Alberto Toscano's interview on Crowd, Power and Post-democracy in the 21st Century

Alberto Toscano's interview on digital populism and recent European political phenomena, held on 17 November 2013 with the author of this blog and of Obsolete Capitalism. Previous interviews were held with: Jussi Parikka 14 SeptemberSaul Newman 21 September, Tony D. Sampson 28 SeptemberSimon Choat 5 October.

 EDIT: We collected Toscano's interview in one PDF file!  All interviews on digital populism - in English language - are collected into a single file HERE.

Crowd, power and post-democracy in the 21st Century
Rural fascism and city or neighborhood fascism, youth fascism and war veteran's fascism... fascism of the couple, family, school, and office. Only the micro-fascism can answer the global question: "why does desire long for its repression? how can it desires its very own repression?"
—Gilles Deleuze, Fèlix Guattari, A thousand plateaus, pg.271

    On the micro-fascism

    OC Let us start from the analysis Wu Ming set out in their brief essay Grillismo: Yet another right-wing cult coming from Italy and which interprets Grillo’s Five Star Movement as a new authoritarian right-wing faction. Why did the desire for change of much of the electorate long once again for its very repression? We seem to witness the re-affirmation of Wilhelm Reich’s thought: at a given moment in history the masses wanted fascism. The masses have not been deceived: they have understood very well the danger of authoritarianism; but they have voted it anyway. Even more worrying is that the authoritarian Berlusconi's Freedom People (PDL) and Grillo’s Five Star Movement (M5S) conquer more than half of the Italian electorate together. A very similar situation arose in the UK in May 2013, with the UKIP’s exploit in the latest local elections. Why and in what measure are the toxins of authoritarianism and micro-fascism present in contemporary European society?

Alberto Toscano
My inclination would be to bracket the explicit invocation of fascism, bound to distract us from a proper physiognomy of our political moment, and stress instead Wu Ming's reference to the way in which the M5S had piggy-backed on, but also sapped, many struggles against the dispossession of public spaces and common livelihoods (e.g. No TAV), bending them to the benefit of a remote-controlled anti-politics of the 'angry citizen', and drawing them away from their profound continuity with other anti-systemic or far left movements. The M5S itself, in all its ideological ambiguity, is a pretty precarious condenser of all the loose political energies, destructive and constructive, that the crisis has thrown up. As repugnant as the figure of Grillo might be, or as depressing as we may find the political culture of many of his followers, the stresses and strains that Grillo has suffered ever since February – which he accompanies with ever shriller doses of pompousness and braggadocio –  should perhaps warn against excessively gloomy prognostications. 
In this regard, the break between Grillo and his MPs over revoking the vile Bossi-Fini law on immigration is symptomatic. While they responded to the outcry over the drowning of hundreds of migrants off of Lampedusa with an act of liberal humanist decency – which, for all of its attendant ambiguities, was far preferable to the exquisitely hypocritical day of national mourning called by Letta – Grillo yet again showed that nationalism, chauvinism and indeed racism are part of his repertoire. If anyone was still in doubt, his response to that event, as well as the now periodic rants against the indiscipline of his supposedly horizontal movement, confirm that Grillo (and his marketeer, Casaleggio), if not necessarily the M5S itself, is a figure of the right. 
As for the 'toxins' of which you speak, they are indeed ambient, and require unsparing opposition – especially in terms of the vicious and endemic forms of racism that the crisis has accelerated (from anti-Roma violence to the UK government rolling out of 'Go Home' vans in Black and Asian areas of the country).  But I wouldn't rush to call the Manif pour tous in France, UKIP or various movements of the European Right 'fascist' (needless to say, with the several exceptions of those who lay claim to such a heritage, most dangerously Golden Dawn). Nor are these phenomena – especially racism – in any sense 'micro', in the sense that Deleuze & Guattari wrote of 'groups and individuals contain[ing] microfascisms just waiting to crystallise'. 
I wonder whether the theory of micro-fascism is not in some respect a far too elaborate tool with which to confront the attraction for a downwardly mobile petty-bourgeoisie of 'cognitive mappings' of the crisis that identify clear culprits and allow one to enjoy a sense of innocence and victimhood (the circulation among some M5S followers and MPs of conspiratorial economic theories may accordingly suggest that, to paraphrase Jameson, Grillo is peddling 'the poor man's cognitive mapping). Though 'socialisms of fools' are bound to ferment in interregnums such as our own, we could also note, somewhat more hopefully that, for all its ambivalence, the incorporation into the M5S programme of an orientation towards common, social needs points us to the presence in Italy's political unconscious – despite the defeats and suicides of official and movementist lefts – of something like 'micro-communisms'.

    1919, 1933, 2013. On the crisis
    OC In 2008 Slavoj Zizek said that when the normal run of things is traumatically interrupted, the field is open for a ‘discursive’ ideological competition. In Germany in the early 1930s Hitler won the competition to determine which narrative would explain the reasons for the crisis of the Weimar Republic — the Jewish conspiracy and the corruption of political parties. Zizek ends his reflection by stating that the expectations of the radical left to get scope for action and gain consent may be deceptive as populist or racist formations will prevail: the Greek Golden Dawn, the Hungarian Fidesz, the French Front National, the UK Independence Party are examples. Italy has had farcical groups such as the Lega Nord or the recent Five Star Movement, a bizarre rassemblement that seems to combine Reverend Jones People's Temple with Syriza, or ‘revolutionary boyscoutism’ with the disciplinarism of the societies of control. How can one escape the crisis? What discursive, possibly-winning narratives should be developed? Are the typically Anglo-Saxon neo-Keynesian politics an answer or, on the countrary, is it the new authoritarian populism that will prevail?

AT Especially in the Italian case, we should be very wary of indulging in the pastime of guffawing at the absurdities of the right. The seventies radical adage, una risata vi seppelirà (laughter will bury you), has alas been proved wrong time and again. Unfortunately, unlike its adversaries, an anti-capitalist politics cannot operate at purely discursive or narratological, which is to say ideological, level (this is where I think radical-democratic, post-Marxist revaluations of the category of populism are also very limiting). 
While Grillo can profit from the inconsistency of his discursive operation, thus holding together the votes and aspirations of a motley array of voters – orphans of both left and write – it would be calamitous for the left to think its task is to come up with a 'better narrative'. I'm not gainsaying that world-views and watchwords ('we won't pay for your crisis', 'the 99%', etc.) are an indispensable element of politics, but contrary to forces of the right whose discursive radicality accompanies a fundamental acquiescence to basic structures of social power (e.g. the link between nationality, citizenship and social rights in Grillo), the challenge for actually anti-systemic politics is to combine a strategy for transforming social relations with the capacity to defend and further working poor people's interests in the present.  Though rooted in deep structures of phobia and projection, the racism and classism that makes possible the gains of the contemporary right is very much based on its capacity to present itself as a kind of biopolitical advocate for the 'losers' of the crisis – and some of the explicitly fascist groups, from Casa Pound to Golden Dawn, have played precisely on this register, of providing 'public services' (housing occupations, vigilantism, etc.) to 'white', 'national' populations. 
I think it would be inappropriate to define North Atlantic austerity regimes as neo-Keynesian – while breaking with neo-liberal doctrine as actually existing neo-liberalism has always been happy to do, bank-bailouts, quantitative easing and the roll-back of public provisions all belong to the uneven but ultimately homogeneous field of capitalist state strategies to socialise losses and privatise gains. Contrary to ephemeral euphoric declarations of the death of neo-liberalism by people too quick to see epochs and events around every corner, I think we should be more patient and recognise the considerable capacities of capitalism to reproduce itself by making our own social reproduction dependent on it – 'neoliberalism', if we still wish to use the term, does not reproduce itself primarily as a narrative or belief in the straightforwardly cognitive sense, but as a set of social devices and 'real abstractions' that govern us in many ways irrespective of our overt attachments. 
In this regard, I think a more sober estimation of our present may want to revisit the debates on neoliberalism as authoritarian populism triggered by the work of Stuart Hall, or consider, following the work of Paul Mattick, Jr., how both the ideas of a lean state imagineered by neo-liberal pundits and neo-Keynesian recipes for recovery obfuscate the crisis-dynamics of capitalism, deluding us that new narratives or political regulations could somehow magic away the fact that devastating devaluations of living-labour power and of our built and social environment ('fixed capital') are ineluctable dimensions of a system driven by the imperative production of surplus-value.

    On the missing people
    OC Mario Tronti states that ‘there is populism because there is no people.’ That of the people is an enduring theme which Tronti disclaims in a very Italian way: ‘the great political forces use to stand firmly on the popular components of the social history: the Catholic populism, the socialist tradition, the diversity in communism. Since there was the people, there was no populism.’ Paul Klee often complained that even in historical artistic avant-gardes ‘it was people who were lacking.’ However the radical critique to populism has led to important results: the birth of a mature democracy in America; the rise of the theory and the practice of revolution in the Tsarist Empire, a country plagued by the contradictions of a capitalist development in an underdeveloped territory (Lenin and bolshevism). Tronti carries on in his tranchant analysis of the Italian and European backgrounds: ‘In today's populism, there is no people and there is no prince. It is necessary to beat populism because it obscures the relations of power.’ Through its economic-mediatic-judicial apparatuses, neopopulism constantly shapes “trust-worthy people” similar to the "customers portfolio" of the branded world of neoliberal economy: Berlusconi’s “people” have been following the deeds of Arcore’s Sultan for twenty years; Grillo’s followers are adopting similar all-encompassing identifying processes, giving birth to the more confused impulses of the Italian social strata. With institutional fragility, fluctuating sovereignties and the oblivion of left-wing dogmas (class, status, conflict, solidarity, equality) how can we form people today? Is it possible to reinvent an anti-authoritarian people? Is it only the people or also the politics itself to lack?

AT Populism is such a fraught notion, and such a favourite term for those crisis-managing elites who wish to discount and dismiss anti-systemic drives, that one should use it with extreme caution. From Tsarist Russia to the late-nineteenth century US, and on to twentieth and twenty-first century Latin America, we could loosely identify a 'left' populism which formulates opposition to exploitative domination outside well-defined class antagonisms (because the unevenness that you mention has not given rise to ideal-typical bourgeoisies or proletariats). The question such populisms throw up regards, as far as I'm concerned, primarily the question of how we define antagonism and partisanship, and only secondarily the question of political agency and collectivity ('the people'). 
We could perhaps see 'populism' not as the invariant, repetitive matrix of political subjectivation (the tendency of Laclau and others), but as a moment present in any movement of emancipatory opposition – but it is a moment that requires criticism and transcendence, especially for one of the reasons you suggest: the tendency in 'populist' movements to treat 'the people' as wholesome, innocent, the victim of depredations by a parasitical minority. Against this ideology of offended innocence, of the 'good people', I think we need to strongly affirm the far more conflicted legacy of a 'dialectical' politics, which struggles against the temptation of moralism, and does not ground antagonism in ethical superiority. Or, as Franco Fortini put it: in the list of your enemies, write your own name first. 
Politics is, in many respects, a matter of decision and demarcation of us and them, but the moment the 'us' is identified with the ethical substance of the Good on is set on a dangerous trajectory. More generally, I have recently been struck by a kind of neo-Jacobin temptation in discussions of communist politics – let me address here an indicative case, Jodi Dean's defense of 'the sovereignty of the people' in The Communist Horizon. 
Some caveats. First, I am in no doubt that the erosion of popular sovereignty is one of the distinctive facets of our moment, and of the capitalist management of the financial crisis in particular. The reclamation and perhaps reinvention of popular sovereignty against the odious machinations of 'sovereign debt' in Greece, Spain and elsewhere is an important political development. Second, Dean is careful to distance herself from any full, organic version of the people, such as may be encountered in what takes the problematic name of populism. Even with these caveats in mind, I do not recognise 'sovereignty of the people' as an intrinsic determinant of communism, which is probably why I strain to see the galvanising upsurge in popular assembly and insurgency as testament to the idea that communism is a 'present, increasingly powerful force'. Very briefly, let me try to explain why.  
There are broadly two tendencies in how one conceives of the relationship between communism and prior movements of emancipation. A thesis of continuity defines the first, of which I think the later Georg Lukács was the most able theoretical interpreter and Palmiro Togliatti the most eminent practitioner, which sees the communist movement picking up the flags that the bourgeoise has abandoned in the mud; the communist revolution sublating, which is to say also incorporating, the bourgeois revolution. This tendency broadly retains the crucial concepts of a Jacobin radical liberal tradition, in particular the people, the state and the law. 
The second tendency – for which I think two key texts are Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme and Lenin's gloss in State and Revolution, but also much of the left-communist 'heretical' tradition and so-called value-critique from the 70s onwards – poses that there is a radical discontinuity between communism and the political radicalism of the bourgeois tradition. It stresses the abolition of the value-form and the withering away of the state. The standard for what counts as communism here is high indeed – which is why Lenin had to recognise in the early 1920s that Russia was still, after the revolution, a capitalist society, albeit one run by communists (and ones who had to reinstate capitalism with the NEP on pain of defeat). It doesn't deny the progressive value, in certain moments, of popular sovereignty, but it aims for it to be transvalued, so to speak, rather than sublated, by workers' control – a term which I don't think can be treated as synonymous with popular sovereignty, on pain of losing historical specificity. 
This transvaluation also involves another, to my mind, crucial distinction: between radical and communist conceptions of equality. Communism is not just a more perfect equality, precisely to the extent that it seeks to overturn the very basis of even the most enlightened conceptions of equality, to wit the rights of the individual founded on the commensuration of labouring individuals under the standard of value and the rule of property. Here the question of the state is critical – though the site of considerable victories, the state, when founded on popular sovereignty also depends on making a claim founded on the representative apparatus (and here I just want to note my sympathy for Jodi's critique of the fashionable critique of representation). This claim, to legitimacy, is what allows it to repress people in the name of the People, according to a mechanism which, though we may find obscene, is very difficult to counter. 
To the extent that the state, under capitalism, serves to provide a unified fulcrum for a trans-class identity, and does so through the very idea of popular sovereignty, it remains at best an ambivalent phenomenon. Though the demand for a state of all the people can be radical, even ruptural (from the progressive postwar constitution in Italy to contemporary struggles by Israeli Palestinians for full citizenship) – and the interclass appearance need not, though it often is, serve as a mechanism of class rule – it is in the end against or at the very least beyond the idea of sovereignty, and of the people (which is rarely extricable from citizenship of a state, identities and privileges) that communism has staked its claim to differ from both radical liberalism and social democracy (both of which, I am happy to recognise, seem beacons of emancipation in the current moment). 
The proposal of a constituent rather than constituted people, or the delineation of a popular sovereignty which exceeds the state in the spaces of appearance of assembled bodies, as in Butler's recent article 'We, the People: Reflections on the Right of Assembly', do not seem really to transcend the intrinsic relationship – again, not devoid of ambivalence or progressive potentialities – between the capitalist state and popular sovereignty. The state, in its transcendence, absorbs the division of the people into its unity, over and over again – creating a vertical distinction between the represented people and people in their 'uncollected state' (this is the strength of Badiou's critique of representation). In this respect I think that, for all of the virtues of tactical or even strategic populism, the division between the rich and 'the rest of us' risks repeating the dangers of what we could call the 'popular horizon'. 
First, because to remain at the level of inequality itself, of the 1 and the 99%, neglects that when workers fight in the domain of distribution 'They ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady'. Communism is not simply a struggle against the rich, and it can't, for analytical and strategic reasons, treat the exploited as a homogenous group. It is a struggle abolish the very relations that produce us as the subjects that we are, which means that one of the dimensions of the 'rest of us' narrative is both necessary for it, as the initial claim for a wrong, and must ultimately be undone, especially when it involves the rest of us imaging ourselves as more or less innocent 'victims' of capital. 
Second, to retain a purely political idea of the us, in both unity and division, which neglects the profoundly political character of social divisions, especially of class and race. The people is a name almost invariably shadowed by national adjectives which trail behind them their own histories of subjugation, which is to say by the horizontal division of peoples within states themselves (as Sadri Khiari points out in his essay 'Le peuple et le tiers-peuple', working-class French citizens of African origin do not generally consider themselves or are considered part of le peuple). Though state, people and sovereignty remain critical domains for any strategy that would wish to call itself communist, the latter stands or falls as a distinct political tradition on the abolition of the form of value and the correlative dismantling of the state, to be replaced with an organisation of resources and activities and institutional forms for which the modern tradition of sovereignty cannot serve as a model. Though it may make one want to reject it in the end, I think we have to retain the specific difference of communism vis-à-vis radicalism, Jacobinism, state socialism, social democracy, and other traditions in the broad Left.

    On Control
    In Postscript on the Societies of Control, published in 1990, Gilles Deleuze states that, thanks to the illuminating analyses of Michel Foucault, a new diagnosis of contemporary Western society has emerged. Deleuze's analysis is as follows: control societies have replaced disciplinary societies at the beginning of the twentieth century. He writes that ‘marketing is now the instrument of social control and it forms the impudent breed of our masters.’ Let us evaluate who stands beyond two very successful electoral adventures such as Forza Italia (Berlusconi’s first party) and M5S: respectively Publitalia 80 owned by Marcello Dell'Utri, and Casaleggio Asssociati owned by Gianroberto Casaleggio. The incontrovertible fact that two marketing companies stand behind these political projects reinforces Deleuze’s analysis. Mechanisms of control, media events such as exit polls and infinite surveys, im/penetrable databases, data as commodities, continuous spin doctoring, influencers that lead consensus on the net, opaque bots, digital squads, dominant echo-chambering. Evil media. These are the determinations of post-ideological (post-democratic?) neoliberalism. The misery of the new control techniques competes only with that of the glass house of transparency (web-control, of course). Jacques Ranciere says we live in the epoch of post- politics: how can we get out of the neo-liberal cage and free ourselves from the ideological consensus of its electoral products? What will the reconfiguration of left-wing politics be after the exhaustion of Marxist hegemony?
AT I'm not sure what is meant here by 'the exhaustion of Marxist hegemony'. If this refers to the fact that the categories and organisational forms of the First, Second and Third Internationals no longer orient the politics of the left, then it's an exhaustion that we can date to the 1970s at the latest, though, as Fredric Jameson has aptly noted, 'post-Marxisms' spring up with every crisis of capital ('Five Theses on Actually Existing Marxism). This loss of political hegemony is a simple fact, but I don't think we can draw from it any linear conclusion either about the categories (especially) or the organisational forms that we may associate with Marxism (and which often, as with union associations, parties, strikes, or what have you, were never straightforwardly products of Marxism). I also think there is something debilitating about the widespread notion that what we especially need is a new narrative, a new paradigm to break with 'ideological consensus'. 
The problem is not breaking with our conscious belief in capitalism or neo-liberalism, but with the deeper embeddedness of our everyday life in the material devices of capitalist reproduction – our subjection to wage, credit, property, insurance, etc. But that is a matter of political-economic practices, not (primarily) narratives or world-views. There is no shortage of instances of collective antagonism out there (see Alain Bertho's Anthropologie du présent website for a running tally of our 'age of riots', or the China Labour Bulletin, or the reports of the maritime insurance agency The Strike Club to their clients, if you're in any doubt that we categorically do not live in a post-political age, 'after' class struggle). Our difficulty lies far more in mustering up the energy, steadfastness and inventiveness to practice collective politics than in breaking with the supposedly capillary hold of ideology. Starting from the movements around social needs and demands that have sprung up against austerity – mobilisations against hospital closures, collective platforms against house evictions, etc. - and thinking how these could be federated and turned into a challenge to capitalist rule is a much more urgent task than challenging the ideological grip of a system which does not, to my mind, primarily depend on consensus, but on the lived, everyday experience that we cannot reproduce our lives outside of compliance with exploitation, our own and that of others.

    On the Googlization of politics; the financial side of digi-populism
    The first decade of the 21st century has been characterized by the rise of neo-capitalism, referred to as cognitive; in this context a company like Google has established itself as the perfect synthesis of web-business as it does not compensate, if not in a small part, the content-carriers it lists. In Italy, following the electoral success of the Five Star Movement we witnessed a mutation of the typical prosumer of social networks: the new figure of the “prosumer-voter” was in fact born on Grillo’s blog - being essentially the one and only channel of information of the movement. The blog is a commercial activity and the high number of contacts and daily access has steadily increased in the last year. This digital militancy produces incomes both in the form of advertising and online sales of products such as DVDs, books and other material associated with the movement. All of this leads to the risk of googlization of politics whereby the modes of financing political activity radically change because of the "network surplus-value" - an expression coined by the researcher Matteo Pasquinelli to define that portion of incomes extracted from the practices of the web prosumers. Having said this, are we about to witness a shift of the financial paradigm applied to politics? Will the fundings from powerful lobbies or the general public be replaced by micro-donations via web (in the style of Obama’s) and by the exploitation of the prosumer-voters? And if so, will the dominant 'googlization of politics' involve any particular risks?
AT This is not a phenomenon on which I have any real knowledge, so my comment can only be impressionistic at best. At the risk of sounding like a reactionary techno-phobe, I am certain that mechanisms for financially exploiting people's desire for pseudo-agency (the politics of 'like') will accelerate in intensity and algorithmic sophistication, but I do not think there is anything positive to be extracted from the figure of the prosumer-voter; the political metaphysics of social media (rather than the very limited, if at times very efficacious uses, to which they might be put) which governed the mis-representation of uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, or the self-adoration of the M5S, is a hindrance to thinking forms of political action adequate to the present. In terms of the 'googlization' of politics I think the 1970 British dystopian comedy The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer provides us with a very nice allegory, especially as it links the alienating pseudo-activity of 'clicktivism' with its obverse, authoritarian populism. The critique of the serial interpassivity of electoral representation is not going to take place through fantasies of digital emancipation.

    On digital populism, on affective capitalism
    James Ballard once said that after the religions of the Book we should expect those of the Web. Some claim that, in fact, a first techno-religion already exists in the form of Affective Capitalism whose technological and communicative characteristics mirror those of network cultures. This notion of a secularized cult can be traced back to Walter Benjamin's thought but is enriched by a very contemporary mix of affective manipulation techniques, politics of neo-liberalism and political practices 2.0. The rise of the Five Stars Movement is the first successful example of italian digital populism; Obama’s campaign in the U.S.A. has witnessed an evolution of micro-targeting techniques - customized political offers via the web. The new frontier of both medical and economic research is producing a disturbing convergence of evolving ‘fields of knowledges’: control theories, neuro-economics and neuro-marketing. In 1976, in the optic of the ‘war-repression’ schema, Foucault entitled his course at the Collège de France ‘Society must be defended’. Now, faced with the general friability of all of us, how can we defend ourselves from the impact of affective capitalism and its digital practices? Can we put forward a differential, local knowledge which, as Foucault said, ‘owes its force only to the harshness with which it is opposed by everything surrounding it’?
AT I think a first step in the defence would be to resist the tendency to amplify capital's own narratives of novelty with our supposedly critical categories, or, relatedly, to accept at face-value its dreams of full spectrum dominance over our consciousness and unconscious alike. No doubt, the mining of relations and emotions for profit has reached staggering levels of ubiquity and sophistication, but this does not mean that we live in a new capitalism – one somehow not requiring the exploitation of living-labour power, one not plagued by the contradictions between the fixity and mobility of capital, one not beset by crisis-tendencies, etc.  'Affect' – a terribly inflated term in contemporary theory – has not 'resolved' any of these limits and contradictions. One of the historical dimensions of workers', subaltern and revolutionary movements was that of being able to create relatively autonomous spheres of cultural production, forms, contents and social relations somehow alternative or antagonistic to those of its adversaries (a kind of cultural dual power, if you will, sometimes doubled by a 'biopolitical' dual power, as in the Black Panthers' health care programmes). So, aside from the delinking option, there might be something to be said about not taking for granted that our social interactions or political organising should take place in platforms which are proprietary, profit-oriented and formatted in ways that canalise communication into particular patterns and redundancies. Short of 'socialising' social media, in the way that Lenin may have spoken of socialising the banks, I think there is still a lot of room for reviving more systematic debates about the construction of counter-public spheres. Otherwise, defending oneself against digital alienations risks becoming an individual, therapeutic question – just think of the cottage industry of online advice about how to spend less time online, or even programs to block pathological compulsions to connectivity (like the symptomatically named Antisocial and Freedom).

Alberto Toscano, Italian, lives and works in London. He is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London (UK). He is a cultural critic, sociologist, philosopher and translator, known in the anglophone world for his translations into English of works by Alain Badiou including Logics of Worlds (Continuum, 2009) and Theoretical Writings (Continuum, 2004) of which he was also the curator. He has translated works of Franco Fortini, Antonio Negri and Furio Jesi. He's a columnist for The Guardian with interventions on Italian politics. Toscano's research focuses on the contemporary political and sociological thought, on Marxism, political economy and the history of ideas. He is author of publications including The Theatre of Production. Philosophy and Individuation between Kant and Deleuze (Palgrave Macmillan, UK, 2006), The Italian Difference: Between Nihilism and Biopolitics (Re:press, UK, 2009) and Fanaticism: The Uses of an Idea (Verso, UK, 2010). Toscano is a member of the editorial board of the journal Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory. He regularly writes on Mute Magazine, an English cult magazine of 'hybrid media and cultural politics after the Net'. He's currently completing a book on the aestethics of capital with Jeff Kinkle, Cartographies of the Absolute (forthcoming on Zero Books)

Painting: Stelios Faitakis