because it takes as much effort to distribute one copy of an original creation as a million…you never lose from letting your product free…as long as you are compensated in return… What a miracle, then, that you receive not one thing in value in exchange – indeed there is no explicit act of exchange at all – but millions of unique goods made by others!’ [203]

Despite the commercialisation of cyberspace, the self-interest of Net users ensures that the hi-tech gift economy continues to flourish. For instance, musicians are using the Net for the digital distribution of their recordings to each other. By giving away their own work to this network community, individuals get free access to a far larger amount of music in return. Not surprisingly, the music business is worried about the increased opportunities for the ‘piracy’ of copyrighted recordings over the Net. [204] Sampling, DJ-ing and mixing are already blurring property rights within dance music. [205] However, the greatest threat to the commercial music corporations comes from the flexibility and spontaneity of the hi-tech gift economy. After it is completed, a new track can quickly be made freely available to a global audience. If someone likes the tune, they can download it for personal listening, use it as a sample or make their own remix. Out of the free circulation of information, musicians can form friendships, work together and inspire each other. [206] ‘It’s all about doing it for yourself. Better than punk.’ [207]

Within the developed world, most politicians and corporate leaders believe that the future of capitalism lies in the commodification of information. Over the last few decades, intellectual property rights have been steadily tightened through new national laws and international agreements. Even human genetic material can now be patented. [208] Yet, at the ‘cutting edge’ of the emerging information society, money-commodity relations play a secondary role to those created by a really existing form of anarcho-communism. For most of its users, the Net is somewhere to work, play, love, learn and discuss with other people. Unrestricted by physical distance, they collaborate with each other without the direct mediation of money or politics. Unconcerned about copyright, they give and receive information without thought of payment. In the absence of states or markets to mediate social bonds, network communities are instead formed through the mutual obligations created by gifts of time and ideas.

‘This informal, unwritten social contract is supported by a blend of strong-tie and weak-tie relationships among people who have a mixture of motives and ephemeral affiliations. It requires one to give something, and enables one to receive something. I have to keep my friends in mind and send them pointers instead of throwing my informational discards into the virtual scrap heap… And with scores of people who have an eye out for my interests while they explore sectors of the information space that I normally wouldn’t frequent, I find that the help I receive far outweighs the energy I expend helping others; a marriage of altruism and self-interest.’ [209]

On the Net, enforcing copyright payments represents the imposition of scarcity on a technical system designed to maximise the dissemination of information. The protection of intellectual property stops all users having access to every source of knowledge. Commercial secrecy prevents people from helping each other to solve common problems. The inflexibility of information commodities inhibits the efficient manipulation of digital data. In contrast, the technical and social structure of the Net has been developed to encourage open co-operation among its participants. As an everyday activity, users are building the system together. Engaged in ‘interactive creativity’, they send emails, take part in listservers, contribute to newsgroups, participate within on-line conferences and produce websites. [210] Lacking copyright protection, information can be freely adapted to suit the users’ needs. Within the hi-tech gift economy, people successfully work together through ‘…an open social process involving evaluation, comparison and collaboration.’ [211]

The hi-tech gift economy is even at the forefront of software development. For instance, Bill Gates admits that Microsoft’s biggest competitor in the provision of web servers comes from the Apache program. [212] Instead of being marketed by a commercial company, this program is open source software. [213] Like similar projects, this virtual machine is being continually developed by its techie users. Because its source code is not protected by copyright, the program can be modified, amended and improved by anyone with the appropriate programming skills. When someone does make a contribution to a shareware project, the gift of their labour is rewarded by recognition within the community of user-developers. [214]

The inflexibility of commodified software programs is compounded by their greater unreliability. Even Microsoft can’t mobilise the amount of labour given to successful shareware programs by their devotees. Without enough techies looking at a program, all its bugs can never be found. [215] The greater social and technical efficiency of anarcho-communism is therefore inhibiting the commercial take-over of the Net. Open source software programs are now beginning to threaten the core product of the Microsoft empire: the Windows operating system. Starting from the original program by Linus Torvalds, a community of user-developers are together building their own non-proprietary operating system: Linux. For the first time, Windows has a serious competitor. Anarcho-communism is becoming the only alternative to monopoly capitalism. [216]

‘Linux is subversive. Who could have thought even five years ago that a world-class operating system could coalesce as if by magic out of part-time hacking by several thousand developers scattered all over the planet, connected only by the tenuous strands of the Internet?’ [217]

10: Beyond the Avant-Garde

The New Left anticipated the emergence of the hi-tech gift economy. People could collaborate with each other without needing either markets or states. Anarcho-communism really did work in practice. However, the New Left had a purist vision of DIY culture. According to the ‘soixante-huitards’, the gift was the absolute antithesis of the commodity. There could be no compromise between the authenticity of the potlatch and the alienation of the market. For instance, Fréquence Libre refused to raise money from advertising to prove its ethical-aesthetic integrity. Rather than compromising with the arboreal powers of commercialism, the rhizomic ‘free radio’ station preserved its principles to the point of bankruptcy. The current popularity of Deleuze and Guattari comes from their romanticisation of this uncompromising form of anarcho-communism. What had failed in practice can live on as theory-art.

Bored with the emotional emptiness of post-modernism, the techno-nomads are entranced by the moral fervour of the holy prophets. In their remixes, the purist interpretation of anarcho-communism is virtualised into the revolutionary dreamtime of cyberspace. However, as shown by Fréquence Libre, the rhetoric of mass participation often hides the rule of the enlightened few. Instead of providing media freedom for all, the hi-tech gift economy becomes the ‘mark of distinction’ for the cultural avant-garde. The ethical-aesthetic commitment of anarcho-communism can only be lived by the artistic aristocracy. In place of the majority doing things for themselves on the Net, the minority of radical intellectuals make cool theory-art about the ‘holy idea’ of digital DIY culture.

Yet, the antinomies of the avant-garde can no longer be avoided. The rapid growth of the Net is undermining the particular ‘marks of distinction’ adopted by the Deleuzoguattarians. The ideological passion of anarcho-communism is dulled by the banality of giving gifts within cyberspace. The theory of the artistic aristocracy cannot be based on the everyday activities of the ‘herd animals’. Prominent members of the avant-garde are already starting to distance themselves from their earlier enthusiasm for all things digital. Their revolutionary dreamtime may even have to be built somewhere else other than cyberspace. [218]

Above all, anarcho-communism exists in a compromised form on the Net. Contrary to the ethical-aesthetic vision of the New Left, the boundaries between the different methods of working are not morally precise. Within the mixed economy of the Net, money-commodity and gift relations are simultaneously in conflict and in symbiosis with each other. On the one hand, each method of working threatens to supplant the other. The hi-tech gift economy heralds the end of private property in ‘cutting edge’ areas of the economy. The digital capitalists want to privatise the shareware programs and enclose the social spaces built through voluntary effort. The potlatch and the commodity remain irreconcilable. [219]

Yet, on the other hand, the gift economy and the commercial sector can only expand through mutual collaboration within cyberspace. The free circulation of information between users relies upon the capitalist production of computers, software and telecommunications. The profits of commercial Net companies depend upon increasing numbers of people participating within the hi-tech gift economy. Under threat from Microsoft, Netscape is now trying to realise the opportunities opened up by such interdependence. Lacking the resources to beat its monopolistic rival, the company is allying itself with the hacker community to avoid being overwhelmed. The source code of its web browser program is now freely available. The development of products for the shareware Linux operating system has become a top priority. The commercial survival of Netscape will depend upon successfully collaborating with hackers from the hi-tech gift economy. Anarcho-communism is now sponsored by corporate capital. [220]

‘”Hi there Mr CEO [Chief Executive Officer] – tell me, do you have any strategic problem right now that is bigger than whether Microsoft is going to either crush you or own your soul in a few years? No? You don’t? OK, well, listen carefully then. You cannot survive against Bill Gates [by] playing Bill Gates’ game. To thrive, or even survive, you’re going to have to change the rules…”‘ [221]

The purity of the digital DIY culture is also compromised by the political system. Because the dogmatic communism of Deleuze and Guattari has dated badly, their disciples instead emphasise the uncompromising anarchism of the holy prophets. The techno-nomads can then enthusiastically advocate ‘anti-statism’ as the primary method of enhancing freedom within cyberspace. [222] However, the state isn’t just the potential censor and regulator of the Net. At the same time, the public sector provides essential support for the hi-tech gift economy. For instance, in the past, the founders of the Net never bothered to incorporate intellectual property within the system because their wages were funded from taxation. In the future, governments will have to impose universal service provisions upon commercial telecommunications companies if all sections of society are to have the opportunity to circulate free information. [223] Furthermore, Deleuze and Guattari claimed that participatory ‘post-media’ would supplant electoral politics. Yet, when access is available, many people use the Net for political purposes, including lobbying their political representatives. [224] Within the digital mixed economy, anarcho-communism is also symbiotic with the state.

The cult of Deleuze and Guattari is threatened by this miscegenation of the hi-tech gift economy with the private and public sectors. Faithful to the traditions of the European avant-garde, the holy prophets proclaimed the purifying ethical-aesthetic rebellion against bourgeois society. Anarcho-communism symbolised moral integrity: the romance of artistic ‘delirium’ undermining the ‘machinic assemblages’ of bourgeois conformity. In their theory-art, contemporary intellectuals remix Deleuzoguattarian discourse to celebrate the experimental and innovative potential of the Net. However, the hi-tech gift economy cannot act as the ‘holy idea’ of the avant-garde minority for much longer. As Net access grows, more and more people are circulating free information across the Net. Crucially, their potlatches are not attempts to regain a lost emotional authenticity. Far from having any belief in the revolutionary ideals of May ’68, the overwhelming majority of people participate within the hi-tech gift economy for entirely pragmatic reasons. In the late-Nineties, digital anarcho-communism is being built by hackers like Eric Raymond: ‘a self-described neo-pagan [right-wing] libertarian who enjoys shooting semi-automatic weapons…’ [225]

According to Deleuze and Guattari, anarcho-communism also symbolised the ethical-aesthetic revolution against the oppressive ‘grand narrative’ of modernity. However, the hi-tech gift economy is formed by the practical activities of people who mainly live in highly-industrialised countries. [226] This libertarian way of working was not an immanent possibility in every age. On the contrary, this really existing form of anarcho-communism could only have been built at the advanced technological and social levels of contemporary capitalism. Back in medieval times, the expansion of feudal society spawned the precursors of the modern market and state. At the end of the millennium, three centuries of capitalist industrialisation are culminating in the emergence of digital anarcho-communism. The market and the state could only be surpassed in this specific sector at this particular historical moment.

The technological advances catalysed by capitalist modernisation are preconditions for the emergence of anarcho-communism within the Net. Crucially, people need sophisticated media, computing and telecommunications technologies to participate within the hi-tech gift economy. Over the last three hundred years, the reproduction, distribution and manipulation of information have become slowly easier through a long process of mechanisation. A manually-operated press produced copies which were relatively expensive, limited in numbers and impossible to alter without recopying. After generations of technological improvements, the same quantity of text on the Net costs almost nothing to circulate, can be copied as needed and can be remixed at will. The scarcity of information is gradually being overcome within the hi-tech gift economy. [227]

The utilisation of advanced communications tools presupposes that a large proportion of the population have benefited from capitalist modernisation. For individuals need both time and money to participate within the hi-tech gift economy. While a large number of the world’s population still lives in poverty, people within the industrialised countries have steadily reduced their hours of employment and increased their wealth over a long period of social struggles and economic reorganisations. Ever since the advent of Fordism, mass production has depended upon workers having enough leisure and resources for mass consumption. [228] As spare time grows, people can carve out a personal space for living their own lives, including within cyberspace. [229] With rising incomes, they can afford the ‘self-service’ technologies needed for doing things for themselves, such as equipment for accessing the Net. [230] By working for public institutions or private companies for some of the week, people can enjoy the delights of the hi-tech gift economy at other times. Only at this particular historical moment have the technical and social conditions of the metropolitan countries developed sufficiently for the emergence of digital anarcho-communism. [231]

Following the implosion of the Soviet Union, almost nobody still believes in the inevitable victory of communism. On the contrary, large numbers of people accept that the Hegelian ‘end of history’ has culminated in American neo-liberal capitalism. [232] Yet, at exactly this moment in time, a really existing form of anarcho-communism is being constructed within the Net, especially by people living in the USA. When they go on-line, almost everyone participates within the gift economy rather than engages in market competition. Even the development of sophisticated software is being organised around the free circulation of information.

Over the past few centuries, the productivity of labour has increased dramatically through the mediation of money-commodity relations protected by the rule of law. Yet, within cyberspace, the enforcement of private property has become both technologically and socially regressive. Because users receive much more information than they can ever give away, there is no popular clamour for imposing the equal exchange of the marketplace on the Net. For most people, the circulation of gifts is simply the most efficient method of working together within cyberspace. Even the West Coast neo-liberals encounter difficulties in explaining why market prices for information are necessary when the marginal cost of reproduction is nearly zero. [233] Once again, the ‘end of history’ for capitalism appears to be communism.

‘Capital thus works towards its own dissolution as the form dominating production.’ [234]

Despite the emergence of the hi-tech gift economy, markets and states remain the primary methods of co-ordinating labour for the production of goods and services in the rest of the economy, including within some parts of cyberspace. Responding to changes in prices and funding, workers and resources are distributed across the various sectors of the economy. [235] Being New Left gurus, Deleuze and Guattari denounced both the market and the state as ‘machinic assemblages’ which controlled the lives of the masses. Fréquence Libre therefore refused to sell advertising and only took a small subsidy from the government. Despite this anti-capitalist position, Deleuze and Guattari still rejected the ‘economism’ of the mainstream Left. According to the holy prophets, society was formed through the self-organising properties of psychic structures rather than through the conscious organisation of practical work. The creative power of human labour was only one expression of the vitalist energy of semiotic flows.

Observing the hallowed custom of the European avant-garde, the two philosophers had substituted ethical-aesthetic redemption for the social revolution. The New Left no longer wanted to change the methods of production. Instead, its philosophers called for the replacement of disciplined labour by spontaneous desire: the ‘refusal of work’. The proletarian had been turned into the artist. [236] In the Nineties, the techno-nomads need this ultra-left myth to justify their resurrection of the avant-garde tradition. While the majority of the population are supposedly stupefied by the ‘machinic assemblages’ of the market and the state, the artistic aristocracy can form its own ‘collective assemblage of enunciation’ around the potlatch. After transformation into an ethical-aesthetic stance, anarcho-communism becomes the signifier of the techno-nomad Supermen. [237]

Despite their residual ultra-leftism, the cultural elitism of the techno-nomads increasingly merges with the conservative positions of the Californian ideologues. The two forms of Nietzschean philosophy are fusing into one. For this convergence to take place, the holy prophets’ anathema against market competition must be skilfully abandoned. [238] First, the new generation of adepts surreptitiously morphs the ‘refusal to work’ into the denial of the wealth-creating powers of human labour. Then the work of living beings is subsumed within the mobility of dead matter. Finally, far from being condemned as a ‘machinic assemblage’ imposed from above, market competition is sanctified as the apotheosis of self-organising systems. [239] As in the Californian ideology, this Deleuzoguattarian heresy believes that the market is a chaotic force of nature which cannot be controlled by state intervention. [240] Abandoning any residual connections with the Left, these TJs instead celebrate the new aristocracy of nomadic artists and entrepreneurs who surf the ‘schiz-flows’ of the information society. [241] In this bizarre remix, anarcho-communism becomes identical with neo-liberalism.

Mesmerised by this ecstatic vision, radical intellectuals are now incapable of understanding the actual ‘world-historical’ significance of the Net. For the cultural avant-garde’s recent reconciliation with market competition has obscured the historical novelty of digital DIY culture. If both forms of human activity are simply spontaneous semiotic flows, the exchange of commodities and the circulation of gifts can be easily confused with each other. As a consequence, the techno-nomads miss the major social transformation catalysed by the new information technologies: the widespread adoption of a new method of working. Rejecting the ‘economism’ of the Left, many TJs have replaced the creativity of human labour on the Net with a digital vitalism inspired by Deleuze and Guattari’s theory-art. Denying the ability of people to determine their own destinies, these techno-nomads believe that information technologies are semiotic forces determining culture, consciousness and even the conception of existence. Humanity will not be liberated by its own efforts, but by the new Messiah: the self-organising properties of inert metal, sand and plastic transmuted into information technologies.

However, there is nothing inherently emancipatory in computer-mediated communications. These technologies can also serve the state and the market. The Net was originally invented for the transmission of orders from the military hierarchy. Ever since the Seventies, computer networks have provided the technical infrastructure for global financial markets to impose neo-liberal policies on countries across the world. Nowadays, many government bodies and commercial companies are building Intranets to improve their internal management and Extranets to interact with their clients. In the future, electronic commerce will play a significant economic role and public services will increasingly be made available on-line. Both the market and the state are becoming digital. [242]

For these purposes, computer-mediated communications can still be organised by public and private institutions. Dependent upon wages, people will move into the new jobs created within expanding sectors of the economy. However, as in older industries, these workers will remain unable to control their own productive activities. Even cyber-entrepreneurs are constrained by the disciplines of the marketplace. In contrast, millions of people are already spontaneously working together on the Net without needing co-ordination by either the state or the market. Instead of exchanging their labour for money, they give away their creations in return for free access to information produced by others. Far from being equivalent types of self-organising systems, market competition and anarcho-communism are actually two contrasting forms of collective labour.

‘The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessities and conveniences of life which it annually consumes…’ [243]

The hi-tech gift economy is not the only way in which labour is organised within cyberspace. The circulation of gifts coexists with the exchange of commodities and funding from taxation. Like successful community radio stations, participatory spaces within the Net can be constructed as labours of love, but still be partially funded by advertising and public money. Crucially, this hybridisation of working methods is not confined within particular projects. When they’re on-line, people constantly pass from one form of social activity to another. For instance, in one session, a Net user could first purchase some clothes from an e-commerce catalogue, then look for information about education services from the local council’s site and then contribute some thoughts to an on-going discussion on a listserver for fiction-writers. Without even consciously having to think about it, this person would have successively been a consumer in a market, a citizen of a state and an anarcho-communist within a gift economy. Far from realising theory in its full purity, working methods on the Net are inevitably compromised. The ‘New Economy’ is an advanced form of social democracy. [244]

Although the boundaries between the different forms of collective labour are often blurred, working for money is still very different from working for recognition. Doing things on the orders of others is not the same as doing things for yourself. [245] Despite this crucial distinction, the techno-nomads still cannot comprehend the subversive impact of the everyday activities of Net users. As members of the avant-garde, they’re looking for the intensity of ethical-aesthetic ‘delirium’ within the flows of self-organising matter. For them, there can be nothing particularly special about the mundane activities of Net users who aren’t producing fashionable theory-art. Yet, at this particular historical moment, the supersession of capitalism has ceased to be a moral stance. When using the Net, almost everyone prefers to circulate gifts rather than to exchange commodities. Instead of embodying a mystical ‘collective intelligence’, the hi-tech gift economy is precisely a new method of collaborative working.

Within cyberspace, market competition is disappearing for entirely pragmatic reasons. While commodified information is closed and fixed, digital gifts are open and changeable. Instead of fixed divisions between producers and consumers, users are simultaneously creators on the Net. Obsessed with immanence of semiotic flows, the Deleuzoguattarians cannot appreciate the deep irony of this contingent moment in human history. [246] This is the point in time when the old faith in the inevitable triumph of communism has completely lost all credibility. Yet, at this very moment, market competition is quietly ‘withering away’ within cyberspace. For most Net users, anarcho-communism is simply the most efficient way of working together. A new mode of production is being born alongside market competition and state intervention. [247]

‘Shareware is a more highly evolved survival mechanism than [market] competition.’ [248]

The contemporary avant-garde resurrects the ‘refusal of work’ to symbolise the primacy of its own artistic creativity. Yet, as Hegelians have long pointed out, the only individuals who don’t have to work are aristocrats. In contrast, ordinary people can only free themselves from exploitation by ‘non-workers’ through their own skills as labourers. [249] Over the past few centuries, people within the industrialised countries have slowly improved their incomes and reduced their hours of work. Although still having little autonomy in their money-earning jobs, workers can now experience non-alienated labour within the hi-tech gift economy. [250] From writing emails through making web sites to developing software, people do things for themselves without the mediation of the market and the state.

As access to the Net spreads, the majority of the population are beginning to participate within cultural production. Unlike Fréquence Libre, the avant-garde can no longer decide who can – and cannot – join the hi-tech gift economy. The Net is too large for Microsoft to monopolise let alone a small elite of radical intellectuals. Art therefore ceases being the symbol of moral superiority. Everyone now has the opportunity to express themselves in all sorts of ways, including aesthetically. When working people finally have enough time and resources, they can then concentrate upon ‘…art, love, play, etc., etc.; in short, everything which makes Man [and Woman] happy.’ [251]

During the twentieth-century, the European avant-garde championed revolutionary politics, libertarian lifestyles and artistic experimentation. Following in this tradition, the Deleuzoguattarians celebrate the new ethical-aesthetic rebellion centred on the Net. However, by forming an avant-garde, radical intellectuals are attempting to separate themselves from the rest of the population. They want to be artistic Supermen within cyberspace rather than ordinary workers using computer-mediated communications. The very process of romanticising the hi-tech gift economy into theory-art negates most of its subversive potential. For, within the Net, really existing anarcho-communism is a pragmatic method of working. Rather than buying and selling information, people circulate gifts amongst each other. They always obtain much more than can ever be contributed in return. By giving away something which is well-made, they will gain recognition from those who download their work. [252] Anarcho-communism can no longer be confined to the adepts of Deleuzoguattarian theory-art. It has now become a practical way of working for everyone.

At such a historical moment, the cultural avant-garde is made obsolete through the realisation of its own supposed principles. The techno-nomads proclaim the ‘holy idea’ of digital DIY culture to distinguish themselves from the rest of society. Yet, far from being confined to a revolutionary minority, increasing numbers of ordinary people are now participating within the hi-tech gift economy. For entirely pragmatic reasons, Net users adopt anarcho-communism as the most efficient method of working with each other. Rather than symbolising ethical-aesthetic purity, the circulation of gifts is one way of working within the advanced social democracy of cyberspace. Although it is impossible to predict the future of the hi-tech gift economy, one thing is almost certain. The intellectual elitism of Deleuzoguattarian discourse is being superseded by the emancipatory ‘grand narrative’ of modernity. As more and more ‘herd animals’ go on-line, radical intellectuals can no longer fantasise about becoming cyborg Supermen. As digital anarcho-communism becomes an everyday activity, there is no longer any need for the leadership of the cultural avant-garde. The time for the revolution of holy fools has passed. As has already happened within popular music, the most innovative and experimental culture will be created by people doing things for themselves. By participating within the hi-tech gift-economy, everyone can potentially become a wise citizen and a creative worker. [253]

‘… the word ‘creation’ will no longer be restricted to works of art but will signify a self-conscious activity, self-conceiving, reproducing for its own terms … and its own reality (body, desire, time, space), being its own creation.’ [254]

11: Footnotes

[1] Louis Rossetto, the founding editor of Wired, aggressively opposes any form of state economic intervention: ‘Keeping the government out of cyberspace is crucial to the Net’s development, and to the development of the New Economy and global consciousness.’ David Hudson, ‘There’s no government like no government’, page 34. For a critique of the neo-liberal politics of Wired, see Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, ‘The Californian Ideology’.

[2] For instance, see the miserablism about the Net shown by the contributors to Jon Dovey, Fractal Dreams. The denunciation of the emancipatory potential of new information technologies reached its apogee in the work of Baudrillard: ‘…it really seems that interaction, taken in the communications sense, marks the end of action, taken in its political sense.’ Jean Baudrillard, La Gauche Divine, page 142.

[3] A TJ is a ‘theory-jockey’: Amsterdam slang for intellectuals who cut ‘n’ mix philosophies like DJs in a club.

[4] Situationist International, ‘The Beginning of An Era’, pages 225-226.

[5] DIY stands for ‘do-it-yourself’. This slogan is used to emphasise the need for people to tackle social problems through collective direct action rather than to wait for someone else to solve them. See Elaine Brass and Sophie Poklewski Koziell with Denise Searle, Gathering Force.

[6] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 4.

[7] See archive of contributions to the nettime listserver on its web site.

[8] See Kevin Kelly, Out of Control; and for a critique of this Social Darwinist manifesto, see Richard Barbrook, ‘The Pinnochio Theory’.

[9] An American commentator exiled in Berlin notes that: ‘…because Europe is not crowded with netrepreneurs, because the movers and shakers on the business end of the Net are almost all in the US., digital culture in Europe is precisely that: culture…’ David Hudson, ‘The People are the Party’, page 3. Although many of its pioneers were American, the chemical hedonism, sexual tolerance and racial miscegenation inherent in dance music means that this style has never had the profound impact on popular culture in the USA as it has in Europe. See Matthew Collin with John Godrey, Altered State.

[10] Uncritical enthusiasm for Deleuze and Guattari’s work led one group of DJs to set up a label named after the original French title of the holy book. See Mille Plateaux Records; and David Hudson, ‘The People are the Party’, pages 2-3.

[11] Not surprisingly, there are many web sites promoting the teachings of the holy prophets, such as Web Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari Homepage; How To Make Yourself a Plane of Consistency; The Deleuzeguattarionary; and WWW Resources for Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.

[12] For an account of scandal surrounding the publication of a Yippie manual of ‘rip-off scams’, see Abbie Hoffman, Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture, pages 228-240. For the influence of anti-commodity attitudes on the early hacker culture, see Bruce Sterling, The Hacker Crackdown, pages 45-47.

[13] In some tribal societies, social bonds between people were formed through the giving and receiving of gifts to gain recognition from others: ‘The cycling gift system is the society.’ Mary Douglas, ‘Foreword: no free gifts’, page ix. Similarly, within the Net, users collaborate with each other by giving and receiving information without payment. This is the hacker ethic of the hi-tech gift economy: we all give gifts to strangers because everyone else is already doing it. For a more detailed analysis, see chapters 10 and 11 below.

[14] IRC means Internet Relay Chat: a CB-style channel for text-based conversations. MOO means Multi-User-Dungeon Object Orientated: a text-based 3D virtual environment.

[15] On its web site, Rhizome describes itself as ‘an organisation dedicated to fostering communication and community in the field of new media art’. See

[16] Hakim Bey popularised the phrase ‘Temporary Autonomous Zone’ as a more comprehensible way of saying rhizome. Although hostile to industrial society, he does include such hi-tech activities as ‘…the BBS networks, pirated software, hacking, phone-phreaking…’ within his definition of a ‘Temporary Autonomous Zone’, i.e. as potential rhizomes. Hakim Bey, T.A.Z., page 109. ‘Temporary Autonomous Zone’ was first widely used as a description of techno parties. For instance, Debbie Stauton – a rave organiser – explains that: ‘The whole point of festivals is that they are temporary autonomous zones…they are self-organising…Nobody is told where to go or what to do, everyone just does their own bit…’ quoted in Elaine Brass and Sophie Poklewski Koziell with Denise Searle, Gathering Force, page 89. Ironically, Hakim Bey admits that: ‘…I don’t go to raves and I don’t enjoy the music or staying up all night taking crypto-speed and dancing my head off…’, Geekgirl, ‘Interview with Hakim Bey’, page 207.

[17] See Pierre Lévy, L’Intelligence Collective, pages 137-140, 173-176, 183-185, 190-197, 202-207.

[18] See Pierre Lévy, L’Intelligence Collective, pages 50-64.

[19] ‘Feminist women have a long history of dancing through a variety of potentially lethal mine-fields in their pursuit of socio-symbolic justice. Nowadays, women have to undertake the dance through cyberspace…’ Rosa Braidotti, ‘Cyberfeminism with a Difference’, page 11. Also see the sci-fi fantasies in Sadie Plant, Zeroes + Ones.

[20] See Andreas Broeckmann, ‘Next Five Minutes: Tactical Media’, pages 8-12.

[21] See Pierre Lévy, L’Intelligence Collective, pages 65-94. Another optimistic reading of Deleuze and Guattari concludes that: ‘what people are creating on the Internet is a conversational, demassified, non-representational democracy that transcends the nation-state.’ Dan Thu Nguyen and Jon Alexander, ‘The Coming of Cyberspacetime and the End of Polity’, page 111.

[22] Gary Snyder in 1966 explaining how the USA – dominated by ‘straights’ organised like an ant hill – would be transformed into a tribal society by the hippie counter-culture. See Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven, page 448.

[23] Hakim Bey, T.A.Z., page 109.

[24] One Deleuzoguattarian has proclaimed that: ‘on this plateau, users [of computer-mediated communications] are virtual nomads, phantoms who circulate in the structures of the labyrinth.’ André Lemos, ‘The Labyrinth of Minitel’, page 46. For a metahistorical defence of the techno-nomad myth, see Pierre Lévy, L’Intelligence Collective, pages 156-157.

[25] Like other post-structuralist philosophers, Deleuze and Guattari unashamedly used precise scientific terms as dodgy socio-cultural metaphors. See Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Impostures Intellectuelles, pages 141-152. The Californian ideologues also try to reduce the complexity of human society to the simplicities of natural laws. See Kevin Kelly, Out of Control; and Jànos Sugar, ‘Interview with John Perry Barlow’, pages 96-99. The Deleuzoguattarians are now synthesising the two forms of mystical positivism into a single pseudo-scientific discourse. See Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History; Pierre Lévy, L’Intelligence Collective; and Sadie Plant, Zeroes and Ones.

[26] See Mark Lipton, ‘Forgetting the Body: Cybersex and Identity’.

[27] Pierre Lévy, L’Intelligence Collective, pages 95-117. It is probably no coincidence that his concept of the ‘collective intelligence’ has a strong resemblance to the ‘group mind’ experienced by people tripping together. See Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven, page 276.

[28] ‘…human culture and society (considered as dynamical systems) are no different from the self-organised processes that inhabit the atmosphere and hydrosphere (wind, circuits, hurricanes), or, for that matter, no different from lavas and magamas…’ Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History, page 55. Also see Manuel De Landa, War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, pages 7-9; and Sadie Plant, Zeroes + Ones, pages 156-164.

[29] Hakim Bey, T.A.Z., page 50. The Luther Blissett Project wickedly describe Bey’s style as ‘…one part Hippie bullshit and cheap oriental trinkets, one part Post-structuralism and pithy intricacies, one part cyber-crap…’ Luther Blissett, ‘Why I Wrote a Fake Hakim Bey Book and How I Cheated the Conformists of Italian “Counter-Culture”‘, page 147.

[30] As Dick Hebdige in his seminal text puts it: ‘…it is through the distinctive rituals of consumption, through style, that the subculture at once reveals its ‘secret’ identity and communicates its forbidden meanings. It is basically the way in which commodities are used in subculture which mark the subculture off from more orthodox cultural formations.’ Dick Hebdige, Subculture, page 103.

[31] One of the ‘winners’ of third annual Bad Writing competition for academic texts was a fan of Deleuze and Guattari. See David Cohen, ‘Pseuds in a Corner’, page ii. A hilarious example of how Deleuze and Guattari’s jargon can be used to write theoretical gobbledygook is: ‘Antioedipus is an anticipatively assembled inducer for the replay of geohistory in hypermedia, a social-systematic fast feed-forward through machinic delirium. While tracking Artaud across the plane it discovers a cosmic catatonic abstract body that both repels its parts (deterritorialising them {from each other}) and attracts them (reterritorialising them {upon itself}), in a process that reconnects the parts through deterritorium as rhizomatic nets conducting schizogeneses.’ Nick Land, ‘Meat (or How to Kill Oedipus in Cyberspace)’, page 191.

[32] James Flint, ‘Harvesting the Tubers: the Planting of Deleuze and Guattari’, page 15.

[33] Like other post-structuralists, Deleuze and Guattari were marginalised within the French academic system despite their fame among the reading public both at home and abroad. See Pierre Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, page xviii. As a consequence, even after the success of Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze could still credibly claim that: ‘…neither Félix nor I have turned into little leaders of a little [philosophical] school.’ Gilles Deleuze, ‘Letter to a Harsh Critic’, page 9. Ironically, this fate has finally happened to the two philosophers in the late-Nineties.

[34] This brief description is then supplemented by a series of enigmatic quotations from A Thousand Plateaus. See the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on

[35] See Hari Kunzru, ‘Rewiring Technoculture’, page 10. Kunzru was an associate editor of the short-lived British edition of Wired.

[36] Guattari described May ’68 as ‘a great awakening, a huge thunderclap’ which sparked off the process of ‘molecular revolutions’ across the world by inspiring the emergence of new social movements, especially feminism. Charles J. Stivale, Pragmatic/Machinic, page 4. Gilles Deleuze also made clear his enthusiasm for this momentous event: ‘May ’68 was a demonstration, an irruption, of a becoming in its pure state… Men’s only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming: the only way of casting off their shame or responding to what is intolerable.’ Gilles Deleuze, ‘Control and Becoming’, page 171.

[37] For Deleuze’s involvement in the anti-prisons movement, see Didier Eribon, Michel Foucault, pages 224-237. For Guattari’s leading role in the French community radio movement, see chapters 5 and 6 below.

[38] In colloquial French, the stilted jargon used by the French Communist Party and other Leninists was called ‘langue de bois’.

[39] It is difficult for us now to comprehend the huge influence which Stalinism exercised over the childhood and adolescence of Deleuze and Guattari – as well as other French structuralist philosophers from the babyboomer generation: ‘In 1947 the PCF [French Communist Party] was a political party claiming close to a million members and the electoral choice of over five million (mostly working class) French voters. Basking in the prestige of its Resistance record, its obvious working class support, and its marxist legacy, the PCF exercised a strong attraction on leftist and liberal intellectuals. It was a political party which confidentially claimed to be in sole possession of a philosophically rigorous and scientific theory of history and society. It was a party that claimed to fight for social justice for downtrodden and social progress for all. And despite its many shortcomings, it was a party that compared quite favourably with the other political groupings of the postwar period.’ Arthur Hirsch, The French Left, page 10. Also see Annie Kriegel, Les Communistes Français; and R.W. Johnson, The Long March of the French Left.

[40] For the intellectual forerunners of the Sixties New Left, see Arthur Lehring (ed.), Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings; Leon Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (The Transitional Programme); André Breton, What is Surrealism?; D.A. Smart (ed.), Pannekoek and Gorter’s Marxism; and Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism.

[41] For an analysis of the New Left as a ‘world-historical movement’, see George Katsiaficas, The Imagination of the New Left. Also see Richard Gombin, Les Origins du Gauchisme; and Arthur Hirsch, The French Left.

[42] For the historical antecedents of New Left anarcho-communism, see Richard Gombin, Les Origins du Gauchisme, pages 99-151. For its later influence on internal structures of the new social movements, see George Katsiaficas, The Imagination of the New Left, pages 204-212.

[43] Jacques Camatte, The Wandering of Humanity, pages 35-36.

[44] Félix Guattari, ‘Institutional Politics and Practice’, page 127. According to the holy prophets, the differences between the Stalinist and Social Democratic strategies for taking state power amounted to: ‘…either the proletariat prevails and transforms the apparatus in conformity with its objective interest – but these operations are carried out under the domination of its consciousness or party vanguard, that is, for the benefit for a bureaucracy or technocracy that stands in for the bourgeoisie as the “great-absent” class – or the bourgeoisie keeps its control of the State and is free to secrete its own technobureaucracy, and above all to add a few more axioms for the recognition of the proletariat as a second class.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, page 256.

[45] Crucially, Deleuze and Guattari never offered any materialist explanations of why the oppressive power of the state was created in the first place. For them, the origins of political power were completely mystical: ‘The State was not formed in progressive stages; it appears fully armed, a master stroke performed all at once; the primordial Urstaat, the eternal model of everything the State wants to be and desires.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, page 217. Later, they even admitted that the emergence of the state resembled the ‘birth of [the Greek goddess] Athena’ from the head of Zeus, chief of the gods! Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 359. This myth was derived from the writings of Pierre Clastres – the anarchist anthropologist – who claimed that the ‘mysterious emergence’ of the state power had destroyed the egalitarian idyll of primitive societies and instituted a new order based on social oppression. See Pierre Clastres, Society Against the State, pages 189-218. Also see Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics.

[46] This analysis closely resembled the pessimistic reading of modernity proposed by their close friend and political ally Foucault. Far from being progress towards emancipation, this guru believed that social evolution was the refinement of repressive controls over individual freedom. See Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation, Discipline and Punish; and History of Sexuality.

[47] The two philosophers explicitly rejected the ‘economism’ of Marxist analyses of society: ‘We think that the material or machinic aspect of an assemblage relates not to the production of goods but rather to the precise state of intermingling of bodies in a society, including all attractions and repulsions, sympathies and antipathies, alterations, amalgamations, penetrations, and expansions that affect bodies of all kinds in their relations to one another… An assemblage has neither base nor superstructure, neither deep structure nor superficial structure; it flattens all of its dimensions onto a single plane of consistency upon which reciprocal presuppositions and mutual assertions play themselves out.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 90.

[48] Influenced by Reich’s Freudo-Marxist explanation of the popular appeal of Nazism, Deleuze and Guattari emphasised that: ‘…psychic repression is a means in service of social repression.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, page 119. Also see Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism.

[49] ‘[The]…dichotomy between social production and the production of desire must be a target of the revolutionary struggle wherever familialist repression works against women, children, drug-addicts, alcoholics, homosexuals or any other disadvantaged groups.’ Félix Guattari, ‘Molecular Revolution and Class Struggle, pages 257-258. The economic causes of the conflict between the supporters of the mainstream Left in the ‘guaranteed’ sector and those of the New Left in the ‘non-guaranteed’ sector were only finally admitted in the collaboration between one of the philosophic duo and a prominent Italian Autonomist economist. See Félix Guattari and Toni Negri, Communists Like Us, pages 75-84.

[50] See Félix Guattari, ‘Social Democrats and Euro-Communists vis-à-vis the State’, pages 242-252.

[51] ‘If the nomad can be called the Deterritorialised par excellence, it is precisely because there is no reterritorialisation afterwards as with the migrant, or upon something else as with the sedentary (the sedentary’s relation with the earth is mediatised by something else, a property regime, a State apparatus).’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 381. According to Clastres, nomadic tribes and other primitive societies supposedly organised themselves in ways which prevented the emergence of the only institution threatening their freedom: the state. See Pierre Clastres, Society Against the State, pages 207-212. Similarly, Michel Foucault made an unfavourable comparison between the confinement imposed on the insane by modern mental hospitals with the mobility enjoyed by the mad who sailed around Europe on the Ship of Fools in pre-modern times. See Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation, pages 3-37.

[52] A crude polarisation between statism and anarchism underpinned this myth of the nomad: ‘In social terms, the contrast is between authoritarian and libertarian organisations: on the one hand, States with their insistence on centralised power…and their hierarchical separations between States and classes; on the other hand, looser organisations of smaller groups, without territorial limits, without hierarchy. The best example of the latter is a society of nomads, whose main value is not authority (which implies stability and order), but flight.’ Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Philosophy Through the Looking-Glass, page 169.

[53] This argument is summarised in the introduction to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, pages 3-25. Like the myth of the nomads, the concept of the rhizome was aimed against the reformist policies of the Stalinists and the Social Democrats. Although Deleuze and Guattari realised that constant changes in production and consumption under capitalism led to the ‘deterritorialisation’ of existing ways of living, they claimed that left-wing attempts to regulate this economic process were simply continuing political oppression in the interests of big business: ‘Never before has a State lost so much of its power in order to enter with so much force into the service of the signs of economic power.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, page 252.

[54] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 17. Translation altered.

[55] ‘…schizophrenia is not the identity of capitalism, but on the contrary its difference, its divergence and its death.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, page 246. The two philosophers derived this vision of the revolutionary potential of schizophrenia from the social explanations for mental illness advanced by Ronnie Laing and other members of the anti-psychiatry movement. See R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise, pages 84-107; and Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation.

[56] According to Guattari, ‘…there is an urgent need to free ourselves of scientistic references and metaphors [as used by the mainstream Left]; to forge new paradigms which are instead ethico-aesthetic in inspiration.’ Félix Guattari, ‘Three Ecologies’, page 132. As Lecercle points out: ‘The first comment one can make about délire [delirium] is that the truth of it cannot be grasped from the outside: it requires a degree of involvement and renunciation on the part of the philosopher. He must abandon his normal processes of thought, proceed by paradox…he must become delirious’, Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Philosophy Through the Looking-Glass, page 165.

[57] ‘…délire [delirium] is itself a form of political expression, as the history of ranting shows: against political or psychological repression, the exaggerated reaction of délire [delirium] carries with it both the political contents of a revolt and its violence.’ Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Philosophy Through the Looking-Glass, page 167.

[58] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 161. Despite their rejection of the economic determinism inherent in Marxism, the two philosophers themselves advocated their own form of libidinal reductionism whereby every aspect of human activity – from personal relationships to capitalist production – could be derived from the direct or indirect expression of sexual desire. See Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Philosophy Through the Looking-Glass, pages 160-194.

[59] Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, page 185. Nietzsche proclaimed that: ‘I teach you the Superman. Man is something to be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? What is ape to man? A laughing-stock or a painful embarrassment. And just so shall man be to the Superman… The Superman is the meaning of the earth.’ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, pages 41-42.

[60] Alfred Douglas, The Tarot, page 43. This Gnostic vision of human freedom is remarkably close to the liberating role of insanity championed by the two philosophers. See Félix Guattari, ‘Students, the Mad and ‘Delinquents’, pages 208-216. Similarly, their colleague Michel Foucault revived the pre-modern myth of the mad being able to comprehend spiritual truths better than the learned: ‘…knowledge, so inaccessible, so formidable, the Fool, in his innocent idiocy, already possesses. While the man of reason and wisdom perceives only fragmentary and all the more unnerving images of it, the Fool bears it all intact as an unbroken sphere: that crystal ball which for all others is empty is in his eyes filled with the density of an invisible knowledge.’ Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation, page 22.

[61] For the origins and development of the Minitel network, see Marcel Marchand, The Minitel Saga.

[62] When writing about the impact of television, Guattari often sounded like Neil Postman or other patrician critics of this mass medium: ‘The television ends by functioning like a hypnotic drug, cutting people off from their environment, contributing to dissolving family relations which are already very strained, diminishing the role of reading and writing in favour of cultural and information events so superficial that they contribute to a phenomenon which has been characterised as ‘short attention span’.’ Félix Guattari, ‘Pour une Éthique des Médias’, page 6. Later on in the same article, he even claimed that video games and cartoon books were causing ‘psychopathy’ among young people in Japan!

[63] Félix Guattari, ‘Three Ecologies’, page 143.

[64] Félix Guattari, ‘Remaking Social Practices’, page 263.

[65] For Guattari’s enthusiasm for the use of Minitel by the social movements, see Félix Guattari, ‘Three Ecologies’, pages 142-144; ‘Pour une Éthique des Médias’; and ‘Subjectivities: for Better and for Worse’, page 194. In contrast, Deleuze was much more sceptical about the libertarian potential of the new information technologies: ‘We’re moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people [in hospitals, schools, factories, etc.] but through continuous control and instant communication.’ Sounding like Baudrillard, he later concluded that: ‘Compared to the approaching forms of continuous control in open sites, we may come to see the harshest confinement as part of a wonderfully happy past. The quest for “universals of communication” ought to make us shudder.’ Gilles Deleuze, ‘Control and Becoming’, pages 174-175.

[66] See David Armstrong, A Trumpet to Arms. The hacker culture was the expression of these hippie attitudes within the computer science departments.

[67] See David Armstrong, A Trumpet to Arms, pages 74-81; and John Downing, Radical Media, pages 35-157.

[68] This situation was the specifically Italian reflection of a wider European phenomenon. See Kees van der Pijl, The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class. As the more perceptive New Left analysts pointed out at the time, the military hegemony of the USA was increasingly being superseded by the more effective disciplines of the global marketplace. For them, this transformation was reflected in the unquestioning acceptance of neo-liberal solutions to the crisis of Fordism in the late-Seventies by all Italian parliamentary parties, including those on the Left. See Sergio Bologna, ‘A Tribe of Moles’.

[69] See John Downing, Radical Media, pages 215-303; and Red Notes, Italy 1977-8.

[70] For example, Guattari wrote the introduction and provided the philosophical language for the book summing up the practical and theoretical achievements of Radio Alice. See Collectif A/Traverso, Radio Alice, Radio Libre.

[71] See Mark Grimshaw and Carl Gardner, ”Free Radio’ in Italy’, pages 14-17; Peter Lewis and Jerry Booth, The Invisible Medium, pages 138-147; and John Downing, Radical Media, pages 273-301.

[72] For a sympathetic account of the achievements of the Communist local administration in Bologna, see Max Jäggi, Roger Müller and Sil Schmid, Red Bologna. During the Eighties, Bologna city council was a major inspiration for left Labour local authorities in England. For a comparison, see Maureen Mackintosh and Hilary Wainwright, A Taste of Power.

[73] As well as news reports, Radio Alice also broadcast regular programmes made by feminists, conscripts, lesbians & gays, ex-prisoners, young workers and children. See Claude Collin, Ondes de Choc, pages 100-102.

[74] See Félix Guattari, ‘Les Radios Libres Populaires’, pages 159-160; and ‘Plan for the Planet’.

[75] Félix Guattari, ‘The Micro-Politics of Fascism’, page 220.

[76] See Félix Guattari, ‘Les Radios Libres Populaires’. The members of Radio Alice declared that they wanted: ‘To break the dictatorship of the Signifier, to introduce frenzy into the order of communication, to speak of desire, anger, madness and refusal. This form of linguistic practice is the only method adequate to the complex practice needed to destroy the dictatorship of the Political, to introduce appropriation, the refusal of work, freedom and collectivism into daily life.’ Collectif A/Traverso, Radio Alice, Radio Libre, page 102.

[77] The police raid which finally silenced Radio Alice was transmitted live from the station’s studios, see Red Notes, Italy 1977-8, pages 31-32. The closing down of Radio Alice was part of the rapid escalation of the conflict between the Communist party and its left-wing critics which culminated in the almost complete suppression of the Italian New Left by the early-Eighties. See Red Notes, Italy 1980-81 – After Marx, Jail.

[78] Collectif A/Traverso, Radio Alice, Radio Libre, page 12.

[79] The example of Radio Alice inspired the first wave of ‘free radio’ pirates in France: ‘Italy is a machine which exports dreams.’ Annick Cojean and Frank Eskenazi, FM, page 22.

[80] See Richard Barbrook, Media Freedom, pages 75-90.

[81] See Collectif Radios Libres Populaires, Les Radios Libres, pages 21-31; Thierry Bombled, “Devine Qui Va Parler Ce Soir?”, pages 77-166; Claude Collin, Ondes de Choc, pages 24-42, 109-146; and Annick Cojean and Frank Eskenazi, FM, pages 9-71.

[82] See Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, theses 203-211; Raoul Vaneigem, ‘Notes to the Civilised Concerning Generalised Self-Management’, pages 288-289; and Situationist International, ‘The Situationists and the New Forms of Action against Politics and Art’, page 214.

[83] An activist from Radio Clémentine, a ‘free radio’ pirate in Paris, quoted in Thierry Bombled, “Devine Qui Va Parler Ce Soir?”, page 166. As Collin points out, one important reason for the fascination with radio among New Left militants was the romantic memory of the live broadcasts from the barricades on the Left Bank in Paris during the May ’68 revolution. See Claude Collin, Ondes de Choc, page 38.

[84] See Annick Cojean and Frank Eskenazi, FM, pages 34-36.

[85] See Claude Collin, Ondes de Choc, pages 26-29; and Annick Cojean and Frank Eskenazi, FM, pages 49-51, 103-108.

[86] See Félix Guattari, ‘Les Radios Libres Populaires’, page 160. As another supporter of the radical ‘free radios’ remarked: ‘These electronic “jukeboxes”, far from encouraging creativity and understanding, only promote an ideology of passivity and consumerism.’ Thierry Bombled, “Devine Qui Va Parler Ce Soir?”, page 62.

[87] See Annick Cojean and Frank Eskenazi, FM , pages 115-119, 127-132, 139-152; and ‘Loi no. 81-994 du 9 novembre 1981 portant dérogation au monopole d’État de la radiodiffusion’, pages 3,070-3,071.

[88] See Annick Cojean and Frank Eskenazi, FM, pages 183-188; and Jean-Paul Simard, ‘Interview with Author’.

[89] Pierre Gavi and Xavier Villetard, ‘La premier hit-parade de la FM Parisienne’, page 9.

[90] Jean-Paul Simard, ‘Interview with Author’.

[91] Jean-Paul Simard, ‘Interview with Author’.

[92] Jean-Paul Simard, ‘Interview with Author’. While avant-garde classical music is discussed in detail, there are no references to any style of popular music within the two philosophers’ sacred text! See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus.

[93] Jean-Paul Simard, ‘Interview with Author’; and Annick Cojean and Frank Eskenazi, FM, page 325. By the time that Fréquence Libre went under, the regulations against commercial broadcasting had also collapsed. See Richard Barbrook, Media Freedom, pages 109-111.

[94] Annick Cojean and Frank Eskenazi, FM, page 35.

[95] ‘I think that if a rightist government had remained in place, we [the 'free radio' movement] would have continued to struggle and to achieve things. It sufficed that the Socialists came to power in order to liquidate all that.’ Charles J. Stivale, Pragmatic/Machinic, page 8.

[96] Radio Populare raises around 40% of its income from local and national advertising with the rest of the money coming from listener subscriptions, fund-raising events and subsidies from left-wing political groups. Despite its success in raising the money, the most important economic resource of this community radio station remains the free labour contributed by volunteers. During the 1991 Gulf War, the station’s campaign against the attack on Iraq led to Radio Populare topping the ratings in the Milan region. See Peter Lewis, ‘Neither Market nor State: Community Radio – a Third Way?’, pages 202-206. For the pragmatic policies which have allowed other community radio stations to thrive, also see Peter Lewis and Jerry Booth, The Invisible Medium, pages 89-162; and Richard Barbrook, ‘Choice or Participation’.

[97] The vanguard was a military term used for the advance guard who opened up the path for the main army. Popularised by Lenin, the political use of this phrase emphasised the leadership role of radical intellectuals within revolutionary organisations. See V.I. Lenin, What Is To Be Done? For Guattari, the prototype of the New Left vanguard was the Mouvement du 22 Mars which had sparked off the May ’68 revolution by organising the student protests at Nanterre University: ‘With their vanguard action to provide a model, they opened a new path, lifted prohibitions, and opened the way to a new understanding and a new logical formulation outside any framework of dogmatism.’ Félix Guattari, ‘Students, the Mad and ‘Delinquents”, page 215. Crucially, this student movement had no direct connections with any working class parties or unions. See Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative, pages 23-90.

[98] ‘The principle concern of constitutional government is civil liberty; that of revolutionary government, public liberty…To good citizens revolutionary government owes the full protection of the state; to the enemies of the people it owes only death.’ Maximilien Robespierre, ‘On Revolutionary Government (December 25 1793)’, page 59.

[99] ‘We…must foment, awaken and unleash all the passions, we must produce anarchy and, like invisible pilots in the thick of the popular tempest, we must steer it not by any open power but by the collective dictatorship of all the [revolutionary] allies – a dictatorship without insignia, titles or official rights, and all the stronger for having none of the paraphernalia of power… If you set up this collective, invisible dictatorship, you will triumph, the revolution, properly guided, will triumph. If not, not.’ Mikhail Bakunin, ‘Letter to Albert Richard, April 1st, 1870′ in Arthur Lehring, Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, page 180.

[100] Replying to orthodox Marxist criticisms of the Bolsheviks’ decision to dissolve Russia’s first democratically-elected parliament, Lenin proclaimed that ‘…in an epoch of desperate acute war, when history has placed on the order of the day the question whether age-old and thousand-year-old privileges are to be or not to be – at such a time to talk about majority and minority, about pure democracy, about dictatorship being unnecessary and about equality between exploiter and exploited!!.’ V.I. Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, page 36.

[101] While the Stalinists wanted to dominate ‘molar’ party politics and trade union struggles, Guattari advocated that the New Left vanguard should instead exercise its leadership over the ‘molecular’ social movements. See Félix Guattari, ‘Plan for the Planet’, pages 268-272.

[102] Jo Freeman, ‘The Tyranny of Structurelessness’, page 13.

[103] In the founding text of the Bolshevik party, Lenin bluntly stated that: ‘…the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its becoming subordinated to the bourgeois ideology…for the spontaneous working-class movement is trade unionism…and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the working-class by the bourgeoisie.’ V.I. Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, page 49. A more sophisticated version of this patrician attitude can be found in Georg Lukàcs, History and Class Consciousness.

[104] According to Althusser, Lacan’s reinterpretation of Freud had provided a supposedly ‘scientific’ explanation of how the ideologies spread by the media and other institutions controlled the minds – and therefore the actions – of the majority of the population. See Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)’ and ‘Freud and Lacan’.

[105] ‘Psychic repression is such that social repression becomes desired; it induces a consequent desire, a faked image of its object, on which it bestows the appearance of independence.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, page 119. Their uncritical appropriation of Althusser’s theory of ideology can also be seen in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, pages 130, 458-459. Also see the discussion in this book about the supposed ‘desire for fascism’ held by most people, see pages 208-231.

[106] Along with many other leftists of their generation, Deleuze and Guattari seized on the tortured and obscurantist discourse of Lacan as their replacement for the tired formulas of Stalinist philosophy. As Guattari explained: ‘…it was important for me to have a model of rupture, if I can call it that, all the more so since I was involved in extreme leftist organisations, but still traditionalist from many perspectives. There was all this weight of Sartre’s thought, of Marxist thought, creating a whole environment that it wasn’t easy to eliminate. So I think that’s what Lacan was. Moreover, it’s certain that his reading of Freud opened possibilities for me to cross through and into different ways of thinking.’ Charles J. Stivale, Pragmatic/Machinic, page 10. Yet, as Edward Thompson perceptively explained: ‘I do not wish to be ungenerous to a “post-Stalinist generation”, but it is necessary to be plain…Stalinism as an ideology has continued to reproduce itself long after the particular historical moment of high Stalinism has passed. And so long as it does so in theory, it will tend to reproduce itself in fact – not in exactly the same form, of course, but in a form sufficiently uncomfortable for its human objects, and even for some of the intellectuals who serve as its priests. So far from being a “post-Stalinist generation”, the Althusserians, and those who share their premises and idealist modes, are working hard, every day, on the theoretical production-line of Stalinist ideology. In terms of theory, they are Stalinists.’ E.P. Thompson, The Poverty of Theory, page 333.

[107] As Althusserians, Deleuze and Guattari believed that the creation of subjectivity was a result of psychic control by semiotic structures rather than the self-consciousness of a free citizen celebrated in republican theories. For instance, Deleuze thought that the ‘repetitions’ which shape people’s daily lives were manifestations of Freud’s supposed ‘death instinct’. See Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, pages 16-19. This analysis was developed by Guattari who claimed that: ‘Subjectivity does not only produce itself through the psychogenetic stages of psychoanalysis or the “mathmemes” of the Unconscious, but also in the large-scale social machines of language and the mass media – which cannot be described as human.’ Félix Guattari, Chaosmosis, page 9. Later in the book, he described the multiplicity of ‘autopoetic’ structures ranging from economics to music which allegedly shape all aspects of our lives. See Félix Guattari, Chaosmosis, pages 33-57; and also Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, pages 35-37. Edward Thompson commented on this form of analysis that: ‘None of these ideas is, in origin, absurd, and some rest upon substantial additions to knowledge. But all slip, at a certain point, from sense to absurdity, and, in their sum, all arrive at a common terminus of unfreedom. Structuralism (this terminus of the absurd) is ultimate product of self-alienating reason – “reflecting” the common sense of the times – in which all human projects, endeavours, institutions, and even culture itself, appear to stand outside men, to stand against men, objective things, as the “Other” which moves men around as things. In the old days, the Other was then named “God” or Fate. Today it has been christened anew as Structure.’ E.P. Thompson, The Poverty of Theory, page 345. ‘Nuff said!

[108] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, page 304. Despite their positivist posturing, post-structuralist philosophers advocate the same mystical solutions to practical problems as their Idealist predecessors in the early-nineteenth century: ‘We have seen that the whole problem of the transition from thought to reality, hence from language to life, exists only in the philosophical illusion… This great problem…was bound, of course, to result finally in one of these knight-errant [philosophers] setting out in search of a word which, as a word, formed the transition [to a better society]…which, as a word, ceases to be simply a word, and which, as a word, in a mysterious superlinguistic manner, points from within language to the actual object it denotes; which, in short, plays among words the same role as the Redeeming God-Man plays among people in Christian fantasy.’ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, pages 475-476.

[109] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, page 144.

[110] The pride which Fréquence Libre took in its vanguardist politics can be seen by the station’s principle slogan: “plus gauche que moi, tu meurs” (“If you were more left than me, you’d be dead” – i.e. it is impossible to be more left than me). Fréquence Libre, Publicity Poster.

[111] According to orthodox Marxists, the admirers of the Bolsheviks had confused the violent revolution which overthrew the absolute monarchy with the socialist revolution which would democratise the economy. In the latter case, social transformation would depend upon the majority of the population not only becoming wage-workers, but also supporting the Social Democratic party in parliamentary elections. See Léon Blum, ‘Bolchevisme et Socialisme’, pages 451-460.

[112] Like many other members of his generation, Guattari was fascinated with ‘the Leninist breakthrough’ which inspired revolutionary politics across Europe after 1917. See Félix Guattari, ‘Causality, Subjectivity and History’, pages 184-195. Although many were sympathetic with Trotskyism, the New Left militants’ hostility against all forms of left-wing reformism in many ways mimicked the ‘third period’ of the Third International. This was the disastrous moment when Stalin asserted his control over the European Communist parties by making them concentrate on fighting against the so-called ‘social fascists’: the orthodox Marxists of the Social Democratic parties. Tragically, in 1933, the result of this sectarianism was the victory of real fascists in Germany. See Franz Borkenau, World Communism, pages 332-385.

[113] For instance, see the contributions in Patrick Kessel, Le Mouvement “Maoïste” en France.

[114] Anarcho-communism was seen as the heir of those Left Communists who had fought for direct democracy organised through the Soviets against the dictatorship of the Leninist party. See Maurice Brinton, The Bolsheviks & Workers’ Control; and Ida Mett, The Kronstadt Uprising 1921.

[115] For example, one ‘soixante-huitard’ claimed in 1973 that: ‘…Marx’s work seems largely to be the authentic consciousness of the capitalist mode of production… Historical materialism is a glorification of the wandering in which humanity has been engaged for more than a century: growth of productive forces [of industry and science] as the condition sine-qua-non for liberation.’ Jacques Camatte, The Wandering of Humanity, pages 22-23. Of course, a much diluted variant of this attack on oppressive ‘grand narratives’ later formed the ideological basis for the self-styled post-modernists. See Jean-François Lyotard, The Post-Modern Condition; and David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity.

[116] For instance, the first chapter is given the date ’1914′, the next one has ’10,000 B.C.’, the one after ‘November 20, 1923′, then we jump back again to ’587 B.C. – A.D. 70′ and so on. See Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, A Thousand Plateaus. Lecercle erroneously claims that: ‘Despite their off-hand treatment of history, Deleuze and Guattari’s position is profoundly historical’ because they emphasise the singularity of each instance of ‘delirium’ in time and space. See Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Philosophy Through the Looking-Glass, page 185. However, as he himself shows earlier in the same chapter, their theoretical oppositions are completely metahistorical, such as ‘territoriality vs deterritorialisation’ or ‘hierarchic (the State) vs nomadic (the tribe).’ See Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Philosophy Through the Looking-Glass, page 179.

[117] This ahistorical theorising is clearest in their celebration of the Body-without-Organs – the person ‘…populated only by intensities.’ See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, pages 149-166.

[118] Deleuze admitted that: “Becomings” are much more important than history in A Thousand Plateaus.’ Gilles Deleuze, ‘From Anti-Oedipus to A Thousand Plateaus’, page 30. In their writings, the holy prophets denounced the moral emptiness of the ‘grand narrative’ of progress supported by the parliamentary Left: ‘The meaning of history and the [Hegelian] dialectic together is not the realisation of reason, freedom or man as a species, but nihilism, nothing but nihilism.’ Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, page 161. In place of the supposedly oppressive historical analyses of Hegel and Marx, Deleuze and Guattari resurrected the ahistorical theory of ‘eternal return’ proposed by Nietzsche. Over time, the negativity of social controls would disappear as the positive moments of ‘delirium’ came back through the process of ‘eternal return’. See Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life’; Thus Spoke Zarathustra, pages 237-238, 244-247; and Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, pages 186-194. Above all, this Nietzschean myth enabled the two philosophers to dismiss all evolutionary explanations of human history: ‘…a line of becoming has neither beginning nor end, departure or arrival, origin or destination… A line of becoming only has a middle.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 293.

[119] There is a particular acid sensibility underlying Deleuze and Guattari’s disdain of modernity as an historical process. As someone peaks, a few hundred years either seems an unimaginably long period of time compared with the next five minutes or ridiculously short compared to the cosmic nature of eternity.

[120] ‘Irresponsibility – Nietzsche’s most noble and beautiful secret.’ Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, page 21.

[121] Gilles Deleuze, ‘Control and Becoming’, page 171.

[122] For an examination of this profound social transformation, see André Gauron, Histoire Économique et Sociale de la Cinquième République – Tome 1, pages 19-47; and Henri Mendras with Alistair Cole, Social Change in Modern France, pages 15-48.

[123] See Jean-Pierre Garnier and Roland Lew, ‘From The Wretched Of The Earth To The Defence Of The West’, pages 301-317.

[124] For instance, Jacques Camatte emphasised that: ‘[Anarcho-communism]…is the destruction of urbanisation and the formation of a multitude of communities distributed over the earth.’ Jacques Camatte, The Wandering of Humanity, page 37. In some classic New Left films, rebellion against a repressive and alienating urban society was symbolically represented through a return to primitive simplicity. In Weekend, the heroine finally escapes from road rage, traffic jams and car accidents by joining the hippie rural guerrillas of the Front de Libération de Seine et Oise. Similarly, in Themroc, the eponymous hero turns his flat into a hunter-gatherer’s cave by sealing up its doors and knocking down the outside wall. Curiously, both films portrayed cannibalism as the ultimate expression of liberation from bourgeois morality! See Jean-Luc Godard, Weekend; and Claude Faraldo, Themroc.

[125] See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, pages 204, 358, 402-403. According to another student of Althusser, the Cuban revolution had proved that the only true militants were found in the countryside: ‘…any man, even a comrade, who spends his life in city is unwittingly a bourgeois in comparison with a guerrillo.’ Régis Debray, Revolution in the Revolution?, page 68. Earlier in this book, Debray praised the ‘hardening’ of revolutionary intellectuals through the ‘absolute nomadism’ adopted by rural guerrilla groups, see page 31.

[126] In their anti-modernism, Deleuze and Guattari were reviving Nietzsche’s romanticisation of the ‘wild, free, nomadic man’ of tribal society. See Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, pages 64-65. Yet, in the historical past, nomads were not always natural anarchists, but instead were often the aristocratic warriors who founded the earliest states: ‘…peasants and nomads constitute two factors, the coincidence and collision of which at a certain level of development necessarily resulted in the nomads rendering the peasants subject and tributary to them. Individual tribes of nomads combined numerous local communities or mark communities into a polity that was ruled and exploited by the nomads, who now ceased to be nomads. In this way, the first states were born.’ Karl Kautsky, The Materialist Conception of History, page 281. The original translation uses ‘herdsmen’ for nomads. Given the Islamophilia of many Deleuzoguattarians, it is rather ironic that one of the most famous examples of state-building by nomadic tribes is the creation of the Arab empire by the Prophet and his successors. See Hugh Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates.

[127] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 417. Nietzsche expressed similar anti-modernist sentiments: ‘Woe to this great city! And I wish I could see already the pillar of fire in which it will be consumed!’ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, page 198.

[128] Michael Vickery describes the ideology of the Khmer Rouge as ‘Populism’: ‘…a conservative utopianism, a belief in the sacredness of the soil and those who till it, in the quality of the status of all cultivators, a belief that their virtue is endangered by the workings of an active, alien, urban vice. It is apolitical, without a basis for a sustained political party, and its program is one of rough revenge of the verities of the soil on the alien and the sophisticated. It proclaims a sacrifice of freedom in the interests of moral uniformity. There is a distrust of state and bureaucracy, and peasant populists would minimise them before the rights and virtues of local communities.’ Michael Vickery, Cambodia, page 285. Apart from its emphasis on peasants rather than nomads, Khmer Rouge ideology was eerily similar to the anti-modernism espoused by Deleuze and Guattari.

[129] See Jean-Pierre Garnier and Roland Lew, ‘From The Wretched Of The Earth To The Defence Of The West’, pages 317-322. Despite this defeat at home, Deleuze and Guattari’s faction of the New Left still indulged in ‘orientalist’ fantasies about struggles in faraway countries. For instance, their close friend Michel Foucault enthusiastically supported the 1979 Iranian revolution precisely because it was led by Islamic fundamentalists rather than by the secular Left: ‘Modernisation as a political project and as a principle of social change is a thing of the past in Iran …’ Michel Foucault, ‘Le Poids Mort de la Modernisation’ quoted in Didier Eribon, Michel Foucault, page 285.

[130] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, page 177.

[131] ‘[The post-modern artist]…gains fame and fortune for no clear accomplishment, but simply for being a stylish symbol, which is all that his production testifies to. Novelty is proof enough of his artistic power and credibility.’ Donald Kuspit, The Cult of the Avant-Garde Artist, page 20. Also see David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, pages 39-65.

[132] The most notorious recent proponent of anti-modernism chillingly threatens that: ‘Whatever society may exist after the demise of the industrial system, it is certain that most people will live close to nature, because in the absence of advanced technology there is not other way that people CAN live. To feed themselves they must be peasants or herdsmen or fishermen or hunter etc..’ The Unabomber [Theodore Kaczynski], Industrial Society and its Future, page 43. For a critique of the anarcho-primitivist sect which published this manifesto in England, see Luther Blissett and Stewart Home, Green Apocalypse.

[133] ‘…the liberation of the mind, the express aim of the surrealists, demands as a primary condition…the liberation of man…that today more than ever the surrealists rely entirely, for the bringing of human liberation, on the proletarian revolution.’ André Breton, What is Surrealism, page 115.

[134] André Breton, What is Surrealism, page 118.

[135] The European avant-garde is distinguished from earlier art movements by this emphasis on creating modern aesthetics with new technologies: ‘In…earlier periods…there was a strong appeal to revival: the art and learning, the life of the past, were sources, stimuli of a new creativity, against an exhausted or deformed current order… What we now know as modernism, and certainly as the avant-garde, has changed all this. Creativity is all in new making, new construction: all traditional, academic, even learned models are actually or potentially hostile to it, and must be swept away.’ Raymond Williams, ‘The Politics of the Avant-Garde’, pages 4-5.

[136] For the influence of ‘outsider art’ on the Surrealists, see David Maclagan, ‘Outsiders and Insiders’. The Surrealists were reflecting the rejection of the positivism and rationalism of orthodox Marxism by many intellectuals following the collaboration of the Social Democratic parties with their national governments during the First World War. Instead of welcoming the opportunties for social change opened up by industrialisation and scientific advances, influential revolutionary thinkers in the ’20s and 30s emphasised the resistance of the human spirit to further reification and fragmentation by capitalist modernisation. See Georg Lukàcs, History and Class Consciousness; and Phil Slater, Origin and Significance of the Frankfurt School.

[137] From 1930 to 1933, the Surrealists’ journal was called Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution. See Helena Lewis, Dada Turns Red, pages 87-92. As Bürger points out: ‘What distinguishes… [the avant-garde] is the attempt to organise a new life praxis from a basis in art… Only an art the contents of whose individual works is wholly distinct from the (bad) praxis of the existing society can be the starting point for the organisation of a new life praxis.’ Peter Bürger, The Avant-Garde, pages 49-50.

[138] For instance, the 1997 Documenta festival had texts by Deleuze and Guattari – along with other ‘soixante-huitard’ philosophers – prominently displayed on the walls of its art galleries. In their catalogue, the exhibition’s organisers stress the influence of the New Left on the contemporary European avant-garde. See Documenta X, Politics-Poetics.

[139] For instance, one disciple first proclaims that: ‘Despotism introduces an organising principle that comes from elsewhere – from ‘above’ – a deterritorialised simplicity or supersoma overcoding the aboriginal body as created flesh. Monotheism…severs the ambivalent integrity of taboo.’ However, a few pages later, he switches from romantic primitivism to delirious futurism: ‘The industrial-information body…operates as an input-output flow-switching nexus, defined by its place among the machines, and redefined ever more exactly by its migration across the mutant sutures in machinic continuum…’ Nick Land, ‘Meat (or How to Kill Oedipus in Cyberspace)’, pages 196, 202.

[140] Andreas Broeckmann, ‘Towards an Aesthetics of Heterogenesis’, page 158.

[141] For instance, Breton had long ago declared that: ‘The European artist in the twentieth century can ward off the drying up of the sources of inspiration swept away by rationalism and utilitarianism only by resuming so-called primitive visions.’ André Breton, What is Surrealism?, page 263. Similarly, Body-without-Organs was first used as a phrase by Antonin Artaud in articles celebrating the revolutionary potential of the insane for La Révolution surréaliste back in 1925. See Helena Lewis, Dada Turns Red, page 30.

[142] ‘There is always a point at which technologies geared towards regulation, containment, command, and control, can turn out to be feeding into the collapse of everything they once supported…the keystrokes of users on the Net connect them to a vast distributed plane composed not merely of computers, users, and telephone lines, but all the zeros and ones of machine code, the switches of electronic circuitry, fluctuating waves of neurochemical activity, hormonal energy, thoughts, desires…’ Sadie Plant, Zeroes + Ones, page 143.

[143] Henri Lefebvre, Everyday Life in the Modern World, page 163.

[144] Félix Guattari, Chaosmosis, page 101.

[145] ‘The novelty of Italian Futurist manifestos…is their brash refusal to remain in the expository or critical corner, their understanding that the group pronouncement, sufficiently aestheticised, can…all but take the place of the promised art work.’ Marjorie Perloff, The Futurist Movement, page 85.

[146] From its earliest appearances, theory-art was always multi-media. This aesthetic form not only involved literature, but also graphic design, typography and public performances. See Marjorie Perloff, The Futurist Movement, pages 90-101.

[147] Dan Thu Nguyen and Jon Alexander, ‘The Coming of Cyberspacetime and the End of Polity’, page 107.

[148] ‘… the growth in the number of students and also of junior lecturers has been the cause of a quantitative growth in the demand for cultural products, and of a qualitative transformation of this demand: it is certain…that all the intellectual ‘novelties’ find their chosen audience among the students of the new disciplines in the arts field …’ Pierre Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, page 119.

[149] For instance, it is estimated that over 600,000 people are directly employed Britain making cultural products ranging from TV through software to music. See Independent on Sunday, ‘The Cool Economy, pages 2-3.

[150] The ‘virtual class’ is supposedly being formed by those employed in computing, media, education and similar sectors. See Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society; Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave; Robert Reich, The Work of Nations; and Arthur Kroker and Michael Weinstein, Data Trash.

[151] For decades, avant-garde artists have pioneered the reclamation of derelict urban areas for later colonisation by businesses and residential developers. See Armin Medosch, ‘Art and Business’.

[152] Chris Smith, British Minster of Culture, quoted in Peter Koenig, ‘Is Chris Smith More Vital Than Gordon Brown?’, page 1.

[153] ‘As the division of labour becomes more general, the artist also turns into a specialist.’ Peter Bürger, The Avant-Garde, page 32. Also see Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction, pages 11-96.

[154] Earlier in the twentieth century, one cynical commentator observed that: ‘….there are today two main roads to fortune for a young artist. He may learn to please that still large and naive public that demands a flattering handmade photograph disguised as an old master, or he may squirt his canvas with creosote, scour, scratch, blast and exorciate it, until it hangs in fashionable tatters upon the walls of one of our principal art galleries. The former method may command a steadier sale than the latter, and it calls for less salesmanship; but the latter is the true highway to glory and wealth.’ Quentin Bell, ‘Conformity and Nonconformity in the Fine Arts’, page 699.

[155] For instance, see the careers of Bruno Latour, Sadie Plant, Nick Land, Manuel De Landa, James Flint, Critical Art Ensemble, Rosi Braidotti, Hakim Bey, Pierre Lévy, the Krokers and many others.

[156] As Pierre Bourdieu points out, new forms of cultural expression present an opportunity for innovative people to gain a position within the cultural elite: ‘These arts, not yet fully legitimate, which are disdained or neglected by the big holders of educational capital, offer a refuge and a revenge to those who, by appropriating them, secure the best return on their cultural capital (especially if it is not fully recognised scholastically) while at the same time taking credit for contesting the established hierarchy of legitimacies and profits.’ Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction, page 87.

[157] Henri Lefebvre, Introduction to Modernity, page 176.

[158] ‘…nothing more rigorously distinguishes the different classes than the…aptitude for taking a specifically aesthetic point of view on objects already constructed aesthetically…’ Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction, page 40.

[159] In the late-nineteenth century, Nietzsche advocated the formation of an aristocracy based on ethical-aesthetic values to replace the declining nobility based on land and finance. Otherwise, democracy, socialism and feminism would impose a morality of ‘timidity’ and ‘mediocrity’ upon society. See Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, pages 120-128.

[160] ‘…there is a position within the apparent critique of the bourgeois family which is actually a critique and rejection of all social forms of human reproduction. The ‘bourgeois family’…is often a covering phrase for those rejections of women and children which take the form of a rejection of ‘domesticity’. The sovereign individual is confined by such a form. The genius is tamed by it.’ Raymond Williams, ‘The Politics of the Avant-Garde’, page 9.

[161] Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, page 185. Inspiring this avant-garde demand to turn life into art, Nietzsche claimed that cultural aristocrats shouldn’t just form a new society, but also should become a more advanced type of human: ‘For justice speaks to me: ‘Men are not born equal.’ And they should not become so either! For what were my love for the Superman if I spoke otherwise.’ Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, page 124. Also see Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses.

[162] What united the fascist Futurists in Italy with the Leninist avant-garde movements was a common commitment to the ‘violent assault on existing [bourgeois] conventions.’ Raymond Williams, ‘The Politics of the Avant-Garde’, page 9. In the first Futurist manifesto, Marinetti’s celebration of war and denigration of women was combined with a ferocious assault against failings of the Italian liberal bourgeoisie. See Marjorie Perloff, The Futurist Movement, pages 81-92.

[163] ‘Radical aristocratism’ is one of the ‘Slogans & Mottos for Subway Graffiti & Other Purposes’ in Hakim Bey, T.A.Z., page 28. This gurus’ desire to become a Nietzschean Superman rapidly turns into unashamed support for reactionary political positions. For instance, Bey claims that the seizure of the Croatian city of Fiume (known today as Rijeka) by D’Annunzio’s supporters in 1919 was a forerunner of contemporary ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’. Hakim Bey, T.A.Z., pages 125-126. Yet, the Fiume incident not only pioneered the style and ideology of Italian fascism, but also led directly to the imposition of totalitarianism on Italy. See Laura Fermi, Mussolini, pages 170-184. In his imitation of the European avant-garde, Hakim Bey confuses anarcho-communism with fascism because both positions are opposed to representative democracy and consumer society. Although their colleague Foucault said that Anti-Oedipus should have been subtitled ‘an Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life’, Deleuze and Guattari actually revived the discredited Nietzschean myths of the extreme-right in this sacred text. Above all, the holy prophets’ celebration of the untamed nomadic war-machine recapitulated the fascist romanticisation of heroic soldiers who had freed themselves the effeminate morality of bourgeois society. Hakim Bey has simply developed the Deleuzoguattarian myth of the nomad warrior to its logical – and therefore reactionary – conclusion. See Michel Foucault, ‘Preface’, page xiii; Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier, Ecofascism; and Jeffrey Herf, Reactionary Modernism.

[164] Bey claims that imitating the Assassin religious cult would be an ‘interesting…thought-experiment’. Just as the Ismailis hid away from society making magic in their castles, techno-nomads should create ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’ within the Net to perfect the ‘secret sciences’ of making subversive media. Hakim Bey, T.A.Z., pages 98-99; and Peter Lamborn Wilson [Hakim Bey], ‘A Network of Castles’, page 27. For someone determined to confuse anarcho-communism with fascism, the Assassins are an excellent choice. Historically, they simultaneously defended conservative religious values and advocated communist social policies. In modern times, their ideological legacy has been found on both political extremes. While Nietzsche admired their hierarchical conception of freedom, others have compared the Assassins with the Trotskyist Fourth International. See Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, page 124; Frank Ridley, The Assassins, pages 68, 140-156; and Kenneth Setton, A History of the Crusades, pages 99-132.

[165] ‘The desire for wilderness will gratified at a level undreamed since the early Neolithic, and the desire for creativity and even co-creation will be gratified at a level undreamed by the wildest science fiction.’ Hakim Bey, Primitives & Extropians, page 3. Of course, this will only happen after the anarcho-fascist revolution!

[166] Hakim Bey, T.A.Z., page 107.

[167] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, page 421. According to Deleuze, the Superman represented a ‘new way of feeling…of thinking…of evaluating.’ Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, page 163.

[168] Although critical of Stalin, the Surrealists were members of the French Communist party during the sectarian ‘Third Period’ phase when all other left-wing groups were denounced as ‘social fascists’. Even after Hitler’s seizure of power, this avant-garde movement could still describe the Popular Front of Socialists, Communists and republicans as ‘counter-revolutionary’. See Helena Lewis, Dada Turns Red, pages 119-160; and Franz Borkenau, World Communism, pages 332-375.

[169] For example, in an attack on the ‘content-free’ 1996 presidential elections, a prominent article in Wired uncritically repeated the fraudulent claim that ‘…unless the [American] nation gets a handle on Social Security and Medicare, it faces a future of crushing debt, exorbitant tax rates, or both…’ See John Heilemann, ‘Reality Checklist’, page 54.

[170] ‘In all fields, but especially in information technology, the strict separation between the technical and the creative has in fact been made redundant by digital images and the skills required by computer-aided design.’ Rosa Braidotti, ‘Cyberfeminism with a Difference’, page 2. For a more critical look at this phenomenon, see Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Impostures Intellectuelles.

[171] Deleuze and Guattari were inspired by the work of Henri Bergson, a French Catholic philosopher popular in the early-twentieth century. Although mimicking the language of Darwinian biology, this guru believed that there was a divine ‘vital force’ driving the evolution of life. Many decades later, Deleuze and Guattari hoped that ecstatic states of ‘delirium’ would release this spiritual energy from the restraints of semiotic controls. See Paul Douglas, ‘Deleuze’s Bergson: Bergson Redux’. This bizarre mixture of Darwinian rationalism and Christian irrationalism is also found in Kevin Kelly, Out of Control.

[172] Gerfried Stocker, ‘Memesis – the Future of Evolution’. This was the opening statement for Ars Electronica ’96, which is Europe’s most prestigious digital arts festival. For a dissection of the full statement, see Richard Barbrook, ‘Memesis Critique’.

[173] Ray Smith, CEO of the Bell Atlantic telephone company, appears as Conan on the front cover of issue 3.02 and John Malone, head of TCI, is morphed into Mad Max for issue 2.07.

[174] The disciples are reflecting the dubious fantasies of their holy prophets. For instance, Deleuze and Guattari romanticised nomads for having lifestyles which resembled more that of Clint Eastwood than of Emma Goldman: ‘…a fundamental indiscipline of the warrior, a questioning of hierarchy, perpetual blackmail by abandonment or betrayal, and a very volatile sense of honour, all of which…impedes the formation of the State.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 358. This macho ideal is very similar to the myth of the self-sufficient cowboy which excites the Californian ideologues. Guattari admitted that he and Deleuze had ‘…participated a little in that America, that new kind of West. It was our dream, our very own America.’ Charles J. Stivale, Pragmatic/Machinic, page 15. This shared dream of the heroic individual reflects the privileged socio-economic characteristics enjoyed by avant-garde artists and capitalist entrepreneurs. Unlike most people living within modern societies, both professions have retained control over their own production and property. Despite embracing revolutionary politics and bohemian lifestyles, the artist can therefore still be ‘…the ultimate apotheosis of that central bourgeois figure: the sovereign individual.’ Raymond Williams, ‘The Politics of the Avant-Garde’, page 7. Back in the Thirties, Ortega y Gasset hoped that this affinity between aesthetic intellectuals and innovative businessmen would enable them to come together as a liberal aristocracy which would rule over the people through its spiritual excellence: ‘…nobility is synonymous with a life of effort, ever set on excelling oneself, in passing beyond what one is to what one sets up as a duty and obligation.’ Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses, page 49.

[175] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, page 504. Deleuze commended Nietzsche for the ‘positive task’ of inventing the reactionary concept of the Superman. See Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, pages 162-4.

[176] This merging of opposites is already implicitly present in Deleuze and Guattari’s own writings. Despite their self-proclaimed ultra-leftism, the two philosophers’ celebration of the ‘deterritorialisation’ of existing social hierarchies by the globalisation of capitalism anticipated the techno-nomads’ reapprochment with neo-liberalism: ‘…there are avant-garde political positions….which can be seen as a genuine vanguard of a truly modern international bourgeoisie which has emerged since 1945. The politics of the New Right, with its version of libertarianism in a dissolution or deregulation of all bonds and all social and cultural formations, in the interest of what is represented as the ideal open market and the truly open society, look very familiar in retrospect.’ Raymond Williams, ‘The Politics of the Avant-Garde’, page 14.

[177] The contemporary avant-garde turns art into a ‘Temporary Autonomous Zone’ which protects the ideals of May ’68 from the corrupting influences of the contemporary world. Despite using digital technologies, this process of aestheticisation is a return to the traditional role of art as spiritual compensation for the sufferings of the material world. Lacking any belief in social revolution, ‘…the neo-avant-garde institutionalises the avant-garde as art and thus negates genuinely avant-gardiste intentions.’ Peter Bürger, The Avant-Garde, page 58.

[178] Henri Lefebvre, Introduction to Modernity, page 217.

[179] See Guy Debord, ‘Report on the Construction of Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency’s Conditions of Organisation and Action’; and Situationist International, ‘Response to a Questionnaire from the Centre for Socio-Experimental Art’.

[180] The Situationists were reviving the demand for the abolition of specialisation in cultural production championed by many nineteenth century socialists: ‘In a communist society, there are no painters, but only people who engage in painting among other activities.’ Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, page 418. For the origins of this attack on the division of labour, see Jonathan Beecher, Charles Fourier.

[181] Guy Debord, ‘Report on the Construction of Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency’s Conditions of Organisation and Action’, page 25.

[182] The founding members of the Situationists were architects, painters and film-makers. According to Henri Lefebvre, Guy Debord lived off money from his parents while Michèle Bernstein composed horse horoscopes for racing magazines. See Kristin Ross, ‘Lefebvre on the Situationists: an Interview’, page 70.

[183] The growing popularity of the Situationists after the May ’68 revolution exacerbated the tension between their theory of mass participation and their practice of intellectual elitism until the movement finally imploded. See Guy Debord and Gianfranco Sanguinetti, The Veritable Split in the International; and Luther Blissett, Guy Debord is Really Dead.

[184] The Situationists discovered the tribal gift economy in Marcel Mauss, The Gift. Even before forming the Situationists, Debord and other key members of the movement published an avant-garde art magazine called Potlatch. As its name suggests, this journal was given away for free. See Stewart Home, The Assault on Culture, page 20.

[185] For instance, in their famous analysis of the 1965 Watts riots, the Situationists praised looting as the supersession of money-commodity relations by a revolutionary form of the gift economy: ‘…the Los Angeles blacks…want to possess immediately all the objects shown [to them by advertising] and abstractly accessible because they want to use them. That is why they reject their exchange-value, the commodity-reality which is their mould, their purpose and their ultimate goal, and which has preselected everything. Through theft and gift they rediscover a use that immediately refutes the oppressive rationality of the commodity, revealing its relations and manufacture to be arbitrary and unnecessary…instead of being eternally pursued in the rat race of alienated labour and increasing but unmet social needs, real desires begin to be expressed in festival, in playful self-assertion, in the potlatch of destruction.’ Situationist International, ‘The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy’, page 155.

[186] Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life, page 70.

[187] For the influence of Situationism on the initiators of the punk movement, see Fred Vermorel and Judy Vermorel, Sex Pistols, pages 220-225.

[188] ”This is a chord,’ wrote the assemblers of Sideburns [a fanzine]…in December 1976, displaying an A, an E and a G: ‘Now form a band.’ Brilliant!’ Jon Savage, England’s Dreaming, pages 280-281.

[189] For instance, this can be seen in the development of drum ‘n’ bass music. See Martin James, State of Bass.

[190] For instance, see Jean Baudrillard, The Ecstasy of Communication, pages 77-95.

[191] Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, ‘Cooking Pot Markets’, page 2.

[192] ‘”Open systems” architecture [of the Net] by its very nature goes against the organisational imperatives of the Defence Department. The threat to this institution from the enormous destructive power of nuclear weapons demanded precautions to protect its strategic secrets, its centralised command and control system, and its hierarchical organisation. Paradoxically, the only precaution that could be effective called for a nonhierarchical, decentralised, and essentially egalitarian system.’ Mark Geise, ‘From ARPAnet to the Internet’, page 128.

[193] Contrary to neo-liberal dogma, money-commodity relations are not always the most efficient way of organising collective production: ‘The rationality of professional services is not the same as the rationality of the market…In the professions, and especially in science, the abdication of moral control would disrupt the system. The producer of professional services must be…responsible for his products, and it is fitting that he not be alienated from them. The scientist, for example, must concerned with maintaining and correcting existing theories in his field, and his work must be orientated towards this goal. The exchange of recognition for gifts tends to maintain such orientations.’ Warren O. Hagstrom, ‘Gift Giving as an Organisational Principle in Science’, page 29. Similarly, the donation of blood by volunteers is less wasteful and more healthy than paying for supplies. See Richard Titmuss, The Gift Relationship.

[194] This is why the increasing role of private funding can hamper as well as help academic research. See David Noble, ‘Digital Diploma Mills’; and Warren O. Hagstrom, ‘Gift Giving as an Organisational Principle in Science’.

[195] See Mark Geise, ‘From ARPAnet to the Internet’, pages 126-132.

[196] Tim Berners-Lee, ‘The World Wide Web: Past, Present and Future’, page 11.

[197] See John Chesterman and Andy Lipman, The Electronic Pirates; and Matthew Collin with John Godrey, Altered State.

[198] ‘The logic of digital technology leads us in a new direction [away from the concept of information as a commodity]. Objects, as well as ideas, are no longer fixed, no longer tangible. In cyberspace, there is no weight, no dimensions; structure is dynamic and changing; size is both infinite and immaterial. In this space, stories are written that change with each new reader; new material can be added, and old material can be deleted. Nothing is permanent.’ Neil Kleinman, ‘Don’t Fence Me In: Copyright, Property and Technology’, page 76.

[199] See Marcel Marchand, The Minitel Saga.

[200] Ted Nelson’s Xanadu project failed for social rather than technical reasons. Unlike the Net, his program was designed to protect intellectual property within cyberspace. For years, Nelson tried to promote his idiosyncratic tracking and payment system for enforcing copyright within computer-mediated communications. However, far from encouraging participation, copyright was a fundamental obstacle to collaboration between on-line users. See Gary Wolf, ‘The Curse of Xanadu’, pages 70-85, 112-113; and Theodor Nelson, ‘Transcopyright’. In contrast, Tim Berners-Lee was able to invent the Web because he didn’t need to include any methods for enforcing intellectual property. As a scientist funded by EU taxpayers, he was already working within the academic gift economy. The design criteria of the first version of the Web therefore included no provisions for copyright protection. See Tim Berners-Lee, ‘The World Wide Web: Past, Present and Future’, pages 2-4.

[201] As Mark Stahlman points out: ‘…people are not paying for information, very clearly, which is the substantial problem associated with the economics of the Web – we still haven’t a clue as to the successful business model.’ Mark Stahlman, ‘The Business Tech Interview’, page 4.

[202] ‘In any new medium, one of the first successful areas of commerce is sex – stag films, X-rated video cassettes, 900 [premium-rate phone] calls. But the bad thing is that sex in a new medium initially sells so well that it sucks in the amateurs as well as the pros in large numbers… If you have a million customers and a hundred sites, you’ve got a thriving retail industry. But if you have a million customers and a hundred thousand sites, many sites are slated for going out of business sales.’ Gerard van der Leun, ‘Trouble in Pornutopia’, pages 1-2.

[203] Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, ‘Cooking Pot Markets’, page 10.

[204] As bandwidth and computing power increases, it is becoming much easier to circulate copyrighted pop music within the hi-tech gift economy. See Andrew Leonard, ‘Mutiny on the Net’.

[205] For instance, a review of the celebrated English hip-hop album Entroducing explains that: ‘[DJ Shadow] …samples wildstyle, stealing from vintage funk, progressive rock, kraut rock (Tangerine Dream etc), acid rock, punk rock (check the drumming on ‘Stem’) and heavy metal. He’ll take anything that’s got a reference, any sound that might mean something when you put it next to another sound, like words making up a sentence.’ Tony Marcus, ‘Shadowplay’, page 61.

[206] A similar phenomenon can be seen in the growing popularity of listservers. This a form of Net publishing where a group of writers regularly distribute their work to subscribers over email. Most listservers also encourage subscribers to make their own contributions. Because organising a listserver is cheap and easy, any Net user can now potentially become a publisher. Crucially, almost all listservers are organised as gift economies: ‘What is exchanged on a list, where money rarely is the prime measure of success or failure? Ideas, time, and attention…are all part of a complex ecology in an environment remarkably separate from traditional markets… It’s a place where traditional [market] models lose their meaning and power comes not from wealth, but from thought… List publishing is a real example of our idealised picture of the Net as a place where all can speak and ideas flow freely.’ David Bennahum, ‘The Hot New Medium is … Email’, page 3.

[207] Steve Elliot of Slug Oven quoted in Karlin Lillington, ‘No! It’s Not OK, Computer’, page 3.

[208] For instance, one of the major components of the 1993 Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was increased protection for patents and copyrights, especially with agriculture and medicine. See John Frow, ‘Information as Gift and Commodity’.

[209] Howard Rheingold, The Virtual Community, pages 57-58. As Mark Geise points out: …if given an opportunity, people will choose to communicate interactively with each other, rather than attend exclusively mass-mediated, one-to-many products as commercial interests might prefer.’ Mark Geise, ‘From ARPAnet to the Internet’, page 139.

[210] Tim Berners-Lee, ‘Realising the Full Potential of the Web’, page 5.

[211] Bernard Lang, ‘Free Software For All’, page 3.

[212] Keith W. Porterfield, ‘Information Wants to be Valuable’, page 2.

[213] Open source software is what was known in the past as freeware or shareware. All these names emphasise that the program is a gift to anyone on the Net, especially those who have the skills to improve its code. See Douglas Rushkoff, ‘Free Lessons in Innovation’; The Free Software Foundation, ‘What is Free Software?’; and Eric C. Raymond, ‘Homesteading the Noosphere’.

[214] Eric Raymond explains: ‘…like all hackers, my most fundamental motivation is that I want other hackers to think that I’m doing good work. And I want them to believe I’m effective and fruitful and a good designer and so forth.’ Andrew Leonard, ‘Let My Software Go!’, page 4. According to the Free Software Foundation, work done for money and other material inducements is often less productive than the results of voluntary effort. See Alfie Kohn, ‘Studies Find Reward Often No Motivator’.

[215] Eric Raymond points out that intellectual property is a major obstacle to technical efficiency: ‘The central problem in software engineering has always been reliability. Our reliability, in general, sucks. In other branches of engineering, what do you do to get high reliability? The answer is massive, independent peer review…you wouldn’t trust a major civil engineering design which hadn’t been peer reviewed, and you can’t trust software that hasn’t been peer reviewed either. But that can’t happen unless the source code is open.’ Andrew Leonard, ‘Let My Software Go!’, page 5.

[216] For instance, the spectacular special effects for James Cameron’s Titanic film were made on Linux machines rather than on those running Windows NT or any other commercial operating system. See Daryll Strauss, ‘Linux Helps Bring Titanic to Life’.

[217] Eric C. Raymond, ‘The Cathedral and the Bazaar’, page 1. From the Seventies to the Nineties, shareware projects have steadily evolved from toys and demos through Net applications to the construction of this new operating system. The next stage will be the invention of ‘programs for non-techies’, such as applications for image manipulation. See Eric C. Raymond, ‘Homesteading the Noosphere’, pages 14-15. At the same time, some ‘non-techies’ are now even inventing their own programs, such as the Web Stalker. See the I/O/D web site.

[218] For instance, at Cyber.Salon 5 (Sub-Cyberia, London, 22nd April 1998), the pioneering digital artist Heath Bunting claimed that the Net could no longer facilitate social change – and that he was instead going to experiment with bio-technologies! For an analysis of this recent turn by the European avant-garde, see Geert Lovink, ‘Current Media Pragmatism’.

[219] Some commentators believe that the Net provides the technological basis for the creation of a post-capitalist society. See Nuret Sen, InterNETed. Others believe that the Net must inevitably follow the path of commercialisation experienced in earlier forms of media. See Brian Winston, Media Technology and Society, pages 321-336.

[220] See Netscape Communications Corporation, ‘Netscape Announces Plans to Make Next-Generation Communicator Source Code Available Free on the Net’. This pragmatic collaboration between hackers and entrepreneurs already exists within the Linux community. See Eric C. Raymond, ‘Homesteading the Noosphere’, pages 1-3.

[221] Eric Raymond describing his pitch on behalf of shareware to commercial software companies in Andrew Leonard, ‘Let My Software Go!’, page 8.

[222] As the ex-associate editor of the UK edition of Wired puts it: ‘…’anti-Statist’ is…’Anti top-down control’… I use ‘The State’ in sense largely derived from Deleuze and Guattari, as a cipher for any power structure which seeks to transcend the social field and channel matter and energy into its singularity, in order to perpetuate itself.’ Hari Kunzru, ‘Rewiring Technoculture’, page 10.

[223] For a discussion of the possibility of imposing universal service provisions on broadband telecommunications networks within the EU. See Nicholas Garnham, ‘Regulatory Issues’. Government intervention will be particularly needed to extend Net access in developing countries. See Alain Gresh, ‘Et les Citoyens du Sud?’, page 17.

[224] See Howard Rheingold, The Virtual Community, pages 241-275.

[225] Andrew Leonard, ‘Let My Software Go!’, page 2. Despite the absence of any commodity exchange, Raymond has to describe the hi-tech gift economy as a ‘bazaar’ – or even as a ‘free market in egoboo’ (i.e. respect). See Eric C. Raymond, ‘The Cathedral and the Bazaar’. Similarly, Ghosh believes that gifts are being circulated within a ‘cooking pot market’ even though he realises that they’re not the same social phenomenon as commodities. See Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, ‘Cooking Pot Markets’. In both cases, the practice of anarcho-communism is made compatible with the ideology of neo-liberalism.

[226] Not surprisingly, one of the most connected nations in 1998 is the USA with over a fifth of its population having access to the Net. One tenth are wired in Great Britain while other industrialised countries have slightly smaller proportions of their citizens on-line (with the notable exception of France where people have access to the Minitel system). See Alex Brummer, ‘Dash For Cash in the Online Marketplace’, page 21; and Marcel Marchand, The Minitel Saga. In addition, those who do use the Net in countries from the North are predominantly employed in good jobs and live in the more prosperous regions. For instance, one recent British survey in discovered that: ‘The typical [Net] user is an affluent working father, aged 35 or under, who lives in the South of England.’ Sarah Hall, ‘Britons Log Fears about Threat of Internet’, page 8. Not surprisingly, the proportion of the population with Net connections in South is negligible. See Alain Gresh, ‘Et les Citoyens du Sud?’

[227] From McLuhan to the Tofflers, technological determinists have used these constant improvements in media, computing and telecommunications machinery to explain much wider social changes. Just like post-structuralism and mystical positivism, this approach also denies that people can consciously determine their own destinies. Feudal society is ended by the invention of the printing press. Fordism is perfected by the television set. Now a new civilisation is being created by the Net. In the writings of the technological determinists, the messy contingencies of human history are replaced by a procession of clean machines. See Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media; Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave; George Gilder, Life After Television; Manuel Castells, The Rise of Network Society; and many articles in Wired.

[228] ‘…if effective demand [for commodities] is deficient, not only is the public scandal of wasted resources intolerable, but the individual entrepreneur who seeks to bring these resources into action is operating with the odds loaded against him.’ John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, pages 380-381. Also see Toni Negri, Revolution Retrieved, pages 5-42; and Michel Aglietta, A Theory of Capitalist Regulation.

[229] ‘A reduction in working hours will allow individuals to discover a new sense of security, a new distancing from the ‘necessities of life’ and a form of existential autonomy which will encourage them to demand…a social space in which they can engage in voluntary and self-organised activities.’ André Gorz, Critique of Economic Reason, page 101. Also see Paul Lafargue, The Right to be Lazy.

[230] ‘The growth in consumption of goods represents a fundamental change in the nature of economic activity. Instead of capital investment taking place in industry, and industry providing services for individuals and households, increasingly, capital investment takes place in the household, leaving industry engaged in what is essentially intermediate production, making the capital goods – the cookers, freezers, televisions, motor cars – used in home production of the final product. This is the trend towards the do-it-yourself economy…’ Jonathan Gershuny, After Industrial Society, page 81. Also see André Gorz, Critique of Economic Reason, pages 153-169.

[231] ‘Gift cultures are adaptations not to scarcity but to abundance. They arise in populations that do not have significant material-scarcity problems with survival goods.’ Eric C. Raymond, ‘Homesteading the Noosphere’, page 9.

[232] ‘In our grandparents’ time, many reasonable people could foresee a radiant socialist future in which private property and capitalism had been abolished, and in which politics itself was somehow overcome. Today, by contrast, we have trouble imagining a world that is radically better than our own, or a future that is not essentially democratic and capitalist… Other, less reflective ages also thought of themselves as the best, but we arrive at this conclusion exhausted … from the pursuit of alternatives we felt had to be better than [American] liberal democracy.’ Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, page 46.

[233] The West Coast neo-liberals want to turn the Net into an electronic marketplace where information has to be bought and sold. Trying to explain away the predominance of the hi-tech gift economy, one prominent proponent of the Californian ideology claims that the free circulation of information is only the first stage in developing information goods and services. Over time, there is supposedly an inevitable evolution from the ‘inefficencies’ of the gift economy to the ‘commercial economy’s efficencies’. See Kevin Kelly, ‘New Rules for the New Economy’, page 190. Yet, his own erroneous price theory contradicts this assertion. According to neo-liberal economics, an efficent economic system will price commodities at the cost of producing the last item: ‘Only when prices of goods are equal to Marginal Costs is the economy squeezing from its scarce resources and limited technical knowledge the maximum of outputs.’ Paul Samuelson, Economics, page 462. Since the marginal cost of reproducing information is almost zero, the enforcement of prices within the Net would almost inevitably lead to a greater a waste of ‘scarce resources and…technical knowledge’ than giving away information. Even according to neo-liberal economic theory, the hi-tech gift economy must be operating closer to optimal efficency than the monopoly pricing found in the computer software industry!

[234] Karl Marx, Grundrisse, page 700. According to nineteenth-century socialists, the regulation of economic activity through individual private property would eventually become obsolete as the productivity of collective labour steadily increases: ‘The mode of production is in rebellion against the mode of exchange, the productive forces are in rebellion against the mode of production which they have outgrown.’ Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, page 327.

[235] ‘The division of labour, from which so many advantages are derived, is not originally the effect of any human wisdom… It is the necessary…consequence of a certain propensity in human nature…to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another.’ Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, page 117. For a more developed analysis of this interconnection, see Isaak Illich Rubin, Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value.

[236] Even before May ’68, Michel Foucault had unfavourably contrasted the rational discipline imposed by work with the libidinal idleness enjoyed by the insane. See Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation, pages 38-64. Later in the Seventies, the ‘refusal of work’ became one of the principle slogans of the Italian Autonomist movement. While the parliamentary Left still demanded the right to work for everyone, the New Left instead denounced the oppressive discipline imposed in the factories and offices. The Autonomists therefore advocated that people should either disrupt production or avoid employment altogether. See Toni Negri, ‘Capitalist Domination and Working Class Sabotage’. This theoretical turn with the Italian ultra-left reflected the Autonomist movement’s abandonment of labour struggles in favour of organising social movements. See Steve Wright, ‘Negri’s Class Analysis’. Despite certain philosophical incongruities, a common hatred of the ‘workerist’ policies of the mainstream Left later enabled Negri to collaborate with Guattari in a fundamentalist restatement of New Left politics. See Félix Guattari and Toni Negri, Communists Like Us.

[237] Inspired by the sacred texts, the Deleuzoguattarians have resurrected the ‘refusal of work’ as an integral part of their nostalgia for May ’68. For instance, in 1997, nettime declared that: ‘We are…rejecting make‑work schemes… Participate in the nettime retirement plan, zero work by age 40.’ As this call for the ‘refusal of work’ was inherently aristocratic, it is not surprising that one of the signatories of this manifesto was the high priest of Nietzschean anarcho-fascism: Hakim Bey. See nettime, ‘The Piran Nettime Manifesto’.
[238] ‘Despite the fact that their philosophical work represents an intense movement of destratification, Deleuze and Guattari seem to have preserved their own stratum, Marxism… They retain the concept of…’capitalist system’ defined in a top-down way… It seems to me that it would be useful to push their own line of flight even further, abandoning molar concepts and dealing exclusively with multiplicities…’ Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History, page 331.

[239] In order to obscure the New Left origins of Deleuzoguattarian discourse, this heresy emphasises the mystical positivism found within the sacred texts: ‘…igneous rocks, ecosystems, and markets are self-consistent aggregates, the result of the coming together and interlocking of heterogeneous elements.’ Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History, pages 66. Hidden under a smokescreen of pseudo-science, Deleuze and Guattari’s anarcho-communism can then be transmuted into classical liberalism. For instance, De Landa distinguishes between the emancipatory effects of rhizomic ‘markets’ (happy peasants buying and selling to each other) as opposed to the oppressive disciplines imposed by arboreal ‘anti-markets’ (militarised labour working in factories and other large institutions). By disaggregating society into multiple flows, De Landa is able to ignore the complete interdependence between the sphere of circulation and the sphere of production. The flow of multiplicities has effectively disguised the most obvious features of contemporary capitalism. See Manuel De Landa, ‘Markets, Antimarkets and Network Economics’. A diluted – and less anti-statist – version of this Deleuzoguattarian analysis is now entering mainstream sociology. For instance, Manuel Castells claims that ‘…society is constructed around flows: flows of capital, flows of information, flows of technology, flows of organisational interaction, flows of images, sounds and symbols. Flows are not just one element of the social organisation: they are the expression of processes dominating our economic, political, and symbolic life.’ Manuel Castells, The Rise of Network Society, pages 411-412.

[240] ‘…the global economy…[is]…an an assemblage, a cluster…of systems…a vast jumble of processes, actions and decisions, which effect each other in unimaginably..complex ways. …A control system predicated on top-down control is simply not equipped to deal with this speed and complexity, even if it employs computers. The speed will, quite literally, shake such a system apart. The Nation-State…is collapsing.’ Hari Kunzru, ‘Rewiring Technoculture’, page 8.

[241] Just as the Californian ideologues romanticise the liberal freedoms of the Old South, De Landa also uses Deleuzoguattarian discourse to apologise for earlier forms of aristocratic rule. For instance, he claims that the loss of their land and freedom by the East European peasantry during the proto-industrial period was: ‘…not step down the ladder of progress, but rather a lateral move to a stable state (a stable surplus-extraction strategy) that had been latent in…the dynamical system all the time.’ Manuel De Landa, A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History, page 156. At the time, this semiotic reorganisation in the ‘flow of biomass’ really meant that the peasant who had become a serf was compelled into ‘…devoting a large part of the week to forced labour on the lord’s land, or its equivalent in other obligations. His unfreedom might be so great as to be barely distinguishable from chattel slavery…he could be sold separately from the land.’ E.J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, page 27.

[242] For pessimistic interpretations of this process, see Herbert Schiller, ‘The Global Information Highway’; Brian Winston, Media Technology and Society; and James Beniger, ‘Who Shall Control Cyberspace?’.

[243] Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, page 104. All activities on the Net involve work. For instance, ‘…the post [to a newsgroup] – any post, even “junk” and the rudest of “flames” – is a product…’ Therefore ‘…in a knowledge economy, it is reasonable to treat all forms of knowledge – with the broadest possible definition – as economic goods.’ Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, ‘Cooking Pot Markets’, page 2. Even if the content of an item remains the same, the methods of working used for its production can change depending upon socio-historical circumstances: ‘Milton produced Paradise Lost as a silkworm produces silk, as the activity of his own nature. He later sold his product for £5 and thus became a merchant.’ Karl Marx, Capital, page 1044.

[244] Wired uses ‘The New Economy’ as a synonym for its neo-liberal fantasies about the Net. See Kevin Kelly, ‘New Rules for the New Economy’.

[245] ‘…to the worker, who appropriates nature through his labour, appropriation [of his labour time] appears as estrangement, self-activity as activity for another and of another, vitality as the sacrifice of life, production of an object as loss of that object to an alien power, to an alien man.’ Karl Marx, ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts’, page 334.

[246] Being post-modernists, it is difficult for them to realise that: ‘…modernity [could] be the era of irony…’ Henri Lefebvre, Introduction to Modernity, page 45.

[247] Far from replacing commodity exchange, the sharing of gifts is now intertwined with commercial activities. This integration of the gift economy with contemporary capitalism parallels the earlier recuperation of economic intervention by the state. During 1848 revolution, strong government action to end unemployment and alleviate poverty was only advocated by a left-wing minority. By 1948, such measures were being applied by even conservative administrations. However, during those hundred years, state intervention had evolved from being the symbol of total social transformation to becoming the reality of partial economic reforms. Instead of abolishing money-commodity relations, the continued growth of the commercial sector depended upon government fiscal and industrial policies. See William Sewell, Work and Revolution in France, pages 243-276; and Toni Negri, Revolution Retrieved, pages 5-42. In a similar fashion, what was revolutionary in the Sixties has been realised in a compromised form in the Nineties. Above all, the hi-tech gift economy can only exist in symbiosis with digital capitalism. Anarcho-communism is flourishing, but not in ways envisaged by its New Left founders.

[248] Douglas Rushkoff, ‘Free Lessons in Innovation’, page 16.

[249] ‘In the raw, natural, given World, the Slave is slave of the Master. In the technical World transformed by his work, he rules – or, at least, will one day rule – as absolute Master.’ Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, page 23. Also see Georg Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, pages 111-119; and Jean Hyppolite, Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’, pages 174-177.

[250] ‘Work-for-oneself is…what we have to do to take possession of ourselves and of that arrangement of objects which, as both extensions of ourselves and mirror of our bodily existence, forms our niche within the sensory world, our private sphere.’ André Gorz, Critique of Economic Reason, page 158.

[251] Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, page 159.

[252] ‘If he is truly self-conscious, Man who has created a technical World knows that he can live in it only by living in it (also) as a worker. That is why Man can want to continue working even after ceasing to be a Slave: he can become a free Worker. Actually, Work is born from the Desire for Recognition…and it preserves itself and evolves in relation to this same Desire.’ Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, page 230

[253] After centuries of wars, revolutions and social struggles, ‘History…ends in the coming of the satisfied Citizen and the Wise Man.’ Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, page 243.

[254] Henri Lefebvre, Everyday Life in the Modern World, page 204.

12: Bibliography

Michel Aglietta, A Theory of Capitalist Regulation: the US experience, Verso, London 1979

Louis Althusser, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)’, Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays, New Left Books, London 1971

Louis Althusser, ‘Freud and Lacan’, Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays, New Left Books, London 1971

David Armstrong, A Trumpet to Arms: alternative media in America, South End Press, Boston Massachusetts 1981

Richard Barbrook, ‘Choice or Participation?: British Radio in the 1990s’, Science as Culture, number 15, volume 3 (part 2), 1992

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Within this MySpace version of the electronic agora, cybernetic communism was mainstream and unexceptional. What had once been a revolutionary dream was now an enjoyable part of everyday life.