Out of the Woods: Bricolage and disaster communism

sustainable

This is the conclusion of part III of the Out of the Woods series on “disaster communism,” as hosted on Libcom.  (Parts I and II are also available.)

“What does this mean in plain terms? Simply that while logistics as a whole may well be irredeemably capitalist (as Bernes/Endnotes argue), it is made up of countless components at various scales: ships, trucks and trains; ports, roads, and railways; computers, algorithms and fibre optic cables; atoms, molecules and alloys; and not to forget, human beings. Just because the current organisation of these parts is optimised to the valorisation of capital does not mean there cannot be other configurations with other optimisations. Indeed, the possible configurations are practically infinite. It doesn’t matter too much whether these wholes are considered as ‘totalities’ or ‘assemblages’ so long as this potential for reconfiguration is recognised. There’s no necessary reason a new configuration would need resemble logistics at all.

Most obviously, warehouses trucks and trains can be put to other uses. So can ships — and not just the obvious ones. The current volumes of world trade probably don’t make sense without the exploitation of global wage differentials. But ships can serve other purposes, from moving people, to being scuttled to initiate coral reef formation, to being stripped or melted down and remanufactured into other items altogether.6 Communications infrastructure is self-evidently multipurpose, and even the stock control algorithms may have potential uses if hacked, repurposed, and placed in the public domain.

It is clearly impossible to specify in advance whether trucks will be repurposed to deliver food to the hungry, retrofitted with electric motors, stripped for parts, and/or used as barricades. Disaster communities give us ample reason to believe that local, emergent bricolage can efficiently meet human needs even under the most adverse conditions. But emphasising the nature of things as potentially reconfigurable — and stressing the sufficiency of self-organisation to reconfigure them — also informs the wider problematic of disaster communisation. In this way the question is not ‘to take it over or to abandon it?’ considered as a whole, but how to pull it apart and repurpose its components to new ends: an ecological satisfaction of human needs and not the endless valorisation of capital.”

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