Collectivizations is a series of online conversations exploring strategies and practices for turning trillion-dollar companies into new commons. Facebook, Amazon, Monsanto (Bayer), Google (Alphabet): how to transform these mega-corporations into new transnational cooperatives? In this first edition, artist and initiator Jonas Staal will interview curator, urban theorist, researcher Paul Goodwin and Professor of Political Science Jodi Dean about the recent lawsuit that Staal and lawyer Jan Fermon mounted against Facebook.
Our lives are increasingly shaped by so-called trillion-dollar companies, the mega corporations such as Facebook, Amazon, Monsanto (Bayer) and Google (Alphabet). But many of these companies were created through publicly funded research and infrastructures, while they structurally evade taxation through tax havens, and – in the case of Facebook – exploit users as unpaid data workers.
The fact is: we worked for them. They owe us. And we should own them. There are many examples of private initiatives in history that had such an impact on the common good, that they were turned into collective property – into part of our public domain. The (temporary) nationalisation of predatory banks in the 2008 crisis is a recent example, as is the (temporary) nationalisation of private healthcare by the Spanish government during the pandemic.
Collectivizations follows the recent lawsuit that artist Jonas Staal and lawyer Jan Fermon mounted against Facebook (Collectivize Facebook, 2020), demanding that the company be recognised as a public domain and its ownership transferred to its 2.5 billion active users. In this series, we aim to further explore and deepen the meaning of collectivisation today. Is collectivisation the same as nationalisation? How does collectivisation relate to commoning? And what does it mean in practice to govern former private corporations collectively, as new models of transnational cooperatives?
Initiated by artist Jonas Staal in close collaboration with the institute's Director of Research Marina Otero Verzier and Head of Programme Flora van Gaalen, Collectivizations will involve various cultural workers of Het Nieuwe Instituut in exploring the meaning and the future of collectivisation today. In this first edition, Staal will focus on the lawsuit against Facebook. He will interview Paul Goodwin and Jodi Dean – Goodwin about his research on techno-culture, the racialisation and potential emancipation of technology and the right to opacity, and Dean about contemporary desires for collectivity, the difference between collectivisation and commoning, and the meaning of comradeship in our present struggles.
Professor Paul Goodwin is a curator, urban theorist, researcher. He is the Chair of Contemporary Art & Urbanism and Director of the TrAIN Transnational Art, Identity & Nation Research Centre at University of the Arts London.
Jodi Dean is Professor of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. Her many books include Communist Horizon (2010), Crowds and Party (2016) and Comrade: An Essay on Political Belonging (2019).