Recent debates about communism, the commons, and communization have for the most part either neglected the question of transition or viewed it as an obstacle to the development of contemporary revolutionary thought and practice. This sidelining or criticism of transition frequently relies on ahistorical or one-dimensional renderings of it, which ironically mimic the very dogmas that they purport to attack. This article explores the possibility of “deprogramming” our image of transition and reconstructing it as problem worthy of our political present by revisiting a series of important texts by Étienne Balibar, published between 1965 and 1990. It homes in on two themes that Balibar returns to throughout these writings. The first theme is the centrality of temporality and of the figure of the ‘lag” (décalage) to thinking through transitional politics. The second is the question of social reproduction and the obstacles it poses to voluntarist conceptions of revolutionary change. The article concludes with a brief reflection on the distinction between socialism and communism in the work of Lenin, Balibar, and Negri and on the need to refocus our thinking of transition on temporal and spatial unevenness.
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Alberto Toscano; Transition Deprogrammed. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2014; 113 (4): 761–775. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2803635
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