For a while, I have been thinking about the epochal shift that radical political struggle is currently undergoing. The concept of revolution that was dominant in the 20th century was one in which a political movement seized control of the state apparatus of a nation and sought to remake society. The concern was fundamentally one about representation –– who could speak for the general interest, who understood it, who could enact a national program to do so.
The conception of power was thus abstracted from the conditions of reproducing life -- the land and labor from which the activity of living springs. Exceptions certainly existed along side this dominant strain: syndicalists in Spain sought to immediately transform the organization of work, numerous popular councils and assemblies sought to reimagine the terms of political participation and a vibrant sense of anti-imperialist struggle united guerrilla movements in a struggle that transcended the boundaries of nation-states.
Despite this, the end of struggle tended to be oriented around the revolutionary event -- equated with the seizure and establishment of a new nation state. It was the storming of the palace, the symbols of power, that were the object of revolutionary struggle.
It is my hypothesis that this was a distinctly "modern" form of revolutionary activity and is being supplanted in the 21st century by a return to what has variously been called the "subsistence perspective" or the cries of "Land and Freedom". With the betrayal of political parties, the rise of para- and non-state actors and the increasing importance of transnational logistical networks (extraction & transportation of resources & labor) in governing particular areas, the nation has lost its central importance in struggles.
Instead, we see movements that are primarily oriented towards taking and holding territory, whether it is a city square, an area in the path of a pipeline or an entire region. Here, the goal of taking land does not primarily invoke juridical claims to rule over a particular region but serves a practical purpose: to seize the space necessary to open up other political and ethical possibilities.
First and foremost, the insight of these movements is one that power stems from the earth and that the object of struggle is not to seize the symbols of power but to regain the capacity to reproduce life -- whether literal spaces of agricultural production or to open spaces for other forms of communal life (the camp, the general assembly). Going by different names (struggles for Autonomy, democratic confederalism, occupations, "the square" etc.) these movements all display an increasingly unified logic, suggesting the territorial and local nature of struggle in our epoch.
Mirroring this struggle in the academy are an increased attention to "world building" and the ontological activity. On one hand, this reflects the sort of ecological concerns brought about by the anthropocene (a turning to face the conditions of life after so long disavowing them) but it also reflects a certain failure of a modernist project and a global reorganization of labor (post-fordist, precarious).
My suspicion is that this is not something novel but really a return to something that was experienced at the advent of capitalism -- struggles against dispossession in both its european and colonial forms. Two areas of historical investigation suggest themselves: one being an exploration of the conditions of what I would call the "modern" form of revolutionary struggle. (These conditions being a certain organization of labor in national economies, a promised growth and development of the middle class, a faith in technological progress to solve social problems). The second would be an investigation of the peasant and decolonial forms of struggle that, grounded not in an imaginary of representative power but struggles for the immediate conditions of life, bear strong relation to the struggles of today.