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Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power

Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power

Max Haiven


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Today, when it seems like everything has been privatized, when austerity is too often seen as an economic or political problem that can be solved through better policy, and when the idea of moral values has been commandeered by the right, how can we re-imagine the forces used as weapons against community, solidarity, ecology and life itself? In this stirring call to arms, Max Haiven argues that capitalism has colonized how we all imagine and express what is valuable. Looking at the decline of the public sphere, the corporatization of education, the privatization of creativity, and the power of finance capital in opposition to the power of the imagination and the growth of contemporary social movements, Haiven provides a powerful argument for creating an anti-capitalist commons. Capitalism is not in crisis, it is the crisis, and moving beyond it is the only key to survival. Crucial reading for all those questioning the imposition of austerity and hoping for a fairer future beyond it.
Max Haiven is an assistant professor in the division of Art History and Critical Studies at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Canada. He is the author of many academic articles on themes including the financialization of society and culture, contemporary social movements, the radical imagination, and cultural and social theory. He is the co-author of The Radical Imagination: Social Movement Research in the Age of Austerity (Zed 2014) and author of Cultures of Financialization: Fictitious Capital in Popular Culture and Everyday Life (2014). More information can be found at
The right has taken possession of the field of values with a politics that is inadequate to deal with the crises therein, whereas the left has the concepts needed to deal with the crises but has all but abandoned the field. This is a conundrum that must be explored and solved. Haiven is to be thanked for formulating this problem so precisely. George Caffentzis, author of In Letters of Blood and Fire 'Fatalism and futility beware! We now have a handbook for the invention of a new commons. In Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power, Max Haiven explains how and why we need to struggle to take back creativity, imagination and our sense of collective purpose from those forces that seek to use it to their own ends. With the help of this book, another world really is possible.' Imre Szeman, Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies, University of Alberta 'In this inspired and engaged book, Max Haiven provides us with what he calls a series of exercises of the imagination. Readers will emerge from these invigorating sessions, which rework the machineries of finance, labor and activism, equipped with a contemporary radicalism to face the demands of a full immersion in the possibilities and complexities of our moment.' Randy Martin, New York University 'Against the bankruptcy of liberal politics, Max Haiven puts forward a renewed called for the elaboration of others values, lives, and ways of being together. This is a radicalism based not upon pie-in-the-sky ideas, but on expanding the commons of a social reproduction not premised on capital's measure but its own, extending and learning from practices already in motion. Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power helps bring us closer to the utopia that is within our grasp.' Stevphen Shukaitis, author of Imaginal Machines: Autonomy and Self-Organization in the Revolutions of Everyday Life 'Haiven's provocative book does justice to a topic that has been too long neglected. He not only explains the constraints that are everywhere placed on our political imagination, but also makes a strong case for transcending them.' Andrew Ross, author of Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal '[Haiven's] consideration of the potential cracks in the status quo, and how these might provide spaces for the collective work of imagining alternatives, demonstrates the ways in which global activist networks have already started transforming our world'. TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
About the author\r ii
Title\r iii
Copyright\r iv
Contents\r v
Acknowledgements vi
INTRODUCTION | Crises of the imagination 1
Method 8
Struggles 11
Commons 20
Imagination 24
ONE | Reimagining value 28
The right-wing values backlash 31
The left’s (generally pitiful) attempts to reclaim value 36
Contextualizing Marx’s theory of value 38
Value as labour 41
The commodification of social values 49
The truth about values 52
Relative worthlessness and capitalism as (a)moral system 55
Neoliberal globalization and left institutionalism 58
Values are practices, not ideals 63
Feminists and Black Panthers 65
Reclaiming value: workers’ centres, anti‑foreclosure movements and eco-communities 68
Reclaiming the value of the imagination 72
TWO | Publics, commons, occupations 74
The public residues of common struggles 75
The fall of the public 81
Critiques of the public 83
The rise of the commons 89
The promise of the occupations 94
Making the commons public and the public common 98
THREE | The crisis of the financialized imagination 104
What is financialization? 106
Prices and values 109
The politics of financialization 112
A financialized society 114
Finance as culture 119
Finance capitalism 126
Inevitable crises of the financial imagination 130
FOUR | Within and beyond the edu-factory 134
The edu-factory and its masters 137
The laboratory of discipline and the debt factory 139
From ivory tower to neoliberal embassy 143
The university of the commons 148
FIVE | The enclosure of history, the debt of the past, the commons of memory 153
The doing of memory, the done of history 160
Recalling the radical event of May ’68 167
The empire strikes back 172
The debt of history 178
Commoning memory 183
Beyond the radical event 187
SIX | The enclosure of creativity 190
The creation of creativity 192
The creativity commodity 195
The rise of ‘creative capitalism’ 197
The passion of the creative class 199
A creative capitalism? 203
Struggles for and against creativity 206
Creating a different world 211
SEVEN | What is the radical imagination? 217
Romantics and revolutionaries 219
The radical imagination into the twentieth century 224
The anti-colonial imaginary, the New Left, feminism and beyond 228
Neoliberalism, globalization and new theories of the imagination 234
The fate of the imaginationin an age of ‘cognitive capitalism’ 240
Globalization and struggles for the imagination 245
The common imagination 249
CONCLUSION | Fatalism and its discontents 256
Notes\r 267
Bibliography\r 289
Index\r 308