Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Backbone for the Shanty House thesis in these grafs belw (from a
Slavoj Zizek piece on theTimothy Garton Ash first/third world book), thanks to Jordan Davis for passing them my way:

"The explosive growth of slums in the last decades, from Mexico City and other Latin American capitals through Africa to India, China, thePhilippines and Indonesia, is perhaps the crucial geopolitical event ofour times. The case of Lagos, according to Mike Davis, 'the biggest nodein the shanty-town corridor of 70 million people that stretches fromAbidjan to Ibadan', is exemplary: no one even knows the size of its population. Davis quotes a UN report: 'Officially it is six million, but most experts estimate it at ten million.' Since, some time very soon, the urban population of the earth will outnumber the rural population(this may already have happened), and since slum inhabitants will constitute the greater part of the urban population, we are in no way dealing with a minority phenomenon. We are witnessing the rapid growth of a population outside the control of any state, mostly outside the law, in terrible need of minimal forms of self-organisation. Althoughthese populations are composed of marginalised labourers, former civil servants and ex-peasants, they are not simply a redundant surplus: they are incorporated into the global economy in numerous ways; many of them are informal wage-earners or self-employed entrepreneurs, with no adequate health or social security provision. (The main reason for their rise is the inclusion of the Third World countries in the global economy, with cheap food imports from the First World countries ruining local agriculture.) One should resist the easy temptation to elevate and idealise slum-dwellers into a new revolutionary class. It is nonetheless surprising how far they conform to the old Marxist definition of the proletarian revolutionary subject: they are 'free' in the double meaning of the word, even more than the classical proletariat ('free' from all substantial ties; dwelling in a free space, outside the regulation of the state); they are a large collective, forcibly thrown into a situation where they have to invent some mode of being-together, and simultaneously deprived of support for their traditional ways of life. The slum-dwellers are the counter-class to the other newly emerging class, the so-called 'symbolic class' (managers, journalists and PR people, academics, artists etc) which is also uprooted and perceives itself as universal (a New York academic has more in common with a Slovene academic than with blacks in Harlem half a mile from his campus). Is this the new axis of class struggle, or is the 'symbolic class' inherently split, so that one can make a wager on the coalition between the slum-dwellers and the 'progressive' part of the symbolic class?"

that last bit interesting in possible connection to the weird symmetry/one-way love affair between bloggerati (typically info-class but leaning toward the vagabond end of that class--freelance journalism or members of the lumpen-professoriat) and grime specifically (but all world-is-a-ghetto musics)

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