Today in the developed world, even among those most committed to decarbonization, intermittency (let alone massive disruption) of the grid is simply unthinkable. Demand for (clean) electricity is growing all over the globe. This essay summons images, strategies, and tactics from Italy of the 1960s to help think about the (electrical) grid in the time of climate change. To be sure, theorists, activists, and artists associated with radical movements in Italy perceived of their primary struggle as between labor and capital, workers and the Fordist factory. Environmental concerns were not central to the movements' most revolutionary phases. Actors in the workerism (operaismo) or Autonomia movements could not be expected to have knowledge of the effects of accelerated greenhouse gas emissions. Still, they inspire alternatives to the (weak) reformist models being proposed to chip away at carbon emissions today. Their work might push us toward undoing the massive infrastructures of the grid to think about other ways of living together in a time of tipping points, transitions, and catastrophic effects.
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Karen Pinkus; Intermittent Grids. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 April 2017; 116 (2): 327–343. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3829434
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