What is a revolution? We used to think we knew. Revolutions were seizures of power by popular forces aiming to transform the very nature of the political, social, and economic system in the country in which the revolution took place, usually according to some visionary dream of a just society. Nowadays, we live in an age when, if rebel armies do come sweeping into a city, or mass uprisings overthrow a dictator, it’s unlikely to have any such implications; when profound social transformation does occur—as with, say, the rise of feminism—it’s likely to take an entirely different form. It’s not that revolutionary dreams aren’t out there. But contemporary revolutionaries rarely think they can bring them into being by some modern-day equivalent of storming the Bastille.What is revolution? This might be the core political question of our time. In contemporary conditions where all hitherto categorical distinctions (between nature and culture, subject and object, etc.) and conventional boundaries (between human bodies and machines, between nation-states and corporations) are bleeding into each other or melting away, what resources are we to call upon in order to begin forging more humane and positive political commitments? The very context of our lives and social actions has never been so ambiguous and massively distributed, and yet so manipulated, managed and massaged. Where do we begin?
In The Phenomenology of Perception Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote:
Here Merleau-Ponty accepts the conditions in which political bodies are both determined and self-determining, however haphazardly such agency might seem. It is the gathering up, positioning and self-organizing power of individuals in situ - the ‘taking a stand’ in the world – that links their imaginations and motivations to lived contexts and affords them the opportunity to transform pre-reflective conditionings into explicit revolutionary commitments. In this sense, the work of being and becoming human is always a revolutionary act in that what is latent or merely possible in us, and circulating throughout our dynamic modes of existence, is always in the process of being expressed and assembled. The very act of becoming and being human contributes the co-invention of worlds. And so political situations are always ecological and cosmological.
Transcorporeal politics, then, is fundamentally about developing, tinkering with and contesting distributed modes of generation wherein social assemblages and agentic bodies of all ontic varieties are engaged and politicized at the different levels of material and expressive organization appropriate to their functioning. Each complex matrix of possibility is a composite of material flows, associations and proximities affording different political moves, tactics and forms which includes but are never limited to symbolic representation and discursive exchanges. We always co-determine our world with other humans and non-humans (and in-humans) through reciprocal but often uneven exchanges of properties, powers and capacities – setting the very conditions for what then becomes possible. And within this simultaneously wild and contingent field of compound possibility what we do, as one kind of being among others, affects the capacities and sustain-ability of a myriad of other entities, communities and tangible networks. The work of the revolutionary thus becomes the engagement of whole worlds: an ecological praxis enriched through sapient and sensitive explorations which flow into deliberational alterings of the very modes of our relative becoming. Revolution is co-evolution always and forever.