Michel Bauwens: In the p2p/commons literature of a few years ago, we introduced a way of thinking about the world that challenges the ‘accumulation of capital’ with the ‘accumulation of the common’. There is a tendency to think of this as accumulating simply capital resources of another kind, i.e. for investing (‘transvestment’) in commons-based shared resources. But remember, commons is also always commoning, i.e. it is based on human agency, i.e. an accumulation of commoning. All commons are really social commons, or they are no commons at all.

This is what is happening in cities globally, but there is a dearth of reporting and analysis of this. This gap is addressed by the important book of Krzysztof Nawratek, who looks at commoning in the city, and how it is overcoming the rule of capital in many different contexts. The book refers to a conservative thinker of the beginning of the 19th century, who was already struggling with the dehumanizing, mechanizing and quantifying effects of the rule of capital in time.

Book of the day: Total Urban Mobilisation. Ernst Jünger and the Post-Capitalist City.

By Krzysztof Nawratek. Palgrave Pivot, 2019.


In this book Krzysztof Nawratek explores the possibility of a post-capitalist city, and in so doing, reclaims and develops the idea of total mobilisation as originally formulated by Ernst Jünger. Nawratek formulates the idea of ‘accumulation of agency’ the ability to act, to replace the logic of capital accumulation as a main driver of urban development. He argues that this ‘accumulation of agency’ operates already in contemporary cities, and should not be seen as essential element of capitalism, but as a conceptual gateway to a post-capitalist world.

  • Defines the conditions required to discuss post-capitalism and post-capitalist city models beyond a Marxist intellectual framework
  • An innovative approach within urban theory examining the idea (‘project’) of a post-capitalist city from a non-Marxist perspective
  • Explains how the logic of accumulation of agency, which operates in contemporary cities, should not be seen as essential element of capitalism, but as a conceptual gateway to a post-capitalist world
  • Valuable resource for academics and postgraduate students within disciplines connected to urban issues, in particular human geography, urban planning, architecture and urban design


Cities are spatial and temporal entities where elements of this post-capitalist world are already emerging. Commonist initiatives, co-operatives, and various new democratic models of economic and political institutions are thriving in thousands of cities across all continents. We cannot expect, however, the new post-capitalist world to emerge out of a “parliament of mayors” or “network of microcities”, but from a global institutional platform allowing to democratically share benefits and resources, and to accumulate dispersed agency. Following Karatani’s line of thought, the mode of exchange C (global capitalism) triumphed over mode B (national state economic model) because it was able to accumulate agency as an ability to act. Post-capitalism (mode of exchange D) will overcome current global economic systems when its ability to mobilise the power to act is stronger than that of capitalism. Mode B has been dominated by mode C because of its limited scale, but also a limited ability to convert plundered and then distributed resources to fulfil the needs and aspirations of local populations. Global capitalism is not really global; it operates only on the very thin surface of world of life. It is an exploitative regime, syphoning wealth from the poor to the rich. Capital is scared of anything beyond its comprehension, of anything new and unexpected, anything what cannot be easily translated into countable amount of money. Anything that exists beyond its reach is a potential threat.

Cities have the ability to harvest the potential of their residents and infrastructure; they are also a highly interdependent second layer of nature. Residents can operate as mediators between diverse socio-political, spatial, and economic orders, and this is the very reason why cities must not be seen as autonomous zones, but rather, as highly diverse plexuses in global networks and planes. They are polyphonic narratives in a project of the new global All-under-Heaven post-capitalist Empire. When, at the end of his life, Junger writes about the modern world being dominated by technology and capitalism, he “…does not exonerate and does not excuse. To take any stand on solid ground would likely mean a trench or a grave. The true realist, therefore, will leap and look, yet never land anywhere”. Junger does not write about post-capitalist cities, but warns readers that very often, “…technology is pursued not to accelerate progress but to intensify power.” Therefore, a post-capitalist city cannot be built as a technological extrapolation of contemporary capitalism, which must be rejected through tactical “…deliberate elusiveness, wrapped in meditative uncertainty”. A post-capitalist city is a forest we can live in and live outside of, a forest we can stroll through. The forest that does not need us to grow. A city of agency is a place where Junger’s anti-alienation strategy is fully realised.

Yves Citton on the Three Aspects of Post-Capitalist Strategies

“First, post-capitalism will not have to be invented from scratch out of nothing. There are already practices, solidarities, post-capitalist relations that have been set up both locally (AMAP – Association for the Maintenance of Peasant Farming -, ZAD, neighborhood associations) and globally (sensitivities and legislations).

Second, post-capitalism is not about breaking up a system that has passed into a future system. The story to be considered is one of a superposition of strata, rather than as a succession of states. Capitalism will remain present as a stratum on which another stratum will unfold, some lineaments of which have already been in place for decades or centuries.

Finally, it is perhaps in the most “advanced” developments of capitalism that one has to find the keys to what will be built on it, and partly against it.”

(translated from the french, https://chronik.fr/yves-citton-post-capitalisme-sera-quen-deja-quen-feront-demain-collectifs-activistes-artivistes.html )


Photo by National Science and Media Museum

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