Friday/Saturday — Creative Alternatives to Capitalism Conference

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Friday/Saturday — 5.23-24.14 — Creative Alternatives to Capitalism

0. About Friday / Saturday
1. Conference Schedule

0. About Friday / Saturday

What: Conference
When: Friday, May 22 and Saturday May 23
Where: CUNY Graduate Center, 365 5th Ave @ 34th st (Elebash Recital Hall)
and Cooper Union, 41 Cooper Square (Rose Auditorium)
Who: Free and open to all

A few contributors to the common(s) course and the space will be attending
and taking part in this weekend’s conference to be held on Friday at CUNY
and on Saturday at Cooper Union.

The conference will host various conversations around different approaches
to thinking about key questions such as food, work, and housing in
contemporary struggles. Of course, we enter this scenario with many

We acknowledge that the very term ‘alternative’ is something to be
questioned, as it poses or infers a kind of choice between available
possibilities. Moreover, that in this neo-liberal age, the notion of
‘alternative’ suffers from and is colored immensely by a capitalist
framework of competition of ideas and choices of goods and services. How
to think beyond the notion of alternative or to think alternative beyond a
capitalist logic of ‘choice’ will remain in the background of our thinking
for this weekend.

We also acknowledge a certain kind of irony in having this conference
inside universities which are themselves sites of immense struggles (CUNY
and Cooper Union) against growing neoliberalization and administrative
unaccountability to students, faculty, and their neighbors.

And of course, we imagine many different modes and forms of collectively
organizing such a reflection and conversation beyond the ‘conference’
form. But we hope that over the course of two days, with one another and
friends who will be speaking, listening, attending, there will be some
furthering of our positions and thinking. And we hope in some of the
informal moments which are planned, we might make something interesting of

So we would like to invite those interested to come. The events are free
obviously. And there will be some effort to stream the talks for those who
cannot be there. Please visit the links below for updated details
regarding streaming.

1. Conference Schedule

May 23 2014, Elebash Recital Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue
NY, NY 10016
May 24 2014, Rose Auditorium, Cooper Union, 41 Cooper Square NY, NY 10003


Both venues have a capacity of 200. Entrance is on a first come, first
serve basis.

Much store is now put upon the idea that capitalism can recover its elan
and exit the grumbling crisis that now besets it through the construction
of a cognitive, creative and ethical capitalism that rests on the
activities of so-called creative classes. We dispute this thesis and aim
to show how an alternative to capitalism is not only possible but
necessary if a better, more democratic and more socially just future is
to be procured for all. To this end, we bring together creative thinkers
and practitioners from around the world who are exploring alternatives
outside the imprisoning box of conventional capitalist thinking. An
anti-capitalist alternative is already in the making. Our aim is to mark
and celebrate its creative possibilities.

The conference will be made up of two days of panels and break-out
sessions in which presenters and participants from New York to Lagos to
Quito will engage questions concerning alternatives ranging from the
self-organization of work to solidarity economies, from communing, to
urban unions


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FRIDAY // DAY 1 Elebash Recital Hall, Graduate Center
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10:00-10:20 Welcome by David Harvey

10:30-12:00 Solidarity Economies A number of alternative economic
practices such as cooperatives, participatory budgeting, alternative
currencies, social enterprises, and the like prioritize ethical
considerations, equity, democratic process, and community-based
development. In some countries, these organizational forms and practices
have begun to coalesce into a self-identified solidarity economy. This
panel examines how such a development approach generates substantial
social and economic effects in communities in Quebec, Philadelphia, and
New York City.

Maliha Safri, moderator Marie Bouchard, Mike Menser; Craig Borowiak

12:00-1:00 LUNCH

1:00-2:30 Labor This panel will bring together organizers who have worked
with taxi workers, domestic workers, and day laborers in NYC and
nationally. We will discuss the common points of struggle and the
differences between these groups, as well as the challenges of organizing.
We will look at the potential for these excluded workers to create a vital
anti-capitalist alternative.

Sujatha Fernandes, moderator; Javaid Tariq, Terri Nilliasca, Gonzalo Mercado

2:30-4:00 Housing The arena of land and housing is one space in which we
can see relations of Capital at work. New York City has been the site of
massive redistributions of land and housing during the recent recession,
and rent continues to climb. Can we transform the legal system? Can we
address land and housing as a needs-based right as opposed to a market
commodity? This panel discusses on the ground organizing around housing,
and seeks to critically address what an anti-capitalist housing movement
could look like.

Gabriella Rendon, moderator; Jaron Benjamin, Lahni Rahman, Manissa
Maharwal, Max Rameau


Themes and details of all break-out session can be found on the break-out
session signs

The Premise of the Common(s)

The notion, horizon, and premise of the common(s) is emerging as a
significant category for political struggle. From struggles around food,
to work, to housing, to internet, to larger ecological questions; the
common(s) seems to be both a shared ground and point of conjunction for
many movements globally. But any struggle for reclaiming common(s) or
conjoining around a common(s) movement also carries with it some risks.
This session will be dedicated to collectively mapping out the necessities
and risks of bringing together disparate struggles toward a common(s)

This session will be facilitated by several contributors to the common(s)
course. The common(s) course is a proposal toward an institution of the
common(s). It is an informal space-time in which individuals and groups
working or struggling in different contexts can devote a regular time
toward cultivating a common language, critical practices and thinking
around common(s) and commoning. So far, the course has been initiated in
New York, London, Utrecht, and Mumbai. Several individuals tending to the
New York common(s) course (entitled Commoning the City and Withdrawing
from the Community of Money) will be present to help facilitate this
discussion. For more information and useful readings please visit:
16beavergroup.org/common and commoningtimes.org

6:00-8:00 The Contradictions of AntiCapitalism; W(h)ither the State? While
there is a general acceptance on the left that the capitalist state must
either be smashed, ignored or eventually withered away, the role and form
of non-capitalist state power (if such is conceivable) in the transition
to and constitution of a future non-capitalist society is a controversial
matter. While it is evident that in the current conjuncture the state is
hopelessly compromised as a vehicle for the administration of capitalist
class power, the need for large scale infrastructures and coordinations
between associated workers and residential populations suggests that
something like a cooperative or partnership state would be necessary to
ensure not only the survival but also the progress towards a social order
founded on anti-capitalist principles.

David Harvey, Maliha Safri, Sujatha Fernandes, Thomas Purcell, Miguel

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SATURDAY // DAY 2 Rose Auditorium, Cooper Union
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12:00-1:30 Living Sin Patron – The Recuperation of Life & Work Sin Patron
(without a boss) describes a new social creation taking place around the
world. Coined by people in the recuperated workplace movement in
Argentina, it has come to mean not only working literally without bosses
and hierarchy, but represents a new way of relating based on solidarity
and the creation of a value system outside the framework of capitalist
value production. This new way of working and relating is taking place in
everything from metal and print shops, hotels and restaurants to emergent
self-organized groups and collectives, from Argentina, Brazil and Greece,
to Chicago in the US.

Marina Sitrin, moderator, Claudia Acuña Debbie Litsa

1:30-3:00 Urban Unions and the Redefinion of City Growth The concept of
the labor union as a collectivized organizational form capableof
leveraging better working conditions, as well as defending workers from
some of the exploitative labor practices inherent in desires of owners of
the means of production, has been present with different degrees of
influence in all historical stages of advanced capitalist production.
Today, unions in their diverse deterministic forms strive to be effective
in the complex uneven urban context in which a large proportion of workers
are embedded, which, more than labor itself, is now the determinate factor
in the everyday struggle for a dignified and just life. Imposing urban
variables like commuting time and expenses, displacement risks,
infrastructure failures, food and housing accessibility, environmental
hazards, gentrification processes and the perils of high stakes real
estate speculation have made the battleground more apparent, from the
spaces of work to the totalizing space of the urban. However, there does
not seem to be any organizational form yet capable of unifying the
fragmented activisms of its inhabitants into a common project for retaking
the city. This panel will elaborate on possibilities of organizing and
unionizing large number of inhabitants for taking control of the processes
that produce their urban environment. It will ask, Is it possible to
imagine organizing vast parts of a city? Can we imagine organizing beyond
the prescribed silos of labor unions or the non-profit establishment into
the complex ecology of the city as a whole? Could Urban Unions redefine
city growth?

Miguel Robles-Duran, Nicole Carty, Teodor Celakoski, Jeanne van Heeswijk

3:30-4:30 Commoning Commons-based alternatives to capitalism have been
present from day one, they have often been regarded “as roads not taken,”
but they are more accurately described as “roads blown up.” In this panel
we will present some historical contextualization: the conjoining of the
State and the Market against the Commons that has an origin which indeed
questions not only capitalism but the geological epoch now named by many
the “anthropocene”. We will discuss some commons-based alternatives to
capitalism, with special emphasis on the Zapatistas who have definitely
revitalized and scaled up the notion and practice of commoning. Their
project now involves hundreds of villages, tens of thousands of hectares
of land, and more than a hundred thousand participants. Their collective
effort is one of the most creative alternatives to capitalism on the
planet. In the last twenty years they have made it clear that they will
cooperate neither with Mexican state agencies and political parties nor
with capitalist firms. They argue (against many critics) that the
commoning form of life they are developing cannot co-exist as a sector of
a triune society alongside the state sector and capital sector.

George Caffentzis, Peter Linebaugh

4:30-6:00 Food, Land and Energy Struggles Control over land is central to
relations of capital and anti-capitalist movements. People on the ground
in communities all over the world struggle against displacement from land,
and for the right to grow food and meet basic needs for survival. A
growing movement of transnational resistance against governments,
financial institutions and large corporations is pushing back, and uniting
across continents. This panel brings together perspectives on and from
movements that struggle around food, land and energy. In their struggles
against a dispossessing capitalism, how do these movements also envision
and model alternatives?

Rob Robinson, moderator, José Alves de Oliveira, Elisa Estronioli,
Anuradha Talwar

6:00-7:00 Transforming the City Any anti-capitalist movement has at some
point or other to deal with the nature of urban life and social
reproduction and seek out paths towards a radical transformation of social
relations, of productive apparatuses, of ways of living and in the
relation to nature. Experiments under way right now, some of which have
been the focus of concern in this conference, pre-figure what a future
social order might look like. But there is a need to bring many of these
moving parts of transformation together around a more organic conception
of city life as a whole and ask the question: what will an anti-capitalist
city look like and what would it be like to live there?

David Harvey, Miguel Robles Duran, Thomas Purcell, Rachel LaForest

7:30-10:00: Commoning Gathering at 16 Beaver 16 Beaver Street, 4th floor.
New York, NY 10004

Final Discussion Over the course of the conference, several contributors
of 16 Beaver Group will try to map out some key questions over the
duration of the conference. In the evening, they will try to find a form
in which these questions can be shared, considered, and addressed

Watch FRIDAY’S PROGRAM livestreamed here:

Watch SATURDAY’S PROGRAM livestreamed here:
check the link below for details about Saturday’s stream

Creative Alternatives to Capitalism Conference