Abstract and Keywords
This book examines the tensions between cultural authority and the so-called ‘cultures of anyone’ that have reemerged time and again during Spain's economic crisis of 2008. It considers how these cultures of anyone, which arose mostly around grassroots social movements and in collaborative spaces fostered by digital technology, promote processes of empowerment and collaborative learning and create ‘collective intelligence’. The book first discusses the emergence of a new layer of powerful disciplines and institutions that has been deposited over Spain's long tradition of cultural authoritarianism. It then explores some of the disagreements and alternatives that confronted the model of cultural authority during the neoliberal crisis. Drawing on feminist theories of social reproduction, it analyzes aspects of ‘cultural autonomy’ relative to knowledge monopolies and the competitive mechanisms of neoliberalism. Finally, it describes the difficulties in creating stable cultural institutions that can function democratically.
The Spanish state, 2008–May 2015: unemployment rates approach 25%, and 50% among young people. Eight million living in poverty, according to official figures. The second highest rate of childhood malnutrition in Europe. The highest rise in economic inequality of all states in the OECD. Some 3 million empty homes and about 184 families evicted from their homes every day.
Despite changes in the governing party, the public policies that have attempted to address this situation have not changed since the beginning of what has come to be called the ‘economic crisis:’ obedience to the ‘experts’ of the Troika (the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, the European Central Bank), bailouts of financial entities, prioritizing payment of the public debt over social spending, and cuts to basic public services like health, education, and disability benefits.
Regardless of whether or not these policies work, what my research seeks to emphasize is that such measures are not only executed by political authorities, but are also normalized by a certain form of cultural authority: the authority of the ‘experts.’ This authority is based on a long, complex tradition in every society that tends to establish a group of people ‘in the know,’ and another group ‘in the dark.’ In its most flexible manifestation, this tradition allows for those ‘in the dark’ to be able to move up to the group ‘in the know,’ if they fulfill an entire series of pedagogical prerequisites supervised by the latter group. But in any case, the decisions about important things, like the social organization of housing, work, food, health, and education, will be made made on the basis of the specialized technical opinion of those ‘in the know’ at any given moment.
Given this cultural tradition, those who implement political measures enabling situations as difficult for the majority of a population as those currently experienced in Spain can justify their policies based on the technical knowledge of the ‘experts’ who recommend them. There are also, of course, others who oppose them by putting forward the authority of (p.2) their own ‘experts,’ who—based on their respective technical knowledge—recommend very different policies. In the midst of this confrontation between differing groups of ‘those in the know,’ those who are supposedly ‘in the dark’ are sometimes called upon to offer an opinion—primarily through the election of political parties every four years. But again, according to this cultural tradition, the opinion of ‘just anyone’—of someone who does not belong to the group of ‘those in the know’—can never be equal to that of those who bear the titles of established knowledge. In the capitalist version of this tradition, those ‘in the know’ guarantee a way of life for everyone else which, in addition to voting, they can use money as a measure of all social value and channel their individual desires by consuming and competing among themselves.1
(p.3) In recent years, however, something important has happened in the Spanish state. The economic disaster has generated such a huge drop in the credibility of political institutions that it has begun to affect this hierarchical cultural system, thus compromising the very authority of those ‘in the know.’ This has driven many people ‘in the dark’ to trust in their own abilities to collaboratively construct the knowledge they need in any given situation and to generate effective answers to the problems that confront them. In the process, they avoid having to weigh down their ways of knowing with the monopolistic, exclusive, hierarchical ambitions that accompany the tradition of the ‘experts.’
This book studies some signs that seem to point towards a crisis of that tradition, along with others that announce the emergence of something I call ‘cultures of anyone.’ These cultures do not suggest a rejection of specialized fields of knowledge, but rather a rejection of the uses of such knowledge to monopolize cultural authority. They avoid creating divisions between those ‘in the know’ and those ‘in the dark,’ asserting that we all know something, nobody knows everything, and our abilities are developed better when we learn together than when we live in hierarchical relationships.2
(p.4) These ‘cultures of anyone’ have arisen mostly around grassroots social movements and in collaborative spaces fostered by digital technology, but they are spreading to many other social milieus, including those traditionally reserved for institutional ‘culture’ and ‘politics.’ They tend to promote the idea that the people affected by or involved in a situation should be the ones to participate in changing it, but not from a perspective of ‘anything goes.’ Rather, they promote processes of empowerment and collaborative learning that allow the development of anyone’s abilities and knowledge base. The ‘cultures of anyone’ create ‘collective intelligence.’ They believe that what ‘goes,’ what works, what’s worth doing, is better elucidated when everyone’s diverse abilities are combined, as opposed to when the knowledge monopolies of a select few are imposed.
They are, in short, ‘cultures of anyone’ because within them it is understood that culture, the constant collective discussion—be it explicit or implicit—in which decisions are made about what has value, what constitutes a ‘decent life,’ is something that anyone should be able to participate in. From the point of view of this emergent culture, it is inexcusable that anyone should be excluded from the construction of the meaning of her or his dignity. For this reason, I propose to define ‘cultures of anyone’ as forms of cultural democratization—not so much in terms of allowing access to a body of already established knowledge and values (as understood in the habitual sense of the phrase), but in the sense of opening the construction of knowledge and of values to participation by anyone.
April 26, 2014, Madrid, Malasaña district: seven women—one pregnant—and eight children—the sons and daughters of those women—entered an apartment building that had been empty for 17 years, with the intention of making it their home. These women were neither in hiding nor alone. Signs are unfurled from the windows reading ‘Together we can,’ and ‘Safe housing for everyone.’ Down in the street, they are supported by a group of people, one of whom has a megaphone she uses to announce:
We are a group of women fighting for the well-being of our children, who are in this situation right along with us. We are tired of being invisible to the public powers, we condemn the lack of recognition of the kind of work we do: domestic work and caring for our families. … Being able to pamper our kids and raising them in the security of a home is not a luxury, it is our right.
(p.5) The right to raise a child in a good home seems, in principle, eminently reasonable according to that ever-vague amalgam called ‘common sense.’ It is much less ‘commonsensical,’ at least in societies strongly based on a capitalist economy, to think that this right makes it okay for you to enter someone else’s property to set up house and raise your children there. But these women have concluded that, given their uncertain situation and the way the public powers and their experts have interpreted the ‘right to a good home’ as guaranteed by the Spanish Constitution, it is legitimate to accord priority to their dignity and the dignity of their children over the validity of a deed of property.
This decision—and this is what I want to emphasize—was not made individually, but in the bosom of a social movement that is open to anyone and which collects and cultivates diverse abilities and ways of knowing—such as solidarity, legal knowledge, public policy analysis, diffusion, etc.—to collectively confront housing problems.
So, these women are among the 1,180 homeless or evicted individuals who have already ‘recuperated’ at least 20 empty buildings through the ‘Social Work’ campaign of the People Affected by the Mortgage Platform (Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, or PAH). It would be difficult to dispute that the PAH is one of the institutions most recognized for its legitimacy in Spanish society today, thanks to its work of mutual support during the ‘housing emergency’ currently taking place in Spain. Its legitimacy has not been gained through the authority of ‘experts,’ but earned through the democratic processes of a ‘culture of anyone.’
Furthermore, it would be disingenuous to claim that this legitimacy was generated illegally or ‘behind the backs’ of the powers that be. The change of priorities proposed by the PAH has already begun to be translated into laws and precedents. Institutions like the Strasbourg Human Rights Commission have supported its rejection of evictions, and several judges have conceded ‘non-recourse debt’ (e.g., accepting the deed to a home as payment in full, instead of foreclosing) and even ‘social rents’ proposed by the PAH. In any case, all of the Platform’s activities have always been supported by Article 47 of the Constitution: ‘every person has the right to a decent home.’3
Laws are never unambiguous; they are designed to be interpreted. The same is true, although with greater flexibility, of legitimacy and ‘common (p.6) sense.’ Both spheres, legality and legitimacy, depend on the cultural process through which the meanings and values of reality are constantly debated, whether tacitly or explicitly. Thus the ‘culture of anyone,’ the type of democratization of knowledge bases and value production cultivated by initiatives like those of the PAH, is liable to have crucial consequences in all areas of social life.
This book studies the tensions between historically established—although at times foundering—forms of cultural authority, and those ‘cultures of anyone’ that have reappeared time and again during Spain’s ‘economic crisis.’ Regarding the former, the first part of the book proposes two interconnected genealogies. On one hand, the cultural authority prevailing at the onset of the ‘economic crisis’ partakes of the long ‘modern’ technocratic tradition (de Certeau 2010) that grants legitimacy in meaning production only to those who participate in certain disciplines and institutions (what Bauman calls ‘the modern power/knowledge complex’ (1987)), and only if they access it by acknowledging their inferiority to and dependence on those who already hold it (according to the hierarchical functioning of what Rancière called ‘the pedagogical society’ (2003)).
On the other hand, over the course of Spain’s parliamentary monarchy (1978 to present), a new layer of particularly powerful disciplines and institutions has been deposited over this long tradition of cultural authoritarianism. These disciplines and institutions are extremely flexible devices, capable of invading daily life, imposing a way of producing meaning, or a ‘way of the world,’ as Dardot and Laval say, that essentially consists of generalized competition and turning life into a business (2014; see also Garcés Mascareñas 2013). This ‘way of the world’—neoliberalism—is enshrined in the traditional ambitions of certain ‘educated’ elites to monopolize the production of meaning. These are the ones who have endorsed neoliberalism as ‘the best possible system’ so consistently that the general public has accepted it as inevitable even if they weren’t quite ready to wholeheartedly embrace it.
This last becomes most obvious at times when a large part of that public begins to question the efficacy of neoliberal logic, because they are suffering economic insecurity and social inequality generated by its competitive principle. It is then, as we see every day, that those who hold political and cultural power brandish appeals to ‘normality’ and ‘modernity,’ to equality with ‘more advanced countries,’ and to the recommendations of ‘experts,’ to reinforce the discredited neoliberal ‘way of the world.’
(p.7) In the second part of the book, I study some emerging cultural logics that interrupt, to a certain degree, both the hierarchical, monopolistic authority of ‘those in the know’ and the neoliberal ‘way of the world.’ They do this by promoting ways of collaborating that tend to create favorable conditions for anyone’s empowerment and the development of anyone’s abilities. I suggest that these ways of collaborating have, so far, been much more able to offer meanings, languages, symbols, and sociability than to insure food, housing, and care. But I also believe that the former elements are just as necessary for human life as the latter. With support from feminist theories of social reproduction (such as those of Antonella Picchio (2009), Silvia Federici (2010), and Amaia Orozco (2014)), I show that in the constant collective process through which human life—always constituted by interdependent individuals—is sustained, it is also decided, tacitly or explicitly, what constitutes a life with dignity. For that decision, ‘culture’—meaning, languages, symbols, sociability—is indispensable. In this sense, ‘culture’ plays an important part in maintaining human life, and being able to maintain a nonhierarchical, noncompetitive culture is a way of sustaining lives with a certain amount of autonomy—cultural autonomy—with respect to neoliberal reason.
I analyze the aspects of that ‘cultural autonomy’ relative to knowledge monopolies and the competitive mechanisms of neoliberalism by studying digital cultures, social movements emerging in the cycle opened by the 15M (or Indignados), and some examples of cultural institutions, both public and self-managed. Thus I propose a route that begins with the massive expansion of the ability to create cultural value collectively through information technologies and communication (about which Margarita Padilla (2013), Mayo Fuster Morell (2012), Manuel Castells (2009), and many others have written at length). At the same time, it suggests the constant difficulty for communities to self-manage the value they produce, because of the multiplicity of appropriation and precarization mechanisms at the disposal of more powerful agents in the game of widespread neoliberal competition (Harvey 2013; Harney 2010b; Rowan 2010).
I continue with an analysis of the 15M movement and other similar ones, like the Mareas (the Tides) and the PAH, which develop protocols for collaboration and the composition of diverse knowledge bases and abilities in closed physical environments, as Amador Fernández-Savater, one of the most interesting observers of these movements, has made clear (2008; 2011a; 2013). With these protocols they manage to provide support mechanisms for the bodies that participate in them. Based on the model of the 15M encampments as spaces where participants attempted to sustain a life completely devoid of competitiveness and open to anyone, I note the difficulties inherent in maintaining this type of experience, betting (p.8) so heavily on the transformation of daily life, as well as its clashes with ‘cultural authorities.’
Finally, I examine the existence of self-managed cultural institutions, like those participating in Fundación de los Comunes (the Commons Foundation Network), and public ones, like Medialab-Prado in Madrid, which have a certain ability to ‘decommodify’ the cultural life of those who participate in them. I also note the limits in each case. I analyze the difficulties, caused by the strong commodification of the public culture sector, in creating stable cultural institutions that can function democratically and that the population might be inclined to defend as much as schools and public hospitals. And, lastly, I discuss the added difficulties that the necessarily experimental aspect of the cultural sphere presupposes for those possibilities of institutionalization.
This book does not attempt to be ‘above’ or ‘beyond’ the immense cultural problem it seeks to theorize through the disjunction between a ‘culture of experts’ and a ‘culture of anyone.’ On the contrary, it is an investigation of that problem which attempts to inscribe itself within the democratizing logics of the very ‘cultures of anyone’ that it studies, as well as contributing something that could be useful for them.
Therefore, I want to clarify that I think the ‘cultures of anyone’ I am writing about are the most appropriate ones to study themselves and their context. My contribution attempts to respect this fact by bringing together numerous voices that emerge from them, and by recognizing that my own voice exists here due to that ‘collective intelligence.’ I attempt to show my indebtedness to these cultures explicitly through quotes, the frequency of which serves to belie the fiction of a strong authorial function. Such a dominant authorial voice would tend to obscure the collective sources of its knowledge in an effort to individually capitalize on their value. In any case, some of the lines of inquiry with which I dialogue will become more explicit in the rather more detailed summary of my argument, outlined chapter by chapter, that I offer to the reader below.4
In chapter one I first present some distinctive characteristics of the (p.9) forms of cultural authority prevailing in a Spain in crisis, and then I begin to trace key lines of their genealogy. Starting with the ways in which big communications media, experts, politicians and intellectuals have presented the crisis, I discuss their capacity to ‘establish a reality’ (as Michel de Certeau says) that tends to imagine society as a collection of individuals competing among themselves for a market of diverse goods and possibilities. I note that this competitive, individualistic way of life, which constitutes the heart of neoliberalism (according to Laval and Dardot), has suffered a certain decline. Likewise, those agencies of cultural authority that ‘establish’ this way of life have seen their credibility suffer due to the economic collapse.
I trace the genealogy of the cultural model in crisis by starting from the structural division between the people responsible for sustaining life and the people responsible for managing the production of meaning. The anthropologist Paul Radin observed this division in precapitalist societies, but the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman also considers it a defining characteristic of modernity. The ‘modern power/knowledge complex’ is defined, according to Bauman, by the particularly virulent practice of monopolizing the production of meaning. During the Enlightenment, this led to the establishment of the ‘garden societies’ model through which the elites attempted not only to dominate everyone else, but to transform those other lives and cultures to be ‘productive.’ In other words, the elites tried to make the rest of the population adapt to the capitalist mode of production and distribution of value.
In accord with the historians Sánchez León (2010) and Jesús Izquierdo (2002), I argue that the widespread implantation of this capitalist way of life occurred during the second phase of Francoism, enshrined through the technoscientific legitimacy of certain expert elites who claimed to be ‘modernizing’ the country. To achieve this, the rural peasant culture(s) of some two-thirds of the population had to be discredited, which generated a whole series of significant collective inferiority complexes. But in addition, during that transformation, the foundations were laid for Spain’s future participation in the European neoliberal economic model, as explained by the Observatorio Metropolitano de Madrid (López Hernández and Rodríguez López 2010). This participation was legitimized by the heirs to a long tradition of ‘modernizing, pro-European’ intellectual elites, who considered incorporation into neoliberal Europe the only possible path to democratic ‘normalization.’
The second chapter comprises a more detailed analysis of the ‘standardizing’ operation carried out by the cultural authorities of the so-called ‘Cultura de la Transición’ or ‘CT’ (Transition Culture). It begins with a reminder of the well-known arguments regarding the exceptional nature (p.10) of the situation experienced by everyone at the end of the dictatorship, and how this served as a justification for some less than democratic (opaque, nonrepresentative, elitist) ways of ushering in ‘democracy.’ I relate those well-known arguments to the added authority the political elites of the transition gained through their proximity to the cultural elites. I propose that not only is it true, as Guillem Martínez (creator of the idea of a ‘Culture of Transition’ (2012)) claimed, that the cultural world would deactivate its critical capacity, but also that a majority of its members opted for a depoliticized, individualist conception of aesthetic modernity, which I analyze drawing on Reinaldo Laddaga’s work (2006).
Unlike in other cultural environments that were surely also ‘modern’ (such as the transitional underground culture studied by Germán Labrador (2008)), the official culture of post-dictatorial Spain would view aesthetic style as something separate from politics, reinforcing through that supposed neutrality the political value of a neoliberal status quo that was always presented as the ‘only path to modernity.’ The journalistic columnism of progressive intellectuals would turn out to be essential in this regard for consolidating a model of individual cultural authority based on the supposed apolitical exceptionality of the ‘creator,’ who has broken away from the communities from which he receives the cultural materials for his production. As a result, he is at constant risk of being manipulated in one way or another by the speculative mechanisms of neoliberalism.
The risk of manipulation becomes even more acute as widespread commodification increasingly spectacularizes the world of culture, transforming it into a ‘brand’ ready to be consumed. This ‘culture brand’ or ‘culture bubble’ model coexists with the intellectual’s ambitions to constitute an independent, critical authority confronting the established powers. However, I argue that as long as he continues to be tacitly perceived as part of the elite that must lead everyone else to ‘modernity,’ the intellectual still participates in a structural inequality that turns him into an indirect guarantor of the very social order he criticizes.
The third chapter is a brief incursion into two possible counter-figures of the ‘intellectual,’ or simply, of the ‘cultural agent.’ These are characterized precisely by having maintained a fertile and generous dialogue with the communities of meaning production that have inspired and nourished their work. While I focus my argument primarily on writer Luis Mateo Díez’s relationship with the peasant cultures of northwest Spain, and on Juan Marsé’s with the working-class cultures of Barcelona, I also consider some other similar cases. I propose that the enthusiasm for regional autonomy during the Spanish transition generated a favorable breeding ground for experimentation with forms of political and aesthetic modernity that were (p.11) capable of including aspects of traditional rural cultures. But I also note that perhaps the main difficulty for such operations was trying to reconcile cultures that prioritize the reproduction of a collective, interdependent life with the inevitably ‘productivist,’ individualistic drift of Spanish ‘modernity.’
I finish by recuperating the odd cases of certain ‘writer-workers,’ like Marsé, Vázquez Montalbán, and Francisco Candel, who constructed their poetics inspired by the collective modes of creative consumption of an incipient postwar mass culture (cinema, music, comics, etc.). I argue that, as in the case of the writers inspired by ‘peasant cultures,’ these writer-workers also gravitated towards a separation from the traditional roots that inspire them, as the depoliticized, individualist model of the ‘writer’ imposed from outside weakens those precarious ties.
In the second part of the book, I move on to a study of some of the disagreements and alternatives that arose to confront the model of cultural authority during the neoliberal crisis. I begin in the fourth chapter by considering some collaborative modes of value production in digital cultures. I take as my starting point the cyberactivist campaigns begun in protest against the so-called Sinde Law (2009) that limited online sharing practices. I relate this mass defense of the Internet to the fact that increasing job insecurity drove many people, especially young people, to find a space online where they could collaboratively cultivate their abilities to create value, since there was no opportunity for them to do so in an increasingly competitive, exclusive job market.
Furthermore, I note the importance of the dual tradition of defense of freedom and defense of online equality (with its countercultural and academic origins) (Bollier 2008). Likewise, I examine the explosion of ‘active publics’ that have sprung up around the mass cultures of the digital age (Jenkins 2006) as breeding grounds for the appearance of a democratic, participative Web in the Spanish state—a Web that encountered its defining moment in the struggles against the Sinde Law. I highlight this culture as an important source for the creation of a ‘subjectivity’ (culturally constructed identity) unknown to the hierarchical, competitive cultural establishment.
In this respect, I show how the polemic about the Internet served to generate an increasingly elaborate self-representation by a new social group that perceived itself as different from the establishment, irrespective of how many and varied were the positions and discourses this new group espoused. Importantly, I also note the latent tensions and contradictions—expressed, for example, in the boycott campaign, ‘No les votes,’ against the parties that supported the Sinde Law—between a liberal, individualist conception of society, and the increasingly widespread reality of liberal institutions’ inability to guarantee a true democracy.
(p.12) In the fifth chapter, I analyze the drift of these new subjectivities and their contradictions into the 15M movement (also known as the Indignados). I argue that the creation of small ‘tent cities’ in the plazas at the start of the movement intensified the coordination of different abilities that was taking place online with the goal of collaboratively supporting the daily life of the protesters in the plazas. In other words, they avoided participation in the hierarchical, competitive logics of the neoliberal cultural authority that was being blamed for the economic crisis.
They thus strengthened a cultural model based on mutual empowerment and on the composition of diverse abilities and ways of knowing, from affective, daily, and experiential ones to specialized, technical ones. This model has become one of the main elements of a new political and cultural ‘climate,’ underpinning many other collective processes (Fernández-Savater 2012). Among these, of course, are those of the PAH and the civic Mareas (especially the Mareas in defense of public health and public education).
Opposition to this model by intellectuals and powerful media outlets has been staunch, and in this chapter I examine some of the ways these authorities have tried to discredit the ‘cultures of anyone’ arising from the ‘15M climate.’ They attempt this through their reliance on a social model that requires a large part of the population to set limits on its intelligence and delegate its capacities to those responsible for ‘establishing reality.’ I show that the cultures of anyone have essentially confronted this cultural power in three ways. In the first place, they respond directly, as happens more and more often in public speeches defending their position as ‘anyone.’ Second, they sidestep classifications and representations emitted by the powers that be, often through the use of digital tools and humor. And third, they confront the power structure by constructing spaces where they can exercise their right to a truly democratic culture in a sustained way, such as the plazas of the 15M, despite their relative transience.
Finally, in the sixth chapter, I continue my inquiry into the modes of constructing alternatives to the tradition of cultural authoritarianism and neoliberalism. I turn to a study of institutions that try to offer permanent life spaces for the ‘cultures of anyone.’ I highlight the cultural and political project Traficantes de Sueños (TdS), which belongs to the Fundación de los Comunes network, as an example of the successes achieved by self-managed spaces that base their ability to decommodify and democratize meaning production on the daily support of the communities that nourish them and benefit from them. I compare this example to a public institution, like Medialab-Prado, which shares many of TdS’s democratizing strategies, as well as contributing a few of its own. It suffers, however, from the widespread harassment aimed at the public sector by competitive, privatizing neoliberal logics.
(p.13) I discuss how the growing civic interest in bringing the logics of democratic self-management to the public sphere runs up against that harassment. This is clearly exemplified in an offer of ‘participation’ extended by public institutions that doesn’t include the possibility of truly confronting precarization or any of the means that neoliberalism has at its disposal of capturing and speculating with collectively produced values. Building on the work of other researchers of public cultural policies, such as Rubén Martínez (2013), Jaron Rowan (2013), and Adolfo Estalella (2012), I analyze these questions in relation to the recently proposed Plan Estratégico de la Cultura de Madrid (PECAM). But I also suggest that if there has not been a civic defense of public cultural institutions comparable to those of health care and education, it isn’t just because the state has left those institutions to the mercy of neoliberal depredation. I think it’s also because of the inevitable tension that arises in the cultural sphere between experimentation and institutionality. Thus I note, in agreement with Sánchez Criado (2014), the importance of experimentation in constructing truly democratic cultures. At the same time, I emphasize the difficulty of conceiving of institutions that are sufficiently open to be able to sustain such experimentation.
I conclude my tour by recuperating some aesthetic projects that have brought democratic experimentation into the sphere of languages, symbols, and forms of representation in general. These include the poetics seminar Euraca, the readers’ network #Bookcamping, the musical platform Fundación Robo (and its ‘literary faction,’ Asalto), and the chronicle blog ‘Al final de la asamblea.’ Finally, I end by mentioning something I consider fundamental for the maintenance of the ‘cultures of anyone’: their ability not only to suggest answers to specific political and social problems, but also to question the authoritarian, competitive cultural lenses that condition our way of understanding those very problems, and to replace them with other, more democratic filters.
(1) The cultural authority of those ‘in the know’ is never isolated; on the contrary, it is part of wider ‘ways of life,’ which reproduce complex structures of domination operating at different levels. Thus, in its capitalist version, the segregation between those ‘in the know’ and those ‘in the dark’ works together with, among other factors, the crucial function of money as a measure of all social value, which reinforces and reproduces social inequality (see Harvey 1989). In this sense, when I say that public policies responding to the ‘crisis’ are naturalized by this system of cultural authority, I don’t exactly mean that many people really believe they are adequate because a series of ‘experts’ say so. Moreover, and as I hope the following pages will make clear, I mean that these policies are supported by a whole ‘way of life’ through which we tend to internalize hierarchical and competitive divisions of value that exclude many of us from the position of ‘having a say’ about the value of said policies. In the words of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, this internalization is a key aspect of domination, which consists in the limitation of the ‘possibilities of thought and action in the oppressed’ (Bourdieu 2001, 41). Fortunately, we—people of the twenty-first century—have inherited many tools to understand domination and its ‘cultural’ aspect. In a world swamped by publicity, propaganda, spectacle, and therapy, it seems increasingly clear that, as writer Ricardo Piglia (2000) likes to say, quoting from Valery, ‘physical repression alone is not enough to impose order; fictional forces are required as well.’ There have, of course, been very important contributions to this understanding from intellectual and activist traditions. Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony (1999) was instrumental in bringing to the fore the power of education, religion, intellectuals, and the media in constructing a worldview for the dominated to accept their condition. After Gramsci, there have been many ways of qualifying the nature of this ‘acceptance,’ displacing simplistic ideas of ‘rational consensus.’ To quote just some of them, we could remember the aforementioned Bourdieu’s work on the internalization of domination, Laclau and Mouffe’s Lacanian re-reading of Gramscian hegemony (2004), Beasley-Murray’s concept of ‘posthegemony’ (2010), Rancière’s notion of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ (2004), and Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of segmentation and molarity, as well as their whole method of ‘schizoanalysis’ or ‘cartography of desire’ (1987). In this book, the two last theoretical frames (Rancière’s and Deleuze and Guattari’s) are preferred for understanding domination (although not quoted extensively). This is because they seem more apt to investigating cultural processes that, instead of following Bourdieu’s interest in the restriction of the ‘possibilities of action and thought of the dominated,’ strive to flee the hegemonic division of people into ‘those who know and can’ and those who ‘don’t know and can’t,’ by betting on the empowerment of the intelligence and abilities of anyone. This bet certainly has its risks, but as I will try to show, it cannot be considered simple wishful thinking, or a blind negation of the harsh and complex realities of domination.
(2) This, of course, will always run the risk of not paying enough attention to the deep determinations that all sorts of hierarchical relationships have imprinted upon our lives. By opening a space for the ‘anyone,’ these cultures certainly are in danger of encouraging superficial understandings of such determinations, which would be doomed to return in conflictive ways. On the other side of the argument, however, there is always the risk of placing so much emphasis on those social determinations that one ends up reinforcing them. For instance: by victimizing and patronizing those who are ‘suffering the most,’ or by assigning them stereotypes that deprive them of the possibility of self-representation and value creation. Beyond categorical and universal judgments about the outcomes of ‘cultures of anyone,’ I propose to study certain concrete cultural processes that in the context of the neoliberal crisis in Spain have preferred to run the first of those two risks. I believe this is an important task not only because of the increasing social relevance of this type of process (which, as a cultural historian, I think I should investigate), but also because tactically—being aware of the ethical and political dimensions of all research work—I would like my own study to also be a contribution to the empowerment of the abilities of anyone attempted by these processes.
(3) The story of the People Affected by Mortgages Platform (PAH) and its achievements and social and institutional recognitions has been narrated by two of its founders and best-known members, activists Ada Colau and Adrià Alemany, in the book Vidas hipotecadas (2013). Also of interest on this subject are the documentaries La Plataforma (2013) and 7 Days with PAH Barcelona (2014).
(4) I also want to clarify that most of the specific references to the cultures I am studying come from the Madrid area. This is not due to a deliberate choice, but because I have not, unfortunately, been able to extend the affinity and first-hand knowledge that has helped me carry out this investigation to all parts of the Spanish state to the extent I would have liked. For that I beg your pardon, and I hope to be able to correct these limitations in future works. (p.14)