Read The Communist Horizon by Jodi Dean Online


In this new title in Verso’s Pocket Communism series, Jodi Dean unshackles the communist ideal from the failures of the Soviet Union. In an age when the malfeasance of international banking has alerted exploited populations the world over to the unsustainability of an economic system predicated on perpetual growth, it is time the left ended its melancholic accommodation wiIn this new title in Verso’s Pocket Communism series, Jodi Dean unshackles the communist ideal from the failures of the Soviet Union. In an age when the malfeasance of international banking has alerted exploited populations the world over to the unsustainability of an economic system predicated on perpetual growth, it is time the left ended its melancholic accommodation with capitalism.In the new capitalism of networked information technologies, our very ability to communicate is exploited, but revolution is still possible if we organize on the basis of our common and collective desires. Examining the experience of the Occupy movement, Dean argues that such spontaneity can’t develop into a revolution and it needs to constitute itself as a party.An innovative work of pressing relevance, The Communist Horizon offers nothing less than a manifesto for a new collective politics....

Title : The Communist Horizon
Author :
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ISBN : 9781844679546
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Communist Horizon Reviews

  • Malcolm
    2019-02-09 12:10

    Over the last few years, Jodi Dean has been working up and developing her notion of communicative capitalism – see Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies and Blog Theory – described here as “the convergence of communication and capitalism in a formation that incites engagement and participation in order to capture them in the affective networks of mass personalised media” (p 215). In this contribution to Verso’s Pocket Communism series (of the volumes I have read, see The Communist Hypothesis and The Actuality of Communism, I’d say the most accessible). Here she takes a brief comment by Álvaro Garciá Linera (reported in Bruno Bosteels’ Actuality) that “The general horizon of the era is communist” to explore three principle strands in contemporary political debate and practice. The first is the existence of actual reference points of communism – that is, the invocation of the Soviet image and the continuing implicit fear/loss-of-communism in US political culture. She sees fear in the politics of the Right and loss in those of the Left, and makes a compelling point that the Left’s shift from images and invocations of anti-capitalism to democracy has closed off options for alternatives. The second strand is one of a positive presence (rather than absence of the first strand) in the form of actual but often unnamed class struggle seen in the common political and economic activity, including resistance to the proletarianisation of most work(ers) in the form of their heightened exploitation, dispossession and immiseration. She then shifts approach and tone again for the final strand to focus on collectivities, in the form of a need for a collective desire not in the form of the same desire by many individuals but a collective shared for the common, for communism (I'm not entirely convinced by her call to Michael Hardt here, because I don't find Hardt's case in The Idea of Communism convincing). Crucially, this is neither the communism of the unrealised Soviet model nor the lost form formerly held by the Left but the collectivity of the 99%. Despite the call to Hardt, she presents a convincing argument against the widely held view that we are in an era of left melancholia. The focus on the collective becomes an argument in favour of Leninist style party, and I have to say here that our experience on the Left of aspects of the Leninist party has not been one I’d like to see us repeat – this is that experience of secretive hierarchical control and privilege claiming to be democratic centralism of the kind that resulted in the early 2013 implosion of the UK’s Socialist Workers’ Party amid allegations of a cover-up of rape by a senior Party figure. Dean’s argument is not for this kind of secretive hierarchical decision-making; she sees a Leninist party as essential where it remains open. She also builds an argument for a Party out of three key elements of the Occupy event – the first is division as a fundamental wrong of inequality, theft and exploitation where this division marks the fundamental antagonism that holds together the movement and defines the 99%. The second is that in asserting division, and despite the claims of many of its adherents, Occupy becomes and is a form of representation of something bigger, of a form of division+; Occupy as a collective event asserts capitalism’s fundamental antagonism as class struggle. The third element is Occupy as a collective event, here division and representation becomes collective and public; in this it is fundamentally antagonistic to communicative capitalism; this is not, she argues, ‘clicktivism’ but public collective action. It is at this stage that reminds her readers that waiting for the 99% to all realise their need to act means waiting forever – realisation comes from action and that action needs to be lead. She is scathing about the myths of voluntarism concealed in the claims to horizontalism as well as often obfuscated leadership; she comes close to the tyranny of structurelessness, but not quite. Her Party then does not seem to have all the answers, but politicises exclusion and claims ownership of the identification of the gap that makes us the people, that makes the people (the 99%) ‘we’, not I and others. Crucially, she argues that the Party does not stand in for or represent the people, it “formalises the collective desire for collectivity” (p249).There are shades, hints and risks of ‘permanent revolution’ here but I detect in her rejection of the unattained communism of the failed Soviet form means that this is not the permanent oppositionism of dominant forms of ‘permanent revolution’ and neither is it dominant myths Soviet/Maoist style planning. We’ve learned not to predict the shape of the alternative – it will emerge from the struggle – but in invoking an horizon Dean has identified a thing that is always there, always unattainable but actual and that shapes our current setting. She has asserted a need for collectivity and the collective and identified the public event as the path beyond communicative capitalism. There is less of an obvious invocation of Lacan than in some of her other work, although he is here and shapes much of her case – but this is a call to collective action, and all the more welcome for that.It is a challenging, evocative and rewarding philosophical analysis, and a call to action. For that alone it is a welcome addition to her work and this series, and something to act on.

  • Baglan
    2019-01-28 10:19

    Jodi Dean starts off “The Communist Horizon” with a condemnation of the post-capitalist politics that has been advocated by J.K. Gibson-Graham and also criticizes contemporary Left's "obsession" of “inclusion” and “democracy” early on. She claims that these radical democratic, process-oriented struggles does not yield results. Engaging with Wendy Brown’s article on “Left Melancholia”, she attributes the contemporary Left’s obsession as the sublimation of “desire” into “drive” which is repetitive and mostly in vain (mostly not completely; because there are lessons to be learned from such an example etc.). While there definitely need to be a “re-activation of desire” from the Lacanian point of view, what Jodi Dean advocates is basically a vanguard party which is “strictly disciplined” but also “flexible, responsible, capable of learning from and adapting to ever-changing situation” (p. 134). That is: “The Leninist party doesn’t know what the people want. It’s a form for dealing with the split in the people, their non-knowledge of what they, as a collectivity, desire” (p. 135). The party “is a form of maintaining the gap that is constitutive of the people” that also creates the irreducible antagonism within the society. Dean’s party is a strategically-oriented one (read, "State and Revolution"-inspired Leninist) and Dean also gives historical contingency some of its due: “The party, then, is an organization situated at the overlap of two lacks, the openness of history as well as its own non-knowledge” (p. 133)The most interesting part of the book might be her analysis of the Occupy movement in which she considers the Occupiers as “vanguards”: “Bluntly put, Occupy does work that Lenin associates with a revolutionary party: establishing and maintaining a continuity of oppositional struggle that enables broader numbers of people to join in the movement. It builds collectivity” (p. 128). Well… As she makes important remarks on the question of organization and “collective will” and desire, the early parts of the book on the Soviet past and also her interaction with Michael Hardt’s much-cited “Common in Communism” didn’t really click with me. While her engagement with a large number of contemporary influential thinkers was great, “The Communist Horizon” spends a lot of time with Lacanian concepts while it is discussing an acute political subject. It is a book on revolutionary strategy with some obfuscating language to those not familiar with Lacan. I hope to look into her work on what she calls “communicative capitalism” in the near future: one of the things that sticked with me from this book, albeit sounds like too hybrid of a concept. That should be her book called "Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive" (2010).

  • Al Stone
    2019-01-24 07:22

    I'm glad that some books are coming out that present an analytical view of left of centre theory, and I enjoyed reading this. The main problem I have is that the author seems to find the need to emulate Žižek and make constant reference to Lacan. To me, the social and moral arguements for ending capitalism and creating a fairer society are self-evident. Attempts to dress these arguments up with references to 'objet petit a' etc. at best obfuscate and at worst may put people off.

  • Rhys
    2019-02-14 05:23

    Jodi Dean makes a great effort in parsing Hardt, Negri, Brown, Agamben, Zizek and Badiou while expressing her own contribution to a vision of the revolutionary subject. "The object-cause is what makes an object desirable, not a property inhering in the object. / One might think that the object of communist desire would be a world without exploitation; a world characterized by equality, justice, freedom, and the absence of oppression; a world where production is common, distribution is based on need, and decisions realize the general will. … The object-cause of communist desire is the people and, again, the people not as a name for the social whole but as a name for the exploited, producing majority" (p.203). It is people, the 99%, that makes communism desirable - that is, when these same people take a moment to realize it.

  • Felix
    2019-02-04 09:26

    Dean always (3/3 so far) feels like a slog, up until the last few pages, where everything comes together with an admirable clarity, buoyed onwards with positive determination. This book is a diverse and well-structured overview of, and argument for, the communist possibility in western-left theory and event post-USSR. Dean's constant wariness of the scope of communicative capitalism and neoliberal ideology is key to her analyses, just as her healthy scepticism for fanaticism tempers and titrates her otherwise enthusiastic engagement with militant faith as vital to an effective left movement.

  • Purple Universe
    2019-01-30 11:11

    Lucid and sharp, as always from Jodi Dean

  • Algernon
    2019-02-15 10:26

    A thorough review of this work is beyond me because it is intensely involved with ongoing theoretical arguments about communism, its definition in American culture (as well the concept of a proletariat in the current stage of capitalism), and the prospects as well as failings of Left politics. She employs a Lacanian framework with which I am not very familiar and thus don't find clarifying, although she develops the arguments broadly enough to follow with some effort. Dean has contributed some of the best positive analysis of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its potential as a politics that speaks for a "we" or a collective versus a body of individual activists.

  • Karlo Mikhail
    2019-01-23 09:35

    A compelling discussion on communism as the horizon shaping politics in these times of unparalleled crisis of capitalism, the need for collective action, and the concept of the party as revolutionary vanguard.

  • Phil
    2019-02-08 13:15

    Mediocre treatise defending state centered Leninist communism.

  • Zack
    2019-01-24 08:32

    Sometimes unclear, mostly always insightful.

  • Kimberly
    2019-02-01 12:10

  • ػᶈᶏϾӗ
    2019-01-27 05:29

    Essential reading. I'm still skeptical of The Party, think that it's not my scene. Unless we communists re-think the party it's not going to function. Also leaves out the role of the labor unions, perhaps because of a lack of working-class consciousness. However, this book has some good aims and reaches most of them. It revitalizes the communist idea, which it largely succeeds in rescuing from the Soviet Union. It provides a healthy balance of theory (which can largely be skimmed for the gist) and praxis (easier to read and much more interesting).