What is to be done under real subsumption?
Workshops, events and collective performance/concert

  • What is to be done under real subsumption?

Following the financial crisis and ongoing social struggles all over the world, we witness the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, but don’t seem to have a credible political horizon able to prevent this from continuing.

We’re aware that we urgently need to intervene in social reality, and that in order to do so we first have to understand it; but social reality is becoming increasingly sophisticated, accelerated and changeable. What theoretical tools would allow us to think adequately about this particular time in history? Where could we find such tools in this cultural landscape of ruins? Once again, we come to the same question: what is to be done? Or, to put Lenin’s famous question and Marx’s concept together, what is to be done under real subsumption? Since the last 4 years we have been editing a book trying to answer this question by looking back at the concept of subsumption and the discussions around it. We would like to share our findings with you in a performative way.


Subsumption, following Marx’s description (in Capital Vol.1 and in The Results (the unfinished Volume 4 of Capital)), pertains strictly to the description of the production process. Attempts to use the term to describe the rationalisation of aspects of social life falter because the category ceases to critically describe a dynamic relation between formal subsumption – the employment of relations of production as capital finds them – and real subsumption – the seizure and development of social production in its own image, as it suits capital’s ends. Since the rediscovery of Volume 4 of Capital in the mid-1970s subsumption began a rich afterlife with intense debates ensuing over whether it should be understood as an historical or logical category. Attempts to use subsumption as a category of periodisation are arguably problematic because what are proposed as distinct ‘phases’ of capital’s development in fact reappear and continue to co-exist historically*. Not only do forms of real and formal subsumption coexist, they are distributed unequally geographically. These ‘phases’ do appear to take place sequentially in certain branches of industry and one can outline the shift from one ‘stage’ to another, but equally those industries move geographically, resettle and reincorporate the ‘earlier stage’ in a new setting and integrate it vertically into a global system of production which includes highly developed technological production and apparently ‘artisanal’ or ‘primitive’ forms.

Scoring Subsumption: Workshop

During this workshop we will work through short excerpts from the book we are working on which represents a first critical Marxist anthology on the concept of subsumption. We will not shy from the philosophical origins of the concept, nor its wilder post-Marxist theorisations. We will use all the tools at our disposal, theoretical, philological, pedagogical and performative to work together to understand subsumption both historically and in our present moment through the surreal conditions and fears it continues to accurately or innaccurately name. Each day we will gather notes and materials in order to make together a score. We will collectively performed this score on Saturday, trying to answer in practice to the question ¨What is to be done under real subsumption?¨ (even if it might be in the most minimal or humble way). A reader with some of the texts will be given to each participant in order to prepare beforehand.

Subsumption and Society

Real subsumption is a crucial concept in that it acknowledges one of the fundamental conditions of advanced capitalism. Under real subsumption, in its relation to real abstraction, capital develops an apparently absolute hold on society; and as Jacques Camatte has asserted, capital tends through this process to become constitutive of society itself. This means that the famous question is harder than ever to answer today, what is capitalism and what is the world? What is capitalism and what is the human, when even thought itself is potentially undergoing a process of subsumption and becoming completely conditioned by the arrangement of the world on capital’s terms? Yet, wild totalisations also tyrranise and can fall into the trap of only presenting the agonistic prospect of false exits, fool’s utopias. How we understand capitalism determines how we end capitalism. We obviously have no coherent narrative for the present crisis, but we still have a need for theory as a foundationg for common action. The Internet has given us increased connectivity, but is also generating more and more individual forms of subjectivation. On one hand, social action is more urgent than ever, but on the other, dominant ideology is tending to atomise and fragment us collectively. Working collectively appears to be difficult, but it must be experimented with and developed at each step resistantly. If capital fails us now, as always, can we live up to the demands not only of survival, but of our own potential as a species for self-directed and collective emancipatory development? 

*In Marx’s words, "With the real subsumption of labour under capital a complete (and constantly repeated) revolution takes place in the mode of production, in the productivity of the workers and in the relation between workers and capitalists." From: ‘Results of the Immediate Process of Production’ in Karl Marx, Capital, Volume One, trans. Ben Fowkes, London & New York: Penguin, 1990, p.1035.

Monday 15 October 2018


3-6 pm


8 pm

Anthony Iles & Mattin presentation on “What is to be Done under Real Subsumption” book and project

Tuesday 16th October 2018


3-6 pm

Workshops with Mikołaj Ratajczak

8 pm

Lecture by Mikołaj Ratajczak

Wednesday 17th October 2018


3-6 pm


7:30 pm

Voice intervention in the city by Edyta Jarząb

Thursday 18th October 2018


3-6 pm


8 pm

Talk by Marina Vishmidt, „Subsumption, Exception, and the Search for Other Pathologies”

This talk will construct an iterative relation to the reading group and to my essay in the book. It will consist of some reflections on how the schematism of academic thought can be escorted past its habitual impulses until it materializes otherwise. I'm interested in the way thinking schematically or thinking formally eventually can no longer serve as a method of representation. A schematism some ways further, like a diagram made of toothpicks or the halter of lasers around a heist-movie diamond. Topically, what might emerge is a symptomology of the desire called subsumption, the desire called exception, the desire called abolition, and generally the ways contemporary theory looks for exits, and what communist theory might do about this.

9 pm

Talk / Performance using a blend of theory, poetry, and visuals including video and stills by Sean Bonney and Sacha Kahir, „The World as Learned Terror and (Un)Knowing Eyes”

“Fearful we’ll be those borders. Fearful we’ll confuse borders with songs and sit inside those songs as if they were scars on our veins. Fearful our scars will become a lullaby (…) Fearful we’re doing what they want. What silence wants” – Sean Bonney (from Cancer).

Bloch‘s analysis of the German 1930s, Heritage of Our Times, reads alarmingly as a guidebook to our own era. The presentation will draw on our ongoing film / poetry project exploring what Bloch referred to as ‘storm corners‘ - ideas useful to fascists but not in themselves fascist, and thus key battlegrounds for antifascism. Our presentation, then, will identify contemporary storm corners, and discuss ways in which to occupy them. Fighting from within the confined space. We propose an attack imbedded within the poesies of the commodity form. Pasolini saw a new form of fascism in the rise of commodities and the middle class way of life. Commodity culture and the post war statehood had subsumed the (sub) proletariat replacing them with “ their understudies… washed out, ferocious, unhappy ghosts… Hitler’s SS in fact” 

Bloch described fascism as the ‘Dionysus of mustiness; while Pasolini said Hitler was the ‘fruit’ of the numerous ‘Rimbauds of the provinces (…) the millions of petit bourgeois that surround us.’ Implying that Hitler was a poet deranging the senses of the middle classes. At present we are witnessing an increasingly deranged conformity that binds us, with human extinction on its horizon. We are engaged in an ongoing cultural war, so can we use the scandalous, irrationality, and queerness as weapons? The right has hijacked cultural transgression; Steve Bannon self-consciously uses pop and counter culture tropes, vicariously likening himself to Satan and Lenin. While, ultimately these tropes are used for reactionary ends, this itself is a dialectical move, so how should the left respond? 

Does the recent best seller ‘Kill All Normies’ too readily lay the blame at the margins and not the center of everyday life? Bloch’s notion that the middle class subject ‘lets out what’s tormenting them all the more readily at home (…) Gossip crawls up and down the stairs, holds people together by keeping them apart, (creating) the desire to fight without squaring up to the opponent.’ Which implies, therefore, that gossip and the household, amplified by the mass media (and now the Internet) are central to fascism.

Fascism‘s weakness is that however much it may claim to trade in ‘challenging ideas‘, and to bravely say what others do no, it is the ideology of the frightened conformist, the straight white know-nothing fantasist with a predictable record collection. Real transgression is to speak of the absolute overcoming of unjust social relations…in a word Communism, but Communism as queerness, from Thomas Münzter’s Bible studies to Cecil Taylor’s note clusters.

The social factory was closed down years ago - was turned into luxury apartments and then burned down in the riots of 2011. When we say “cultural war” we’re not kidding. Fried by ecological and economic crises, terrified conformists are turning into actual fascists. Like everyone else we’re freaking out, made dizzy by the speed with which the social movements of half a decade ago have disappeared. Even that fear is a storm corner.

Friday 19th October 2018


3-6 pm


8 pm

Sound performance by Hacklander / Hatam

Hacklander / Hatam present *Die You Fuck (transformative qualities of objective violence)* for synthesized electronic sounds and drums. This work-in-progress marks the first in their series of works which considers the unseen and unarticulated realm of systemic violence and simultaneously attempts to deconstruct instances of shock-value and the very notion of ambiguity (also as position of power) from a phenomenological standpoint. The musical outcome involves the transformation of material over time with occasional aggressive elements, resulting in something perhaps even less unequivocal than the starting point. Is not the very quality of being strategically dubious perhaps the pharmakón of our times?

8:30 pm

Music and dance by John Nzoka / Beata „Bobo” Bąk

Saturday 20th October 2018


6 pm

Collective Performance/Concert


Source the Cause dj set (Mattin, Paweł Nowożycki) 

Beata „Bobo” Bąk – has been dancing professionally for 10 years and has many experiences with street, club and festival shows, but also dance shows, theatre plays and performances. Starting from street dance, now strongly is focused on the styles of contemporary African dances in particular AfroHouse and Kuduro, which come from Angola. Specializing in these styles, Beata belongs to the Mulemba Dúni Pacheco Revue with whom she develops skills in Poland and the international Afrosepticans team, gathering dancers from Lisbon, Moscow, Amsterdam, Paris, Bratislava. In March 2017 she receive 1st place award at the Afrobattle competition in the category 2vs2 in AfroHouse and Kuduro styles and 2nd place in the crew freestyle category.

Sean Bonney – his recent books include Ghosts (Materials, 2017) and Letters Against the Firmament (Enitharmon, 2015), and a new collection Our Death will be published by Commune Editions in 2019. He has performed his work on demonstrations, at picket lines and in seminar rooms, has worked with musicians and film-makers, and his work has been published in Portugese and Norwegian translation. He is doing postdoctoral research at the FU, Berlin into how radical poets have responded to the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, and is preparing monographs on the work of Diane di Prima and Amiri Baraka. He lives in Berlin.

Hatam / Hacklander – is the percussion and electronic music duo of Farahnaz Hatam and Colin Hacklander. Interested in rhythmic stability and its absence; sound as sculptural material; sound as a medium in which ideas are communicated; digital sound synthesis using SuperCollider; drums, and percussion. The duo create live concerts, theatre music, fixed media works and is involved in many collaborations. They are co-directors of N.K. Projekt in Berlin.

Anthony Iles – is currently a doctoral candidate and Visiting Tutor at the School of Art & Design, Middlesex University. He is a Commissioning Editor for the series Documents in Contemporary Art published by the Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press. A founder member of the Full Unemployment Cinema and a Contributing Editor with Mute / Metamute since 2005, he is the author, with Josephine Berry, of the book, No Room to Move: Art and the Regenerate City (Mute Books, London 2011), contributing editor to the recent publications, Anguish Language: Writing and Crisis (Archive Books, Berlin, 2015), and Look at Hazards, Look at Losses (Mute/Kuda, 2017) and a contributor to Brave New Work: A Reader on Harun Farocki’s Film A New Product (Buchhandlung Walther König, 2014). Other recent essays by Anthony have been published in the journals Cesura//Acceso, Mute, Radical Philosophy, Rab-Rab: Journal for Political and Formal Inquiries in Art and Logos.

Edyta Jarząb – is interested in voice as a bridge between the public and private sphere; listening, singing, and improvisation as a practice of social resistance. She studies the sonosphere of protests and demonstrations as well as organises sound walks, workshops, and warm-ups before street demonstrations. Jarząb co-creates the sound collective Critical Band Ensemble and the improvisation group SYRENY. She has participated in the exhibition “Post-peace” at the Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart, the Warsaw Autumn Festival with the performative group ETC, at the Sanatorium Sound Festival; she was the curator of the program “Sirens’ Song” at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Co-author of Warsound/Warszawa published by U– jazdowski. She also cooperates with Strefa WolnoSłowa in Warsaw and the magazines Glissando and Wakat.

Sacha Kahir – is an artist, filmmaker, writer, and performer whose work explores class, race, identity, and the ‘messianic’ potential of art and politics to overthrow the ‘seemingly’ natural order of things. Their practice has seen them work with numerous groups including ex-prisoners, AIDs activists, and refugees. Collaborating with a wide range of organisations, from established institutions like BBC Scotland to self-organised spaces like the Autonomous Centre Edinburgh and NK Berlin. They have also been involved in Welfare Rights activism in the UK for a number of years.

Mattin – is an artist from Bilbao - living in Berlin - working with noise and improvisation. His work seeks to address the social and economic structures of experimental sonic and artistic production through live performance, recordings, and writing. Using a conceptual approach, he aims to question the nature and parameters of improvisation, specifically the relationship between the idea of "freedom" and the constant innovation that it traditionally implies, and the established conventions of improvisation as a genre. He just finished a PhD at the University of the Basque Country under the supervision of Ray Brassier and Josu Rekalde. Along with Anthony Iles, he edited the book Noise & Capitalism (Arteleku Audiolab, 2009) and they are currently editing the forthcoming book What is to be Done Under Real Subsumption?. In 2012, CAC Brétigny and Taumaturgia published Unconstituted Praxis, a book collecting his writing plus interviews and reviews from performances that he has been part of. Both books are available online. Mattin took part in documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel.

John Nzoka – "since I was a young boy I enjoyed music and choose the path of dancing! I pursued it for a long time until I went to highschool where I was interested to playing music as a DJ. I used to make short mixtapes and dance to them with my highschool dance crew back then. When I arrived in Poland I ventured more on playing than dancing and thats what have been doing till now! Playing in AfroHouse festivals, clubs and house parties! I love music and I can play as long as my ears will allow me to! I chase the rythym!".

Mikołaj Ratajczak – philosopher, assistant professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences and member of the editorial collective of Theoretical Practice journal. His work focuses on the production of subjectivity in contemporary capitalism, the political philosophy of the common and the problem of crisis. He has translated into Polish i.a. Results of the Immediate Process of Production [Resultate des unmittelbaren Produktionsprozesses] by Karl Marx and Commonwealth by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (together with the Theoretical Practice collective). He’s currently working on a book on the contemporary Italian political philosophy.

Marina Vishmidt – is a writer, editor and lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she convenes a Masters' in Culture Industry. From 2014-2018, she ran a theory seminar at the Dutch Art. Institute. She publishes in academic and other publications on topics related to the political economies of art, politics and philosophy. Her work has appeared in South Atlantic Quarterly, Ephemera, Afterall, Journal of Cultural Economy, Third Text, Australian Feminist Studies/, and Radical Philosophy, among others, as well as a number of edited volumes. She is the co-author of Reproducing Autonomy: Work, Money, Crisis and Contemporary Art (with Kerstin Stakemeier) (Mute, 2016), and the forthcoming monograph, Speculation as a Mode of Production (Brill, 2018). She is a member of the Marxism in Culture collective and is on the board of the New Perspectives on the Critical Theory of Society series (Bloomsbury Academic). 

Other events from that cycle: